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Financial Dictionary - International transfer

International transfer

International transfers (also known as cross-border or foreign transfers) are transactions that we carry out from one source account to another destination account, which is located in another country. If we live in Spain, an international transfer will involve sending or receiving money outside the country.

These days, in a world which has become increasingly globalised in every regard, finance is no different and even more so in the business world: it is becoming more and more normal to move money internationally, and often in different currencies.

The geographical scope, the amount and the currency in which a transfer is carried out may determine the time it takes to arrive and the associated costs (fees) of the transfers. International transfers will be SEPA transfers if they take place between companies or individuals within the Single Euro Payments Area (which includes the 27 European Member States and 9 other non-member states); or they will take place through the SWIFT system (i.e. regulated by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which is a body that regulates and lends transparency to these transfers), if they are made outside the Single Euro Payments Area.

How long does it take for an international transfer to go through?

This will mainly depend on the destination country and when we issued the transfer. It is important to take into account the time difference between the countries, as well as the cut-off time established by each bank for issuing the transfer: after that deadline, it will be assumed to be issued the next day, so the whole process will take another day. Transfers between SEPA countries may take a maximum of two working days. If the transfer takes place via SWIFT it may take between one to five days, and may take longer depending on the processes of each bank and country. However, there are ways to speed transfers up.

For example, if we request a Wire Transfer, it will arrive the same day, or the following day at the latest. And instant transfers to the Single Euro Payments Area take just seconds. However, this accelerated transfer will cost more...

How do I make an international transfer?

First of all, we need to know which country the account is located in; as above, this will determine the amount and the time it takes to go through. Then we need to pick how we want to make the transfer: by going to our bank and doing it in person, or doing it over the phone with an agent, or even online or from your mobile phone. It is possible to do it through an online platform external to the bank, but this will cost more. Third, the following information will need to be provided: ID and address of the payee, IBAN of the payee's account, SWIFT or BIC code (which may be automatically found if the IBAN is correct), and the amount and currency.

Transfers and foreign currency exchanges

As we know, a currency is the official money used by a country. When dealing with international transfers (especially if they take place outside the SEPA zone), the currency used to make the transfer will usually need to be exchanged. this should be taken into consideration, since it will involve a fee and the money will also need to be converted to the country of origin's currency.


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