Banking 22 May 24

What are Swift payments and how do they work?

By: Currencycloud
Featured Image

What is Swift? 

Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) is the global messaging system used by the correspondent banking network and financial institutions to manage cross-border transactions. It was founded in Brussels in 1973 to establish common processes and standards for international financial transactions.
Swift is an all-in-one provider, offering secure payments in global currencies that can be received by everyone, everywhere.

What is an example of a Swift payment?

Example case: Marilyn lives in San Jose, California and wants to send money to her friend Sophie in Montpellier, France. Marilyn visits her local bank branch X Bank. She brings Sophie’s account number and Montpellier-based branch information for Sophie’s French bank Y Bank. This information includes the unique Swift code.

X Bank sends a payment transfer message to the Y Bank branch over the secure Swift network. When Y Bank receives the Swift message about the incoming payment, it will clear and credit the money to Sophie’s account. The transaction is fully traceable and fast.

How long to Swift payments take?

Swift payments are typically sent and received within 24 hours, but in some cases can take 3 – 5 days. The time to process the payments depends on the bank used, value of the transfer, and where the money is being sent to.

Is it safe to pay with Swift?

Swift has become a crucial part of the global financial infrastructure, helping more than 11,000 global financial institutions in 212 different countries facilitate secure global business. Swift achieved a new peak day on 30 Nov 2021, with 50.3 million messages higher than the peak on 26th Feb 2021 by +8.5%.

Swift’s success is due, in a large part, to the platform’s security.

What are the disadvantages of Swift?

While Swift has transformed the world of international payments for the better, the technology that enables security, data-tracking and speed also comes at a cost. It isn’t free. In addition, without using the Swift gpi feature, Swift payments can’t be tracked, so payers and payees can’t be certain exactly where their funds are.

Swift and cost

When Swift is used to make global payments, the cost comes at a premium. There are two types of Swift transfer that Currencycloud uses: OUR and SHA. Each of these choices will determine who incurs the charges

  • OUR: You — as the payer — accept all charges (typically billed separately), and the payment arrives in full.
  • SHA: Each party is charged by their respective bank, with the payer billed separately by the sending bank and the recipient paying for fees from the receiving.

Each of these methods incur fees, which are sometimes significant.

What is Swift gpi?

Swift helps manage the messaging and correspondent banking network that moves money internationally. Swift global payments innovation is an additional service developed by Swift to help improve the visibility of cross-border payments for businesses.

Swift global payment innovation (Swift gpi) can be likened to the Amazon parcel tracking service of the financial world: by introducing tracking and speed on an enormous scale, Swift gpi has introduced unprecedented visibility, reduced transaction times and dramatically and elevated the standard of service in cross-border payments.

The Swift gpi initiative has been adopted by organizations worldwide to make sending and receiving money across borders as straightforward as possible.

Swift gpi is a significant step forward in facilitating data security and transparency in global money movement, running parallel to legislation like PSD2 and open banking. It brings technology and global connections into cross-border payments and is designed with the end user in mind.

How does Swift gpi work?

Every Swift gpi payment gets allocated its own ID, a unique end-to-end transaction reference (UETR) that identifies the bank name, its country, and branch. When payments travel through the correspondent banking network, the UETR is used to record different events across that payment which Swift gpi members can then see.

Today, Swift gpi is the most transparent payment route, providing its members with visibility into the entire cross-border payment journey and continuous tracking of payments throughout, giving them clear insight into where a payment is, what fees it has accrued, and more.

Banks and non-bank financial institutions who have elected to join Swift gpi must adhere to service-level agreements in terms of processing speeds. Since November 2020, even non-gpi members must report receiving Swift messages to the Swift tracker within a certain timeframe. As a result, the world’s financial system is starting to be truly centralized and more transparent.

How Swift impacts cross-border payments

Swift gpi means that cross-border transactions are no longer a mysterious labyrinth in which money inexplicably moves slowly. Now money lands in minutes, not days, when sent cross-border. There is clear visibility of the money’s location, journey, fees deducted, and arrival at the destination.

By introducing speed and visibility, Swift gpi has raised both customer expectations and the accepted standards for international payments. It has impacted the entire industry, beyond traditional financial services: Swift gpi is also available for international corporations and non-banking payment organizations like Currencycloud.

Now, even non-Swift gpi members are being forced to digitize their offerings. At the same time, new financial offerings that work outside the correspondent banking system are appearing.


  1. Source:


By: Currencycloud
We’re re-imagining the way money flows to create a better tomorrow for all.

Find Your Bold

Currencycloud is here to back you as you leap boldly into the future. Get in touch with an expert today.

Get Started