If you’re an expat working or studying in Romania, you may have encountered situations when you need to transfer or receive money internationally. If you want to go for an international transfer through a Romanian bank, you will see that you have several options, and which involve the money being transferred in approximately 3 to 5 days, depending also on the type of transfer (within EU, or outside of the EU).

There are also other options, of course, like doing your transfers through a money transferring service, such as MoneyGram, WorldRemit, Wise, Transfer Union, or others. Or using mobile banking apps, such as Revolut.

In this article we explain what an international money transfer is, how it works, and how long it could take if you chose to do it through one of the several largest banks in Romania (such as BCR, BRD, Raiffeisen or others). We will also compare it to other alternatives, like using services of, for example, Wise or MoneyGram.

What is, and how an international transfer through a Romanian bank works

If you are wondering why it takes so long for your bank to transfer money to another country, you must first understand how money transfers work internationally. And the key phrase that stands at the core of this system is “the SWIFT network”.

SWIFT is the abbreviation of the name Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. This society is actually a sort of an association of bank members. All bank members are using a commonly acknowledged electronic system for sending and receiving information, such as money transfer instructions, quickly, accurately, and securely.

All internationally active banks are linked to this well-known SWIFT network, which is an interbank electronic communication system used for interbank messaging, including international money transfers. This system provides an easier telecommunication method to banks worldwide, then in the case they would have to establish direct connections everywhere around the world.

For this reason, when you do an international transfer through a Romanian bank, your money can stop at several banks on the way, until it reaches the final recipient’s account. This is why it can take between 3 to 5 workdays for the person you are sending the money to finally receive it in the account.

Therefore, the money you send across borders can make several stops. And each stop at each bank can cost you a commission. Thus, an international bank transfer not only takes a few days to fulfil, but can also cost more money than any transfer within the country.

Thus, every bank that contributes to your money transfer charges a fee. And each fee adds to the total cost of your transfer. These banks are called correspondent (or intermediary ) banks.

How long does an international bank transfer take?

In short, if you choose to operate the international transfer through your Romanian bank, it will take up to 5 business days to fulfil it. According to banks representatives, it is difficult to calculate a more precise timeframe, because an international bank transfer depends on several factors.

For example, the duration of an international money transfer may depend, in the first place, on the time at which you initiate the operation.

Also, other factors that influence the transfer time are: the country and currency to which you make the transfer, the operating schedule of the banks involved, but also the legal holidays or the accuracy of the transaction instructions. These are all factors that make the duration of an international transfer difficult to estimate.

For example, as a basic rule, bank transfers are not operated during weekends and public holidays.

So, to conclude, we have also verified this information with a few Romanian banks, such as Banca Transylvania, BCR, BRD, Raiffeisen, and ING Bank. According to their information, it would take 3 to 5 business days to do an international transfer to or from a foreign country.

EU transfers are much faster through SEPA system

Transfers between Euro zone banks (which do not require exchanges to or from other currencies) are usually faster than other currencies. This is because you can use the SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) payment scheme, which aims to facilitate transfers in this currency.

The main applicable condition for using SEPA transfers is that the country to which the money is sent is part of the Eurozone or an EU member country. Nevertheless, other non-EU countries can also participate to SEPA scheme. For example, the UK is still part of it, even after Brexit. So, any money transfers from or to the UK can be done much faster if SEPA transfer conditions apply.

If you need to verify if SEPA scheme can be used for your money transfers, a full list of SEPA countries can be found here.

Most of the Romanian banks, such as BCR, BRD, ING Bank, Banca Transilvania, or Raiffeisen, use SEPA and operate transfers via SEPA scheme in no more than one work day.

Urgent international transfers

Banks also make urgent international interbank payments, where the beneficiary can be processed and credited on the same day or the next working day.

Among the Romanian banks that offer emergency transfers are: BRD, Alpha Bank, CEC Bank, Raiffeisen, BCR. The downsize with an urgent international transfer is that it may cost you too much. The payment processing costs can reach up to 25 – 30 euros. In some cases, it could be even higher.

Another important detail you should know is that a transfer you initiate directly at the bank’s counter usually costs more than an online bank transfer (the transfer commission is much higher). This is applicable with many Romanian banks.

Other alternatives

If your international bank transfer takes too long and you want to limit bank fees and commissions, you could consider analyzing some alternative services to a classic bank transfer.

If, for example, you want to make a RON-GBP transfer, with some of the international payment service providers, such as Wise, Transfer Union, MoneyGram, or others, you may have to incur limited fees, and the money can be transferred in just a few minutes.

In addition, some of these services can make the exchange at the most convenient exchange rate for you at the time of transfer. This can be much more convenient than a regular bank transfer, as banks usually add a margin to the average exchange rate.

Irrespective of the option you choose for your transfers, before processing the payments, we advise you to carefully analyze and compare the related costs and duration of each type of service. This will help you choose the best option for your situation.

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