Wire Transfers: What Banks Charge

Wire transfers allow you to send money quickly and conveniently. Here's how wire transfer fees compare at different banks.
Written by Rebecca Lake
Financial Expert
Managing Editor
people transferring money online using applications

Sending money via wire transfer is something you might consider if you need to move funds quickly. For example, it’s common in home-buying transactions to use wire transfers to send down payment funds at closing.

While this type of transaction is convenient and safe, there is something to watch out for: wire transfer fees.

Banks and other financial institutions can charge wire transfer fees to send or receive transfers from one bank account to another. It’s helpful to understand how wire transfer fees work and what you might pay at different banks.

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What Is a Wire Transfer?

A wire transfer is a way to send money electronically. When you initiate a wire transfer at your bank, you’re asking the bank to withdraw money from your account and send it to someone else’s account. This type of money transfer can be done online or at bank and credit union branches using checking accounts, savings accounts or money market accounts.

There are also non-bank payment service companies that let you send money, such as Western Union. These companies enable customers who want to wire money from their bank account, debit card or credit card in exchange for a fee.

Though a wire transfer may seem similar to an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction, it’s an entirely different process. For one thing, wire transfers and ACH transfers use different payment networks to move money electronically. A wire transfer is made using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network or Fedwire (a network operated by the U.S. Federal Reserve Banks). ACH transactions are made on the ACH network which only processes electronic bank-to-bank payments in the U.S.

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How Long Do Wire Transfers Take?

Domestic wire transfers are usually completed in one day. But for best results, it’s a good idea to initiate the process in the morning to allow time for bank employees to coordinate and complete the process. International wire transfers require more time to complete, usually an extra day or two.

There’s a high degree of certainty around wire transfers because the funds are verified by the sender’s bank as being available before the transaction is initiated. Once the wire transfer is done, the funds are immediately withdrawn from the sender’s account and made available to the recipient as a cleared payment.

Unlike a wire transfer, which can be completed in hours, ACH transfers are processed in batches and can take several days to complete.

How to Wire Money

There are different reasons why you may need to wire money. For example, you could use a wire transfer to:

  • Fund down payment and closing costs for a home purchase
  • Buy a car
  • Send cash to a friend or family member in need
  • Pay a large bill

The process for sending wire transfers at a bank is fairly straightforward. Depending on the bank, you may be able to schedule a wire transfer online or by visiting a branch.

Either way, you need to tell the bank:

  • Your name and bank account number from which you want to wire funds
  • The name and address of the recipient’s bank
  • The recipient’s name and bank account number
  • The amount you want to transfer

Once you have completed the wire transfer form and provided all the necessary information, the next step is reviewing the details and paying the wire transfer fee. This fee can be deducted directly from your checking account at the time the wire transfer is processed.

Note: Make certain that the banking information and account number to which your funds will be deposited is absolutely correct. If there is any error, you may not be able to recover the funds.

Wire Transfer Fees Explained

Banks and credit unions can charge fees for wire transfers, though the amount they charge varies across financial institutions.

But generally, banks can charge fees to:

  • Send wire transfers
  • Receive wire transfers

Those charges can be further broken down into fees for:

  • Domestic wire transfers
  • International wire transfers

What you’ll pay for a wire transfer can depend on how the bank prices incoming and outgoing wire transfers, as well as to where and from where the transfers originate. For instance, you might pay $0 for an incoming wire transfer sent domestically. But you could pay $50 or more to send an international wire transfer.

Typically, international wire transfers cost more than domestic wire transfers. That’s because international wire transfers tend to take longer to complete since they have to be processed through multiple payment systems. For example, if you’re sending money to an account in Paris, it would have to be processed through a U.S. wire transfer system first, and also by one in France.

International money transfers tend to be more expensive because you have to factor in the exchange rates for foreign currency. If you send money internationally from your bank and the bank doesn’t first convert it to the foreign currency of whatever country to which you’re sending it, the receiving bank can do it instead. But the bank will charge a markup for doing so, and that can make international wire transfers more expensive.

What Top Banks Charge for Wire Transfer Fees

If you’re interested in what you might pay for a wire transfer fee, generally it can be anywhere from $0 to $50. But again, every bank is different in how they price wire transfer transactions.

Here’s an overview of how wire transfer fees compare at some of the top financial institutions:

Bank Name Incoming Domestic Wire Transfers Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfers Incoming International Wire Transfers Outgoing International Wire Transfers
Ally Bank $0 $20 $0 N/A
Bank of America $15 $30 $16 $45
BB&T $15 $30 $18 $65
Capital One 360 $0 $30 N/A N/A
Chase $0 to $15 $25 to $35 $0 to $15 $40 to $50
Citibank $0 to $15 $17.50 to $25 $0 to $15 $0 to $35
Discover Bank $0 $30 $0 $30
PNC Bank $15 $30 $15 $45
U.S. Bank $20 $30 $25 $50
Wells Fargo Bank $15 $30 $16 $45

As you can see, there is quite a variety in terms of what banks charge for wire transfers.

