Wire transfers are used to transfer money from one person to another quickly. Banks and other financial institutions can do this and often charge a fee to both send and receive funds. But be careful, wire transfers usually can't be undone.
Here’s a guide on what a wire transfer is – and isn’t – as well as a step-by-step guide on how to wire transfer money.
What Is a Wire Transfer?
A wire transfer is a bank-to-bank transfer (or bank to financial services company transfer) that ensures money moves quickly to its destination.
You can use a wire transfer to send money from your bank account to another person’s bank account. Or you can use one to send money from your bank account to a financial services company such as Western Union.
Wire transfers are nice because there’s very little waiting period from the time the money is sent to the time it’s received.
A wire transfer can typically go through on the same business day if it involves domestic banks. International transfers may take one or two business days.
It’s important to note that wire transfers, once initiated, are very difficult to reverse. In most cases, once the transfer is completed it can’t be reversed.
For that reason, it’s advisable not to use a wire transfer unless you’re certain you want to send the money to the recipient, and you know who the recipient is.
Also, there are fees associated with using a wire transfer to send money. We’ll talk more about those fees in the next section.
Next, let’s talk about 5 steps you need to take if you want to send money via a wire transfer.
How to Wire Transfer Money
If you want to send money to someone via a wire transfer, you’ll need to start by choosing your transfer institution.
1. Choose Your Transfer Institution
You can send money via wire transfer by going to your local bank that holds the account containing the money you want to send.
Note that not all online-only banks offer outgoing wire transfers. This is important information when choosing a bank if you know you want to be able to use wire transfer services.
But if your bank offers outgoing wire transfer services, you can use the bank to transfer money. Or you can go to a financial services organization such as Western Union to complete a wire transfer.
2. Provide the Necessary Information
Once you’ve chosen your transfer institution, you’ll need to provide specific information to the transfer institution employee in order to initiate the wire transfer.
You’ll need to provide information such as:
- The recipient’s name
- The recipient’s bank name and address
- Account number for the recipient
- Bank routing number for the recipient
- Your bank account number if you’re not walking in with cash
Since it’s difficult (and sometimes impossible) to “undo” a wire transfer, it’s important to ensure all information you’ve gathered is correct.
This is especially true regarding account names and numbers.
3. Understand the Costs
Financial institutions tend to charge fees for processing wire transfers. There are fees for outgoing wire transfers (transfers you send) and fees for incoming wire transfers (transfers you receive).
Outgoing wire transfer fees are often higher than incoming wire transfer fees. You can expect to pay between $30 and $50 on average when you send money to someone via a wire transfer.
If you’re receiving a wire transfer, you can expect a fee of between $15 and $30 on average. Be prepared to pay the applicable fee when participating in a wire transfer, or to have it deducted from your bank account.
Here's more on the fees and where find the cheapest wire transfers.
4. Read the Fine Print
As with any contract, it’s important to read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line. The most notable terms regarding wire transfers have to do with the permanency of the transaction.
Whereas other types of transfers may be able to be reversed, wire transfers usually cannot be reversed. The wire transfer form you fill out will explain all details of the wire transfer.
Read it carefully and be sure you understand these terms. Ask questions if there is a term you don’t understand.
5. Save Your Receipt
Lastly, save your receipt from the wire transfer. Be sure the funds leave your hands and get to the expected recipient within one to two business days or as expected.
If for some reason there is a delay, contact the transfer institution with any questions. You’ll want to have your receipt with you when you do so, as it will contain important information.
Next, let’s talk about when using a wire transfer would be appropriate.
Should You Use a Wire Transfer?
So, when might you want to use a wire transfer to send money to someone? People often use wire transfers in two types of situations:
- Sending money to a loved one
- In certain business transactions
If you have a friend or relative that needs money quickly, such as a kid in college, you may want to send it via wire transfer.
Occasionally, business transactions such as buying your first home may require transfer of funds via a wire transfer.
The expediency of a wire transfer can be useful in these types of situations. However, it’s important to be sure you’re dealing with who you think you’re dealing with when transferring money via a wire transfer, especially if you’re conducting a business transaction.
For instance, the real estate arena is well known for being an area where scam artists call and ask real estate buyers to wire money to complete an upcoming real estate transaction.
Because of that, it’s important that you check with the appropriate persons to verify any request to wire transfer money in a business transaction.
Money sent to a scam artist via wire transfer is like any other wire transfer transaction – it typically cannot be undone.
Beware of Scams
I've said it several times during this article but I'll say it again – wire transfers typically can not be undone. And it's this feature that makes them a favorite of scammers. By the time you've realized you got scammed it too late to get your money back.
If someone is requesting money from you via wire transfer double check that the information is correct. Call the person directly yourself and double-check the wire transfer information.
Scammers will even impersonate people you know and ask for wire transfers. Scammers have been known to call elderly people at odd hours and pretend to be a grandchild that is in trouble and needs money right away. So always double check, even if you're sure you know the person.
Wire transfers can be a great way to get money to someone quickly. Whether it’s your son in college or the purchase of your buddy’s classic car, you might want to use a wire transfer to ensure fast transfer of bank funds.
Be sure to follow the steps above to complete the transfer correctly and safely.
Have you ever sent money via a wire transfer?