ACH vs SWIFT : What's the difference?

Samyra Ramos

Are you a freelancer, skilled professional, or contractor looking to get paid quickly and securely? If so, you’ve probably heard of ACH transfers and SWIFT payments. But do you know the difference between the two payment methods? Have you considered transaction fees for each one? Understanding how ACH transfers and SWIFT payments work can help you choose the best, and cheapest, option to get paid quickly - without compromising security. In this article, we’ll be exploring what ACH transfers and SWIFT payments are, how they differ, and what the best option is for international freelancers to take today

What are ACH transfers?

ACH transfers are a type of electronic money transfer that is used to move funds from one financial institution to another. They are also known as direct deposit, direct debit, or EFT(electronic fund transfer). ACH transfers are different from wire transfers in that they are typically much less expensive and take between 1–3 business days to process.

One of the most common uses of ACH transfers is for salary payments or other regular income deposits into an account. It’s also important to note that sending and receiving funds through an ACH transfer is extremely secure. Plus, all transactions must go through a verification process to ensure accuracy before being processed.

What are SWIFT payments?

A SWIFT payment is an international bank-to-bank payment that facilitates the transfer of funds between two different financial institutions. It is part of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network, which is a global messaging system used to securely and reliably send financial messages and payments.

Overall, SWIFT payments provide an efficient way to transfer money internationally, but still cost more than ACH transfers.

ACH transfers vs SWIFT payments: What's the difference?

An ACH transfer and a SWIFT payment are both ways to send money electronically, but they have some key differences. Four essential factors for international freelancers, contractors, and remote workers to consider are transaction speed, costs and fees, volume, and security. Remember to keep these in mind when deciding on what’s best for you.


A typical ACH transfer usually one business day to complete while SWIFT payments generally take 1-3 days to process. This means that SWIFT payments take more time to process as they may have to pass through multiple banks before it lands in your account.

Cost and fees

So, how much do ACH transfers cost? ACH transfers are cheaper than wire transfers, with fees typically ranging from $0–$10 depending on the institution involved. Unfortunately, SWIFT payments generally have much higher transaction fees associated with them – sometimes up to $50 per transaction – due to their international nature and depending on the destination country.

In terms of cost savings, ACH can be a more efficient choice since it involves fewer parties thanSWIFT and generally requires lower transaction fees. With ACH, transactions typically only involve two banks, whereas with SWIFT funds move between multiple correspondent banks and can result in additional costs.


The main advantage of using an ACH transfer is that it enables more efficient processing of large volumes of payments since it can quickly process hundreds or thousands of payments at once. When it comes to high-volume payments, ACH transfers, and SWIFT payments are both viable options. However, ACH is cheaper and more commonly used for domestic transactions (such as payroll processing) within the United States while SWIFT is better suited for international payments due to shorter processing times.


In terms of security, both ACH transfers and SWIFT payments offer a high level of protection against unauthorized access and malicious activities due to their use of encryption technology and other measures. However, error and fraud risk still tends to be higher with SWIFT payments since transfers are not usually reversible.

When comparing them side by side, ACH stands out as being more secure in certain aspects than SWIFT for domestic transactions. This is because ACH transactions take place within theUnited States, where stringent banking regulations are in place to protect consumers and ensure data security. Plus, ACH transfers can be reversed. On the other hand, while some parts of the SWIFT network are covered under U.S. regulations, others operate outside these parameters and may lack the same level of protection afforded by ACH. ACH also requires two-factor authentication that enhances its security compared to traditional bank wires conducted through the SWIFT network.

We don’t want to make your head spin so, have a look at this summarized list of the key differences between ACH and SWIFT:

  • ACH is an electronic monetary network that connects banks. SWIFT is an electronic money transfer network that enables financial institutions and banks to send money from one bank account to another globally.
  • ACH payments are generally more cost-effective, while SWIFT payments internationally carry a higher charge.
  • ACH payments tend to have a higher transfer speed than SWIFT payments. There might also be delays with SWIFT payments if more intermediary banks are involved.
  • Although international ACH payments are possible, ACH is commonly used for domestic payments, while SWIFT payments are more suitable for international payments.

What is the best payment method for international freelancers?

International transaction fees are a common pain point for thousands of freelancers doing business with U.S. companies around the world. If you’re not familiar with them, you could be losing a lot of money on each transaction without even knowing it or, even worse – when it’s too late!

For international freelancers, we know that cost-effectiveness, simplicity, and security are top priorities, leaving us to ultimately recommend ACH transfers as the best option. While ACH is commonly used for domestic purposes, you can now use Higlobe to receive ACH payments internationally!

Experience the best of ACH transactions with a Higlobe!

If you’re looking for a cost-effective, fast, and safe way to get paid internationally, why not start with Higlobe? Higlobe is empowering thousands of remote workers by helping them get paid by their U.S. clients, without a hassle. Our easy-to-use platform lets your clients or employers pay you directly to your Higlobe U.S.-receiving bank account. It’s easy, domestic ACH, and powerfully international!

With Higlobe you now have the freedom to enjoy the best, cheapest, and most efficient payment solution so you can focus on what’s most important for your business or service.

Other versions

Built for professionals