Find out how long international transfers take and what can affect transfer times
Wire transfers have come a long way since the 1870s, when they were created to send money across US telegraph networks. But while the tech has moved with the times, their benefits remain the same – connecting loved ones across towns, counties and even different countries.
In the 21st century, wiring money is a quick, convenient and reliable way to move funds electronically. You can transfer little and large amounts to accounts here in the UK and overseas, whether it’s a remittance for family back home, paying bills or simply sending a gift.
Discover how to wire money from one account to another with our handy guide. Support loved ones around the world and get the answers to any questions you may have about wiring money.
In this article
- What is a wire transfer?
- Wire transfer types
- How to do a wire transfer
- Can you wire money online?
- How much does it cost to wire money?
- FAQs and guides
If you’ve never heard the term before, ‘wire transfer’ may sound like a piece of complicated financial jargon. Thankfully, it’s a whole lot simpler than it first seems.
In a nutshell, a wire transfer is a way of sending money electronically from one account to another through a network of banks and transfer agencies. It’s an old-fashioned term that goes back to a simpler time in the 19th century, when money transfers were first made through telegraph wires.
Today, it’s often used to describe bank transfers and those made through a money transfer service.
So how does a modern-day wire transfer work??
Virtually anyone can make a wire transfer these days, with the internet and apps offering plenty of fresh options.
With a modern wire transfer, you essentially tell your bank or transfer service to move money from your account to someone else’s via an electronic payment network. To speed things up and tackle fraud risks, no physical cash ever changes hands. And the good news is you can use wire transfers to send funds to people or businesses, both at home and abroad.
Wire transfers are regularly used to send large amounts of money. This could be to make a deposit when buying your dream home (in the UK or overseas), transferring funds to support family or paying bills. You can also make a wire transfer for smaller amounts, such as sending a birthday gift to a friend or showing someone how much you care with a surprise payment.
When exploring how to wire money online, it’s important you know the difference between the two main types. Take a look and decide which best suits you and your loved ones.
Bank-to-bank wire transfer
This is the traditional wire transfer method and the one you’re likely to come across when managing a UK bank account. Money is sent from one bank account to another using bank networks. It’s usually just a case of instructing your bank to send funds to another account – whether held with the same institution or a different one.
Normally, bank-to-bank wire transfers within the same organisation, and those made domestically, are quicker to complete than when sending to other financial institutions. With this method, both the sending and receiving location must be a bank account.
Wire transfer services
Wire transfer services offer a handy alternative option, where you also send money electronically via bank and transfer agency networks. You can still make a wire transfer to a bank account, but there’s more choice. Many offer the option for the money to be sent for cash pickup or to a mobile payment app as well.
With these services, it’s normally possible to set up a wire transfer without a bank account too. Depending on the service provider, you may be able to pay using a credit or debit card. This offers more flexibility to allow those without bank accounts to send and receive wire transfers.
Learning how to wire money online should make your life simpler overnight. You’ll be able to help loved ones, pay businesses and move money between your own accounts in a few simple steps.
Here’s how to do a wire transfer, whichever type you choose:
Select a wire transfer provider
Decide whether you want to make a wire transfer through a bank or non-bank service. This can depend on whether you and your receiver both have bank accounts, and which is most convenient for you both.
To work out the right option for you, compare factors such as:
- Estimated delivery times
- Minimum and maximum send limits
- Payment and pay-out options (for wire transfer services)
Check fees and choose your payment method
When you’ve chosen a wire transfer provider that suits your needs, carefully check their fees – otherwise you could end up spending more than you planned. Even if you arrange a bank-to-bank wire transfer from your own account, charges may still apply.
In this case, they’ll come straight from your bank account when wiring money. With a non-bank wire transfer service, your debit card, credit card or bank account will likely be charged, depending on your chosen payment method.
Get the transfer details
The exact information needed to arrange a wire transfer depends on the bank or money transfer service you use. Generally, you can prepare to do a wire transfer and speed up the process by having ready your receiver’s:
- Full name and address
- Bank name and address (if sending to a bank account)
- Bank account number (if sending to a bank account)
- Routing, transit number or equivalent
- Mobile number (if sending to a mobile wallet)
You’ll also need your:
- Funding source – bank account, credit card or debit card
- Government-issued ID for verification
- Further information – such as delivery details, if required
Fill out the form
To do a wire transfer online – or even in person at a bank or other money transfer service – it’s always wise to carefully read the fine print. Check you understand and are happy with any fees, exchange rates (for international wire transfers), delivery times and other details.
Then fill in the form with all the requested information. Double-check everything to make sure it’s correct, as just one wrong digit or misspelled name could mean the wire transfer goes to the wrong account.
Keep your receipt and wait for the transfer to process
Confirm the wire transfer and you should receive a receipt – either in person or online. This contains a unique transfer number you and your receiver can use as a reference if you encounter any issues. Based on the transfer provider, you may be able to track the wire transfer with it.
Depending on where you wire the money to and the amount, it can take a few hours or days to land with your receiver. Discover more about how long wire transfers take.
In the internet age, it’s easy to wire money online, whether you want to make a bank-to-bank wire transfer or go through a money transfer service.
- Bank-to-bank online wire transfer – check with your bank if online wire transfers are possible. Usually, you can set up a wire transfer from your account through your online banking platform.
- Online wire transfer services – most non-bank money transfer services offer the ability to wire money online and pay via a bank account, credit card or debit card. Normally, you have to sign up, and create and verify a profile to get started.
Once you’ve learnt how to do a wire transfer online, it can provide a quick, convenient and lower-cost option in some cases.
The cost to wire money either online or in person varies depending on your provider. It depends on the fees they charge, which can range from around £10 up to £40 per transfer. There may be a receiving fee to budget for as well.
Alongside the provider, other factors that can affect the cost to wire money include:
- If it’s a domestic or international wire transfer
- The destination country
- Payment method
- Receiver account type
- Amount of money being sent
Generally, domestic wire transfers between accounts within the same financial institution carry the lowest costs – while international transfers can come with higher charges.