Wire transfers are the most common way for people and businesses to send payments. Since the 1970s, they’ve allowed businesses from anywhere in the world wire money without having to rely on postal services.
The immediate benefits of sending bank wires are speed and security, as before they existed, there was no reliable way to transfer money domestically or internationally.
Fast and reliable payments are crucial to developing and retaining global and domestic business relationships.
Wire transfers come in different shapes and sizes, so it’s important that both parties understand the specifics before sending money. As well, the type of payment, the location that it’s sent from, and where it’s going are all factors in determining how bank wires travel.
Depending on your business, banks may be the best option for sending business payments at home and abroad. Major US banks that offer wire transfer services are Bank of America, J.P. Morgan & Chase, and Wells Fargo.
What is a wire transfer?
A wire transfer is any amount of money sent electronically. Traditionally, wire transfers are sent through banks or credit unions using a network of banking and financial institutions.
There are two major types of wire transfers.
Types of wire transfers
The two main types of bank wire transfers are international and domestic.
What is SWIFT and how does it work?
SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is a messaging network that enables banks and financial institutions to send money transfers in a fast and reliable manner. The majority of interbank wire transfers rely on this network to process the movement of funds.
However, the SWIFT network is only a messaging system. It does not hold funds or perform transactions. The sender’s bank and receiver’s bank are connected through the SWIFT number via BIC and IBAN numbers, which facilitates the transfer of funds.
How banks use wires to move money
The speed and reliability of international bank transfers sent using the SWIFT depends entirely on the relation between the sender’s bank and receiver’s bank.
If the sender’s bank has a commercial account with the receiver’s bank, and vice versa, the sender’s bank can relay a message on the SWIFT network to the receiver’s bank about the transfer.
Once the receiver is notified, the funds can be transferred over to the receiver’s account.
Transferring funds between two banks that don’t have a direct relationship requires the use of one or more intermediary banks that share commercial accounts with both the sender’s bank and receiver’s bank.
How long it takes
Transferring funds on the SWIFT network is much faster when dealing with banks that have a direct relationship. SWIFT messages are usually received within minutes, and the actual transfer of the funds is even faster.
As a result, banks with direct relationships process transfers faster, cheaper and safer than banks without, however both are still technically doable.
Bank wires for business payments
Business owners are arguably the biggest users of wire transfers, as they send and receive numerous business payments all across the world. Because of this, it’s essential that businesses understand the process of bank wire transfers.
What Information do you need from you business partner?
International SWIFT wire transfers require the following information:
- Receiver’s bank name and address
- Receiver’s name, address and bank account type
- Receiver’s bank account number or IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
- Receiver bank’s SWIFT/BIC code
The main difference between the information requirements for domestic and international SWIFT wire transfers is that domestic wire transfers don’t require a SWIFT/BIC code or an IBAN.
Are wire transfers safe?
In theory, wire transfers are safe. In the US, every wire transfer needs to come from a bank account. This means that every sender and receiver must be identifiable, preventing fraud and criminal activity.
As far as sending and receiving wire transfers, the process itself is safe. However, wires transfers can be lost when bouncing from multiple intermediary banks, often associated with a lack of direct relationship between a sender’s bank and a receiver’s bank.
How are they protected?
Considering each financial institution is secure, and both the sender and receiver of each wire transfer must be identifiable and have a bank account, wire transfers are inherently protected.
The danger with sending wire transfers often lies in transferring money to an unknown party. If the payment recipient isn’t unequivocally known to you, there is a possibility that you’re being scammed or taken advantage of. Popular examples of this are fake charities, calls claiming to come from relatives, and unreputable online retailers.
Also, human error can jeopardize wire transfers, as incorrectly inputting banking information can route your money to the wrong place. This could occur on the banks side, and yours as well. You can make sure the numbers are right, but human error on the side of the bank is often unavoidable.
Ultimately, the best protection for your wire transfer is yourself. Know who you’re sending to and why, input the correct information on your side, and you shouldn’t have a problem.
What happens if they’re lost
Tracing lost wire transfers can be done, but it often comes at a cost. Many banks will offer the option of tracing your wire transfer if a payment has been lost. The fee for tracing bank wires can be as much as $50.
In the meantime, it’s a waiting game. The banks involved in the transfer are responsible for locating the transfer.
