What You Need To Know Before You Wire Money

There are a number of different ways to get money from where it is to where it needs to be, for purposes that include supporting a family member or settling an outstanding payment. You can mail a check or use a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app like Cash, Venmo, or PayPal. You can even use a mobile wallet, like Google Pay or Apple Pay. But when larger amounts of money need to be moved within the country or beyond, it's safest to consider a wire transfer.


Wire transfers are usually undertaken between two financial institutions — your bank or financial institution, and that of the person receiving the money. Because no physical cash is handled, wire transfers are quite safe — but the security of the transaction is entirely in the hands of the person sending the funds, since all the information provided to the bank is provided by the sender, and once the money is sent out, it cannot be retrieved or refunded.

If you or the recipient don't have a bank, it's also possible to transfer money by using the services of a company like Western Union, which is classified as a financial services company.

Different ways to do a bank transfer

Different banks and credit unions will have different ways of processing a wire transfer. If you already have a bank, it may be easiest to use your bank to effect a wire transfer, by doing the transaction online, or going to any one of your bank's branches to carry out the transaction in person. It's also important to note that each bank will have slightly different fees and procedures associated with carrying out the wire transfer, so the experience may differ slightly between one bank and another.


If you don't have a bank account, or the recipient doesn't have one, you can always look to a non-bank wire transfer to execute the transaction. In this instance, Western Union, which provides non-bank wire transfer services, says there are several factors to consider before deciding which company to use to send the wire transfer with. These include factors like how quickly the money needs to get somewhere, how convenient the transaction will be to complete, and how much each transfer might cost — because as with bank transfers, every transaction carries a fee, which needs to be made clear from the outset. 

According to Bankrate, wire transfer fees can be as high as $50 per transaction, with domestic transfer fees costing as much as $35, and international transfer fees costing as much as $50. Most importantly, if you choose to do a non-bank transfer, you need to ensure the transaction is secure.


Information needed to do a bank transfer

Once you've determined which institution — bank or non-bank — you want to use to send the wire transfer, it's important to ensure you have the right account information of the recipient on hand. If you already have an account with a bank, you'll likely only need to make sure you have the person's name, address, and bank account number, as well as the routing or American Bankers Association (ABA) number. That "routing number," is a nine-digit code used by one bank to identify another, and it can be found on your monthly statement, on your checkbook, or through an online bank account if you have one. All banks need this as a minimum requirement so it's important to have these on hand before you begin.


If you're sending money through a non-bank institution like Western Union, you'll need to share a secure control number with the recipient before the money can be collected.

Once the paperwork for a wire transfer is completed, it can take anywhere from 24 hours — if the money is sent within the country, to a few business days for international transactions — Chase estimates between one to five days, and this will depend on factors that include cut-off times, weekends, and bank holidays. Given this, it's important to remember to give yourself as much lead time as possible for the transfer to go through.