How to Wire Money

Wiring money is a safe and secure way to send funds across the country or even across the globe. Once you initiate the transfer, funds are sent directly from one bank to another, making them available almost at once.

However, this convenience and security comes with a price — both literally and figuratively. Not only do you have to pay fees in order to wire money, you also can’t reverse the transaction, so you have to be completely sure you want to send the funds. 

To ensure you wire money the right way, follow these five easy steps. Want a little extra? We’ll also throw in a few tips on what to avoid so your wire transfer goes off without a hitch.

#1: Choose a Wire Transfer Service

There are two different ways you can choose to wire your money: either with a traditional financial institution like a bank or credit union or with a company specializing in wire transfers. 

Choosing a bank you already have an account with is convenient, especially if the wire transfer funds you plan to use are already in the account. If your bank or credit union is particularly tech-savvy, you may not even have to go into a branch and can instead initiate the transfer completely online. These wire transfers usually clear on the same day for domestic transactions but you might have to wait a few business days for an international wire transfer to clear.

Companies like Western Union and MoneyGram are known for sending money via wire transfer, both domestically and abroad. Expect the timeframe to be the same as a bank’s processing time. If you’re sending money from an online account, credit card, or debit card, you can simply log onto a reputable company’s website. Otherwise, there are also physical locations worldwide if you prefer to make the wire transfer in person or with cash. The recipient can then opt to receive the funds through their own bank account or as a cash pick up. 

#2: Collect the Required Information

This is probably the most important step of the wire transfer process because you need to input the correct information in order to make sure the funds arrive at the right place. Here’s a list of everything you’re likely to need in order to complete a wire transfer:

  • Valid ID
  • Your bank account number
  • Recipient’s name and address
  • Recipient’s bank account number and routing number (they can find both on a blank check)
  • Recipient’s SWIFT code for wire transfers sent abroad (stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). It’s composed of either 8 or 11 digits.

It’s crucial that you double and triple check this information, especially the bank account numbers. If you don’t, you could very well send the funds to the wrong account by accident. When that happens, you have little recourse to reverse the transaction, plus it’s a long and tedious process. Your best bet is to be diligent in communicating that information to the wire transfer service. 

Your bank or wire transfer service may request other specific information you’ll need to complete the wire transfer. Check ahead of time so you can plan in advance, especially if you’re going in person to a physical location. 

#3: Determine the Cost

Wire transfers aren’t free and the cost can vary depending on whether you’re sending money to someone in the U.S. or in another country. To send a wire transfer, it costs between $25 and $35. The recipient also has to pay a fee, usually to the tune of $15 to $30. Some banks offer membership rewards that waive the wire transfer fee. If you frequently send or receive wire transfers, it’s worth exploring banks with either low-costs or ways to get around them. 

Wire transfers get a little more expensive when they’re sent internationally. Depending on the bank, the fee can be as los as $30 or as high as $65 for the sender. For the recipient, incoming fees range between $15 and $30. The fee itself oftentimes ranges based on whether the funds are received in U.S. dollars or in foreign currency. 

Another consideration is that wire transfers are also cheaper (if not free) at most credit unions. It might not make sense to make the switch or add an account at a credit union if you rarely use wire transfers. But if it’s a service you utilize frequently, it’s worth considering in order to save yourself those expensive fees time and time again. 

#4: Fill Out the Form

Once you’ve gathered your information and estimated the costs involved, the next step is to actually fill out the wire transfer form, either in person or online.

Double check the recipient’s name as well as each digit in the bank-related numbers. Otherwise you run the risk of accidentally sending the money to the wrong person, which is a big deal. It’s really difficult to reverse a wire transfer so it’s best to avoid that situation completely. 

If you’ve already completed step 2 and gathered all the pertinent information, filling out the form with your bank account details and those of your recipient should be easy. 

Before you submit the form, also confirm the total cost and estimated time for delivery. This removes the potential for any surprises. You can also ask the wire transfer service about currency exchange rates for international transfers as well as any potential taxes beyond the bank’s fee.

#5: Hold Onto Your Receipt 

No one wants to be a receipt hoarder, but it’s still important to hang onto your wire transfer receipt for a while, especially until the recipient confirms that the funds are actually in their account. The receipt should include all of the relevant information, including a transaction number. In case there is ever a dispute as to whether you sent the funds or not, you’ll have proof in hand. 

If the wire transfer is sent for business or real estate purposes, hang onto the receipt for longer. Business receipts should be kept for three years in case of an IRS audit. If you use a wire transfer for a down payment on a house or other real estate-related transaction, keep the records even longer, at least for the life of the loan or for three to six years after selling. Just slip it in with other house-related documents like your deed. 

Tips on What To Avoid

You know what to do to complete a wire transfer. Now find out what not to do to ensure a smooth process each step of the way. 

Don’t enter the wrong account numbers. Did we mention this one already? Maybe so, but that’s because it is incredibly important. Double check your information before submitting. If a bank teller fills in the form on your behalf, it’s still your job to check his or her work to ensure the accuracy of the form. 

Don’t forget to plan ahead. Accounting for a several-day delivery time is crucial to the wire transfer process, especially for international transactions. Whether you’re paying for college tuition for a semester abroad or sending a deposit on a destination wedding, you could have trouble if there’s a firm deadline and you miss it because of the slow speed of a wire transfer. 

The same goes for a domestic transfer, although the wait time is shorter. But if it’s closing day on your new home and you don’t schedule to wire transfer your down payment and closing costs on time, the entire transaction could be delayed.

Don’t assume your first option is the best option. Shop around to get the best rate for you and your recipient. Check with your bank first to see if you can get a reduced fee on your wire transfer. This option may be the most convenient, especially if you plan on transferring a large amount of money directly from your account. But if you don’t mind carrying cash or using a debit card to transfer the funds, you should also check on the costs of services like Western Union or MoneyGram.

Don’t use a credit card without checking your card agreement. Some money transfer services do allow you to use a credit card to initiate a wire transfer. However, you may be charged interest as a cash advance on your credit card. This typically comes at a higher interest rate than what you’re charged on regular purchases and it also starts accruing interest right away. Check your card agreement to see how you’ll be charged so you don’t wrack up more debt than intended.

The Bottom Line

Wiring money is a relatively fast and easy way to send funds anywhere in the world. As long as you pay close attention to the submission details and understand the costs involved, it’s an extremely secure option, especially when large amounts of money are involved. Give yourself a bit of buffer time to find the best service provider and you’ll be sure to have a positive experience.