What is a swift money transfer?

Updated February 21, 2017

A SWIFT money transfer is a type of international wire transfer that is an electronic means of moving money from one country to another.


SWIFT money transfers originated in 1974, when seven international banks formed the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Now SWIFT money transfers can be used to send money from practically any country to any other country.


A SWIFT money transfer begins when a person gives a bank permission to send a specific amount of money from his account to an account abroad. The person provides her bank with the SWIFT code and account number for the other bank. Electronic instructions are then sent to the other bank detailing the amount that should be posted and the account involved.

Time Frame

Transfers can appear in the recipient's account as quickly as a few hours or as long as a week.


The transfer looks like a sheet of paper with printed information, such as the sending bank's information, the parties involved in the transfer and a series of codes that describe how funds will be collected.


SWIFT transfers allow funds to be sent to foreign countries more quickly than by airmail or courier services. They also provide recipients with a guarantee that they will receive funds as payment and that the currency received is what was agreed upon during the transaction.


Fees of more £19 typically are required to initiate SWIFT transfers and there are similar fees to receive one. Additionally, SWIFT transfers are used by perpetrators of fraud who request that money be wired to them as a part of a scam. Consumers should be suspicious if they're asked by a stranger to wire money overseas.


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About the Author

Faith Davies has been writing professionally since 1996, contributing to various websites. She holds an LAH insurance license in the state of Pennsylvania and has experience as a bank branch manager and lending officer. Davies graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in art history.