What is a Wire Transfer?

Wire Transfer Definition

If you subscribe to a service from a link on this page, Reeves and Sons Limited may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

When you need to send cash quickly, wire transfers are an excellent choice.

Known for being reliable, fast, and efficient, wire transfers allow for the transfer of funds at speed. They’re often the preferred choice for many kinds of purchase, simply because they ensure that the required funds will be available to the recipient as quickly as possible.

Wire transfers are one of many electronic payment methods. Let’s take a closer look at how the wire transfer works.

What is a Wire Transfer?

The first thing you need to know is that a wire transfer is an electronic transfer of funds. Usually, if someone requests a wire transfer, they’re looking for one of a few things. A bank wire involves having a domestic bank send a transfer to another bank. The transitional money wires use a network within the banking industry to move from one bank to another.

Wire transfers can also include other kinds of transfers, like sending money from the US to international citizens through remittance transfers. International wire transfers allow for sending money to different regions around the world. Credit unions, banks, and other financial services companies can also act as the money transfer provider for situations such as these. This is why it’s important to make sure you understand what a person is really asking for if they request a wire transfer. Banks make domestic wire transfers to locations that exist in the same financial environment or zone.

When sending funds to locations in other countries, international wire transfers are required. The difference between the two types of wire transfers will affect the number of fees banks deal with, and the time taken to complete the transfer.

How Much Does a Wire Transfer Cost?

Usually, the difference between a domestic and an international wire transfer will come down to the fees involved in sending the money. Unlike some electronic payments, there are fees involved with sending bank wire transfers. The price can vary depending on your bank and the size of the transfer.

The fee you spend will be based on the bank and its standard charges, as well as whether the wire is incoming or outgoing, international, or domestic, and the amount of money being sent. In general, domestic incoming wires fall towards the lower end of the price range, while outgoing international wires are far more expensive.

Some banks waive domestic incoming fees for certain kinds of accounts. It’s best to examine your banks requirements and terms and conditions before jumping into a wire transfer.

How Long Do Wire Transfers Take?

A bank wire transfer is usually a pretty speedy way of sending and receiving money. The money moves within a few days, or even faster, depending on where the destination account might be. Money wires are also quite easy, as it only takes minutes to complete a payment. US banks can handle transfers within a day, depending on the speed with which you submit your request.

Because the money in a wire transfer moves so quickly, the person receiving it usually won’t have to wait several days for the funds to clear before they start using that money. There’s usually no bank hold on money received via a wire transfer.

Even without the bank hold, however, it can take several hours for the bank receiving the cash to show the proceeds from the money in the bank account. Bank employees often need to set up the system to recognize that the extra money has arrived before there will be a difference to the account balance from a customer’s perspective.

Crucially, it’s worth noting that bank transfers via the wiring method aren’t just beneficial for their speed – they’re also ideal for anyone who wants a safe way to send cash. For people selling services and merchandise, a wire often poses much less of a risk for things like fraud, because the sender needs to have sufficient funds in their account before they can initiate the wire.

Alternatively, a check, or another form of payment may be able to bounce, and it can take several weeks before the person receiving the money will be able to see whether a payment was legitimate or not. However, it is important to take safety precautions when using wires, regardless.

What Information Is Needed For A Wire Transfer?

For most people, the biggest risks of using wire transfers fall in sending funds. When you send a wire transfer, money moves from one bank to the other, then through to the recipient’s account. Within the US, the two parties to the wire transfer will need their own bank and bank account number. You also need a physical address where the people can be found.

A lack of anonymity with the system helps to reduce the risk of fraud and criminal activity. If you wire money to a stranger through a business that pays the proceeds in cash, such as with Western Union services, it can be more difficult to determine who ended up with the money. Someone with a fake ID may end up collecting the case.

For bank-to-bank transactions, you’ll need information like:

  • The full name of the recipient
  • The transfer service terms and conditions
  • The full phone number of the recipient
  • The recipient’s bank account name and information (IBAN and Swift)
  • Your name and full phone number (sender)

Usually, you’ll be able to fill out all of this information with your bank account or online. You will need both routing numbers for the sending and receiving bank. The ABA number for account holders in the United States is usually printed on the bottom of checks, this helps to identify the financial institution from the funds sent.

The system facilitates the bundling, sorting, and delivery of money to the sender’s bank through tools like Fedwire technology. The federal reserve bank will use ABA RTNs when handling fund transfers. Electronic payment methods require on the American Banker’s Association information to identify the financial institution or bank for bill payments.

When making a debit card transaction internationally through wire transfer, you will need to know details about the international bank.

To successfully send money in the lowest number of business days from a credit card or debit card, you’ll need the IBAN, BIC, or Swift code for the bank you’re sending the money too. These numbers may also show up when making ACH transfers from your checking account. The numbers automatically identify global financial institutions and banks.

It’s important to make sure you know the exchange rate and any fees for your money transfer service before making international money transfers.

What is a Wire Transfer Routing Number?

Routing numbers are nine-digit codes used by American banks for identification. The American Bankers Association ABA number, or RTN (Routing Transfer Number) appears on all kinds of automatic and wire transfers online, as well as on cheques.

Routing numbers are crucial because they need to be available to allow for Fedwire transfers. The Automated Clearing House also uses this information to process direct deposit payments, pension payments and other transfers.

The routing number for your online banking transactions is how you make sure your deposit or cash gets to the right bank account. Online banking solutions may ask you to provide more information alongside the routing number, such as details on why you’re sending the transfer. Having all of the information you need available can reduce the processing time for your payment.

With some e-wallet services like PayPal, you don’t need a routing number to handle international money transfers. Instead, you can send money to a person’s email address, provided they already have an account with the same service.

What is the Difference between ACH and Wire Transfer?

Choosing the right kind of payment strategy can help you to avoid all kinds of scams and headaches online. Both wire transfers and ACH payments move money from one person to another in the financial world. You’ll need the recipient’s name for both cases, although there may be a wire transfer fee to consider, whereas ACH payments are free or low-cost, depending on your needs. Wire transfer and ACH payments sit alongside options like using online payment service systems such as Venmo for quick and easy access to foreign payments.

Wire transfers are immediate, while the ACH payments system can take a few days to fully process. Wire transfers are also initiated and processed by banks, whereas a clearing house deals with interbank payments in the ACH environment. Additionally, for wire transfers, only the sender will be able to start the transfer. However, with ACH payments, businesses and individuals alike can both send and receive funds.

What Is The Difference Between A Wire Transfer And A Direct Deposit?

If you’re trying to send a payment from New York to elsewhere in the world for a real estate investment, or you’re accepting foreign currency for a customer in your store, you need the right payment methods in place. The main difference between a wire transfer from your savings account, and a direct deposit, is that wire transfers are often faster.

Wire transfers Are an electronic transfer from one bank to another via the society for worldwide interbank financial telecommunication. Like a wire transfer service, a direct deposit will also use an electronic network to deposit money from one account to the next. The network for direct deposits is called the automated clearing house, and funds are generally credited automatically on the agreed-upon date. Direct deposits are commonly used to issue tax refunds and paychecks.

Remember, the more you know about the available payment systems, the easier it is to avoid issues and scammers online.


Bogdan Rancea

Bogdan is a founding member of Inspired Mag, having accumulated almost 6 years of experience over this period. In his spare time he likes to study classical music and explore visual arts. He’s quite obsessed with fixies as well. He owns 5 already.

shopify popup new
shopify light modal wide - this exclussive deal expires