How Long Does an e-Transfer Take (2023)?

Looking to transfer money quickly to someone you know? e-Transfers are the way to go. According to Payments Canada, cash accounted for 18.4% of the financial transactions in 2019 and only 0.9% of the total value of transactions.

From transactions to the transference of funds, we, as a country, are going paperless at a rapid pace. Therefore, questions like “how long does an e-transfer take?” are only natural.

If you are one of the millions of Canadians who use Interac e-Transfer to send money within or outside Canada, knowing how long it will take is essential. If you run this query on Google, the answer you’ll get is about 30 minutes.

But it’s not as simple as that. A lot goes on under the hood, and that’s what we will discuss in this article.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What is an e-Transfer, and how does it work?
  • How long does an e-Transfer take?
  • Why would an e-Transfer be pending? When does it expire?
  • Tracking your e-Transfer
  • How can you stop or cancel an e-Transfer before it goes through?
  • Is an e-Transfer safe? What can you do to make it safer?

What Is an e-Transfer and How Does It Work?

An Interac e-Transfer is a fast and convenient way to send money online from one bank or credit union to another.

Even though it has its limitations, such as the amount you can transfer, many people prefer e-Transfer over Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) for one reason: it saves you a lot of time. Another benefit is that you don’t have to exchange banking details to execute the transfer. 

In an Interac e-Transfer, Interac becomes an intermediary in transferring funds between one bank or credit union account and another.  It leverages two communication endpoints: email and phone.

If you wish to execute an e-Transfer to someone, the first step is to initiate a request with the financial institution you have an account with. The intended recipient will then get an email and/or a text message, providing them with the link that will allow them to deposit the money into their preferred bank or credit union account.

The e-Transfer comes with a security question that the recipient will have to answer to complete the transfer. The answer is either something you and the recipient both know or something you can communicate to them, preferably using a channel other than email or a text message for security reasons.

How Long Does an E-Transfer Take?

How Long Does An E-Transfer Take Infographics

As per Interac, e-Transfers are mostly instantaneous, though they might sometimes take up to 30 minutes. Several factors can determine if an e-Transfer you initiate or receive will be instantaneous or will take 30 minutes or more.

These factors include:

  • The bank or credit union you use to execute the e-Transfer and its fraud detection system
  • The bank or credit union used by the recipient to receive the funds 
  • The amount you are sending since a higher amount sometimes triggers more stringent scrutiny
  • Whether the bank or credit union you are sending e-Transfer from executes each transfer request separately or in batches
  • The recipient’s auto-deposit feature
  • Whether it’s a first-time transfer  

The most critical variable in determining how long does an e-Transfer take is usually the financial institution you sent it from.

For instance, e-Transfers initiated with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are almost instantaneous. The Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) and Bank of Montreal (BMO) e-Transfers also tend to be instant in most cases.  On the other hand, the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) tend to be relatively slower.

The amount is also an essential factor. If you are sending smaller amounts, like under $100, the e-Transfer might be instantaneous. Most banks and credit unions also have an undisclosed threshold amount, which, when exceeded, may be delayed, and when met, might be instantaneous.

In credit unions, Tangerine offers two types of Interac e-Transfers. One is usually instant, but it costs a small fee. The free one, meanwhile, might take up to three days to process.

Despite the fast transactions, however, some financial institutions officially stated that there are also instances that it might take several hours for an e-Transfer to complete. In fact, quite a few cases involved e-Transfers taking as much as 24 hours. 

If you have an account with RBC, TD, or even BMO, chances are high that all of the e-Transfers you send will be instantaneous, regardless of the amount. But if you are using other financial institutions, your e-Transfers might take 30 minutes or more.

Another variable in the equation is Interac’s own system, but there is nothing you can do about that. 

Why Would an e-Transfer Be Pending? When Does It Expire?

Why Would an e-Transfer Be Pending? When Does It Expire?

Apart from delayed or slow e-Transfers, pending e-Transfers can be another source of frustration. There are a few reasons it might happen:

  • You have put a landline number instead of a mobile number in the contact details. It’s usually not an issue if you have also provided the correct email address of the recipient, but if you haven’t, your e-Transfer will not execute, and you’ll receive a notification.
  • You provided incorrect contact information or didn’t send in a valid security question. 
  • The financial institution of the recipient has flagged the e-Transfer as suspicious. 
  • The recipient has an auto-deposit feature, and their financial institution is still processing the request. Cases like this might take 24 hours.

There might be another reason, though, why your e-Transfer is pending. You can see the status of your e-Transfers on your bank account.

Once the e-Transfer is processed and available for the recipient, the expiration clock starts to tick. Interac e-Transfers expire after 30 days, and if the recipient hasn’t accepted the transfer by then, you will have two options. You can either resend the transfer or cancel it and get your money back.

Tracking Your e-Transfer

Tracking Your e-Transfer

The thing with an instantaneous money transfer, especially if the recipient has turned auto-deposits on, is that it will go through right away. So, you won’t have to track the payment.

Still, the information regarding the status of your e-Transfer (i.e., whether it has been processed, whether it’s been received but waiting, or whether it’s still pending), will be available on your bank account.  

How Can You Stop or Cancel an e-Transfer Before It Goes Through?

Once a recipient has received the e-Transfer, there is no way to get it back. That’s what makes it such an attractive target for financial fraudsters.

However, up until the e-Transfer has gone through, you can cancel it by logging into your bank or credit union account. But if the recipient has the auto-deposit feature turned on, and your financial institution doesn’t delay processing your payment, it would be virtually impossible to cancel an e-Transfer.

Is an e-Transfer Safe? What Can You Do to Make It Safer?

Is an e-Transfer Safe? What Can You Do to Make It Safer?

Yes. An e-Transfer is protected using the same protocols as any other transfer between two financial institutions.

In a way, it’s relatively safer compared to regular transfer because you don’t have to expose your bank account information for an e-Transfer. However, since it’s executed using email, the safety of e-Transfers is tied quite tightly to the safety of your email. 

There are a few things you can do to both send and receive e-Transfers safely: 

  • Choose a strong security question. Otherwise, if your recipient’s email has been hacked, and you’ve sent a security question, the answer to which can easily be found on the recipient’s social media accounts or email history, your transfer will fall into the wrong hands.
  • If you have to send the answer, choose a channel that’s different from email and even SMS. You can call them, tell them in person, use a messenger, or use a different email address.
  • Don’t turn the auto-deposit feature on. Auto-deposits can be secure until a hacked email account is used to connect a different bank account (the hacker’s) to receive the funds. 
  • Make your emails as secure as possible. You can use a password manager to set and update complex passwords to your email or use two-factor authentication to make it nearly impossible for hackers to get into your email account.

In Conclusion

How Long Does an e-Transfer Take

The answer to “how long does an e-Transfer take?” will depend upon numerous factors, most prominently, the bank or credit union used to initiate the transfer and the amount you want to send. It’s safe as long as you’ve taken appropriate security measures.

I hope this article has demystified some of your questions regarding e-Transfers. If your experience has been different, share your e-Transfer times with us in the comments. This will help us reassess our take on how long an e-Transfer takes.

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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