Help Centre Sending & receiving payments internationally

How do banks transfer money internationally?

International payments are carried out by secure systems such as SWIFT and SEPA. At 3S Money, we use these systems so that our clients can send funds quickly, safely and cost-effectively.

Does your business need to send and receive high-value global payments? If so, check your eligibility for our International Business Account. 

If you'd like to know more about international bank transfers, please keep on reading below.

What are international payments?

International payments require quite a few moving parts and pieces of data to make happen.

As a business owner, you probably just want to get payments made as quickly, simply, and cheaply as possible.

International money transfers are initiated by one bank (or money transfer service) to another. They go through a process of sharing information about the sender, recipient, and the amount to be transferred. 

The sender usually has to provide: 

  • The recipient's name, address, contact details and any other personal information that is needed to legally execute the money transfer.

  • The receiver’s bank information, such as their account number

  • The receiving bank’s details - this is different to the above, and includes the official address and SWIFT code of the bank (more on SWIFT in a minute).

  • The reason for the transfer and amount. 

Once all of this is provided, the sender’s bank then begins the process. It'll send the relevant information via a secure system such as SWIFT or SEPA (depending on the nature of the transaction).
Once the receiving bank receives all of the above, it then moves money from its reserves into the payee’s account, and the two banks then settle payment following the deposit. 
So that’s how banks transfer money internationally. Here are a few more details you may be interested in. 

What is a SWIFT transfer? 

SWIFT stands for The Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Founded in 1973, SWIFT is now a group of over 11,000 financial institutions around the globe.
SWIFT is a standardised method for handling international payments quickly and securely. It applies codes to banks, which means that transactions are easy to track and monitor. 
SWIFT is the global standard for handling international money transfers.

You can find out more about SWIFT  here

What is a SEPA transfer?

SEPA is the same as SWIFT - a way to securely process international transactions.

An abbreviation of 'Single Euro Payments Area', it should be no surprise that a SEPA transfer only facilitates transactions in Euros, and that these are primarily used by members within the European Union.

However, there are some exceptions: the UK is still part of SEPA, along with members of the European Free Trade Association, plus some microstates that hold special arrangements with the EU.
SEPA was created to make money transfers between its members as fast and as cheap as a domestic money transfer (in most, but not all, cases that means free).

Find out more about SEPA in our article about it here

Do international money transfers have fees? 

Yes, when you transfer money from one country to another there are fees applied to the transaction. Costs can be applied to the sending and receiving of money internationally. 
Banks will also tend to mark up the currency conversion aspect of the transaction beyond the average market rate, building this into their overall transaction fee. 
For this reason, many businesses look to use alternatives to banks when handling international payments.

You can find out more about 3S Money’s transparent and simple pricing here.
First published: 21/01/2022.
Updated on 24/11/2022.

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