How Long Does an ACH Transfer Take?

Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions allow for electronic money transfers directly between banks. This funds transfer method is secure due to data protection measures. It is also convenient because it requires no cash or checks changing hands and takes only one to three days to complete. These advantages make ACH transfers appealing to businesses and individuals.


What Is an ACH Transfer?

ACH is an electronic funds transfer (EFT) method that involves moving money between banks without using cash or checks. During these transactions, money passes from one financial institution through the Automated Clearing House and ends in another bank. ACH technology has many uses, including direct deposits for payroll, online bill pay and digital payment services.

Here’s how an ACH transfer works:

  1. Authorization: Before making a payment or requesting money, you must contact the second party and ask permission to use this payment method to send funds.
  2. Payment details: After the second party agrees, your business can begin a transfer with a request to your bank.
  3. Batch processing: The request goes to your bank, which batches it with other transactions to send to the Clearing House or Federal Reserve at scheduled times during the day.
  4. Transaction submission: Those institutions receive the request, confirm that the account has sufficient funds to make the payment and send transactions five times daily.
  5. Money transfer: Funds move from the paying account to the receiving account.

This transfer method moves all funds electronically. The originating business can complete a transaction in two ways: ACH credit and debit. A credit means your business receives funds. Your company might use this for collecting payment for a service. A debit means you make a payment. Payroll is an example of how your business might use debits.


How Long Does an ACH Payment Take?

In general, ACH transfers take about one to three days to complete. ACH payment processing time may depend on the type of transaction, the policy of various financial institutions involved in the transfer and the time when your business submitted the request. Debit and credit transfers have differing requirements for processing speed:

  • ACH creditA transaction must be processed in two days when your business receives funds.
  • ACH debitA transaction must be processed in one day when your business sends funds.

Receiving depository financial institutions (RDFIs) can hold transactions to confirm funds which may take up to three days. If you need faster money transfer, you can use same-day ACH, which allows guaranteed transfer within one day as long as you submit the request during business hours. A request added after hours will transfer the next day.

Here’s an overview of each day of the money transfer process.

Day Zero

The process begins when you send your money transfer file to a bank. As long as your business sends the request before the last batch leaves, the request will move to the ACH network the same day.

Day One

The ACH network sends the transaction to a customer’s bank. It receives the file, debits or credits their account, and credits or debits the funds to the originating depository financial institution (ODFI).

Day Two

The payer’s bank must notify the ACH network of any failures within two days after payment submission. This day marks the payment failure cutoff.

Day Three

If the transaction fails, your bank will receive a notification from the ACH network and communicate it to you. Depending on the reason for failure, your business may initiate a new transaction or find a different method for paying or receiving funds.


How to Streamline ACH Transactions

Transfer times often vary due to factors outside your control, but you can do a few things to make transfers happen quicker and with fewer errors. These include:

  • Submitting files in the proper format: With an incorrect file, it may take some time for your bank to review the information, discover errors and contact you to resolve the issue.
  • Confirming customer payment details: Incorrect information leaves a challenging path for financial institutions to follow, while a transfer with correct details makes moving money easier.
  • Ensuring sufficient funds: For debit payments, check that your account has enough money to complete transfers. For credits, maintain open communication with customers to confirm they have the funds to pay you.


When Does the Receiver Collect Payment?

The receiver collects the payment within three days of submitting a transfer request. Factors that influence this timeline include:

  • Payment submission time: Payment leaves financial institutions in batches, so you must submit transactions before the last batch leaves for the day to increase your chances of fast processing.
  • Vendor transfer process: Differing originating and receiving financial institutions have varying rules and transfer processes—some might prioritize security over speed, leading to a slower funds transfer process.
  • Errors found in payment: An incorrectly entered account number or another similar error might mean your business must resubmit the transaction, and the receiver will wait longer for payment.


How Same-Day ACH Reduces the Wait

While ACH saves time compared to physical money like cash or checks, other digital transfer methods sometimes have shorter timelines. To solve the problem, financial institutions have worked together to create batch processing. With batch processing, your money will move within the same day as long as the initiating party submits the request by 4:45 p.m. EST.

Same-day ACH works because organizations like Nacha, ODFIs and payment processors have worked together to improve processing speeds. Any credit, debit or return transactions will process the same day when your business chooses same-day ACH.

The transaction limit for same-day ACH has also raised to $1 million, meaning your business can now make more significant payments with shorter wait times. Your business can optimize cash flow and keep money moving so your company, employees and customers gain access to the necessary funds in a timely manner.


Manage ACH Payments With CSG Forte

ACH payments make moving money more convenient by offering a digital method for transferring funds within days. With CSG Forte’s payment processing platform, your business can leverage ACH payments to make money management easier and faster. A network of over 20 banks means your business can send and receive money seamlessly. Get started with CSG Forte online to make payment processing better than ever.