Home Wire Transfers

A Guide to International Wire Transfers

When you need to transfer money quickly and safely to someone overseas, an international wire transfer is a common and reliable method used all around the world. The term “wire transfer” originates from the days when money was transferred over telegraph wires, but it is now used as a generic term for electronic transfers.

Updated: 30/04/2021
Read time: 14 minutes
Compare Rates
 
   
Spain
EUR
GBP
£

The goal of international wire transfers is the quick transfer of funds, eliminating the delays caused by mailing and clearing of checks. While people often use the terms “wire transfer” and “bank transfer” interchangeably, this is not 100% accurate: wire transfers are used by both banks and non-banking financial institutions. This means that all bank transfers are wire transfers, but not all wire transfers are bank transfers.

This handy guide will take you through all you need to know about international wire transfers, how to wire money and whether you should use them when sending your hard-earned money abroad.

What is an international wire transfer?

A wire transfer is the electronic transfer of funds from one person to another via a bank account or a money transfer account held with a specialised provider (e.g. a credit union). There is no physical transfer of money between banks or financial institutions when conducting a wire transfer. In fact, only information is exchanged between the institutions about the recipient, their account details and the transfer amount, with the transfer itself happening electronically.

The difference between wire transfers and bank transfers

The two terms wire transfer and bank transfer are often used to describe the same thing, but this is not always the case. A bank transfer is a term used to describe the process of transferring money from one bank account to another. This transfer could happen between two different types of bank accounts of the same person (for instance from a savings account to a checking account), but more commonly the term refers to the process of transferring funds from one location to another (even overseas) via banks. 

Conversely, an international wire transfer is more generic terminology which refers to sending money electronically from one location to another. So, we can say that a bank transfer is a type of wire transfer, along with other types of wire transfers as well. For example, to send money from the US to France you may use bank transfer or you may wire it through MoneyGram, Western Union or another money transfer provider.

Pros and cons of wire transfers

Wire transfers offer a convenient and secure way to transfer money across borders, which is why they are one of the most popular ways of sending money. Whether you want to send funds to your family living overseas or to one of your suppliers in another country, wiring funds is a simple and efficient money transfer method.

Here are some of the pros and cons of using wire transfers when transferring your money:

Pros
Speed: In most instances wire transfers take 1-2 days. In some cases and depending on the currency, the amount and the service you are using, the transaction can be near-instant and the fastest way to wire money.
Safety: Both banks and specialised money transfer providers must adhere to financial regulations put in place in the country they operate in. Wire transfers are a commonly used method of sending funds, so any business that offers money transfer services will have experience keeping your transactions secure.
Convenience: You can send money to any part of the world from the comfort of your home via the internet. All you have to do is log in to your online banking and make a transfer. However, circumstances might be different for those planning on sending a large sum. On these occasions, your provider might require some additional information.
Global reach: Wire transfers can facilitate the delivery of funds to almost anywhere in the world, in any currency (as long as you find the right provider).
Cons
Cost: Wire transfers can be expensive; there are several money transfer companies that have decreased their costs substantially, so research is crucial to find out the cheapest way to wire money. Generally speaking, wire transfers are likely to be accompanied by higher exchange rate markups and fees than some other payment methods.
Non-reversible: If a mistake is made when entering details of the wire transfer, it can be very hard to reverse. Be sure to double check details are entered correctly before sending.

How do wire transfers work?

The majority of international wire transfers are processed via the SWIFT network. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is a secure messaging system used by banks to exchange information quickly and securely, including instructions for wire transfers. This network spans 200 countries and includes over 10,000 banks and financial institutions. 

If you live in Europe, your international wire transfer is likely to be processed as a SEPA payment. SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) operates in a similar way to the SWIFT network, but its purpose is to provide low cost and fast Euro-denominated transfers to the 36 countries that are part of the group. All 27 EU states are members of this group.

When you send a wire transfer, the instructions are sent to the recipient’s bank either directly or through an intermediary bank. There are costs associated with using the network, which can vary depending on the currency and amount being sent, so be sure to check before deciding on how to wire money.

Most money transfer companies enable international wire transfers in the same manner, but they operate a bit differently. They employ specialised technologies that connect local banks across the world, helping to reduce costs and transfer times. We will talk more about choosing the best money transfer providers in the upcoming sections. 

How to send an international wire transfer?

