What are wire transfer fees and how much are they?

Young man sitting at home, using his laptop to read about wire transfer feesImage: Young man sitting at home, using his laptop to read about wire transfer fees

In a Nutshell

Wire transfers are a fast, electronic way to send money to someone you know within the U.S. or abroad. But you’ll pay for the speed and convenience. Wire transfer fees vary by financial institution and whether you’re sending money inside or outside the U.S., but a domestic transfer can commonly cost $30.
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If you need to get a large sum of money to someone within a day, a wire transfer can be a fast, secure option.

As long as you make the transfer by your financial institution’s deadline, funds wired domestically can often be sent the same business day.

But sending money this way can be expensive. And for safety reasons, it’s a good idea to only transfer money to people you know.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what wire transfers are, how you can use them and what types of costs you can expect.

What is a wire transfer?

The term “wire transfer” is generally used to describe any type of electronic transfer of money from one individual to another. A domestic wire transfer typically involves moving funds from one U.S. bank or credit union to another. Funds are transferred through a funds transfer network such as Fedwire, the Clearing House Interbank Payments System, or CHIPS — or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT).

In addition to your bank or credit union, you can use a money service business to make a wire transfer, and these businesses will typically have their own funds transfer system. You can also send money abroad from the U.S. — this is known as an international wire or remittance transfer.

What’s the difference between a wire transfer and an ACH transfer?

While both are convenient ways to send money electronically, an automated clearing house, or ACH, transfer differs a bit from a wire transfer.

You can think of ACH transfers as the everyday workhorse of electronic funds transfers. They’re typically used for things like having your paycheck directly deposited into your checking account,  automatic bill payment and paying bills online. Sometimes an ACH transfer may clear on the same business day, but more likely it will take additional days for a transaction to complete.

Wire transfers use a different system — Fedwire, CHIPS or SWIFT — to move money. You’ll typically use a wire transfer for a larger sum of money, or if you need to deliver the money on the same or next business day.

Are wire transfers safe?

Money transfers are generally safe when you go through a bank or you know the person who will be sending or receiving the funds. But you’ll want to think twice before wiring a stranger money, especially when using a wire transfer service provider. And remember that using a wire transfer is basically the same as sending cash, so scams are a danger to look out for. If you get caught in a scam, it’s unlikely you’ll have any protection, or any means to reverse a transaction or trace money after it’s been collected.

What is a wire transfer fee?

A wire transfer fee is the fee your bank charges to send or receive a wire transfer on your behalf. Fees and limits on wire transfers may vary from bank to bank, so it’s a good idea to check pricing with your financial institution before you wire funds.

How much are wire transfer fees?

Many financial institutions charge around $30 to make a domestic wire transfer and about $50 to send money internationally. Keep in mind that if you’re planning to send money overseas, in addition to an international wire transfer fee, you might incur some extra costs due to applicable exchange rates, taxes and other fees the financial institution may charge.

But don’t worry — federal law requires banks, credit unions and financial service companies to be transparent about these costs upfront, so you can find out how much the remittance will cost before sending funds internationally.

How can I save money on wire transfer fees?

If you’re looking to save on costs on a wire transfer, try shopping around. Find out what your bank charges and compare its fees to other financial services companies. You can also check with your bank to see if it offers any discounts for making a transfer online instead of in person, or if it’ll waive the fee altogether.

If you’re not in a hurry, you can also try sending money via ACH. ACH transfers tend to take a few days to reach their recipients, but they’re generally free.

How do I make or receive a wire transfer?

Most financial institutions offer a few ways to send or collect money using incoming and outgoing wire transfers. Domestic bank wire transfers typically can be done through online banking or using your bank’s mobile app, but international wire transfers sometimes need to be handled in person. If you’re not sure how to send or receive funds, you can always call your bank directly and ask.

What businesses provide wire transfer services?

Banks and credit unions often provide wire transfer services. If you have an account with a financial institution, it’s worth checking with it first to see if you can make a free or low-cost transfer with it.

A number of other companies provide wire transfer services, including some well-known ones like Western Union. Each will have its own fees and procedures for sending money either domestically or internationally.

What information do you need to send a wire transfer?

To set up a wire transfer, you’ll typically need to make sure you have the following information:

  • Routing and checking account numbers for both your account and the recipient’s
  • Recipient’s address, including country
  • Amount you want to send

For international transfers, you might need some additional information, including …

  • A valid U.S. phone number
  • Recipient’s full bank name
  • Recipient’s bank’s SWIFT code, bank identification code, international bank account number or international routing code
  • Purpose of payment
  • Currency type

How long do wire transfers take to process?

Depending on your bank’s cutoff time, wire transfers will typically go out the day they’re scheduled. But this doesn’t mean the money will be available to the recipient right away. It can take a few business days for the money to arrive and sometimes even longer for international wires. And if you entered the wrong banking information, the transfer might be delayed, or worse: The transaction could be canceled altogether.

What’s next? Consider some alternatives to wire transfers.

While wire transfers are a convenient, fast way to send money both within the U.S. and overseas, they often cost a fee and may pose security issues if you need to transfer funds to someone you don’t know. If you’re looking for an alternative way to transfer funds, you might want to consider doing a free ACH transfer through your bank, using peer-to-peer payment service or paying with a digital wallet. If you want to avoid digital payments altogether, you can also write a personal check or simply pay cash.

About the author: Sarah Archambault is a freelance writer based in New England. She enjoys learning new ways to spend money wisely and helping others figure out how to make smart financial decisions. Sarah is a graduate of the Newhouse… Read more.