When people want to move big sums quickly and securely or send money abroad, a wire transfer can be just the ticket.
No matter where people are, they can use wire transfer services to send and receive money all over the globe.
What Is a Wire Transfer?
A wire transfer is an electronic transfer of funds by banks or nonbank money transfer providers like Western Union and MoneyGram.
The term lingers from the era when transferring money—$2.5 million a year by 1877—occurred via coded pulses of electric current through dedicated wires. (A sender would take money to a telegraph office, and an operator would use codes and passwords to “wire” the money to the telegraph office of the recipient.)
These days, a certain amount of money from your bank account can be sent electronically to a recipient’s bank account, anywhere, or vice versa.
How Wire Transfers Work
Banks and transfer service providers wire money for retail customers. They have varying processes and fees, so looking into the choices may save some money.
Banks require account numbers in order to process wire transfers; transfer service providers do not.
Wire transfers can include a person’s name and other contact information or, for a cash-based transfer, be anonymous.
The banks and transfer providers will have different processing times, so money could be sent within hours if it’s a domestic transaction or a few days if it’s an international transaction.
Wire transfers are much like cashier’s checks. When someone is receiving money, the bank will treat the payment like cleared money, so as soon as the recipient’s account is credited, they can withdraw or spend the money.
When someone is sending money, the funds must be in their account before the bank will initiate the transaction. The money will be removed immediately after the wire transfer.
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How Long Does it Take to Wire Money?
A wire transfer can be set up in minutes at a bank or wire transfer service. Then, once it’s sent, wire transfers will take up to two days to arrive at the intended destination. If it takes longer, it’s not a real wire transfer.
Domestic transfers typically are done within one day.
International transfers usually arrive within two days, but transfers made to or from a “slow-to-pay country” may add to that.
How to Wire Money in 5 Steps
Anyone interested in how to wire transfer money can follow these step-by-step directions to do it in an efficient and safe manner.
1. Make sure the money is there. Ensure that the money is in the sender’s account. Wire transfers cannot be sent if the money isn’t there.
2. Pick a provider. The sender can transfer the money online or go to providers in person and use cash or a bank account, depending on the service.
3. Fill out the forms and/or sign up for an account. When sending money through a bank, senders will need to fill out forms and include their bank account information, their bank’s contact information, and the recipient’s bank account information, including the account number and contact information for the bank. They will also need to provide a government-issued ID and/or their online login information for the bank.
When sending through a wire transfer service, they may have to log in online or go to the service in person and link their bank account or take cash, choose the recipient’s country, delivery method, and account information, and fill out any other information that’s required.
Senders have to be careful that the account numbers they provide are accurate, or the money will not get to the recipient.
4. Include the fees in the amount being sent. Banks and wire transfer services should be able to tell users what the fees are going to be upfront, and users will add those fees to the amount they are sending.
5. Ask for a receipt. A receipt ensures that senders have a record of the transaction. If something goes wrong and no receipt exists, they have nothing to show that they sent the wire transfer correctly.
Recommended: How to Transfer Money From One Bank to Another
Pros of Wiring Money
Reasons that people might want to wire money include the following.
They Need to Move a Big Amount
Limits tend to be high, so wire transfers are common for real estate transactions and sending money to and from family members.
The Money Is There
With checks and debit cards, payment can bounce or an account can go into overdraft. With a wire transfer, that’s not possible, since the money must be there in order to be sent. A wire transfer request will be declined if someone has limited funds.
It’s Safer Than Checks
While checks are typically safe, mailing them is not necessarily. People could open mail that isn’t theirs and take checks out and cash them. Wire transfers offer a safer alternative.
Money Can Be Sent Internationally
Let’s say a person goes to work in another country but wants to send money to family members back home every month. With a wire transfer, that’s easily done.
Cons of Wiring Money
Wire transfers have a few possible drawbacks.
Expect to pay about $25 for an outgoing bank transfer within the United States, $15 for a domestic incoming payment, and $45 for an international outgoing payment.
Juxtapose that with free or low-fee peer-to-peer payments or using a credit card and paying the balance when it’s due.
Wire transfers are typically irrevocable, so both sender and recipient should be sure that all of the required information is correct.
Scammers may ask unsuspecting people to wire them money for a good or service and then never follow through, so it’s best to avoid wire transfers unless the sender and receiver know each other.
Unlike with a credit card, where someone could dispute the charge, the money may be gone forever once it’s sent.
An Alternative to Wiring Money
P2P payments usually can be made from a linked bank account or directly from the P2P account for free.
Some providers do charge 2% or 3% to process payments drawn from a credit or debit card.
Your smartphone becomes a digital wallet for splitting bills and paying personal debts. Payments are sent using another app user’s phone number, email address, or account handle.
With an online bank account with SoFi, P2P transfers are instant between SoFi account holders. If the recipient doesn’t have a SoFi account, no problem. SoFi Checking and Savings® users can send money to anybody, anywhere, at any time.
There are no account fees and no service charges.
Recommended: 8 Ways to Pay Your Friends Without Cash
Wiring money isn’t the cheapest way to move money from one bank account to another, but if you’re sending a lot of money or need a speedy and secure transfer, it may be a good choice.
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