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 how to wire money internationally to make sure you know everything you need before making a transfer.
While there are many advantages to wire transfers, they do have their downsides. These include:
Expensive fees: Wiring money via your bank will incur fees both domestically (even when using BACS payments domestically in the UK or SEPA in EU) and internationally. Sending a wire transfer internationally via a money transfer provider will typically be associated with lower fees, but you will still be charged in some way in order to send your money.
You’ll need your recipient’s bank information: In order to successfully initiate a wire transfer, you’ll need to have your recipient’s bank information. This includes their name, bank account number, sort code, and possibly their IBAN/SWIFT codes if sending money internationally. For example, if you're making an international transfer to Canada, you will need the correct Canadian SWIFT code for the recipients bank located in Canada.
Is it possible to wire money for free?
When looking for free money transfers, in most cases, you will need to pay a fee for the convenience and speed a wire money transfer affords you. Additionally, banks charge for converting foreign currencies and this is called mark-up. For example, if you are sending money to Canada via a bank such as TD Canada Trust, you should check TD Canada Trust exchange rate before to see and calculate the total transfer cost.
However, there are definitely some circumstances where you can wire money for free (potentially both domestic and international options). We’ll detail those below.
Free domestic wire transfers
If you are making a domestic wire transfer (sending money within your own country), you are much less likely to have larger fees attached to your transfer. Circumstances where you might be able to wire money for free include:
Sending to an account within the same bank
Some banks will not charge a fee if you are making a wire transfer to another account with the same bank. This can vary depending on your location and your bank, however, so make sure you’ve looked into the wire transfer fees for your bank first.
Also, apart from transfer fees, if you are making an international wire transfer, you should take a look at the foreign currency exchange rates. For instance, if you are a US-based customer who wants to wire money using a popular its US bank such as Regions Bank, you should go to the website and check the Regions Bank exchange rates before making your wire transfer.
Using a third party money transfer provider for free
An alternative way to avoid fees when transferring money to another account is to use a transfer provider that facilitates domestic transfers. These include:
PayPal is a popular service for sending money electronically to friends and family, although it can also be used to pay for goods and services online. When sending money in the same currency to family and friends, there is no fee provided you are sending via a PayPal balance (using your recipient’s email address) or a linked bank account. Sending money via debit or credit card will incur a small fee.
Zelle is only available in the US, but provides a safe and convenient way to send and receive money using an email address or US phone number. You should note that Zelle is free to use, but you should check with your bank in case they charge any fees for using this service.
Venmo is one of the popular virtual bank accounts that makes sending and receiving money more accessible by phone. It is also only available if you have a US bank account and are sending within the US. It’s ideal for sending money to friends and family and is mostly used for splitting expenses for nights out, meals etc. Venmo works by pulling funds from your linked account or Venmo balance and sends them directly to your recipient.
Providers offering money transfers for free (or cheap)
|🥇||WorldRemit||3 free money transfers||Visit WorldRemit|
|🥈||Xe||£25 gift card when referring a friend||Visit Xe|
|🥉||Wise||Average mark-up is 0 – 0.5%||Visit Wise|
|#4||Instarem||Average mark-up is 0 – 0.5%||Visit Instarem|
|#5||TorFX||Average mark-up is 1 – 3%||Visit TorFX|
Free international wire transfers
Finding a way to wire money for free when transferring money to a foreign account is going to be a little trickier. When you want to make a free wire transfer, there will almost always be a fee for sending your money abroad, and this is because of the additional processes involved in this type of international money transfer.
Fees you will need to pay can include:
Transfer fees: this includes potential costs incurred by any other banks or third parties involved in the international wire transfer.
A markup on the exchange rate: almost all banks such as Fifth Third Bank and Huntington National Bank charge this. It is normally between 4 – 6%. If you would like to know more, check the following guides where we include Fifth Third Bank exchange rates and Huntington National Bank exchange rates.
A mix of the two
With that said, using a money transfer provider is our top recommendation for finding the cheapest way to send your money internationally. Our comparison tool helps you find the best service for your specific transfer needs, so that should be your first port of call. Our top providers known for a reliable service and low fees include:
Choose the Right Provider to Transfer Foreign Currency
Combined, our money transfer providers over 150 countries and over 90 currencies. This range of options allows for better choice of transfer service and potentially specialist options such as ACH transfers.
Is there a way to wire money internationally for free?
In almost every case, you will need to pay to send your money internationally. This is because sending money across the globe and converting it into a different currency involves several processes. It doesn't matter if they are big banks like Lloyds Bank in the UK (check Lloyds exchange rate) or if they are a very popular money transfer provider, all of them need to cover the costs of their service.
The one circumstance where you may be able to wire money for free internationally is if you are transferring money to a linked bank (as in, an overseas arm of the same bank). If both you and the person you are sending money to abroad have bank accounts with the same banking group, this could be an option worth considering.
However, you can wire money abroad for very little, check our guide on making a cheap wire transfer to learn more.
Bottom line: can you wire money for free?
Overall, when wiring money domestically, there are ways of getting your money to friends and family without having to pay additional bank fees. Often, using a third party such as the companies listed in this article are a good way of keeping your transfers low-cost and safe.
When sending money internationally, it’s hard to avoid paying any fees at all. However, you can certainly take the time to find the best provider for you. That means lower fees, more competitive exchange rates, and a rapid transfer time. Use our comparison tool to find the best money transfer operator for your specific transfer needs.