International wire transfer explained

United Kingdom By Liudmila Simakova August 26, 2022

Learn more about how to send a wire transfer

Whether you want to send a gift to your son in Sicily, have friends backpacking around Australia, or are looking to invest in a summer house in Spain, there are many reasons why you might want to send money abroad. One of the most straightforward ways to ensure your money reaches the people who matter most is by making an international wire transfer.

But what is a wire transfer, and how does it work? Our guide will explain the differences between a domestic and international wire transfer, how long it might take for your money to arrive abroad, if there are any costs involved, and the information you’ll need to prepare before making a money transfer.

In this article

  • What is an international wire transfer?
  • How long does an international wire transfer take?
  • What information is needed for an international wire transfer?
  • Do international wire transfers have fees?
  • FAQs and guides

What is an international wire transfer?

An international wire transfer is a quick and secure way to move money between two banks in different countries.

It’s a popular way to send money as no physical exchange of cash ever takes place. Instead, the entire transfer is handled electronically. This makes it a much safer and faster option than sending cash through the post, especially if you wish to send a large amount. It can typically take up to two business days for an international wire transfer to be completed, but your recipient will be free to start spending as soon as the funds arrive.

An international transfer differs from a standard money transfer as it involves money crossing borders.

Domestic wire transfers

A domestic wire transfer is when a payment occurs between two different banks in the same country. It’s generally processed on the same day once it’s been sent through a domestic automated clearing house.

International wire transfers

International wire transfers are sent from one country and received in another. This means you will usually need a routing or SWIFT code to make the send, and it takes a little longer for your money to arrive as it must clear both a domestic and foreign automated clearing house.

How long does an international wire transfer take?

If you’re short on time and are worried about how long it takes an international wire transfer to arrive, you might be surprised to learn that it usually only takes around two business days. This is longer than a domestic transfer as your funds will need to be processed by automated clearing houses in both your home country and abroad.

The exact time it will take for your international wire transfer to arrive depends on several factors, including the destination you’re sending to, your payment method, the service you use, whether you already have an account registered, and how you would like your money to be received.

Keep in mind that submitting incorrect payment details, different time zones, and public holidays at home and abroad may also affect the speed of your international wire transfer.

What information is needed for an international wire transfer?

The information needed for an international wire transfer can depend on how much money you’re sending abroad, where you’re sending it, and the transfer service and payment method you choose. However, there are a few pieces of information you will probably need to prepare, whether you’re transferring money to friends in Faro or your Mum in Mumbai.

The recipient’s full name and address

This is the first piece of information that you’ll need for your international wire transfer to reach the right person. Make sure you include your friend or family member’s name exactly as it appears on their government-issued ID.

The amount of the wire transfer

The amount of money you can send via wire transfer can depend on the bank or transfer service you use, your payment method, and the country you’re sending money to.

Name and address of the recipient’s bank

You’ll need to provide basic information on your loved one’s home bank, including the institution’s name and address in the country you’re transferring money into.

Recipient’s bank account number and account type

Double-check before starting the send that you have the recipient’s correct bank account number, including the sort code, and take note of whether it is a business, personal, current, or savings account.

Recipient’s bank routing number

A bank’s routing number is a piece of information that indicates which bank holds your account. In the UK you’ll see this referred to as the sort code, and is a six-digit number, but it goes by different names in different countries – in the US, for example, it’s called an ABA routing number and is nine digits long.

Recipient bank’s SWIFT / BIC code, or IBAN

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and is used to identify banks and financial institutions around the world. You may need a SWIFT/BIC code to make an international wire transfer. Alternatively you may need to use your receiver’s International Bank Account Number (IBAN).

Reason for the transfer

You will have to explain why you want to send money abroad, whether it is a gift for a loved one’s birthday, a deposit on a new house in the sun, or to pay for goods or services that you can only find overseas.

Do international wire transfers have fees?

You will have to pay to send a wire transfer, but international wire transfer fees depend on several factors, including how much money you are sending abroad and the method you’re using to send the money transfer. The fee can also vary between different banks and whether the wire is domestic or international.

You and your receiver should also keep in mind that international wire transfer costs can apply when receiving money.

Typically, international wire transfer fees are based on a percentage of the amount you’re sending or receiving, although some banks and services charge a flat fee. On average, the cost of sending money via wire transfer from the UK to another country is between £20 and £40. Be sure to check how much it might cost to send money abroad before making a wire transfer, so there are no surprises.

FAQs and guides