EFT Meaning & Definition with Examples

In this article, we explain electronic fund transfers. Does your company use the best EFT payment methods? Check out our eBook, “Comparing the Top Global Payment Methods.”

Electronic funds transfer (EFT) has a broad definition that includes more than online ACH bank transfers and wire transfers. We define the meaning of EFT in business, economics, and online banking, then list and describe types of electronic funds transfers.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Meaning

An electronic funds transfer (EFT) is a digital transfer of cash through an online payment system. An EFT can be performed within the same bank, or between banks, and typically uses payment systems such as the Automated Clearing House for ACH payments, Fedwire or SWIFT for wire transfers, or credit card and debit card networks.

EFTs are becoming increasingly common in B2B payments as many businesses shift from traditional paper checks towards more efficient and lower-cost ePayment methods such as ACH. The EFT can happen between accounts within one bank or between accounts across multiple banks. Other transaction types that are considered EFT include direct deposit, ATMs, virtual cards, e-Checks (used globally), peer-to-peer payments, and personal computer banking.

As traditional paper processes become digitized, computerized systems like EFT transactions will continue to grow and evolve. Activities such as utility bill payments have traditionally been paper-intensive, requiring physical statements, invoices, checks, and receipts. These processes now primarily take place over digital networks as ACH transactions. This change is shifting the banking world’s paradigm.

What are Types of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)?

Types of EFT (electronic funds transfer) include:

  • ACH payment or ACH direct deposits
  • Global ACH (like SEPA payments in the EU)
  • Wire transfers
  • eCommerce transactions
  • Point of sale (POS) transactions
  • Credit card or debit card transactions 
  • Peer-to-peer payments
  • Phone-initiated funds transfers, and
  • ATM (automated teller machine) transactions. 

ACH as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

ACH is one type of electronic funds transfer. ACH credits and ACH debits for online bank transfers include direct deposits and eChecks (electronic checks) for one-time payments or automated recurring bill payments for bill pay. ACH transactions are sent through the Automated Clearing House network (ACH network) as bank transfers between member financial institutions like banks and credit unions.

A United States-based ACH  transaction uses bank account information, including the bank routing number (ABA number) and bank account number for the payer and payee and their originating bank and receiving bank. ACH transactions can be made using Same Day ACH or Next Day ACH, where day means business day.

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Global ACH as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

International ACH electronic payments may be loosely called global ACH payments if they use a similar network to the ACH network to make electronic payments. In the European Union (EU), electronic SEPA (Single Area Euro Payments) using debit and credit transfers are a type of global ACH payment that are EFT payments. SEPA is useful for cross-border payments. 

Wire Transfer as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

Wire transfers are domestic or international electronic funds transfers to a recipient’s bank account made through the Fedwire Funds Service (Federal Reserve Banks) or Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) in the U.S. or the SWIFT network or IBAN internationally and for cross-border payment transactions for the transfer of money. 

eCommerce and Point of Sale Retail Transactions as EFT

Online eCommerce and electronic point of sale (POS) transactions made from physical stores are types of electronic fund transfer (EFT)when the customer pays the merchant via online bank account transactions, debit cards, or credit cards using a payment processor. Cash transactions on-premises paid using paper and coin currency like dollar bills and quarters are not considered EFT.

Credit Card or Debit Card Transactions Always EFT

Credit card and debit card transactions are always an EFT (electronic funds transfer) transaction between the payer and the payee. The purchase price, including any sales tax, is electronically charged to the customer on a credit card or to their bank account using a debit card. The funds are electronically transferred in batches to a merchant’s bank account.

Peer to Peer Payments as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

Peer-to-peer payments are electronic funds transfers (EFTs) made through mobile apps or the Internet to transfer money electronically between them. Examples of peer-to-peer payment systems include PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, Apple Cash, and eWallet apps where both parties (the payer and payee receiver) have accounts.  EFTs are electronic money (E-money) transactions.

Phone-initiated Fund Transfer as EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer)

Many companies and government entities include an optional payment method by phone using a bank transfer (ACH), credit card, or debit card payment. These payments, which are processed electronically by a service provider based on phone instructions, are considered electronic funds transfers (EFTs). 

Bank ATM (Automated Teller Machine) as Electronics Fund Transfer (EFT)

Bank ATM transactions, to electronically transfer money between bank accounts, deposit funds,  or make withdrawals of money from a bank account as cash, are one kind of electronic funds transfer (EFT) that uses online banking. ATM transactions are initiated using a bank-issued debit card and password. 

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How Does EFT (Electronics Fund Transfer) Work?

EFT payment works using a different electronic funds transfer process, depending on the type of EFT payment used for the transfer of funds. EFT is always an online or electronic payment through a payment network or system. 

What are 3 Examples of EFT?

3 examples of EFT (electronic funds transfer) are:

  1. Recurring bill pay from your bank account
  2. Direct deposit for employee payroll
  3. Wire transfers

Recurring bill pay from your bank account

For example, your company may authorize that the bank automatically pays its recurring software subscription bills from its checking account when due on a monthly basis. The form of EFT payment will be ACH. 

Consumers also choose to use recurring bill pay from a bank account as an ACH Direct Debit to pay recurring mobile phone service bills, streaming services, and utility bills.

For these examples, the customer paying bills could instead select recurring credit card transactions as the payment method, which is another type of electronic funds transfer (EFT). 

Direct Deposit for employee payroll

Direct Deposit of payroll in an employee’s bank account is another type of EFT, using ACH. 

Wire transfers

Wire transfers are used as a type of EFT to transfer funds via the Fedwire or SWIFT network. Both domestic and international wire transfers usually have higher fees than ACH. An international wire transfer includes layers of fees that include originating bank fees, receiving bank fees, and intermediary bank fees. Some banks waive domestic incoming wire transfer fees. 

 How Long Does an EFT Take?

The time for an electronic funds transfer to be completed, including the receipt of funds by the payee, depends on the type of EFT. 

For example, some EFTs going through peer-to-peer networks can be completed immediately. ACH transactions in the U.S. are completed the same business day or the next business day. Domestic wire transfers can be completed within 24 hours in the U.S. International wire transfers can take three to five days. 

What is the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA)?

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) is U.S. legislation enacted in 1978 to protect individual consumers in many types of electronic funds transactions and define the roles and responsibilities of all involved parties. The Federal Reserve Board implements EFTA through Regulation E.  


The following FAQs cover questions and answers relating to electronic funds transfer (EFT) made via computer or mobile transactions in finance. 

What is an e-Check (Electronic Check)?

e-Checks are electronic checks used as a type of payment instead of paper checks to make ACH payments, a category of electronic fund transfer (EFT), between bank accounts.

What are the Four Major Credit Card Networks Used for EFTs? 

Are ACH Transfers Made Outside the U.S.?

Which Types of Bank Accounts can be Used for an EFT?

Is there a Difference Between ACH and EFT?

What is the Difference Between Electronic Funds Transfer vs Wire Transfer?

How Long Does it Take for an Electronic Funds Transfer to Go Through?

Can an EFT be Used for Cryptocurrency Transactions?

What are Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Advantages and Disadvantages?

What are Examples of U.S. Federal Government Entities Using EFT Payments, including ACH?

In Summary

Electronic fund transfers (EFTs) include several types of payment methods, including ACH and global ACH, wire transfer, credit cards and debit cards, peer-to-peer, phone payment  transactions, point of sale, eCommerce, and ATM transactions. The amount of time to receive payments and network types for making these EFTs varies. 

When your business has an easy choice of electronic payment methods, you can find a cost-effective way to make global payments to suppliers and partners. Get started with our Global Partner Payments software.

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