Wire Transfers – Top 10 Things You Need To Know

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With the influx of in-person services turning automated, it’s no wonder bank services are a frontliner in the movement.

What am I talking about here? The wire transfer.

And rightly so – who wouldn’t want a more efficient way to receive and send money?

Whether you’re sending funds home to your family who live abroad or making business payments, streamlining the way money moves from country to country benefits everyone in this tech-driven day and age.

Unfortunately, there are not many users who fully understand wire transfers.

We don’t want your to be troubled by wire transfers simply because you weren’t informed enough.

Here, we give it to you straight so you so you can wire your money wisely.  

What is a wire transfer?

An electronic transfer of funds from one person or corporation to another business or individual.

In more technical terms, money is transferred from one bank or financial institution to another.

Recipient name, bank account number, and the amount being transferred is passed between banks in order for the transfer to be conducted.

You also require to mention the SWIFT code of the bank and branch where the money is to be deposited.

What are the different types of wire transfers?

Domestic
Inter-bank Intra-bank
Definition Money is transferred between different banks within one country. Money is transferred from one bank branch to another within one country within the same bank.
How it works Banks are members of a secure, closed network that collects and settles the intra-bank wire transfers.

Examples of networks:
RTGS, ACHs, localized Financial Network/Switch

Examples of networks by country:

Canada & U.S: EFT / ACH

U.K: BACS & FPS

Europe: SEPA, GIRO

SE Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia): GIRO

India: NEFT / IMPS / RTGS

Australia: RTGS / BECS

A core banking software is instructed to transfer the funds between its branches. Simply put, money is removed from one bank account and added to another’s. Both the sender and recipient of the transfer is from the same bank.

 

International
Inter-bank Intra-bank
Definition Money is transferred from one bank in one country to a different bank in another country. Money is transferred within the same bank in different countries.
How it works Each bank reports to a financial services authority for the inflow/outflow of money. The bank of the money-sender and the bank of the recipient each follow the laws of their respective countries when the wire transfers are made. The SWIFT network is one that connects any 2 banks, which is the network banks typically use for these transactions.

A direct arrangement between 2 banks via the SWIFT network is when wire transfers are sent without the involvement of an intermediary (i.e. correspondent bank).

Banks have arrangements with one another via Nostro Accounts when a direct arrangement or relationship is not available.

 

How does it work via networks?

Wire transfers are sent via networks that connect banks to each other.

Think of a network as the messenger between the banks in an electronic money-sending transaction.

They don’t actually handle any money but instead send the international money orders from one bank to another.

SWIFT

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications is a widely used network, with over 11, 000 banks in 200+ countries, through which transfer wires are made.

Banks are given a code from SWIFT, which allows them to perform the security and sanctions procedures needed to clear and complete a money transfer safely and reliably (and prevent money laundering).

In many cases, each branch / regional office of the bank will have its own SWIFT code intended to ensure faster routing of money to the correct branch.

This can complicate the process as finding out the correct SWIFT code of your beneficiary can sometimes be time-consuming and frustrating.

The problem with SWIFT, however, is that it sometimes needs to pass through multiple banks to find a correspondent/intermediary bank if there isn’t already a correspondent relationship (called holding correspondent accounts) between the banks of an intended wire transfer.

This is where wire transfers can compound fees in addition to exchange rates (if applicable), and take longer than promised to process.

Fedwire

Fedwire is owned and operated by the 12 US Federal Reserve Banks.

It is a networked system for payment processing between the member banks themselves, as well as other participating institutions.

These include depository financial institutions in the U.S., as well as the American branches of certain foreign banks or government groups, provided they maintain an account with a Federal Reserve Bank.

While Fedwire is not managed for profit, the law mandates that the system charge fees in order to recoup costs. Both participants in a given transaction will pay a small fee.

CHIPS

Short for Clearing House Interbank Payments System.

It is the primary clearing house in the U.S. for large banking transactions.

As of 2015, CHIPS settles over 250,000 of trades per day, valued in excess of $1.5 trillion in both domestic and cross-border transactions.

CHIPS and the Fedwire funds service used by the Federal Reserve Bank combine to constitute the primary network in the U.S. for both domestic and foreign large transactions denominated in U.S. dollars.

How long do wire transfers take, and why?

Domestic wire transfers are purported to be same-day transactions, typically completed within a few hours.

International wire transfers are claimed to take 2 business days.

The difference in processing times comes from the fact that a domestic wire transfer goes through a domestic network (i.e. the ACH in that country), whereas international wires have to clear through a domestic ACH as well as its overseas equivalent, adding another day (or more) to the protocol.

Added to this is the difference in time zones during which the bank in the destination country may be closed and can process incoming wire transfers only when they open for business the next day.

Expectation vs. Reality

Since the transfer is a bank-wire (passes from one bank to another), the transaction needs to be approved by a bank employee.

This means that funds may not appear in the recipient’s account until a bank employee completes all tasks required to make the funds available.

Sometimes time is needed to find an intermediary or correspondent bank in the money-transferring process.

This process can be full of delays and trial and error until the right intermediary/correspondent bank is found via the network with which the banks communicate.

This, plus the requirement of a bank employee approval is the reason those “1-2 day processing time” promises get broken (and incur more costs in the process).

This is common of international wire transfers via SWIFT, averaging the actual processing time to be 3-5 days in terms of bank-to-bank wire transfers.

