Banking 22 May 24

Swift payments: how it compares to BACS, CHAPS, and SEPA

By: Currencycloud
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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.

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.

When it comes to payment options, there’s not just Swift payments. There are other payment networks (or rails) banks use. Each have different benefits.

Bankers Automated Clearing Services (BACS)

Bankers Automated Clearing Services (BACS) is a UK payments solution created in the 1960s to offer a faster and inexpensive alternative to cheques when transferring money bank to bank. It is widely used by local banks and building societies. Funds can take up to three days to process.

BACS payments can be:
  • Direct Debit for regular payments such as utility bills where funds are pulled from a bank account on a specific date.
  • Direct Credit for outgoing payments such as payroll or insurance settlements.

Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS)

The UK’s Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS) guarantee same-day payment of funds. Created to enable the quick transfer of high-value payments in pounds to businesses which land in the recipient’s account on the same day. These transfers are one-off high-value payments ranging from business deals to house purchases.

With this guarantee comes a higher price: this method of payment transfer is the most expensive in the UK. 

Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) payment scheme enables quick and cost-effective local bank-to-bank transfers in euros across Europe and the UK. The SEPA network connects over 30 nations, treating each payment identically, whether you are paying a utility bill in Italy or ordering supplies for your Netherlands-based business.

There are two different types of SEPA payments:
  • Standard SEPA payments are usually settled within a day.
  • SEPA instant payments are completed in seconds, 24 hours a day seven days a week. These are available if both sender and recipient banks are members of the SEPA instant network.

How does SEPA compare to Swift?

Swift international payments usually take the longest, but Swift local payments are fast, completed instantly or within a day.

SEPA vs Swift payments

When making an international bank transfer you have the option of SEPA or Swift payments.

With SEPA, there are 36 countries linked in one payment zone across Europe and the UK. These low (or no cost) euro transfers take one day. If the sender and recipient’s bank are members of the SEPA instant network, these payments arrive instantly.

With Swift payments you can transfer funds in any currency, making it a popular international transfer method. Because Swift passes through multiple banks before reaching their destination, payments can take 1-5 business days.

Swift payments vs CHAPS

With CHAPS you can send high value payments within the UK and make same-day transfers in GBP. This speedy service has fees applied to it.

With Swift payments you have the security of tracked international payments, in any currency. Transactions can be slow, taking one to five working days. Swift has fees applied to it.

Swift payments vs BACS

BACS are ideal for everyday transfers such as utility bills, and are usually fee-free. BACS transfers can be made only within the UK and aren’t instant, taking up to three working days.

With Swift you have the security of tracked international payments, in any currency. Transactions can be slow, taking one to five working days. Swift has fees applied to it.


  Time to Process Cost Currency International
SEPA 1 day Low or free Euros YES
SEPA instant Instant   Euros  
BACS 3 days   GBP UK only
CHAPS Same day Higher cost GBP UK only
Swift 1 – 5 days Higher cost Any currency YES

The impact the rise of Swift has had on international payments

The value that Swift gpi payments provides

As a key global financial organization, Swift helps manage the messaging and correspondent banking network that moves money internationally. Swift global payments innovation is the next level of that service.

Swift gpi can be described as the parcel tracking service of the financial world: by introducing tracking and speed on an enormous scale, it has introduced unprecedented visibility, reduced transaction times dramatically and elevated the standard of service in cross-border payments.

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.

Swift gpi transforming global business

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.


With Swift gpi payments, businesses can now see information about a cross-border payment before it has even landed in a bank account. This has the potential to unlock options for businesses such as inbound tracking and earlier delivery of goods, optimizing working capital. When a company is able to track a payment before it lands in an account, they have the ability to release goods or services before the funds technically arrive.


By: Currencycloud
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