How to make an international ACH transfer: Your complete guide


You’ve got a few options if you need to send money overseas, including making an ACH transfer, setting up a bank wire, or using a specialist third party provider. The different payment methods come with their own features, benefits and fees - so it’s useful to research them all before you arrange your transfer.

This guide covers all you need to know about making an international ACH transfer, including the payment process, cost and transfer time. We’ll also offer a quick comparison to international bank wires, and introduce Wise as a smart alternative, to help you choose the best way to make your payment.

How to make an ACH transfer - step by step

Let’s start at the beginning. ACH stands for automated clearing house - and all US ACH payments are overseen by NACHA, the National Automated Clearing House Association.

In an ACH payment your money is moved from your bank account to your recipient’s account  directly, and with no cash or checks involved. That makes it a simple way to send money and pay bills. In fact, because ACH payments are relatively cheap, you’re probably using them already - to receive your salary for example.

If you need to send an ACH payment you’ll usually be able to make arrangements through your bank. Some banks allow ACH payments to be set up online or by phone - others require that you visit a branch to get set up. In any case, there are a few key steps you’ll need to take:

  • Gather all your recipient’s details - their name, address, bank account number, and routing number (or international equivalent)
  • Complete the payment details online, over the phone or in a bank branch - you’ll need to confirm the amount and currency to send, and give your recipient’s information to make sure the payment arrives safely
  • Check the costs of the payment, and how long it’ll take to arrive. If you’re happy, you can confirm the ACH transfer and you’re done.

How much does an ACH cost?

ACH payments are normally one of the cheaper ways to send money. Some banks will waive the costs of local ACH payments entirely, while others charge around USD3 per domestic payment. It’s sometimes also possible to pay a premium to get your money delivered faster.

It’s worth noting that the costs of sending money internationally tend to be higher than local transfers. Check out the costs with your regular bank, and don’t forget to compare an alternative like Wise to make sure you get the best available deal.

How long does an ACH transfer take?

ACH payments can take up to 3 business days to arrive. This is largely because of the way they are processed. 

Banks collect up all ACH requests which are then processed in batches. That means your payment may wait a few hours to be processed. The delivery time can then be a day or two depending on the payment type. Finally, the receiving bank may take up to a day to actually deposit the payment in the recipient’s account.

Sending money abroad? Wise could help you save money 

While it’s possible to make an ACH payment overseas, you may find you can get a cheaper, and faster service if you choose Wise.

Wise is a specialist in international payments, offering quick and low cost transfers which use the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. You’ll only ever pay a low, transparent fee for sending money, which can work out much cheaper than using your normal bank or an alternative provider.

All Wise international transfers are set up online for convenience, and will often arrive quicker than the equivalent payment sent with a bank. Check out Wise today, to save time and money on your international payments.

International ACH vs wire transfer

Although ACH payments are usually used for domestic transfers within the US they can also be used for international payments. Some banks offer both international ACH payments, and international wire transfers - which both have their own features and benefits. Here’s a look at international ACH payments vs bank wires: 

FeatureInternational ACHWire transfer
AvailabilityNot available through all banksUsually available for international transfers
Set up processVaries by bank - online, by phone or in branchVaries by bank - online, by phone or in branch
CostUsually relatively cheap - and free to receiveAverage of USD50 to send, with a fee to receive
SpeedACH payments take a few days to processProcessed in real time, payments may arrive faster than ACH
SafetyACH payments can be reversedWire transfers are more tricky to cancel or reverse

International ACH Transfer vs International ACH Transaction - what is the difference? 

It’s helpful to know that international ACH transactions - IATs - are not the same as international ACH transfers. 

If you find reference to an IAT you’re actually looking at the behind the scenes reporting that financial institutions must do to ensure they’re legally compliant. IAT reports are created and submitted to NACHA so checks can be done on cross border payments. As a retail customer, you don’t have any part in this process. 

Unfortunately, if you see a bank which states it carries out IATs this may not mean it offers international ACH payments to individual customers, but rather that it complies with its legal reporting requirements. Double check the services available before you get started with your cross border payment.

So there you have it. Making an international ACH payment is possible, although not all banks are set up to process cross border ACH transfers. Many banks prefer to offer customers international wire payments which can be significantly more expensive than a regular ACH transfer. You’ll need to check the details with your own bank to see if the service is available - and if the fees and delivery times are competitive.

Compare your regular bank’s international ACH transfer or international wire service to the options available at Wise to see if you can save.

Disclaimer: 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. 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.

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