How much do wire transfers cost?

Domestic wire transfers, on average, cost a minimum of $25 per transfer, but can go up to $35.

International wire transfers can charge as much as $45, or more! And a $10-15 fee may be attached to a wire withdrawal, since they are usually not free.

This is because of hidden fees that can accrue throughout the wiring process.

To top it all, the currency exchange rate is determined by  the bank in the recipient’s country when converting a US$ wire to their local currency and customers have little negotiating power in getting good foreign exchange rates from their bank.

Exchange rates aren’t static and certain financial institutions can charge exorbitant margins.

How safe are wire transfers?

Wire transfers, in general, are secure, but its not without its risks.

Since traditional wire transfers require the recipient’s bank account number and a network (i.e. SWIFT) code, any errors in these numbers (i.e. incorrect digits entered) can sidetrack your transfer, or have it land in the wrong hands.

In this case, it can take weeks to recover the money and you may not even get it all back, if any.

This is especially true if the errored wire transfer has passed through multiple intermediaries.

Hackers and scammers also use wire transfer to steal your money due to its ease and efficiency in collecting money.

This is something you should be wary of as a wire transfer user.

Fraudsters can claim they’re a legitimate business, or design themselves as such.

Once you’ve wired money to them, you won’t be able to get it back.

A signpost of a fraudulent or unreliable source is when they demand you pay right away, or they send wiring instructions via email.

In recent times there have been several cases of fraud committed on banks who rely on SWIFT for their international transfers.

Can you track your wire transfers?

Not all wire transfers are completed smoothly or successfully, but you can trace your wires to ensure they’re still on track, or to get them back on it.

  • If you’re the wire transfer sender

When you make a wire transfer, you will get a Federal Reference number as confirmation of your transaction.

You can call or visit your bank to track your wire, and they will use your Federal Reference number to trace it.

They’ll be able to see the transactional details between your bank and the corresponding one (to which your funds are supposed to funnel into) as well as identify its current location.

If you find out your wire is being posted to an incorrect account, you can request a recall wire where your funds will get transferred back into your account.

  • If you’re the wire transfer recipient

Let’s say your wire is taking longer than it’s supposed to and you’re getting worried, you can contact your transfer sender.

You should acquire the Federal Reference number attached to the transfer, the SWIFT number for the bank of the sender, the date the transfer should’ve been available as well as the exact amount of the transfer.

Your bank will then use this all this information to determine if a wire deposit to your account is pending.

If your bank can’t locate the wire, notify your transfer sender so they can check their transaction, and initiate a wire trace to locate the funds if necessary.

Non-Bank Wire Transfers

Though seemingly better because they’re not the traditional wire transfer, they’re not a sure-fire solution.

For example, they may be speedier and safer, but they won’t be less expensive.

They typically don’t have the best exchange rates, making it costlier to make the transfer, plus may charge you with (high) hidden fees. 

Or maybe they are indeed lower in fees, but they’re not as fast, taking up to a week or two.

Maybe they’re not as easy to use. Maybe they’re not as reliable or consistent.

You’re just not able to have it all here – that’s the downfall of the wire transfer.

Take digital services (or e-wallets), where you set up an online account that acts as an intermediary between the banks of your transfer.

Paypal is a prime example. But it can often take a week before the monetary payment is complete.

So what does this all mean?

Sending wire transfers may seem like a good idea, but the traditional wire transfer now seems outdated.

They are expensive, and not a guaranteed way to send money securely and on time.

Non-bank wire transfers are a slow and/or costly way to go.

Not everyone has the bargaining power or financial luxury to afford the fees and delays of wire transfers.

Luckily, you have options when it comes to sending money electronically other than the wire transfer.

These platforms offer a better service but at a lower cost.

Alternatives to wire transfers

Payment methods grounded in blockchain technology allow local and international money transfers to process safely and easily.

Domestic and international payments in this way don’t require in-person pick-ups from a bank, nor the collection of bank info or paperwork from the recipient.

That means errors in bank account numbers and routing information won’t even exist with such services.

Simplifying the method and removing a source of errors contributes to a positive relationship between the sender and receiver.

One payment platform that’s blockchain-based is REMITR.

It is the only money service business (MSB) that comes with the lowest charge possible for money transfers in the fintech enabled services today.

It allows personal transfers via an app and business payments via an online platform that is super-friendly.

When sending cross-border payments, REMITR only requires the email address of the beneficiary (rather than a host of bank info) to complete each transfer.

It is a FINTRAC registered service that guarantees same-day domestic transfers and 1-2 days for international transfers to arrive in the recipient’s account.

The beneficiary also doesn’t have to pay a fee to receive the funds.

Transfers, mass payouts, and so forth can be made to over 150 countries worldwide.  

Not only do they offer you the most affordable cost, but also the best live foreign exchange rates, meaning the fee to send money doesn’t accumulate to a larger charge than your bargained for.


Their other features include 24/7 availability and support.

Whether it relates to your personal or professional life, or both – we hope you now feel more in the know about wire transfers (and why they’re not the most effective way to go in the payments/money-transfer world).

So what now? Save yourself by using an alternative (like a service such as REMITR) from this moment on.

There’s really no need to endure inconvenient and limiting procedures of banks and wire transfers with today’s up-to-date and state-of-the-art financial technology.

Make payment relief a part of your paydays, and transferring money overseas stress-free and hassle-free!