Sending a wire transfer: Example and how long it takes

When you want to move money quickly, a wire transfer will often be your best option. In most cases, wire transfers involve the movement of funds from one financial institution to another, domestically or internationally. In the truest terms, a wire transfer is nothing more than a transfer of information and funds—the sender and recipient exchange information about the money being sent, where it originated, and where it's going. The relevant accounts are then updated to reflect this change of status.

What is a wire transfer?

A wire transfer is a direct funds transfer completed electronically, managed through one bank or financial institution, and sent to the desired recipient. There are hundreds of banks, financial institutions, and transfer service agencies worldwide that administer wire transfers.

The primary purpose of a wire transfer is to transmit funds from an individual or business to another individual or business as quickly and securely as possible. It's also a means of sending money across great geographical distances without the need for the physical mailing of cash and checks.

International and domestic wire transfers

A domestic wire transfer is a type of electronic funds transfer that allows you to send money within the same country. Similarly, an international wire transfer is a type of electronic funds transfers that allows you to send money across borders. Along with bank information typically needed for domestic wire transfers, international transfers may need a Society For Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT code (sometimes also called BIC number, or Business Identifier Codes) as well as an international bank account number (IBAN).

Once a wire transfer is initiated after being set up and paid for by the sender, the recipient's financial institution receives a transfer notification. Most domestic wire transfers go through the Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS), an electronic system that allows banks to settle interbank transactions without the need to exchange checks. International transfers go through a similar process, but foreign countries often have their system with a third intermediary bank that links up the American banking system with the foreign banking system.

In many cases, money doesn't even move between banks. For example, if one person wires $1,000 out of Bank of America to Chase and another person does a separate wire in reverse, each bank simply keeps $1,000 and credits their recipient's bank account. When transfers don't balance out, the two banks settle the difference behind the scenes. To the individuals or businesses sending and receiving the money, it appears on the surface as simply money going from 'my' account to 'your' account.

Cash wire transfers

Wire transfers can also be initiated with a cash payment. The sender must go to a physical location where wire transfers can be processed. They'll then pay the amount of cash they wish to send plus any required fees to the wire transfer service agency. The sender also needs to provide the information of their recipient. Wire transfers initiated with cash usually carry roughly the same fees and processing times as those processed entirely online.

A common reason for using a cash wire transfer is not having a checking account. In addition, some financial institutions, such as smaller credit unions, may not support wire transfers or have a very inconvenient process to transfer money. Finally, it may just be a matter of finding the lowest fee to send a wire transfer.

Wire transfer example

Here is an example of a wire transfer:

Suppose you want to send $2,200 to a friend in another state. You will need to gather the following information from your friend:

  • Recipient’s full name or company name: John Smith

  • Bank name: IJK Bank

  • Routing number: 123456789

  • Account number: 123456789012

Next, you will need to contact your bank and provide them with the required information to initiate the wire transfer–your own account information as well as the recipient's information. Payment for fees may apply at time of transfer.

How long does a wire transfer take?

Generally, wire transfers take up to two days to process, and if a payment made online takes longer than this, it's legally not considered a wire transfer. Usually, wire transfers are processed more quickly than the two-day window. The length of time it takes for a wire transfer to be completed can vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • The country the transfer is being sent to and from: Domestic wire transfers within the same country are typically faster than international wire transfers. Domestic wire transfers, for example, are usually received within a few hours of being initiated.

  • The banks involved in the transfer: The processing times of banks can vary, and some banks may have cutoff times for wire transfers that can delay the processing of the transfer.

  • The transfer amount: Larger wire transfers may take longer to process and may be subject to additional scrutiny. Additional documentation may be required to verify the source of funds.

  • Data entry errors: Double-check that all of the information provided for the wire transfer is accurate to avoid any delays or errors.

The two-day rule normally applies to international wire transfers, but funds from an incoming wire transfer may not be available for five days or longer in rare cases. Why? Because of Automated Clearing Houses (ACH)–systems set up to vet incoming and outgoing payments via wire transfer. In domestic transfers, there's just one ACH to clear—the domestic ACH. International wire transfers must clear two regulatory checkpoints—the domestic ACH of the sender, and the foreign ACH of the recipient. This is what causes international wire transfers to tend to take longer than those sent domestically.

