Differences Between Wire Transfer and Bank Transfers

Spain By Western Union Nov 28, 2023

Article summary

Wondering how wire transfers work and how they compare to bank transfers? Here we compare wire transfers vs bank transfers to show you how each works so you can decide which is the best option for you.

Both options have their pros and cons, and offer slightly different experiences. Knowing the differences between the two can help you decide which one is best for your situation. This can depend on several factors, including:

  • Whether you’re transferring money as a business or as an individual
  • How much you’re going to send
  • Destination of the transfer
  • How you need the transfer to take place.


In this article


What is a wire transfer?

An electronic funds transfer (wire transfer) is a form of electronic payment that sends money directly from one bank account to another. With an electronic funds transfer, the bank acts as an intermediary for payment. The sender sends the money to their bank. The bank then sends the money to the recipient’s bank, and finally to the recipient.

This works because the sender pays for the transaction and their bank sends a message through a secure system to the recipient’s bank. The message will contain all the necessary information about the transfer, including the details of the sender, the recipient, and the amount of the transfer.

Since banks act as intermediaries between the sender and recipient, there is no need to link the two bank accounts. Instead, the bank verifies that you have the funds available for the transfer. It will then use the SWIFT system to send the transfer information to the recipient’s bank, instructing it to credit the recipient’s account for the transferred funds.


What is a bank transfer?

A bank transfer is another form of electronic payment that sends money directly from one bank account to another. ACH (Automatic Clearing House) transfers are one of the most recognized and widely used forms of domestic bank transfers. They usually work through online or electronic payments and get their name from the network they use.

The ACH network is a collection of banks and other financial institutions that transfers funds between banks. There are two specific types of ACH payments: direct deposits and direct payments.

Click here if you want to know how to make a bank transfer with Western Union.

Direct deposits typically cover payments such as:

  • Payments
  • Tax Refunds
  • Interest and Annuity Payments.

Direct deposits are usually made by government entities or businesses, and not by individuals.

Direct payments, on the other hand, are made between bank accounts using the credit and debit system. The money is withdrawn from the sender’s account and credited directly to the recipient’s account.


Wire transfers vs ACH: What’s the difference?

Wire transfers and ACH are very different services, despite sounding quite similar. Here are some of the main differences between the two.


When it comes to money transfers, speed is vital. Recipients need to know that they won’t have to wait days for the money to arrive in their account.

Wire transfers typically offer the fastest transfer speeds when sending money domestically, with funds usually available the next business day or even the same day in many cases.

Meanwhile, ACH payments can take a little longer, often up to three days for funds to become available. However, most of the time, transfers are completed within 24 hours.


When it comes to costs, ACH is usually the cheapest option. Business owners who use ACH for direct deposit payments will also have to pay a small fee, but this is generally less than the cost of a wire transfer.

Wire transfer costs can vary, depending on the amount and type of transfer. International transfers will have a much higher cost. Although most of the charges are for the sender, there is also a small fee for the recipients for receiving the money in their account with bank transfers.

Ability to send internationally

While both wire transfers and ACH transfers can send money nationwide, only wire transfers can send money internationally. However, ACH has a partner network called Global ACH, which offers international inter-bank networks. It is possible to send money abroad with other forms of bank transfers.


ACH transfers are often considered the safest payment option for senders, because if money is sent as an error or by mistake, there are ways to reverse the payment.

Scams that use ACH transfers require a lot of information, so they’re easier to spot and harder to commit. Wire transfers are often considered a less secure system for sending money. Wire transfer payments are relatively instantaneous and therefore impossible to reverse if your money is transferred by mistake or as a result of fraud.


Alternative money transfers with Western Union

With Western Union, you can send money in three ways:

  • Directly to a bank account via bank transfer
  • Cash to a Western Union pick-up point
  • Transfer to another Western Union wallet app

In addition, you can choose to pay for your transfer using your bank account, debit or credit card or cash, whichever suits you best. Our money transfers are encrypted and protected with fraud prevention techniques, so you know your money is safe throughout the journey.


What else do you need to know?

When sending a wire transfer, you will need to provide information about your account and the account to which you wish to send the funds. This information will include:

  • Names of bank
  • Account Number
  • ABA Routing Number
  • Names of the account holder

Some entities require additional steps for wire transfers when sending transfers of higher value. You may also need to verify a wire transfer over the phone, and you may even need to use electronic or paper forms to securely complete your application.

When you send an ACH transfer, you’ll need to use a form from the organization you’re paying or the specific service you’re using. Normally, you won’t have to provide as much information as in the case of a wire transfer. For example, you may only need to provide the recipient’s mobile phone number or email address. It will be up to the recipient to provide their bank account information.


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For more questions about bank transfers, click here.

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