How To Use a Bank Wire

A Fast Way To Move Money

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When you need to move money quickly and securely, a wire transfer can get the job done. The process is fairly easy, but gathering information and providing it in the right format can be a challenge.

Before you authorize a bank transfer, understand that the money you send will leave more or less immediately, and you won't be able to get it back. You can’t "stop payment," and you can cancel the transfer for a refund only in specific circumstances. If you're not 100% certain who's getting the money, you’re taking a risk.

Key Takeaways

  • Wire transfers are transactions that move money electronically from one account to another.
  • Wire transfers can be domestic (within the U.S.) or international.
  • Banks can often complete domestic wire transfers in 24-48 hours.
  • Banks may charge up to $45 to complete a wire transfer.
  • If you use a wire transfer service like Western Union, your recipient may be able to receive their money in minutes.

Types of Wire Transfers

The term wire transfer is often used to describe:

  1. A transfer from one bank to another using traditional bank networks
  2. An electronic payment using a money transfer service, such as Western Union, which might use somebody’s bank account

The exact process will depend on which type of transfer you use, but the "wire transfer" process as defined here concerns a bank-to-bank transfer of money.

How To Set Up a Wire Transfer

How to Use a Bank Wire. Check With Your Bank to Confirm the Correct ABA Number for Wire Transfers.

The Balance

Make sure to verify all the details of your wire transfer with your bank before you begin. Check with your service provider for limits, and remember that some banks may require you to be a customer for a certain amount of time before you can make a wire transfer. The bank may have a form you need to fill out, or you might be able to start the process online.

To send funds using a traditional bank wire you’ll probably need the following information, which you can request from the recipient:

Contact your bank after you submit your request to confirm they have everything they need.

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 transfers can cost as much as $30 for domestic transfers and $45 for international transfers.

If you use a credit card, your card issuer may charge these additional fees, since they treat the wire transfer like a cash advance.


Never wire money based on the information you get in an email. If somebody sends instructions electronically, call the recipient and verify the wiring instructions before moving forward. This is especially important if you'll be wiring large sums. If your title company sends wiring instructions for a down payment, for example, make sure you verify where the money is going.

How To Receive Money by Wire

To receive money by wire, you’ll need to provide your bank account information to the person or business sending money. Ask your bank for incoming wire instructions to be sure you use the correct numbers.

Note that the ABA number you normally use—the one you see on your checks or that you use for direct deposit—may not work for international transfers because international wires may require a Swift Code.

To avoid confusion, talk with customer service and verify that you're using the correct set of numbers and instructions.


Fees are often lower to receive a wire transfer than to send one ($30 and up), and foreign transfers are more costly than domestic ones.

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, so it can take time to 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 verify the transfer was completed, but sometimes it's just a matter of waiting. Depending on when you submit instructions to your bank, they may complete your bank wire within 24-48 hours.

If you're the recipient and are concerned or confused about a bank wire, make sure you received a real wire transfer. To do so, speak with somebody at your bank to find out if the funds have “cleared,” and discuss any concerns you have about the transaction.

Alternative Ways To Move Money

Sometimes a wire transfer is your only option. But there are other ways to send or receive funds.

Money Transfer Services

Western Union money transfers and MoneyGram are sometimes called “wires,” and some of those transfers are more or less instant. The sender can walk into a retail location with cash, and the recipient can walk out of another outlet with money in just a few minutes. If funded from your bank account, the transfer process will take at least several days. If you use your credit card for a money transfer, you’ll pay extra fees.

Cashier's Checks and Money Orders

If you need funds to clear quickly, cashier's checks are considered to be as secure as bank wires, and cost less than wire transfers. The bank or credit union takes the money out of the customer’s account at the time the check is printed.

Money orders are similar to cashier's checks, are relatively inexpensive, but not quite as safe. They can be bought at banks, credit unions, convenience stores, and post offices. They're not suitable for large purchases due to maximum limits that vary by the issuer, and which would require the inconvenience of purchasing multiple money orders.

Other Options

Several online services and apps allow you to send money by tapping into your bank account indirectly. Venmo, PayPal, Cash App, and others complete electronic transfers for you. Be sure to check with those service providers on any risks you might be taking (especially if you pay somebody you don’t know). These numerous ways to send money make the process easy, but it generally takes a few days and requires some trust from both parties involved.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you wire money to a bank account?

To wire money to a bank account, you'll need information from the person who will receive the funds. You'll need the recipient's first and last name, contact information, account number, and routing number for wire transfers. Ask the recipient to confirm the details with their bank or credit union so the money is routed to the right place. You'll then visit your local bank branch, provide the details, and wire the funds.

How do you get money back from a wire transfer?

There is no guarantee that you will be able to get money back once you've initiated a wire transfer. You have the best chance if you contact your bank or credit union before the receiving institution has approved the transfer. Explain the situation to your bank, especially if it was fraud. If you were scammed, you should also report the situation to your local police, your state's consumer protection office, and the FTC.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Can I Cancel a Money Transfer?"

  2. Bank of America. "Wire Transfers FAQs."

  3. American Bankers Association (ABA). "ABA Routing Number."

  4. Bank of America. "Bank of America Online Banking Service Agreement."

  5. Wells Fargo. "The Ins and Outs of Wire Transfers."

  6. Discover. "Can You Do a Wire Transfer From a Credit Card?"

  7. Wise. "Wire Transfer Fees: All You Need To Know."

  8. HDFC Bank. "How To Do a Wire Transfer in 5 Simple Steps.

  9. Western Union. "Frequently Asked Questions."

  10. Santander Bank. "What Is a Cashier's Check?"

  11. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Helpful Tips for Using Mobile Payment Services and Avoiding Risky Mistakes."

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