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What Is a Wire Transfer? Guide to Wiring Money

What Is a Wire Transfer? Guide to Wiring Money
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated July 27, 2023
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Wire transfers are a quick method of moving money from one person to another. You can wire money through banks or wire transfer providers. Both domestic and international wire transfers are available, though international transfers may take longer and come with higher fees. Read on for a closer look at how to send a wire transfer, along with the pros and cons of wiring money. 

What Is a Wire Transfer?

A wire transfer is a common way to move money electronically from one account to another. Wire transfers can move money quickly, usually within a few hours for a domestic transfer and a few days for an international transfer. Since wire transfers typically come with fees, they’re usually best for moving large sums of money. For instance, you might wire money when paying a down payment for a new home or sending funds to family members abroad. When you wire money, you’re not sending physical cash. Instead, you’re transferring a certain amount of money electronically from your account to someone else’s. As mentioned, most banks offer wire transfers, but you can also use a third-party service such as Western Union, Wise, or MoneyGram. Make sure to verify the recipient before sending, though, since it may not be possible to get your money back after you’ve initiated the transfer. 

What Information Is Needed for a Wire Transfer?

In order to complete a wire transfer, you’ll need to provide both your information and the details of the wire transfer recipient. Some information you may need to provide includes: 
  • Your government-issued ID 
  • Your bank account number 
  • The full name and contact information of the wire transfer recipient 
  • The recipient’s bank’s name, address, and phone number 
  • The bank account or transit number for the recipient 
If you’re in the U.S., you may need to provide your American Banking Association (ABA) routing transit number, which is a nine-digit code. When sending money internationally, you may have to enter a bank identification code, such as a SWIFT code. Third-party wire transfer services might not need the recipient’s bank account information, but they’ll still want their personal details. Make sure to provide all the required information to ensure your money gets where it needs to go. 

Where Can I Send a Wire Transfer?

You can send a wire transfer either domestically or internationally. It’s common to wire money from one bank account to another. However, some non-bank transfer providers let you choose other options. For instance, they may let your recipient pick up the transfer as cash or receive it in a mobile payment app. 

Types of Wire Transfers

There are two main types of wire transfers: domestic and international. 

Domestic Wire Transfers

Domestic wire transfers involve sending money within the country. If you’re in the U.S., you might send money from your U.S. bank account to someone else’s U.S. bank account.Domestic transfers can be completed within a few hours, so the money can transfer the same day you initiate the wire. Fees for domestic wire transfers are typically $25-$30, which is lower than fees for international ones. 

International Wire Transfers

International wire transfers involve sending money to someone in another country. It can take a few days for the money to clear.Fees are usually $45-$50 for international transfers, but can vary depending on where you’re sending the money. You’ll also have to take exchange rates into account.You may have some additional protections when transferring money internationally, however. For example, you can cancel an international wire transfer within 30 minutes after you submit your request. Recommended: Wire Transfer vs Bank Transfer: Key Differences

Pros and Cons of Wire Transfers

Before initiating a wire transfer, take these pros and cons into account.


  • Fast transfer of funds. Wire transfers can be a convenient way to send money, as domestic transfers can take only a few hours and international transfers take a few days. 
  • Can send money domestically or internationally. With wire transfers, you have the option of transferring money within the U.S. or to another country. 
  • Provided by banks and wire transfer services. You can initiate a wire transfer through your bank or use a third-party service. 


  • Wire transfer fees. Wire transfers can come with fairly hefty fees, especially if you’re wiring money abroad. 
  • Exchange rates for international transfers. When transferring money internationally, you’ll also have to account for potentially high exchange rates. 
  • Difficult to cancel or get money back. It may not be possible to get your money back after you wire it, especially for domestic transfers. If you’re sending money internationally, you have 30 minutes during which you can cancel the wire transfer. Make sure you’re confident about who you’re transferring the money to so you can avoid becoming the victim of a wire transfer scam
Pros of Wire TransfersCons of Wire Transfers
Transfers are quick and secureFees can be high
Can send money both domestically and internationallyPotentially high exchange rates when transferring internationally
Provided by banks and third-party servicersDifficult to cancel

How Long Does a Wire Transfer Take?

Domestic wire transfers typically take a few hours and can be completed within the same day. International wire transfers may take a few days, but it can vary by institution and country. Either way, the transfer needs to be approved by a wire processing system like FedWire before it can show up in the recipient’s account. 

How Much Does a Wire Transfer Cost?

The cost of a wire transfer varies depending on the provider and where you’re sending the money. Some banks charge around $25 to wire money domestically and around $50 to wire money internationally, but the fees will be different from one bank to another. Recipients may also have to pay a fee to access the funds, often around $20 to $25. You’ll also have to check a bank’s exchange rate if you’re wiring money abroad to see how much the recipient will actually get in their home currency. Non-bank wire transfer providers sometimes have better exchange rates than banks, so it might be worth comparing your options to get the most bang for your buck. 

When Should You Consider a Wire Transfer?

Since wire transfers have relatively high fees, they’re often most useful when you need to move a large amount of money. If you’re buying a home, for example, you may wire your down payment and closing costs to your closing attorney. The same goes for selling a home — the proceeds may be sent to you via wire transfer. That said, it’s not required to wire a large amount of money — you can choose to transfer smaller amounts, especially if you need to transfer money quickly. Just compare your options to make sure you’re not losing too much money on fees and exchange rates. 

Alternatives to Wire Transfers

Before using a wire transfer, explore some alternatives that could help you move money from one account to another. Peer-to-peer apps like Venmo and networks like Zelle, for instance, make it easy to send money to another person. You can also use an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer to move money between accounts that have been linked or to pay your bills. ACH transfers are often free, but they can take longer to process than wire transfers. Recommended: ACH vs Wire Transfers: What Is the Difference?

The Takeaway

Wiring money can be a fast and convenient way to transfer funds from one person to another. It’s especially useful if you need to send a large sum of money, such as a down payment for a home, or transfer funds overseas. However, wire transfers can have higher fees than ACH transfers or alternative methods, so explore your options before you commit. It’s also important to make sure you trust the recipient before wiring money, since you usually can’t get your money back after it’s been moved via wire transfer. 

3 Money Tips

  1. If you’re looking to earn more in interest on your savings account, an online high-yield savings account could be the right fit. Since online banks don’t have as much overhead as traditional brick-and-mortar banks, they’re typically able to offer better rates.
  2. To maximize the amount you can save, create a budget, have money directly deposited into your savings account each month, and cut expenses where you can. 
  3. Consider the 30-day rule when wanting to make a purchase. Rather than buying something instantly, challenge yourself to wait 30 days. If you still want the item after the time period is up, then you can allow yourself to buy it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a wire transfer be canceled?
How long does it take for an international wire transfer?
Can you wire money from a savings account?
Photo credit: iStock/skynesher

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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