In a world of digital wallets and payment apps, initiating a wire transfer may sound cumbersome and old-fashioned. After all, the concept of wiring money was first introduced almost 150 years ago by Western Union. But there’s a reason this form of payment has stood the test of time: It’s quick, easy, reliable and relatively safe — as long as you do your due diligence.
Wire transfers may cost a bit more than other methods of payment, but when you need to send money to someone quickly, inside or outside the U.S., they are hard to beat.
- What Is a Wire Transfer?
- Methods of Wire Transfers
- Steps To Wire Transfer Money
- Safety Tips and Common Wire Transfer Scams
- Alternatives to Wire Transfers
- Final Step To Wire Money
A wire transfer electronically connects the sender’s account directly to the recipient’s account to transfer funds. There is no movement of physical cash in a wire transfer. Two types of wire transfers exist: domestic and international.
Domestic Wire Transfer
Domestic wire transfers can be sent to individuals or businesses within the country of origin. Because most domestic transfers are completed within the same day, they’re a good option for moving large amounts of money, such as when settling real estate transactions or paying invoices.
International Wire Transfer
International wire transfers can also be sent to individuals or businesses. They’re different from domestic wire transfers, however, because they are sent in a foreign currency via the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication network, otherwise known as the SWIFT network — an international messaging network used by banks to send information.
Pros and Cons of Wire Transfers
Like all payment methods, wire transfers have their benefits and drawbacks. Here are a few to consider:
- Safe, reliable and fast
- Can be used for domestic and international transfers
- Generally easy to execute
- Errors on transfer form can result in someone else receiving money other than the intended recipient
- Often impossible to reverse
- More expensive than other payment transfer methods
Services like Western Union aren’t your only option for wire transfers. Banks complete them, too. Here are the details for both methods:
- Bank-to-bank transfers: With a bank-to-bank transfer, you send the money from your bank to another bank. To complete this type of transfer, you can visit the bank in person, or some banks will allow you to complete the wire transfer online. Information, such as your bank account information, the recipient’s bank account number and the receiving bank’s wire transfer routing number, will be required.
- Location-based facilities: An alternative to a bank-to-bank transfer is a money transfer service. In addition to Western Union, MoneyGram and TransferWise are also wire transfer providers. Many Walmart stores also offer wire transfers.
When you need to send a large sum of money quickly, a wire transfer can be an ideal solution. Here are the steps to take.
1. Decide What Provider You Want To Use
Before sending a wire transfer, you’ll need to choose a provider. If you’re planning to send the wire transfer directly from your bank account, you’ll need to check with your bank to see if it offers online transfers or if you need to initiate the transfer in person.
Your other option is to use a retail wire transfer service provider such as Western Union or MoneyGram to send the transfer. Check with the service provider to find out if they offer both online and in-person transfers, so you’ll know your options.
2. Gather the Required Information
When you transfer money, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Name of person or business receiving money
- Recipient’s bank account number
- Recipient’s bank’s ABA routing number
- Phone number and address of recipient’s bank
3. Understand the Fees
Most bank wire transfers cost between $6-$30. Some banks — like BMO Harris and Discover — don’t charge any fees for wire transfers. And banks like Wells Fargo and Citibank waive the fee if you have a qualifying account.
4. Fill Out the Form Carefully
It’s important to take the time to fill out the wire transfer form completely and carefully. Because you are providing banking information and contact information, the money could be lost or sent to the wrong person if you make a mistake.
5. Verify the Wire Transfer Details
Make sure to get a tracking, confirmation or authorization number. To verify delivery, contact your initiating bank or provider with the details of your wire.
6. Keep Your Receipt and Follow Up
After you’ve made your wire transfer, you will get a receipt of the transaction. If you don’t get a receipt, ask the bank or provider for confirmation that the transaction took place.
You might have concerns about the safety of money transfers — especially if made online. In the United States, federal regulations require both sender and recipient to verify their identity and provide their physical address to use the wire transfer service. But that doesn’t mean that wire transfer scams can’t and don’t happen.
Scammers are notorious for putting pressure on people to complete a wire transfer immediately. Then, the transfer can complete before anyone realizes its a fraud. Because wire transfers involve cash, once the transfer is complete, the money is gone.
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Common Wire Transfer Scams
There are a variety of wire transfer scams to be on the lookout for. Here are some of the more common ones.
- Overpayment scam: A buyer agrees to pay for something you’re selling via check — either cashier’s, personal or business. But when you receive the check, it’s for more money than what you requested. The buyer asks you to deposit the check and wire the difference to him, so you do. Unfortunately, you soon find out the check is fake, and you end up being responsible for covering the whole amount of the check while the scammer gets away with the money.
- Rental property scam: Fraudsters may copy legitimate apartment or house rental listings and substitute their contact information. When you call to express your interest, the scammer is ready to make a deal and asks you to wire money for an application fee, security deposit or first month’s rent. Only after you send the money do you realize that there is no rental, and your money is gone.
- Advance fee loans: You see an ad or website guaranteeing a loan regardless of your credit score. When you apply, you are asked to wire a fee in advance before the loan is granted. Little do you know that there is no loan. If you do wire the money, you never get the loan, and you lose the advance fee you sent.
Wire Transfer Safety Tips
Just because wire safety transfers are a secure form of payment does not mean that fraudsters won’t try to find a way to cheat you out of your money. Here are some precautionary steps you can take to avoid falling victim to a wire transfer scam.
- Ensure the Wi-Fi connection is secure.
- Check bank accounts for unfamiliar charges.
- Verify the transfer completed correctly.
You should never wire money to someone under any of these circumstances, according to the Federal Trade Commission:
- When you don’t know the person
- When it’s someone claiming to be a relative in crisis — but you can’t prove the person’s identity
- When someone insists that they only accept wire transfers for payment
- When someone asks you to deposit a check and wire some of the money back
- When it’s for a rental property that you haven’t seen and signed a lease for
A good rule of thumb to heed: If a transaction involving a wire transfer seems sketchy, then it probably is.
If you don’t want to wire money, you may want to consider one of the following alternatives.
- Cashier’s check: A cashier’s check can be written for large amounts. It eliminates the risk associated with a personal check because the bank guarantees the funds.
- Money order: You can get a money order at your local bank or post office. They never expire and can be replaced if lost or stolen. If you need to make a payment over $1,000, however, you’ll have to buy more than one money order.
- Mobile apps and services: Mobile apps like Venmo, Facebook Messenger, Google Wallet and Zelle let you send money electronically. Square is a similar app for business-related purchases. Sending limits vary per service.
Read Next: How To Use Chase QuickPay With Zelle
Wire transfers are a quick and secure way to send money across the U.S. or around the globe. Although higher fees are often associated with wire transfers than other forms of payment, they are helpful for certain types of transactions. Some examples are sending money to relatives overseas, paying rent on a vacation house or conducting a business transaction involving thousands of dollars. Essentially, all wire transfer methods provide you with the same service, but the exact cost you’ll pay will vary on provider, destination and amount of money you send.
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