There are plenty of reasons you might need to send money from your bank account, and a wire transfer can be an easy way to get the job done. Theyâ€™re speedy, convenient and can help you make large payments â€” such as putting a down payment on a home or helping a sick relative with medical expenses â€” on short notice.
A wire transfer is the process of sending money to someone, either domestically or internationally, from one bank or credit union to another through their secure systems. Those internal systems include services like SWIFT or Fedwire, but today, wire transfers can also be sent by alternative providers, such as Western Union, TransferWise and MoneyGram.
Completing a wire transfer is pretty straightforward, but there are some key pieces of info you need in order to send one:
Some banks might also require a specific code to identify where youâ€™re sending your money. The type of code you use â€” including SWIFT codes, BIC codes or IBAN codes â€” will vary depending on the bank and whether the money is being sent internationally.
Many banks and credit unions allow you to send wire transfers through your account online, while others require that you come in and fill out paperwork. Once all the documents are filled out, the bank will charge you a fee for the service (more on that below) and your money will be on its way.
How long it takes to complete a wire transfer depends on a few factors. Domestic wire transfers are typically sent the same day, but it also depends on how the recipient is receiving the money.
For example, if the recipient chooses to receive the funds at a Western Union location, they may be able to get the wire transfer in just a few hours. Meanwhile, a domestic bank-to-bank wire transfer can take one to two business days.
Sending an international transfer can take several days, depending on your bank and the receiving countryâ€™s processing system. To find out exactly how long an international wire transfer will take, check with your specific bank or credit union.
There are also some speed bumps worth watching out for â€” especially when it comes to international transfers.
As a result, an international wire transfer could take a few days to show up in the recipientâ€™s account. It may not be an instant transfer, but itâ€™s usually faster than mailing a check.
The fee for sending a wire transfer varies based on the amount youâ€™re sending, whether youâ€™re using your bank or an alternative provider like Western Union and whether the transfer is domestic or international.
Domestic wire transfers cost $4 at Walmart, which uses the cash transfer service MoneyGram. At some banks and financial services companies, those fees can be a lot higher: Ally charges $20, while Wells Fargo charges $30.
International wire transfers are typically a lot more costly. Banks typically charge about 5% on the daily exchange rate in addition to hefty international money transfer fees, so a $10,000 transfer could cost you up to $500 in fees to your bank, plus other fees.
Some banks and credit unions do not charge a wire transfer fee to their account holders, but there might be stipulations. For example, Chase Global Transfer does not charge a wire fee if their account holder is sending an online wire of $5,000 or more to a bank outside the U.S. in foreign currency.
Keep in mind, too, that you can send a wire transfer through such services as Western Union or TransferWise using money from your credit card, but your credit card company considers wire transfers a cash advance and may charge you cash advance fees and higher interest rates. Thatâ€™s in addition to the fees you will be charged from whichever service you use.
Wire transfers are generally considered to be secure, but there is one major issue to keep in mind: Once youâ€™ve sent the money, you canâ€™t get it back.
Hopefully youâ€™ve never fallen for the â€śYou won a trip, now wire us a deposit to hold your spot!â€ť scam and youâ€™re always sending your wire transfer to someone you know and trust, but there also more convincing wire transfer scams out there.
Fraudulent schemes include one where youâ€™ve been told that you won a jackpot and need to secure your money, and another where Facebook scammers pose as your friends, messaging you that theyâ€™re in trouble and financial help. Always double-check in these situations.
Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued rules to protect consumers who send money electronicallyâ€”typically over $15â€”to foreign countries. It wonâ€™t cover every situation, so you should still be careful who you are sending money to, but it does provide some protection.
For example, CFPB rules generally require that banks and wire transfer companies disclose the exchange rates and fees that are collected by the companyâ€”as well as information on when the funds will be available to the consumerâ€”before you send your money.
If there are any problems, the rules also state that consumers have 30 minutes (and sometimes more) to cancel a transfer. The CFPB also requires companies to investigate if a consumer has a problem or claims that their money has not arrived.
Sending a wire transfer safely is all about staying vigilant and aware. Here are a few tips to keep your money safe from fraud:
If a wire transfer doesnâ€™t seem like the best option for you, there are some other options available. Here are some of the alternatives to consider:
So is a wire transfer is your best way of sending money? That depends on where the funds are going, how much youâ€™re sending and how quickly you need it to get there. Above all, itâ€™s important to know your options â€” and potential security risks â€” before sending money in any form.