Electronic funds transfer

Electronic funds transfer

Electronic funds transfer or EFT refers to the computer-based systems used to perform financial transactions electronically.

The term is used for a number of different concepts:
* Cardholder-initiated transactions, where a cardholder makes use of a payment card
* Direct deposit payroll payments for a business to its employees, possibly via a payroll services company
* Direct debit payments from customer to business, where the transaction is initiated by the business with customer permission
* Electronic bill payment in online banking, which may be delivered by EFT or paper check
* Transactions involving stored value of electronic money, possibly in a private currency
* Wire transfer via an international banking network (generally carries a higher fee)
* Electronic Benefit Transfer


EFTPOS (short for "Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale") is an Australian and New Zealand electronic processing system for credit cards, debit cards and charge cards. [ [http://www.boq.com.au/business_merchant_eftpos.htm EFTPOS. Merchant banking services. EFTPOS. Bank of Queensland Australia ] ]

European banks and card companies also sometimes reference "EFTPOS" as the system used for processing card transactions through terminals on points of sale, though the system is not the trademarked Australian/New Zealand variant.

Card-based EFT

EFT may be initiated by a cardholder when a payment card such as a credit card or debit card is used. This may take place at an automated teller machine (ATM) or point of sale (POS), or when the card is not present, which covers cards used for mail order, telephone order and internet purchases.

Card-based EFT transactions are often covered by the ISO 8583 standard.

Transaction types

A number of transaction types may be performed, including the following:

* "Sale": where the cardholder pays for goods or service
* "Refund": where a merchant refunds an earlier payment made by a cardholder
* "Withdrawal": the cardholder withdraws funds from their account, e.g. from an ATM. The term "Cash Advance" may also be used, typically when the funds are advanced by a merchant rather than at an ATM
* "Deposit": where a cardholder deposits funds to their own account (typically at an ATM)
* "Cashback": where a cardholder withdraws funds from their own account at the same time as making a purchase
* "Inter-account transfer": transferring funds between linked accounts belonging to the same cardholder
* "Payment": transferring funds to a third party account
* "Enquiry": a transaction without financial impact, for instance balance enquiry, available funds enquiry, linked accounts enquiry, or request for a statement of recent transactions on the account
* "E top-up": where a cardholder can use a device (typically POS or ATM) to add funds (top-up) their pre-pay mobile phone
* "Mini-statement": where a cardholder uses a device (typically an ATM) to obtain details of recent transactions on their account
* "Administrative": this covers a variety of non-financial transactions including PIN change

The transaction types offered depend on the terminal. An ATM would offer different transactions from a POS terminal, for instance.


EFT transactions require communication between a number of parties. When a card is used at a merchant or ATM, the transaction is first routed to an acquirer, then through a number of networks to the issuer where the cardholder's account is held.

A transaction may be authorised "offline" by any of these entities through a stand-in agreement. Stand-in authorisation may be used when a communication link is not available, or simply to save communication cost or time. Stand-in is subject to the transaction amount being below agreed limits, known as floor limits. These limits are calculated based on the risk of authorising a transaction offline, and thus vary between merchants and card types. Offline transactions may be subject to other security checks such as checking the card number against a 'hotcard' (stolen card) list, velocity checks (limiting the number of offline transactions allowed by a cardholder) and random online authorisation.

Before online authorisation was standard practice and credit cards were processed using manual vouchers, each merchant would agree a limit ("floor limit) with his bank above which he must telephone for an authorisation code.If this was not carried out and the transaction subsequently was refused by the issuer ("bounced"), the merchant would not be entitled to a refund.

Dual Message Authorisation/Clearing

Depending on the business rules of the issuer, a "hold" may be placed on the funds authorised. This hold reserves that amount of money for a defined period. If a transaction is not cleared within the defined period then the "hold" will be removed and the funds made available again.

Example - Purchase for £10 on Day 2 never completes so hold removed on Day 4:This transaction has to be applied even if the cardholder does not have sufficient funds or an overdraft.

ingle Message Authorisation/Clearing

Some financial networks operate a single message solution, in which a transaction is authorised and cleared via the same message.

A transaction will be authorised via a "pre-authorisation" step, where the merchant requests the issuer to reserve an amount on the cardholder's account for a specific time, followed by "completion", where the merchant requests an amount blocked earlier with a pre-authorisation. This transaction flow in two steps is often used in businesses such as hotels and car rental where the final amount is not known, and the pre-authorisation is made based on an estimated amount. Completion may form part of a "settlement" process, typically performed at the end of the day when the day's completed transactions are submitted. All these messages will be sent "on-line" from the merchant acquirer to the issuing bank.


EFT transactions may be accompanied by methods to authenticate the card and the card holder. The merchant may manually verify the card holder's signature, or the card holder's Personal identification number (PIN) may be sent online in an encrypted form for validation by the card issuer. Other information may be included in the transaction, some of which is not visible to the card holder (for instance magnetic stripe data), and some of which may be requested from the card holder (for instance the card holder's address or the CVV2 value printed on the card).

EMV cards are smartcard-based payment cards, where the smartcard technology allows for a number of enhanced authentication measures.


ee also

* Debit card
* Wire transfer
* Automated Clearing House
* Hardware Security Module

External links

* [http://www.mapesa.org/ MAPESA, a blog specialised on money transfer, remittances and cards issues]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • electronic funds transfer — ( EFT) An electronically based rather than paper based system of transferring funds to and from accounts. Two main EFT remittance methods are wire transfers and automated clearing house ( ACH). American Banker Glossary ( EFT) Transfer of funds… …   Financial and business terms

  • electronic funds transfer — electronic funds .transfer n [U and C] EFT when money is moved from one bank account, business etc to another using only computer systems …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • electronic funds transfer — noun : the transfer of money from one location or account to another by computerized means * * * the use of telecommunications networks to transfer funds from one financial institution, as a bank, to another, or to withdraw funds from one s own… …   Useful english dictionary

  • electronic funds transfer —    Form of electronic commerce that operates through debit cards that enable the automatic transfer of funds from a user s bank account …   IT glossary of terms, acronyms and abbreviations

  • electronic funds transfer — the use of telecommunications networks to transfer funds from one financial institution, as a bank, to another, or to withdraw funds from one s own account to deposit in a creditor s. Abbr.: EFT [1970 75] * * * …   Universalium

  • electronic funds transfer — noun a computerised banking system for the transfer of funds from one account to another. Compare EFTPOS. Also, EFT …   Australian English dictionary

  • electronic funds transfer — system which enables the transfer of sums of money from one account to another by computer …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Electronic Funds Transfer —   Any method of electronically moving money between the accounts. Often simply known as EFT. See also EFTPOS …   International financial encyclopaedia

  • electronic funds transfer — /ˌelektrɒnɪk fʌndz ˌtrænsfɜ:/ noun a system for transferring money from one account to another electronically (as when using a smart card). Abbreviation EFT …   Dictionary of banking and finance

  • Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale — ➔ EFTPOS * * * electronic funds transfer at point of sale UK US noun [U] BANKING, COMMERCE ► EFTPOS(Cf. ↑EFTPOS) …   Financial and business terms