Tips to Avoid Wire Transfer Fees

By Timothy Moore · October 18, 2023 · 8 minute read

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Tips to Avoid Wire Transfer Fees

Wire transfer fees can make sending money to friends, family, and businesses quick and secure, as well as expensive. With fees ranging between $25 and $30 for outgoing domestic transfers and $45 and $50 for outgoing international transfers, it can be a good idea to find ways to reduce your costs.

Here, you’ll learn how to lower or possibly avoid wire transfer fees. Read on for answers to:

•   What are wire transfer fees?

•   Why are wire transfer fees necessary?

•   How much are wire transfer fees?

•   How can you lower wire transfer fees or eliminate them altogether?

What Is a Wire Transfer?

A wire transfer is a method for electronically sending money from one bank account to another. Wire transfers are relatively safe and fast — and they’re a convenient way to send money internationally. Consumers can use banks, credit unions, and specific money transfer providers like Western Union and MoneyGram to wire money.

Worth noting: You may also see a wire transfer called a “remittance transfer.” Per federal regulations, a “remittance transfer” specifically refers to an international wire transfer.

To send a wire transfer, you’ll need to know the recipient’s full name and bank account information, such as account and routing numbers. It’s important to get that info correct; once you initiate the transaction, it’s nearly impossible to reverse a wire transfer.

Domestic wire transfers can happen in a matter of hours. If wiring money internationally, it may take a few days for the recipient to receive their funds (in their own currency).

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Why Would You Use a Wire Transfer?

There are a few common reasons you might need to use a wire transfer as opposed to other payment methods, like peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps or paper checks:

•   Large transactions: Wire transfers allow you to send large amounts of money. If you’re making a large business deal or buying a house, wire transfers are an effective way of sending the necessary payment.

•   Overseas transactions: Wire transfers offer a safe method for sending money internationally. As part of the service, the money will automatically be converted to the recipient’s currency (though you’ll be charged for this). Migrants commonly use wire transfers to send money back home to their families.

•   Fast transactions: Wire transfers are fast, especially domestically. Depending on the timing, the recipient may have access to the funds the same day you send the money. If there’s an emergency and the recipient needs money as soon as possible, wire transfers may be the best option, though there are additional ways to send money instantly.

How Much Is a Wire Transfer Fee?

Wire transfer fees vary by bank, credit union, and money transfer service. Both the sender and recipient may have to pay a fee, and institutions generally have separate fees for domestic and international wire transfers.

It’s always a good idea to research multiple banks, credit unions, and money transfer services to find the best rates. In general, you can expect to pay:

•   $25 to $35 for outgoing domestic transfers

•   $45 to $50 for outgoing international transfers

•   $15 to $20 for incoming transfers

Some banks and credit unions may offer discounts or waive fees entirely for customers with specific accounts.

Note: You might pay additional fees for using a debit or credit card and for a foreign currency exchange.

When Do I Get Charged a Wire Transfer Fee?

Sometimes, both the sender of funds and the recipient have to pay fees for the wire transfer. It depends on which bank, credit union, or money transfer you choose.

While both parties may have to pay fees, it’s more likely that the sender will pay — and that the fee will be higher for them than for the recipient.

The sender will pay the fee to initiate the transaction. Before the recipient can claim their money, they will have to pay their own fee, if applicable.

Recommended: What Are Transaction Deposits?

Tips to Avoid Paying Wire Transfer Fees

Wondering how to avoid wire transfer fees? We’ve put together a handful of tips to cut costs when sending and receiving money. Consider:

•   Sending through your own financial institution. Many banks and credit unions offer discounts or even waive wire transfer fees for customers. Eligibility may depend on the type of account you have with an institution, but it’s always worth researching what kind of discount you can get through your own bank.

•   Sending to a student account. Parents of students studying out of state or even abroad may get hit with outgoing and incoming wire transfer fees when sending money to their kids. As a benefit to parents, some banks may waive the incoming wire transfer fees if the money is sent to a student account. Outgoing fees will still apply.

•   Conducting the wire transfer online. You can initiate a wire transfer in person or over the phone, but it may actually be cheaper to do it online. Check to see if any banks, credit unions, and transfer services offer a discount for online transfers. In this way, saving money can be a benefit of electronic banking.

•   Converting to the proper currency before sending. When sending money internationally, the money transfer service can coordinate the foreign currency exchange for you — but you’ll pay a high fee for this. It may be cheaper for you to convert your money into the recipient’s currency before initiating the transfer. That can be another way to avoid international wire transfer fees or at least minimize them.

•   Using another service entirely. The best way to avoid wire transfer fees? Don’t wire money! While wire transfers are sometimes the best or the only option, it’s worth exploring if there are other ways to transfer funds. For example, bank-to-bank transfers (ACH transfers) may be free, though they can take a few days. P2P payments through Zelle, apps like Venmo and Cash App, or your bank’s own platform may also be free. Sending a paper check just costs you a stamp, though mailing checks is less safe than the other options here — checks can be lost or stolen.

   A safer alternative is a cashier’s check, though these typically carry a fee; like paper checks, these are not as fast as wire transfers.

Recommended: ACH vs. Electronic Transfer

How to Stay Safe When Making Wire Transfers

Wire transfers are a fast and convenient way to send money — and they can be safe when you take the right precautions. Here’s how to stay safe when wiring money:

•   Only transferring to people and businesses you trust. Because wire transfers are difficult to reverse once initiated, scammers commonly use wire transfers as a way to swindle you out of money. It’s a good idea to educate yourself on common money scams and only wire money to people and businesses you know.

•   Confirming the info is correct: Reversing a wire transfer is difficult and typically impossible if the recipient bank has accepted the money. It’s crucial to ensure all the info is correct before initiating the transfer, including the dollar amount, the recipient’s name, and the recipient’s bank account and routing number.

Recommended: How Much Do ACH Payments Cost?

The Takeaway

Wire transfers make it easy to quickly send money to friends and family here in the U.S. and abroad. However, wire transfer fees can add up. If you’re regularly sending money via wire transfer, it’s a good idea to research ways to reduce (or waive) the fees and consider alternatives to wire transfers.

3 Money Tips

  1. Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.
  2. When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.
  3. If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.
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Can a bank waive a wire transfer fee?

Some banks may waive incoming and even outgoing domestic wire transfer fees for customers with specific (usually premium) accounts. Before initiating a wire transfer, it’s a good idea to see if your bank or credit union offers discounts or will waive wire transfer fees, assuming your account is in good standing.

What’s the cheapest way to wire money?

If you’re sending money to someone in the U.S., it may be cheaper to use the peer-to-peer payment system built into your mobile banking app or a P2P app like Venmo or Cash App. When linked to your bank account, such transfers can be free (as long as you don’t ask for an instant transfer).

If a wire transfer is your only option for sending money, it’s helpful to compare multiple services. Also see if you can get a discount (or have the fees waived) by going through your own financial institution. This may be a good option for avoiding international wire transfer fees.

Do wire transfer fees increase when the amount is higher?

While banks, credit unions, and money wiring services may list their wire transfer fees as a flat amount, there may be associated fees that can vary depending on how much you wire. For example, money wiring services may charge a percentage of the amount you’re transferring if you choose to do so via credit or debit card. Foreign transfers may also include a margin on the exchange rate, which increases your costs when you send more money.

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