Let’s start with a cheer: SEPA & SWIFT transfers can’t get lost. Sometimes, however, they tend to get missing temporarily. Transfers might not be processed successfully for different reasons. This can be a very frustrating situation that could have negative consequences, at least temporarily.
How to trace a missing or failed SEPA or SWIFT transfer?
You need to work with your bank or financial institution that sent it. Getting a clear picture of the reasons and knowing how to act accordingly means one thing – you need to start an investigation. Here is what you should know if the bank transfer you sent, never arrived in the receiver’s account within the expected time.
When should you start a bank transfer investigation?
Don’t request an investigation straight away, on the deadline you anticipated. Sometimes, especially with international SWIFT transfers, your money can be re-routed via more than one corresponding bank. All these intermediaries, in different countries, have different procedures, cut-off times, holidays, etc.
The first thing you should do is call or visit your bank and ask them to double-check all the details of the transfer. At the same time, ask your receiver to inquire with his or her bank.
Both ends can check if the receiver’s bank details in the system match what you (the sender) spelled out. In case they do, but the money is missing, ask what options you have? They may tell you: “Wait a few more days because delays are possible and let’s come back to this next week”.
Be prepared to inquire about your options and transfer investigation. Keep in mind that only the originator bank can start a payment investigation.
How do SEPA transfer investigations work?
The other abbreviation for SEPA is SCT (SEPA Credit Transfer). The investigation on the SEPA network is called SCT inquiry. It is an electronic request for information or clarification about the status of a bank transfer.
There are three (3) potential reasons that can be used by the originating bank for each inquiry:
- Non-receipt claim: This type of information request is used when the recipient of the transfer claims the money was not received in their bank account. The sender’s bank is requested to investigate whether or not the transfer had been executed. The reason could be at the sender’s bank, the beneficiary bank or in the clearing and settlement layer (if any).
- Value date correction claim: Sometimes the date of the successfully received transfer is very important and a slight delay could be a major issue. The sender bank can be asked to investigate at what date was the initial bank transfer executed.
- Status update request: This is used if the sender bank has not yet received a response to a particular message.
For reasons 1 and 2, the Official SEPA Rulebook defines a maximum period of 13 months to send an investigation inquiry. Be aware that your financial institution may charge fees to start an investigation and get the information you need.
How SWIFT transfer investigations work?
The SWIFT system is old (launched in 1977) and up until very recently, all SWIFT investigations used to happen via traditional channels – email and/or phone. This is very time consuming and involves even more participants than SEPA transfers, because depending on the currency you send, there may be one or more intermediary (correspondent) banks.
The number one reason for SWIFT investigations is the non-receipt claim.
Since 2018, the SWIFT network is rolling out a new and streamlined system called Global Payments Initiative or “gpi”. It assists participating banks to provide real-time transfer tracking to customers. Still, only about 500 banks around the world participate.
To you, as a consumer, this means that if you need to investigate a transfer, you are likely to incur manual processing costs. It also means that you are likely to wait much longer than what SWIFT transfers take.
How to prevent failed bank transfers?
Ordering a bank transfer is pretty much a straightforward process. You input or spell a bunch of receiver details, pay, sign, confirm and wait.
Sometimes you would order a bank transfer from your online banking account, but you might end-up physically present in the bank branch or money transfer company. Either way, you need to have the precise details of the receiver and make sure they are correctly passed on to the international banking system.
Here is what you can do:
- Double-check the details are full – SWIFT/BIC, IBAN, RECEIVER NAME, RECEIVER ADDRESS, BANK NAME, BANK ADDRESS
- Make sure the sender sent the correct details. Call or email to triple check.
- Confirm you or the bank teller has correctly input all the information.
Keep in mind that BIC and SWIFT are the same things – they are the bank identifier code for the international bank transfer system. This code is 8-11 characters long (letters and numbers).
IBAN is short for “international bank account number” and also contains letters and numbers. It can be 34 characters long, or less.
The address is not always mandatory, but it can help identify the receiver correctly. Including the receiver’s address is always recommended.
Don’t worry, banks rarely make mistakes and transfers don’t usually just get lost. The “transfer investigation” service is mostly used as hard proof of a successful transfer.
The SWIFT system is old and communication involves people in many time zones. This is why a lot of banks will charge you a penalty fee if you sent the money with the wrong details. You may find more information on how iCard handles investigations here.
Transfer investigations are one of the money problems iCard solves with free and instant transfers. If you need to send a SEPA or SWIFT transfer, you can do it straight from the app, for seconds.