Difference Between ACH and RTGS

Transfer systems and distribution systems are constantly evolving offering a wide range of options for customers and credit seekers. Banks offer multiple systems for payments and settlements.


The difference between ACH and RTGS is that in the case of ACH, the settlement of payments is done in batches, while in the case of RTGS, real-time payment is handled individually.


ACH stands for Automatic Clearing House. It is a payment system that was introduced in the United States of America during the 1970s.

RTGS stands for Real-Time Gross Settlement and is the fastest way of transferring money. In this process money from one bank is transferred in real-time and on a gross basis.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonACHRTGS
Full-FormStands for Automatic Clearing HouseStands for Real-Time Gross Settlement.
Time Taken2-3 Business days1 business day
Payment SystemSettlement for ACH is done in batchesSettlements are handled on an individual basis
RisksSuch payments might be vulnerable to delivery risksThe delivery risk is negligible, however other frauds can happen.
ProcessThe net balance of credit vs debit is considered over central bank sheets.The settlement happens without considering the net balance.
IdealThe ideal system for Repetitive payments such as salary transfersRTGS find major use in case of urgent large amount payments that need to be settled on one to one basis.


What is ACH?

During the 1970’s United Nations of America came up with a system of payment through an integrated network to facilitate instant payment with significantly reduced use of paper checks and bills. Gradually, the system was adopted by several economies and evolved into a system of an electronically facilitated settlement system.

The ACH stands for Automated Clearing System popularly recognized as the Electronic Clearing System. The settlements are managed by one centralized body, which in the case of the USA was NACHA or National Automated Clearing House System.

The footprint was introduced to provide solutions for large volume repetitive payments in both the corporate and private sectors. It brought in a centralized system of payment via UID and structured guidelines for users of the service.

In simple terms, ACH is a system of electronic payment that enables you to transfer money from one bank account to another over a network that is dedicated to handling such payments in batches. ACH transfers are both in the form of deposits or payments.

When you pay bills to organizations or individuals, you register an ACH payment, as a debit transfer.

It is a person to a person form of payment, usually free of additional charges and extremely fast. the processing time is usually up to 2-3 business days.


What is RTGS?

RTGS or Real Time Gross Settlement is a payment system that allows you to make instantaneous payments. Payments made via RTGS are settled on a one-to-one basis, and not settled based on overall credit to a debit balance.

RTGS payments are ideally for interbank transfer of large amounts. The charges for RTGS transactions vary according to the Bank, however, most central banks have assigned an upper limit for the rate that can be charged.

The first-ever system of RTGS transfer was set up by US Fedwire in the 1970s. Today most RTGS transactions are headed by central banks.

Hence the primary benefit of RTGS transfers is that the delivery risk factor associated with high-value payments is significantly improved. However, such transactions are vulnerable to digital frauds such as phishing and data theft.

To be able to conduct an RTGS transfer, both banks must be involved in core banking facilities. It is an ideal mode of transfer for low volume, high-value transactions.


Main Differences Between ACH and RTGS

  1. ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, while RTGS stands for Real-time Gross Settlement.
  2. ACH allows electronic payments between banks over a centralized network, while RTGS, allows real-time settlement of funds between Banks.
  3. The system of ACH settlement is dependent on the net credit/debit balance system, while RTGS is independent of the system.
  4. Hence, settlement of payments in case of ACH, happens in bundles, while RTGS settlements are dealt with independently.
  5. ACH payments are normally free of cost, hence they are suitable for high volume, low-value payments, while RTGS payments are normally charged hence they are suitable for low volume, high-value payments.
  6. Payments for ACH is usually settled within 2-3 business days, while RTGS settlements happen within 1 day.


  1. https://www.cribfb.com/journal/index.php/amfbr/article/view/289
  2. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm?abstractid=1485141#page=88
  3. http://www.bankandcredit.nbp.pl/content/2003/2003_04/tochmanski.pdf
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