What happens if money is transferred and not received?

person doing international money transfers online

Sending money overseas, through your bank or an  international money transfer (IMT) specialist, is as easy as transferring cash to your neighbour. But that’s not to say it’s always smooth sailing.

But just like regular postage, sometimes there are delays with IMTs. If your international payment isn’t where it’s supposed to be (within a reasonable time frame), don’t panic, here are three simple steps to make sure you’ve done everything you need to.  

1. Track your international money transfer

The first thing to check once you’ve completed an international money transfer is if you’ve received a confirmation number - because they should have!

Depending on the institution, confirmation numbers will look different and potentially have a different name, like transaction ID number. You should receive this number as soon as your transaction is approved. It’s crucial that you keep this number with you as it will allow you to track your transfer later on.

Generally, tracking your money transfer can be done online or over the phone, with your confirmation number. You're able to see the exact progress of your transfer, and how far along you are in the process. Some providers even allow customers to sign up for text updates, which keeps you up to date every step of the way.

What if I don’t have a confirmation number?

While you should have received a confirmation number, in the case that you didn’t or you’ve lost all evidence it, there are a couple of things you can do.

Give your bank or IMT specialist a call, they may be able to retrieve your number or even update you on the status of your transfer using your personal information. Similarly, you could log in to your online account, and check whether or not you can retrieve your number there.

Keep in mind you can also track a transfer with your bank’s SWIFT code, rather than a confirmation number. It’s the ID number that banks use when making wire transfers, so they can let you know whether your money is being held or is on its way.  

2. Consider potential reasons for the delay

Depending on the provider you go with an international money transfer can take up to five business days to process and get deposited However, this isn’t always the case.

If your money has been stalled on its journey overseas there may actually be a reason for it, ask yourself:

  • Was the name correct? Having the name of the recipient correct on your transfer is important as it may prevent them from accessing the funds you’ve transferred. In some cases, the receiving bank may reject the transfer and send it back to where it came from.
  • Were the bank's details right? Like a name, having the correct bank details of the recipient when making your transfer is essential. Providing the wrong details could put your money at risk of being returned to your bank or even lost. Immediately contact your provider if you notice any issues.
  • Has it been 5 days or more since I made the money transfer? Before you panic, make sure you check the date and time you made the transfer and ensure it’s in fact been 5 business days, this excludes weekends and public holidays. It’s also good to be a little flexible, give your bank (or your recipient’s bank) a few extra days to process the transfer, it may be all that they need.
  • Is the bank or IMT specialist performing security checks? Banks and IMT specialists have to follow a series of security rules to prevent fraudulent or scam activity when making international transfers. In some cases these checks may delay your money getting to its destination for a little while, but at the end of the day it means it's being kept safe.

3. Cancel the transfer if you need to

Cancelling the money transferred can only be done in the case that your funds haven’t been picked up yet or deposited into another account. If you decide to cancel early enough, in some cases you may be able to jump online and cancel the transfer yourself. But alternatively, some providers may require you to call them directly - so check the cancellation policy of your bank or IMT specialist for all the specific guidelines.

If your money transfer hasn’t arrived after a week or so, you may have to lodge a dispute resolution with your bank or IMT specialist. These processes differ from institution to institution so make sure you read the fine print when starting a dispute resolution, as you may face tracking, investigation or amendment fees along the way. This is usually done through your online banking.

Will I get a refund?

When you successfully cancel an international money transfer, generally you should receive a refund of the full amount that you transferred. Keep in mind though, that you may be charged a cancellation fee depending on what company you chose to use - but this isn’t very common. For next time, before you make an international money transfer with a particular bank or IMT specialist, ensure you know the cancellation policy so you’re not caught out if you need the money refunded down the track.

Do you need to send money overseas? Check out our IMT comparison table or get all the info you need from our in depth guides and expert tips.

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