How long does a TT payment take?

6 minute read

Doing business with overseas customers or suppliers means that, at some point, you’re likely to run into a scenario where you’ll need to make a telegraphic transfer.

While telegraphic transfers can be made by individuals for personal reasons, they’re especially common for businesses, like those who need to make payments to Alibaba or Aliexpress as suppliers.

If you’re wondering how long a telegraphic transfer should take, this guide is for you. But as you read on, keep in mind that there are other fast, easy ways to send money internationally, and some of them, like an alternative money transfer service like TransferWise, may help you save money, too.

What is a telegraphic transfer?

A telegraphic transfer, which is also sometimes called a TT, T/T, TT payment, TT bank payment, telex transfer, remittance or wire transfer, is just a money transfer between two banks. It can be domestic or international.

Different parts of the world tend to have different names for this kind of transfer. “Telegraphic transfer” is often used in the UK and Australia, while the same kind of transfer is more often referred to as a “wire” or “wire transfer” in the US. You can often use a telegraphic transfer to send money within your own country’s borders, or abroad. Although, these days, the term is more widely used to describe international transfers.

How does a telegraphic money transfer work

When a sender, sometimes called a remitter, needs to send money to a someone overseas, also called beneficiary or recipient, the sender then requests a transfer through his or her bank — this is how normal telegraphic transfers work.

Every bank has different methods and policies, but this request can generally be made in person at a branch, by mail or fax, by phone, or sometimes via online banking. Although many US banks still require customers to make international transfers in person, in the UK these days you can often do most international transfers online. The exception is that if you’re sending over £15,000 or £25,000, depending on your bank, you may be required to make your transfer in branch.

As the sender, if you’re making the transfer online, you’ll provide the banking details of your recipient to your bank. A bit like having to take a connecting flight rather than flying directly, international transfers may take longer to get there because they have to go through so many banks.

Normally, in an international transfer through a bank, your funds will have to pass through 1 or more correspondent, or intermediary, banks before they reach your recipient’s bank and account. This happens because banks don’t automatically have connections with every other bank around the world. They build partnerships with other banks in a given network.

So a single transaction may go through 5 different banks to reach its destination, as it hops to one bank from another trying to find the fastest and most direct route. This system, which is the norm for international transactions through your bank, is called the SWIFT network. But don’t let the name fool you. SWIFT transfers aren’t known for being fast.

While it may not seem important to you whether or not there are intermediate banks involved in your telegraphic transfer, that does come at a cost.

Generally, each of these banks charge a flat fee for handling their part of the transfer. And, if your transaction involves at least 2 currencies, they may also convert the currency of the transfer at a marked-up exchange rate.

As a quick summary, you can likely expect the following charges and fees for your telegraphic transfer:

  • Sending bank — upfront flat fee
  • 1-3 intermediate/correspondent banks — flat fee from each bank involved
  • Exchange rate — often the recipient or an intermediary bank makes the conversion and adds a markup of 4-6% from the rate you can find on Google
  • Recipient bank — flat fee charged for incoming international transfers

How long does a telegraphic transfer take?

Generally, a SWIFT transfer will take 1-5 business days to complete. It’s hard to get a clear picture of how long it will take because it varies wildly by both country destination and your own bank.

Here’s a list of factors that can affect the speed of your transfer:

  • Destination country — the banking infrastructure of some countries make transfers slow or more difficult to complete quickly
  • Time differences — if you’re sending to a different hemisphere, it’s quite common for transfers to take longer as banks have to wait for correspondent banks normal banking hours in the sending country may not line up with normal banking hours in the recipient country if it’s in another time zone, which can delay the transfer
  • Different business days — while normal business days in the UK are Monday to Friday, this isn’t always the case in the rest of the world, where their weekend may fall on different days
  • Holidays — many a money sender has found themselves kicking themselves for not taking into account holidays in the recipient country
  • Different currencies — if the sending bank and recipient bank are in different countries, there’s often a currency conversion involved, which may delay transfer times
  • How you pay — some payment methods, like checks or money orders, may take longer to clear than others
  • Verification or additional information — banks and money transfer services often operate under strict anti-money laundering and fraud prevention policies, which means that at times they may need to delay transfers for additional checks or to request further information from either you or the recipient

A fast and cheap alternative to slow TT bank payments

If telegraphic transfers are taking too long, or you want a likely cheaper option, you might consider an alternative like TransferWise.

TransferWise moves your money at the real mid-market rate — like that rate you find on Google. And with no hidden fees or exchange rate markups. To use TransferWise, you just have to pay one small, fair transfer fee (0.5-2.5% depending on where you’re sending your transfer amount). This fee is spelled out up front, allowing you to agree to it before you pay. TransferWise strives to be fast, cheap, secure and transparent.

TransferWise also offers borderless multi-currency accounts, which allow you to hold, manage, send and receive money in dozens of global currencies all at the same time. You can get local bank account details in regions like the US, the UK, the EU, and Australia to be paid for free like a local.

And sending money internationally from your borderless account still just costs one fair transfer fee. Try TransferWise today to see how much you could potentially save on international telegraphic transfers. See how TransferWise works and get started.

Want more info on telegraphic transfers?

If you still have questions about telegraphic transfers and need some more information, the links below may help you:

You should now be armed with all the knowledge you need to choose an international money transfer option that’s right for you. Whether your highest priority is sending your money fast or sending it cheaply, this guide should help you know what you need to settle on the method that’s best for you.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location