How to wire money is generally pretty straightforward. The process typically works as follows:

1. Decide on a money transfer provider
2. Gather all the information you need
3. Familiarise yourself with the fine print
4. Fill out the wire transfer forms
5. Track your wire transfer

What are the fees associated with wire transfers?

International wire transfers, despite their convenience, are not always the cheapest way to send money. When making an international wire transfer, the two costs you will have to look out for are exchange rate mark-ups and fixed transfer fees. 

Exchange rate mark-ups

In order to find out the cheapest way to wire money, most people search the exchange rate before making an overseas wire transfer and expect to get the same exact rate for their transaction. However, this is rarely the case. Banks and financial institutions charge a markup on the mid-market rates (the rate you see on search engines and from financial news services). Banks are known to charge 4 – 6% margins, whereas specialised money transfer providers often keep their margin at 0.5 – 2%. It’s important to compare the exchange rates before you go ahead with the transaction, especially if sending a large amount of money as a small percentage increase can cost you a lot of money.

Fixed fee

To make a wire transfer, you may have to pay a fixed fee to the bank or provider. The fee can range anywhere from $15 – $45 depending on the bank or payment provider you choose. Banks typically charge both a fixed fee and an exchange rate margin on wire transfers. 

Wire transfer fees can be quite high depending on the number of intermediary banks involved. However, there are many money transfer providers that charge only a fixed fee and no exchange rate margin. This fee is sometimes also much lower than you’ll find with a bank. Again, it is all about choosing the right provider. 

How long do international wire transfers take?

International wire transfers can take anywhere between 1 – 5 days depending on various factors including the origin and destination country, the amount being transferred and the currencies used. Many non-bank transfer providers are able to reduce the transfer times by utilising technology that connects local bank accounts across the world. Some even offer near-instant transfers for users transferring money along a corridor in which the provider specialises.

Summary

A wire transfer is a method of transferring money electronically between people or businesses across the world. It only involves exchange of information between the institutions about the recipient, their account details and the transfer amount. This means that a bank transfer is a type of wire transfer, but there are other non-banking financial companies that can also facilitate wire transfers. Examples of these services are money transfer companies such as Transferwise, WorldRemit, and Azimo

Wire transfers offer a convenient and secure way to transfer funds. You can send money anywhere in the world. However, it’s good to be aware that they can be costly as you may have to pay both a fixed transfer fee and exchange rate mark-ups when sending your money. These fees are often higher than you’ll find with other payment options. 

It is important to shop around and make comparisons to get the best rates and lowest fees on your transaction, as there are a lot of providers now offering wire transfer services at different rates. Before deciding on how to wire money, quickly compare your options by filling out our form. So you can find out your best option in minutes and ensure your recipient gets the maximum amount possible of the money you are sending.

