How to Wire Transfer Money in 5 Steps

By Janet Siroto · August 09, 2023 · 8 minute read

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How to Wire Transfer Money in 5 Steps

There are times when you may need to move a large sum of money safely and speedily or get cash to someone in another country. A wire transfer can be a good solution.

Perhaps you won a vintage watch in an auction, or you need to send money to a friend in France who’s arranging a rental car for you. Those are a couple of the situations when a wire transfer could get the job done.

Here, you’ll learn more about this process and find answers to questions like, “How can you wire transfer money?” and “How much do wire transfers cost?” You’ll learn the pros and cons of transferring money this way so you can make an informed decision about the best way to send and receive funds.

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.)

A wire transfer is an electronic transfer of money used around the globe.

These days, wire transfers allow a certain amount of money to be sent electronically from your bank account to a recipient’s bank account, anywhere, or vice versa.

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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. Some details to consider:

•  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 24 hours for processing when they are domestic.

International wire transfers can take between one and five days. They 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 funds can follow these step-by-step directions to do it in an efficient and safe manner.

1. Make Sure You Have the Funds

Ensure that the money is in the sender’s account. Wire transfers cannot be sent if the money isn’t there.

2. Pick a Wire Transfer Service

The sender can transfer the money online or go to providers in person and use cash or a bank account, depending on the service. (Some services, like Western Union, may allow you to send money without a bank account.)

3. Fill Out the Forms/Create 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 bank account numbers they provide are accurate, or the money will not get to the recipient.

4. Include Fees in the Amount You Send

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

The last step in how to wire money is to get your receipt. This 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 more secure 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.

Recommended: What Are Intermediary Banks?

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.

No Do-Overs

Wire transfers are typically irrevocable, so both sender and recipient should be sure that all of the required information is correct.

Potential Scams

Scammers may ask unsuspecting people to wire them money for goods or services 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.
Here are the pros and cons of wire transfers in chart form:

Pros of Wire Transfers

Cons of Wire Transfers

Can move large sumsCost
Reliable; the money is thereNo do-overs
Safer than checksPotential for scams
Can move funds internationally

An Alternative to Wiring Money

If you want to move money but don’t want to use a wire transfer, here are some other options.

Peer-to-Peer Services

P2P payments usually can be made from a linked bank account or directly from the P2P account for free. You may already use some of these services, such as PayPal and Venmo.

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.

Bank Account Money Transfer

You may also set up electronic transfers (you may hear the terms ACH and EFT used) with your bank. Funds can often be sent to any other bank account, not just those held at the same financial institution.

There may not be any account fees or service charges. Check with your bank to be sure.
While all can offer a secure transfer of funds, here’s how they compare on other fronts:

Wire Transfer

P2P Services

Bank Account Transfer

Often involve a feeMay involve a fee, depending on the provider and funding sourceOften free
Can take up to 5 days internationallyCan take a few days internationallyCan take up to 5 days internationally

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What is required to wire money?

To wire money, you will need the amount of cash available, a provider of the transfer (your bank or a service), the proper forms and/or account information filled out, coverage of any fees, and a receipt.

How much does wiring money cost?

The amount you will pay to wire money can depend on the financial institution and whether the money is moving to your account or into someone else’s account, and whether the funds are being sent domestically or internationally. You are likely to find fees from $0 to $45 per transaction.

What is the process of wiring money?

To wire money, you will need to have funds available and fill out paperwork with the recipient’s banking information. Part of the process may involve paying a fee also, and it’s wise to always get a receipt.

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