One thing that’s obvious is that online banks may offer a better deal on wire transfer fees compared to some brick-and-mortar banks. At the low end, you’ll pay $15 for a domestic Wells Fargo wire transfer fee or a domestic Chase Bank wire transfer fee. But if you wire money to another bank in the U.S. with Ally or Discover Bank, no wire transfer fee applies. The Capital One wire transfer fee to receive money from a U.S. bank is also zero.

You can also see how pricing for international wire transfers compares. The Bank of America incoming international wire transfer fee and the Wells Fargo international wire transfer fee are the same when you’re receiving money, for instance. But it’ll cost you nearly three times that to send an international wire transfer at either bank.

One other thing to point out is that not all banks allow for incoming or outgoing international wire transfers. You can only receive money internationally via wire transfer at Ally Bank. And at Capital One 360, international wire transfers of any kind are available.

How to Minimize or Avoid Wire Transfer Fees

Wire transfer fees can get expensive if you regularly receive wire transfers or you have to send a wire transfer internationally. These tips can help you reduce wire transfer fees and save money without sacrificing the convenience that goes along with using this type of electronic payment service.

Take advantage of fee discounts at your bank

One of the easiest ways to reduce wire transfer fees is by checking to see if your bank discounts or waives them under any circumstances.

For example, say you have checking accounts or savings accounts at Bank of America. If your accounts make you eligible for Bank of America Preferred Rewards benefits, it’s possible that you could sidestep certain wire transfer fees altogether.

As a Platinum Honors member, for instance, you wouldn’t pay the Bank of America incoming international wire transfer fee or incoming domestic money transfer fee.

Use a non-bank money transfer service

Another possibility for avoiding or reducing wire transfer fees is to skip the bank and use a non-bank money transfer service instead. Again, you can do that with companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

These companies can let you wire money directly from your bank account or debit card, or use credit cards to send money. You still pay a fee for this service, but it may be less than what your bank could charge. And since you can still wire money online without having to visit a money transfer location, you don’t lose anything in the way of convenience.

Transfer money via another method

In addition to wire transfers, there are other ways to send money.

You could use PayPal or a person-to-person payment app to send cash to friends or family members. Or if you don’t need a transfer to process right away, you might consider an ACH transfer instead.

These options may still involve paying fees, but the cost might be less than a wire transfer. Just keep in mind that they may also take longer to process.

Consider switching to a bank that’s fee-friendly on wire transfers

If you regularly send or receive money via wire transfer, where you decide to keep your bank account matters. Switching to an online bank that charges lower fees or no wire transfer fees, for example, could be an easy way to save money on those costs.

Before switching banks to minimize wire transfer fees, first consider the bank’s full range of products and services. Specifically, look closely at:

  • What types of accounts you can open (i.e. checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, etc.)
  • Monthly fees or other service fees the bank charges
  • How easily you can access your money via online banking or mobile banking
  • Interest rates you can earn on deposit accounts

Looking at the full picture can make it easier to choose a bank account that fits your budget where wire transfer fees are concerned. And you can also find the right accounts to meet your needs and financial goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does an electronic funds transfer between institutions still take several days?

A: At the front and back end of any electronic transfer, there is usually some amount of human involvement. This can slow the process down, but it can also make transfer procedures more secure. You only have to look at the “flash crash” on Wall Street earlier this year to see what can happen if technology is allowed to operate without some degree of human oversight.

You may already have looked into this, but with online banks expanding their services, and with traditional banks expanding their online capabilities, it may be possible that you could find a bank that offers both high-interest savings accounts and traditional checking. It’s at least worth a look, and banking with a single institution would make transfers between checking and savings more fluid.

If you can’t find a single bank to fill both roles, the one consolation (though it is a hollow one, at best) is that with today’s low bank rates, it shouldn’t cost you much to make transfers from savings to checking with more lead time, and/or keep a larger balance in your checking account — most likely, you’ll miss less interest than the number of overdraft fees you’ll incur if you lean the other way and cut things too close.

About Author
Rebecca Lake
Rebecca Lake joins MoneyRates as a contributor writing about banking, credit and debt, home-buying, investing, small business, and other personal finance topics. Rebecca brings her expertise as a personal-finance journalist to MoneyRates.com, having written about money for over five years. Her work has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report and many other publications.