All international wire transfers are also carefully monitored by a government body known as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). OFAC's primary duty is to ensure that money isn't being wired overseas for nefarious purposes, such as the funding of terrorist groups or to launder money obtained through illegal means.

Because wire transfers are not instantaneous, it's always a good idea to initiate the transfer well in advance of any deadlines or due dates.

How much can you wire transfer?

The maximum amount you can wire transfer may vary depending on your bank's policies and the country in which you are sending the money. Typically, there are no limits on the amount of money you can wire transfer, but some banks may have maximum limits to prevent fraud or money laundering.

How much does a wire transfer cost?

While wire transfers are extremely fast and convenient for making secure payments digitally, they're not cheap. The fees for sending bank wire transfers can be significant—usually between $25 and $35 for domestic transactions and up to $50 for international transactions. The receiving bank may also charge a fee for an incoming wire transfer. The average incoming wire transfer fees are $13 for domestic wires and $15 for international wires.

There may also be costs to exchange foreign currency when you send international wire transfers. Many banks charge a small spread on exchange rates, so you pay slightly more or receive slightly less than the current exchange rate. They may also charge additional fees like currency exchange fees.

Benefits of wire transfers

While wire transfers are one of the more expensive ways to move money, they have several benefits that make them worthwhile. There are two main reasons why people wire money in both business and personal transfers.


One of the primary benefits of wire transfers is their speed. In business situations where deals can be made or lost in minutes, the ability to almost instantaneously send and receive payments can be vital. Almost any other form of payment from a sender to a domestic recipient could take several days or weeks to be fully processed. Even ACH transfers aren't always guaranteed to clear quickly. This speed also keeps the flow of goods and services moving—the faster a vendor can receive payment, the more quickly the payer or buyer can receive the product or service they need.

Wire transfers are almost always available except for bank holidays. And, if your account is large enough and you plan ahead, your bank will usually work with you to meet your needs if you need to send electronic transfers at unusual times.


Wire transfers are also preferred due to the finality of payment. Once the transfer is complete, it can't be reversed. Unlike credit cards or even ACH transfers, an outgoing wire transfer is nearly identical to handing over physical cash. If a recipient wants to refund the payment to the sender, they must initiate an entirely new payment for the amount in question, flowing in the opposite direction. When a company receives a wire transfer, they know that the money is in-hand and that no misdirection or fraudulent activity can reverse it.

How to send a wire transfer

Sending wire transfers is easy. Many banks allow customers to initiate wire transfers through online banking, while others require a phone call or faxed form. The average wire transfer can be initiated and sent in just a few minutes.

  1. Gather bank information: Collect the recipient's name, bank account number, routing number, and bank name and bank address. It's important to make sure you have the correct information to avoid delays due to errors.

  2. Verify fees and restrictions: Contact your bank to determine any fees and restrictions associated with wire transfers. Some banks charge a flat fee, while others charge a percentage of the transfer amount.

  3. Initiate the transfer: Visit your bank's branch or online banking platform and provide the required information for the wire transfer. You'll typically need to provide the recipient's information, as well as your own account information. Payment for fees will also be done at this time.

  4. Confirm the transfer: Once the transfer has been initiated, have the recipient confirm that they have received the funds.

How to receive a wire transfer

Receiving wire transfers is just as easy as sending them. If you're receiving a wire transfer, all you need to do is make sure you have an account type that allows incoming wire transfers (most checking accounts work) and then give the sender your wire transfer information. After that, the money appears in your account just like a direct deposit. To receive a wire transfer, follow these steps:

  1. Provide the sender with your bank information: Give your name, bank name, bank account number, and routing number.

  2. Verify the transfer: Once the sender initiates the wire transfer, it may take one or more business days to reach your bank account. Check your account balance to confirm that the funds have been received.

  3. Resolve any fees: Your bank may charge a fee to receive a wire transfer. Check your account statement or contact your bank to confirm any fees associated with the transfer.

  4. Withdraw the funds (optional): Once the funds have been received, you can withdraw the money from your account.

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