However, due to SWIFT’s expansive network, your payment could have touched between 3 and 7 banks on the way to its destination. That number could be higher for international wire transfers.
Each participating bank and financial institution must scour its records, and work with the others to locate your transfer. This process often takes weeks.
Can you call it back?
Legitimate wire transfers can’t be called back, which is why it’s crucial that banking information on your side is accurate. However, in the case of fraud or bank error, wire transfers can be called back by the bank or financial institution in question.
How to send a domestic wire transfer?
- epending on which bank or financial institution you’re working with, the process for sending a domestic wire transfer may be a bit different. But, as a general rule, all you have to do is get some information from your intended recipient. You’ll need:
- The name and address of the recipient.
- The name and address of their bank or credit union.
- The routing number of the institution.
- The account number for the recipient that they wish to deposit the funds
To find this information, your best bet is to directly contact your intended recipient. Assuming payment information could result in a lost or tampered payment.
Fees by bank
Whether you’re sending or receiving a bank wire, the bank or credit union will generally charge fees for their services. These include a transfer fee on both sides of the transfer (for sender and receiver), and the before-mentioned tracing fee if you choose to opt in.
For incoming domestic wire transfers, fees can range between $15 and $20 for the receiver. For outgoing, fees can range between $25 and $35 for the sender.
How to send an international wire transfer
You can send international wire transfers anywhere that there’s a bank or financial institution that is in the SWIFT network, as it requires the sender and receiver to have a bank account that uses this messaging system.
Each country is different, and not just for sending money. For more information on doing business internationally and financial regulations, check out how to do business guides.
Fees by bank
International wire transfers cost more on average than sending money domestically. For incoming international wire transfers, fees can range between $15 and $25 for the receiver. For outgoing international wire transfers, fees can range between $35 to $50 for the sender.
Foreign exchange rates are basically the differences in value from one international currency to another. Some country’s money is valued higher than others, which means that when funds are exchanged, you won’t end up with the exact same number you started with.
For example, 1USD exchanges into 0.75GBP (Great British Pound).
Whether you’re buying something in a foreign currency or transferring money to another country, being aware of exchange rates ensures your sending the right amount of money to your intended recipient.
How FX works when sending payments
When sending international bank wires, it’s common for a recipient to want their funds deposited in their local currency. This means that the bank exchanges the currency for you. Instead of charging an exchange fee however, many banks will charge a higher exchange than the mid-market rate. These rates can range from 4-6% above the actual posted rate.
These foreign exchange rate markups will vary depending on the bank or credit union you’re working with, with the recipient generally charged with paying the fee. Some will charge more, some less.
Alternatives to sending wire wransfers
Bank wires aren’t the only way to send money domestically and internationally. As the SWIFT network has aged and technology advanced, many people and businesses are looking to alternative methods for sending money abroad.
Here are just a few examples.
Western Union is a financial institution that allows individuals and businesses to send wire transfers domestically and internationally. Their process is different from SWIFT and banks, as transfers aren’t sent bank-to-bank.
Each transfer is sent from the sender’s bank account, is held by Western Union, and must be retrieved at another Western Union location by the recipient. To claim the payment, the recipient must provide proper identification, as well as the security code given to the sender upon initiating
PayPal is an online service that acts similarly to Western Union. A user creates an account, adds funds into their account, and can send and receive payments. There are no interbank transfers through PayPal, so funds must be deposited from an existing account into the user’s online wallet. Funds can then be taken out and deposited into another existing bank account by the user.
PayPal is similar to Western Union because it acts as a middleman between the sender and receiver of funds. Users can send up to $60,000 on the platform, with payments sometimes being limited to $10,000 per transaction.
The Automatic Clearing House is similar to wire transfers as it is also bank-to-bank. While bank wires are relatively instantaneous fund transfers from one bank to another, ACH transfers operate in a batch process.
Transactions received by banks during the day are stored until the next day, when they are sent. As a result, these transfers are usually cheaper than bank wire transfers, however, they can be slower as well. ACH transfers can take up to 2-3 business days.
Depending on your bank, transfers sent via ACH may be limited to between $2,500 and $10,000 per day.
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There are no limits for how much money can be sent through Veem. However, for larger sums, Veem requires additional documentation for security reasons. Veem’s payments processing and compliance team ensure the security and expediency of your payments, global and domestic.