How to do a Bank Wire

Wire Transfers are Fast, Until the Very End

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Sometimes you need to move money quickly and securely. If so, you might use a bank wire to get the job done. The process is fairly easy, but it can be cumbersome to provide instructions in a format that your bank requires.

If you're not sure exactly how wire transfers work, be sure to read Bank Wire Transfer Basics before you authorize a transfer out of your account. The money you send will leave more or less immediately, and you won't be able to get it back (nor can you "stop payment" or cancel the transfer).

If you're not sure who's really getting the money, this can be risky.

Wire Transfer Instructions

If you already know the basics, you’re ready to start the bank wire process. You’ll need the following information for the account that will receive the funds.

  • Recipient bank name (the bank that the money is going to)
  • Recipient bank ABA number or other code
  • Payee’s account number at the bank
  • Any additional information you should provide (further delivery instructions, etc)

To get this information, just ask the recipient (assuming you're sending money to somebody else). They can probably provide an instruction sheet with all of the necessary details spelled out for you.

If you're receiving money, ask your bank for wire transfer instructions. Note that the ABA number you're used to using (or the one you see on your checks) might not be the best one to use for wire transfers. If you need the money quickly, it's always best to talk with customer service and verify that you're using the correct set of numbers and instructions.

Sending a Wire? Contact Your Bank

To send a wire, gather the information above, contact your bank, and ask how to send a wire transfer from your account. They may have a form that you need to fill out, or you might be able to start the process online.

Banks increasingly accept wire instructions online, but make sure to verify all of the details with your bank before you decide to proceed online: you might be able to send small wires online, while a visit to the branch is required for large dollar amounts (to purchase a home, for example).

Depending on when you submit instructions to your bank, they may complete your bank wire on that same day. Contact your bank after you submit your request to confirm that they have everything they need.

Unlike some electronic payments (such as ACH payments) bank wires cost money. You should expect to pay a fee for the service, and you might even have to pay if you receive a bank wire into your account. Wire transfer fees are often between $25 and $40.

Waiting for Credit

Although bank wires are fast, they don’t always show up in the recipient’s account immediately. The receiving bank often has a queue of incoming bank wires, and it can take time for them to move through them all and credit the ultimate payee. This can be frustrating for large and important transfers, but it is normal. Sometimes a few phone calls will get you in touch with an individual who can at least see that the transfer was completed, but sometimes it's just a matter of waiting.

Alternative ways to Move Money

Sometimes a wire transfer is your only option.

But there are other ways to send or receive funds - even 'cleared' funds (that don't take multiple business days to settle, and are acceptable for transactions like purchasing a home).

Cashier's checks: if you need cleared funds, the next best option is a cashier's check. Cashier's checks are paid out of the bank's account (because the bank or credit union takes the money out of your account when the check is printed), so they are considered just as good as bank wires. Cashier's checks typically cost less than wire transfers. For more details, read How Cashier's Checks Work.

Money orders: money orders are similar to cashier's checks, but not quite as safe. They can be bought at banks, credit unions, convenience stores, post offices, and elsewhere. They are also relatively inexpensive, but they are not suitable for large purchases. For more details, read How Money Orders Work.

Other options: for more informal transfers, there are numerous ways to send money - often for free. Online services and apps make the process easy, but it generally takes a few days and requires some trust from both parties involved.  For more details, read about the Cheapest Ways to Send Money.

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