Wire transfers are an easy and safe way for small businesses and individuals to send money electronically, particularly large amounts of funds. They are usually the  preferred transfer method for expensive, one-time payments, or for sending money internationally. 

This guide will walk you through what a wire transfer is, how they work, how long they take, as well as how to send and receive wire transfers. 

What is a wire transfer?

A wire transfer is a means by which someone can send funds electronically to another person. A conventional money wire is sent from bank to bank via a network such as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, otherwise known as SWIFT.

Wire transfers can be domestic or international, with international wire transfers being referred to as remittance transfers. In many cases, other entities that aren’t banks, such as credit unions, can also transfer money via wire transfer. There are also non-bank wire transfer companies such as Western Union.

How do wire transfers work?

Typically, senders pay for the wire transfer at the remitting financial institution, where they must provide the amount to transfer as well as the bank account number and name of the recipient. No actual money is transferred during a wire transfer, what is actually being passed along is information about the sending and receiving recipients.

Wire transfers tend to be the most preferred option for large payments, such as down payments on a house. This is because the sender must have the funds immediately available in their bank account in order to process a wire transfer. 

Additionally, the maximum amount allowed for a wire transfer tends to be very large. Many banks will allow senders to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, Chase bank has an upper transaction amount of $100,000, and Fidelity allows up to $100,000 per individual transaction or $250,000 per day.

Some institutions will also enable businesses to transfer larger amounts upon request. There typically isn’t a minimum amount that can be sent, and it varies amongst institutions, but due to fees, many users will find it a waste of money to send small amounts. 

When transferring internationally, the recipient’s bank or financial institution will usually determine the exchange rate. This rate is then quoted to the sending bank to inform the sender how much the recipient will receive in their local currency. The recipient will receive and withdraw the money in their local currency.

Can you cancel a wire transfer?

Wire transfers usually cannot be canceled and are final. If you act very quickly, it might be possible to cancel a transaction while it is still processing. But when the recipient’s bank has received the funds, they typically can’t be returned to the sender. There may be instances where you can prove that the transfer was fraud or initiated by mistake, in which case your money might be returned to you.       

How long do wire transfers take?

Wire transfers tend to be a fairly rapid process, but it will also depend on where you are sending money to. Domestic transfers can be available in as little as 24 hours, and usually don’t take any longer than 3 days. If the wire transfer is being sent between the same financial institution, the transfer will usually take less than a day.

International transfers can take up to 5 days to process. If you’re in a time crunch, it’s best to check with your financial institution regarding processing times for your specific transfer. They might be able to help you speed up the process.

In some cases, wire transfers can be delayed. If the sender’s bank makes a mistake the process can take longer. Holidays will also disrupt the transfer. Many countries also have significantly slower transfer times, so if you are expecting money from a country like Afghanistan or Cuba, be prepared for a bit of a wait. 

How to wire money

The safest and most efficient way to wire money is to visit your financial institution and tell them you want to send a wire transfer. You will need the recipient’s name, bank account number, and the amount you wish to send needs to be available in your account. Because wire transfers require the exchange of sensitive information, going to a reputable institution in person is the suggested method of sending a wire.

If using a third-party or non-bank transfer service, it’s best to contact them and find out exactly how their process works. Because wire transfers are not reversible in the majority of cases, you don’t want to risk making any mistakes. Inform the recipient that they will need a government issued ID in order to pick up the money. 

The transfer fees for wiring money typically fall somewhere in the range of $25 to $40. Exact fees will depend on the financial institution and where you are wiring the money to. For example, Wells Fargo charges an incoming international transfer fee of $16, and an outgoing domestic transfer fee of $30. US Bank charges a $50 outgoing international wire transfer fee. 

How to receive wire transfers

To receive a wire transfer, you need to make sure that the sender has your correct name and bank account information. Be sure to send this information in a safe and secure manner. You can ask your financial institution for incoming wire instructions if you’re unsure what bank account numbers you need to provide.

If picking up money sent by a wire transfer service such as Western Union, you may be required to provide a government-issued photo ID. Some financial institutions may have other requirements, in which case you should ask them directly what information or documentation they need in order for you to be able to pick up the money. 

Wire transfers are an extremely useful way of safely sending money using an electronic process. They’re a highly used way of transferring funds internationally or moving large amounts of money for things such as a deposit on a home.

The process is typically fairly straightforward, but some steps, transfer times, and fees may vary depending on where you are sending money to and what financial institution or wire service you are using. If you have questions about the exact process, it’s best to contact your bank or financial institution to make sure you get it done correctly. 

If you’re a business and in need of a business bank NorthOne can help! NorthOne enables you to send these transfers with ease. Separating personal and business expenses will make it much easier to safely operate and scale over time. A great way to do that is by opening a bu