How to Wire Money

Financial Planning woman-sending-money-by-phone

A wire transfer is defined as “a transfer of funds (as from one bank to another) by electronic means.” Though wires don’t connect anything, it’s as simple as taking money from one account at one bank and transferring it to another account at a different bank. 

By wiring money, you’re electronically ordering funds to be deducted from your account and added to someone else’s. Whether you need to wire money to a relative in another country, are paying your roommate for bills or anything else, wiring money is a quick way to send and receive money.

But how do you wire money? At a glance, it may seem overwhelming — especially because it can involve actually communicating with your bank or money provider. We’ve broken the process down into an easy-to-follow checklist, so all you have to worry about is actually going through with it.

Step One: Decide Which Provider to Use

There are two options to choose between when it comes to wiring money: typical banks, like Wells Fargo or Chase, or non-bank money transfer providers, like MoneyGram or Western Union.

Using a Bank

Using an accredited bank for wiring money involves both the sender and the recipient’s financial institutions. Transfers within the country are processed within the same day, but international transfers generally take at least a few days. Fees for wiring money vary from bank to bank, and whether the wire is sent domestically or internationally. 

Using a Non-Bank Money Transfer Provider

Using a non-bank money transfer provider, like Western Union, allows transfers both in the United States and internationally. Using these services, users can pay bills, transfer money between bank accounts, or send cash for pickups. These transfers can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on which service is used. These providers can be found in grocery stores and drugstores, and fees vary from service to service.

Step Two: Gather Your Information

If you’re using your bank to transfer money, you’ll need to bring the following with you:

  1. Government-issued ID, such as your passport or license or access to your online banking account
  2. Account with the minimum amount you want to send to recipient 
  3. Bank account number, which can be found on your bank statement, check or your online account
  4. Recipient’s full name and contact information
  5. Recipient’s bank name, address and phone number
  6. Recipient bank’s transit number or equivalent
    1. If recipient is within the U.S, this is a nine-digit code known as the American Banking Association routing transit number. This can be found here, or by asking the recipient.
    2. If recipient is abroad, this is a bank identification code, such as a SWIFT code, that identifies specific banks internationally. Ask the recipient for this code before proceeding.
  7. Recipient’s bank account number
  8. Additional information based on your specific bank’s instructions
    1. Bank of America
    2. BB&T
    3. Capital One
    4. Chase
    5. CitiBank
    6. PNC Bank
    7. SunTrust
    8. T.D. Bank
    9. Wells Fargo 
  9. If needed, information about the intermediary bank that the recipient’s bank uses for international money transfers.

Step Three: Know Costs and Choose the Transfer Methods

The bank or non-bank provider may offer several different methods to choose from to send your transfer. This could be online, telephone banking or at a bank branch itself. These methods can vary in cost, so compare pricing before committing to a decision.

On average, the cost to send a wire transfer is $25 domestically, and $40 internationally. Non-bank providers have online tools to check the estimated cost of a transfer before actually sending.

Before sending an international wire transfer, your bank is required to give you specific details regarding your transfer. This includes details about:

  1. The exchange rate 
  2. Total fees and taxes collected by all parties
  3. Delivery date
  4. Amount expected to be delivered, separate from fees.

Step Four: Send the Transfer

While filling out the transfer request form, whether you’re sending it in person at the bank or online, be extra careful while inputting the needed information. A misspelled name or wrong digit can block your recipient from getting the money you send. 

After sending, your bank or non-bank provider will provide a receipt with a confirmation number. Be sure to save it and refer to the confirmation number of your specific transfer if any issues arise! 

Why Wire?

If you’re puzzling over why anyone would wire money in today’s age of banking apps, it’s because wiring money has its own uses and benefits that have been around almost as long as banks themselves.

Pros of Wiring Money

  • Wire transfers are deemed to be very safe, reliable and happen almost instantaneously. 
  • In large and important transactions, like buying a car or a home, wiring money to your broker’s bank account might be the only option to pay — because the funds are available almost immediately. 
  • Unlike paying with checks, you’re immediately able to access the funds, making this a pro for many users who want to make an immediate purchase or immediately need money. 
  • Generally, there is no hold placed on money received through a wire transfer, meaning the recipient has immediate access and can spend it as soon as it appears in their account.
  • Wiring money is a great solution for anyone who needs to transfer money from one bank to another. While some banks have the technology to send money to others within the same bank, there aren’t many options for others with different or smaller banks. 
  • If you need to send money to a relative or friend in a different country or with a different bank, wiring money is a great solution.
  • You may have gotten a scam email a time or two asking for wired money, but that’s where the concern with wiring money ends. To wire money, both the sender and the recipient need a bank account, which requires identity verification and other precautions to ensure a safe banking experience. 
  • This makes it near impossible to have an anonymous bank account within the U.S., which severely limits any thieves’ ability to operate a scheme through wiring money.

Cons of Wiring Money

That doesn’t mean you should start wiring money left and right. Whenever you wire money, carefully consider who you’re sending it to, as it is very difficult to un-do a wire transfer after it’s been sent. 

  • Some instances of wiring money are particularly vulnerable, such as whenever you wire money to a retail “money transfer” store like Western Union. 
  • Unlike banks, they do not have a rigid vetting process to ensure and verify the right recipient is getting the money transferred to them. 
  • Anybody with a fake or stolen I.D. can collect the hard-earned money you intended for another person.
  • The most popular wire transfer targets for thieves and hackers are large transfers, such as putting a down payment on a house. 
  • There have been cases in the past of hackers altering emails to instruct senders to wire the money to a different address than where it’s intended. 
  • To ensure your money ends up in the right hands, call your recipient and verify their wiring instructions. 

Wiring Money Terminology

There are many different terms associated with wiring money, and all the different acronyms might start to run together after a while. To make sure you’re entirely knowledgeable about the ins and outs of wiring money, we put together a glossary of the different acronyms and terms that come with wiring money.

ABA Number

An American Bankers Association number is a unique identifier assigned to every payment- issuing bank in the U.S. The number helps other banks transfer money to and from checking or savings accounts for different transactions, like bill payments or direct deposits. The ABA number can be found on the bottom left-hand corner of checks or on deposit slips. 

IBAN Number

An International Bank Account Number is the standard international numbering system developed to identify an overseas bank account. The number begins with a two-digit country code, followed by three to five alphanumeric characters. 

An IBAN is not a substitute or replacement for a bank’s account number. It’s only purpose is to provide additional information in identifying overseas payments.

SWIFT Code

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication code is an eight- or 11-character code that identifies specific banks internationally. This is used primarily in international wire transfers, and is in the standard bank identification code format. Ask the recipient for this code before following through with the wire. 

Now that you know everything there is about wiring money, you’re ready to go out there to safely and securely submit a wire transfer. Whether you’re wiring money domestically or internationally, from checking or savings, you’ll breeze through the process. 

Sources: Merriam-Webster | Federal Trade Commission | The Balance (1, 2) | Investopedia 

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