Find out more about international wire transfers…

Fastest Way to Wire Money
What is a wire money transfer? A wire transfer refers to the electronic method of sending funds from one account to another. Unlike a bank transfer, in which money must be sent between two bank accounts, a wire transfer can be sent from a bank account to any account provided by a financial institution, such […]
What is a Transit Number?
What is a transit number?  A bank transit number is a series of nine digits that identifies a specific financial institution. Each bank is issued an identifying transit number and, much like a serial number, this is how every financial institution is chartered. When sending and receiving money transfers between banks, the transit number will […]
International Bank Transfer Fees
In this guide, we’ll look at the kinds of transfer fees you can expect when sending your money abroad via bank transfer, and how to avoid shelling out too much whether you’re making a one-off transfer or regular payments. What international bank transfer fees should I expect? The main two costs you can expect when […]
Best International Bank For Expats
Some banks offer international bank accounts that are specifically for people living away from their home country, while other non-bank institutions offer a digital approach to wiring money internationally that means fewer fees and more versatility with moving your money across borders. In this guide, we’ve reviewed some of the best international banks for expats […]
Best Way To Wire Money Internationally
These days, it isn’t just traditional banks that can initiate a wire transfer abroad. Money transfer providers are well equipped to move your funds online, often for lower fees and more competitive exchange rates. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of our top recommended transfer companies for wiring money internationally, plus the […]
Cheapest Way To Wire Money
A wire transfer can be a fast and efficient way to send money around the world, but what’s the cheapest way to organise transferring your funds? In this article, we’ll look at the cheapest way to wire money plus potential alternative ways of sending money for even lower fees or free. Before we dive into […]
Wiring Money From A Credit Card
Why send money from your credit card? Wiring money from your credit card to your own bank account is known as a cash advance. Some people may choose to do this if you are looking to borrow a small sum of cash, to pay off an overdraft, or if you need to make a payment […]
What is a Multi-Currency Account?
What are multi-currency accounts? Multi-currency accounts allow users to hold money in multiple foreign currencies within the same account. They are ideal for anyone with multinational expenses and commitments, providing a more cost-effective way of dealing with several different currencies. These accounts can be a great solution for companies of all sizes, as well as […]
How Does A Bank Transfer Work?
What are Bank Transfers? Bank transfers are a means of transferring funds from one account to another account electronically, without having to physically move money between accounts. Also known as a wire transfer, bank transfers a popular for: Sending money on a one-off basis Wiring money internationally Paying for products and services online Bank transfers […]
What Is A Virtual Bank Account?
What is virtual banking? As the name suggests, virtual banking takes traditional banking services completely online. While many traditional banks now offer online banking as a part of their banking services, virtual banks eradicate in-person branches altogether. The end result of this is that you can manage your money online instantly, with numerous benefits over […]
Can A Wire Transfer Be Reversed?
Wire transfers are an electronic means of sending money from one account to another. Most wire transfers are processed via a secure messaging system such as the SWIFT network, which is used by banks worldwide to send information to one another. You can send domestic wire transfer, or they can also be used to send […]
How To Wire Money For Free
What is a wire transfer? A wire transfer is a means of moving money from one account to another electronically. This method of sending money is popular for one-off payments, sending money urgently (wire transfers are often much faster than direct deposits, for example), and sending money internationally. Make sure to check our guide on […]
Transferring Money to a Foreign Bank Account
If you’re interested in transferring money internationally to another bank account, you may be wondering what your options are. In this guide, we’ll take a look at your main options to transfer money abroad, plus the steps you need to follow to safely and securely deposit your money to a foreign bank account. Take a […]
Difference Between Wire Transfer And Direct Deposit
The Main Differences The main difference between a wire transfer and a direct deposit is that a wire transfer is a faster way of sending money to an account, but a direct deposit is cheaper. A wire transfer is an electronic transfer from one bank account to another, whether that’s transferring money internationally to family, […]
How Safe Are Bank Transfers
Sending your money via a bank transfer can be a convenient way to transfer your money either domestically or internationally, but it does require a certain level of trust in the person or organisation you are sending your money to, not to mention the institution you are relying on to transport your money. Until you […]
Making an International Bank Transfer
Whether you’re sending money internationally to friends or family, to make a foreign purchase, pay freelancers or contractors, or something else entirely, understanding the process is the first step in ensuring you don’t over-pay for your transfer. In the past, making an international bank transfer meant you were limited to relying on the services of […]
Best Way To Transfer Money Between Banks
These days, there are a number of different ways to transfer money between banks. The best way to do so really depends on the circumstances of your transfer. For example, are you moving money between your own accounts, or sending money to someone else? Are you sending money within your own country, or internationally? Do […]
Guide to Making Domestic Wire Transfers
While an international wire transfer can take several working days to appear in your recipient’s account, a domestic wire transfer will be almost instant. When you’re ready to make a wire transfer, below are a few steps to follow to make things hassle-free. What is a wire transfer? A wire transfer is an electronic means […]
Wire Transfer Fees
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the wire transfer fees for popular US and UK banks, what kind of fees you can expect, and how to reduce those fees for cheaper international wire money transfers. Make sure you’ve checked out our guide on the cheapest ways to send money abroad which explains […]
How To Wire Money Internationally
What you need to know about wiring money internationally Wiring money internationally is a popular way of sending money abroad. The electronic nature is this type of transaction makes sending money via wire transfer fairly hands off, requiring you only to know your recipient’s name, bank details, and the sum you are sending abroad. However, […]
How Long Does A Bank Transfer Take?
What do you need to make an international bank transfer? To make a secure wire bank transfer, you’ll need to make sure you have a number of key details to hand. This includes: The name of your recipient Their account number Their sort code The date you want the transfer to be made A payment […]
How Long Does A Wire Transfer Take?
Although you can rarely get a definitive answer for how long your wire transfer will take, you can get a good indication when looking at the particular circumstances of your transfer. Here, we’ll be addressing everything you need to know about international bank transfer times. Wire transfers are a fast and convenient way to send […]
Wire Transfers
This guide will take you through how wire transfers work and whether you should use them when sending money abroad.
Companies
All Services