I read on moneytransfers.com (mirror):

SEPA transfers involve no or minimal fees, while SWIFT transfers may cost anywhere between $15 and $45.

Why do SEPA transfers involve no or minimal fees, while SWIFT transfers may cost anywhere between $15 and $45?

  • This is like asking why ACH transfers are free, while wire transfers cost money.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 9:25
  • 1
    @RonJohn Indeed, this sounds similar. But would it be a problem to ask that?
    – glglgl
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 19:44
  • @glglgl ACH is optimized for low cost, while wire transfers are optimized for speed (ACH transfers are "slow" and free while wire transfers are fast and expensive). But it seems that SEPA and SWIFT are the opposite: one is fast and cheap, while the other is slow and expensive.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 19:52
  • @RonJohn Well, SEPA is mainly for within EU (and some other countries), and AFAIK it can be better automated. SWIFT is "worldwide", expensive and (again AFAIK) there is more manual work involved by each step.
    – glglgl
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 19:54

3 Answers 3


SEPA transfers are regulated by the EU in order to ease capital flow between member states.

I am not even sure that this statement is valid for Switzerland, Norway and other non-EU SEPA members.

SWIFT transfers are not regulated concerning their cost.


Because SEPA transfer are regulated and optimized for automatic execution. SWIFT is not - swift is an ancient approach that involved a lot of text fields with instructions, including sending money to bank B to forward it to bank C to credit it on the account of customer D at bank C. A lot of SWIFT is actually handled MANUALLY. SEPA is a fully integrated (EUR only) payment system that is handled fully automatic. Difference in human interaction = difference in time (and time = money) Used for processing.

  • 1
    This is (unfortunately) wrong - banks charge more because their lobbyists have (so far) been able to prevent governments from ending the price gouging on "wire transfers".
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 13:05
  • This is very well said - sadly it also exposes a tremendous ignorance of how SWIFT works. Let me guess - you never had the fun to find a lost swift transfer that was badly booked by one of the banks in the transfer chain because someone did misread. Easy for the one not knowing how things work to - call, like so often - for more government regulation. Technically, SWIFT should get a major overhaul, but that would not work because "lowest common denominator" in a world where there is no common jurisdiction (not like SEPA).
    – TomTom
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 14:22
  • Ah, indeed, I owned a payments processing company - so I am well aware of the horrors :) :) If you search on this site there is lots of instances of me stringing together curse words with "SWIFT" "BANKS" etc :) :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 14:43
  • Why did this answer get downvoted? Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 19:57

Interesting answer from godless-life on https://redd.it/kinj3f:

Former banker in an international settlement department here.

SEPA transfers are done via bilateral settlement between two central banks in Europe, in the same currency, which is a fully integrated and near seamless process.

SWIFT is a private company domiciled in Belgium that facilitates financial transfers (not just payments) and they (1) don't work for free, and (2) often require their member institutes to input certain information manually, so they will also charge for the cost associated with that.

Also, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire_transfer#Regulation_and_price:

Since 2009 the European Union Regulation No 924/2009 [2][3] controls cross-border payments in the European Union. In the new regulation Article 1 (q.v., Ref.4) states that an IBAN/BIC transfer within Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) must not cost more than a national transfer, no matter which currency is used. The receiving bank can charge for exchanging to local currency.

and https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/050515/how-swift-system-works.asp#inside-a-swift-transaction:

SWIFT charges users for each message based on message type and length. These charges also vary depending upon the bank’s usage volume; different charge tiers exist for banks that generate different volumes of messages.

Deloitte/de/Documents/risk/SWIFT-for-Corporates-brochure.pdf contains some fees that SWIFT charges to their customers (= financial institutions).

  • This is little different from the @TomTom answer.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 22:19
  • @RonJohn it adds new info Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 22:28

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