Ask Difference

EFT vs. ACH — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 8, 2024
EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) is a broad term for electronic money movement, including card payments and direct deposits, while ACH (Automated Clearing House) is a specific system handling bank-to-bank transactions like payroll and bill payments.
EFT vs. ACH — What's the Difference?

Difference Between EFT and ACH


Key Differences

EFT is a general term covering any electronic transfer of funds, including methods like wire transfers, debit cards, and online payments. ACH, on the other hand, specifically refers to the automated network facilitating bank-to-bank transfers for direct deposits, bill payments, and more.
EFT encompasses many systems that move money electronically between parties, including ATM transactions and online banking. ACH, however, focuses solely on bank transfers, generally used for recurring payments like salaries or mortgages.
EFT transactions are often immediate, such as debit card purchases or wire transfers, giving near-instant access to funds. Conversely, ACH transactions, such as payroll direct deposits, may take 1-2 business days due to their batch processing nature.
EFT may involve various parties like banks, credit card networks, or third-party payment services. ACH is tightly controlled by NACHA, ensuring consistent processing standards across participating financial institutions.
While EFT is used broadly across global financial systems, ACH is predominantly a U.S.-based system that manages domestic bank transactions, including government payments and tax refunds.

Comparison Chart


Broad term for electronic funds movement
Automated network for bank-to-bank transfers


Often immediate (e.g., wire transfers)
1-2 business days (batch processing)


Includes various systems like cards and wires
Limited to bank-to-bank transfers

Governing Body

Multiple entities, varies by type
NACHA (National Automated Clearing House)

Primary Usage

Debit cards, online banking, etc.
Direct deposits, bill payments

Compare with Definitions


Includes ATM withdrawals.
She withdrew cash from the ATM through an EFT transaction.


Network managing U.S. bank-to-bank transactions.
The ACH network handled his payroll direct deposit.


Debit card transactions.
Paying with a debit card at the store is an EFT.


Facilitates direct deposits.
Her salary was deposited directly via ACH.


Any electronic transfer of money between accounts.
He used EFT to send money to his friend via an online banking app.


Batch processing system.
ACH transactions are processed in batches.


Online bill payments.
The utility company accepts EFT payments through their website.


Oversees government disbursements.
The IRS uses ACH for tax refunds.


Wire transfers between banks.
The wire transfer between banks is an EFT.


Manages recurring bill payments.
He set up monthly ACH payments for his mortgage.


A newt in its juvenile terrestrial stage, especially the reddish-orange form of the North American species Notophthalmus viridescens.


(obsolete) Any of several species of plants, such as smallage, wild celery, parsley.


A newt, especially the European smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris, syn. Triturus punctatus).


An expression of annoyance.


(obsolete) Again; afterwards


An expression of woe or regret.


A European lizard of the genus Seps.


A name given to several species of plants; as, smallage, wild celery, parsley.


Again; afterwards; soon; quickly.
I wold never eft comen into the snare.


A newt in its terrestrial stage of development

Common Curiosities

Who regulates ACH transactions?

ACH transactions are regulated by NACHA, the National Automated Clearing House Association.

How fast are ACH transactions compared to EFT transactions?

ACH transactions typically take 1-2 business days due to batch processing, whereas EFT transactions like wire transfers or debit card payments are often immediate.

Is ACH used internationally?

ACH is primarily a U.S. system, but EFT encompasses international transactions, like wire transfers.

Can EFT include ACH transactions?

Yes, EFT is an umbrella term that includes ACH transactions, as both involve electronic transfers of funds.

Are there limits on ACH transactions?

Limits on ACH transactions vary based on bank policies, transaction types, and user agreements.

What are common examples of EFT and ACH?

EFT examples include debit card payments, wire transfers, and online payments. ACH examples include payroll direct deposits and bill payments.

Can ACH be used for international transfers?

ACH is designed for domestic transfers in the U.S., but some international transfers are possible through special cross-border ACH programs.

Are EFT and ACH transactions secure?

Yes, both EFT and ACH transactions use encryption and security protocols to protect personal and financial information.

Can I cancel an ACH transaction after it's been initiated?

It depends. Canceling an ACH transaction is possible before it's processed, but once completed, it may require contacting the recipient to arrange a refund.

How do I set up recurring ACH payments?

Recurring ACH payments can be arranged by providing your bank account and routing numbers to the billing entity or through your bank's online banking.

What is the primary difference between EFT and ACH?

EFT is a broad term for electronic fund transfers, while ACH is a specific network that handles bank-to-bank transactions.

What fees are associated with EFT and ACH transactions?

EFT fees vary by service type (e.g., wire, card), while ACH fees are generally low, often waived for recurring payments or direct deposits.

Why do ACH transactions take longer than other EFT methods?

ACH transactions are processed in batches to reduce processing costs and ensure efficiency, causing a slight delay in completion.

Do all banks support ACH transfers?

Most U.S. banks support ACH transfers for direct deposits and bill payments since it's a common system for interbank transactions.

How are wire transfers different from ACH transfers?

Wire transfers are direct, real-time transactions between banks with higher fees, while ACH transfers are batch-processed and typically cost less.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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