How to wire money in 5 steps

United States By Christy Lowry June 10, 2024

Need to send money to family or friends? You might mail a check or cash, but your money could get lost or stolen. It may not be worth the risk.

A better option might be a wire transfer. It’s a convenient way to electronically send money or complete a large transaction domestically or internationally.

But there’s electronically. There’s the conventional wire transfer method you might think of when facilitating big purchases like a house or car. Banks typically handle those types of transactions.

And then there are peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers through providers like Western Union. They’re great for sending money to family and friends—no matter where they are.

In this article, we’ll show you how to complete wire transfers the traditional way through banks. We’ll also explain why peer-to-peer money transfer providers like Western Union might provide a faster and more convenient way to send money to family and friends.

In this article

  • Where can you wire money?
  • How to wire money through a bank in 5 steps
  • What to expect once a wire transfer is in progress
  • Why a P2P money transfer may be a better option
  • FAQs
  • Guides
  • Send money to family and friends with the Western Union mobile app

Where can your wire money

A traditional bank is the go-to destination for a conventional wire transfer. Most banks enable you to initiate wire transfers in person at a physical bank branch or through their apps or online banking platforms. Depending on the bank, you may even be able to initiate a wire transfer over the phone.

Some neobanks (online banks with no physical branches) can also facilitate wire transfers—typically through their online platform or apps.

But what if you need to send money to someone without a bank account? Or maybe you need to send money quickly? That’s when a money transfer provider like Western Union might be a better alternative for sending money electronically.

These businesses specialize in domestic and international P2P money transfers across a global network of agents and partners, providing you with more options for how recipients get their money. They can pick it up as cash (for instance, in one of more than 500,000 Western Union agent locations), receive it in their mobile wallet (depending on the country), or have it deposited straight into their bank account (depending on the country).

How to wire money through a bank in 5 steps

Let’s go through the five steps of how to wire money the traditional way—via a bank. Think of a conventional wire transfer simply as sending money between bank accounts. You provide your bank with the details on where to send the money, and they route it to the recipient’s bank account.

1. Gather the transfer details

Start by making sure you have all the to facilitate your transfer, which can include (contact your bank for specifics):

  • Your bank account information
  • Recipient’s name and contact information
  • Recipient bank’s transit number or equivalent
  • Recipient’s bank account number
  • The transfer amount and currency being sent
  • The reason for the transfer
  • Additional information based on your bank’s instructions

Be sure to double-check each piece of information. Providing incorrect information could delay your transfer.

2. Initiate your transfer

Now it’s time to initiate your transfer. You’ll typically have the option to do this in person at a bank branch or via your bank’s online platform. This is when you’ll submit the transfer details you collected in the first step. Your bank’s online platform or physical branch employees should guide you through the process, but it’ll generally consist of entering or providing the information above.

3. Verify identity

To stay compliant with financial regulations, you must undergo identity verification. What that looks like depends on how you initiate your transfer. Verification may include video calls, multi-factor authentication (MFA), one-time passwords (OTP), or presenting a government ID. This is an important step to confirm your identity as the legitimate sender of the wire transfer.

4. Review and confirm

Once you’ve provided or entered your payment information, it’s time to review your transfer. Carefully check that all transfer details are correct so your money makes it to the right place. You can go back and make updates if needed. Once everything is in order, confirm the transfer.

5. Track the transfer

Once the bank initiates the wire, you’ll typically receive a confirmation code. You can often use this code with online tracking tools to monitor the status of your transfer as it moves from your financial institution to the recipient’s. Once the final payment is confirmed, your wire transfer is complete.

What to expect once a bank wire transfer is in progress

When sending money via a conventional wire, your transfer will usually take anywhere from 24 hours to several business days to complete. This depends on several factors, including the banks involved in the transfer, the recipient’s location, and the funding source.

What to expect from your wire transfer in terms of timing and fees depends on whether it’s a domestic or international transfer.

Domestic transfers are usually quicker because they’re handled within the United States banking system. International transfers use the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) banking network, which often relies on third-party correspondent banks to facilitate transfers. This is more costly and can take longer to complete.

Domestic International
How long for the transfer to complete? (typically) 1-3 business days; sometimes within minutes 1-5 business days
Fees Lower Higher

Why a P2P money transfer may be a better option

While certain scenarios call for traditional bank wire transfers, the flexibility of peer-to-peer money transfers through providers like Western Union is hard to top.

Western Union offers three convenient ways to send money—by mobile app, online, or in person. And, whereas conventional wire transfers require both the sender and recipient to have bank accounts, that’s not the case with Western Union.

Recipients without a bank account have the option to pick up their funds as cash at an agent location or receive it in a mobile wallet (in certain countries). In many cases, money transfers are ready for pickup within minutes.


How do you wire money to someone?

You can wire money in person or online through a bank via a conventional wire transfer. You can also send money through a money transfer provider like Western Union as a peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer or through select other financial businesses. You’ll need to provide information such as the recipient’s name, address, and bank details.

Can you wire money without being at the bank?

Maybe. Sometimes, you can complete a wire transfer online without visiting a bank branch. You can typically do this through your bank’s app or online platform. You’ll need important transfer information like your bank details and those of the recipient. With a money transfer provider like Western Union, you can always send money without being at the bank.

What is the safest way to wire money?

Wiring money using a trusted bank or sending money using a transfer provider or other financial institution can be a great option for wiring money safely and securely. Similarly, trusted providers like Western Union also offer a great option to send money.

How much does a wire transfer cost?

Transfer fees depend on several factors, including the recipient’s location, type of wire, and funding source. Fees may also be incurred by both the sender and recipient.


Send money to family and friends with the Western Union mobile app