Wire transfers are a fast way to send or receive money electronically. While the speed of a transfer depends on several factors, most wire transfers between domestic U.S. bank accounts are completed within 24 hours. Transfers between U.S. and international accounts are completed in 1–5 days.

Wire transfers are faster than checks, large deposits, and ACH transfers

Unlike checks or deposits over $1,500, which can be held by banks for up to 10 days, recipients of large wire transfers don’t have to wait for funds to clear. They have immediate access to money transferred once it’s available in their account.

Wire transfers are also faster than ACH transfers (short for automated clearing house). Both involve the bank-to-bank transfer of funds between accounts, but ACH transfers typically take 2–3 days. ACH transfers are also less expensive than wire transfers.

Three factors that affect the speed of a wire transfer:

1. When you initiate the transfer (time of day matters)

Federal regulations. The Expedited Funds Availability Act (EFAA) requires U.S. financial institutions to make wire transfers available to recipients within one business day. Banks and credit unions set their own cut-off times for receiving daily wire transfers, which may differ from branch closing times and even cut-off times for deposits.

Bank cut-off times. Here’s how time of day and bank cut-off times affect the speed of your transfer: If your bank’s final cut-off for wire transfers is 3 p.m. and you initiate a transfer at 3:05 on Wednesday, funds will be recorded as having been received on Thursday, which could delay completion until Friday.

Weekends and holidays. When estimating how long your wire transfer may take, keep in mind that transfers can’t be completed on weekends or federal bank holidays.

2. Where you’re sending or receiving funds

Domestic wires. Because of EFAA regulations, most bank-to-bank wire transfers between accounts in the U.S. are completed within 24 hours. Some banks make wired funds available to recipients immediately, especially on transfers between accounts at the same institution.

International wires. A wire transfer between a U.S. bank account and an account in another country (also known as a remittance transfer or international wire) requires 1–5 business days depending on differences in time zones, foreign currencies, and banking systems.

Slow-to-pay countries. Countries with a slow-to-pay designation may delay transfers up to three weeks or result in cancellation. When sending or receiving funds internationally, ask your bank for a current list of slow-to-pay countries so you know what to expect.

3. How your bank transfers funds

FedWire for immediate transfer. For large-value or time-sensitive wire transfers between U.S. institutions, banks use the FedWire system for real-time gross settlement (RTGS), which means the transfer is processed immediately.

CHIPS for batch transfer. Banks also use the Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) for net settlement, which processes multiple transactions as part of a batch process. Some banks have several daily cut-off times for wire transfers and send multiple daily batches.

SWIFT for international transfer. While CHIPS can be used to process international wires, more than 10,000 banks and other financial services providers also use a secure network managed by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). When international transfers can’t be processed directly between two banks, SWIFT makes it possible for money to pass through intermediary or correspondent banks.

Information required to send a wire transfer

Before you contact your bank to initiate a wire transfer, gather the information listed below about your recipient and their bank in order to avoid delays:

  • Full name and address
  • Bank name, address, and telephone number
  • Bank account number and account type (e.g., checking or savings)
  • Bank ABA routing number (for domestic transfers)
  • Bank IBAN and BIC/SWIFT codes (for international transfers)

Additionally, be prepared with details about the dollar amount to be transferred, the currencies involved (e.g., sending U.S. dollars to be received in Euros), and the reason for your transfer.

Note: An ABA routing number is a nine-digit number established by the American Bankers Association based on the location of a U.S. bank. Some banks have specific routing numbers for wire transfers as well.

An IBAN or international bank account number includes a combination of 34 letters and numbers that help identify countries and branch locations for cross-border transfers.

A BIC/SWIFT code is 8–11 characters used to identify an international transaction at a specific bank.

How to track a wire transfer

Now that you know how long a wire transfer takes, what do you do when a transfer is delayed or lost? 

Every wire transfer to or from a U.S. bank account passes through the Federal Reserve Bank where the transaction is assigned a unique IMAD/OMAD ID. IMAD/OMAD stands for input/output message accountability data. The ID includes a combination of the transaction date, an identifier for the source bank (IMAD) or destination bank (OMAD), and a sequence number for the transaction.

If a wire transfer between U.S. bank accounts takes more than 24 hours, or a transfer between a U.S. and international account takes more than five days, ask your bank to trace the wire using the IMAD/OMAD ID assigned when the wire was sent.

The tracer will show how and when the transfer was processed between sending, receiving, and intermediary banks, and, most importantly, where it is now. In the unlikely event your wire goes to the wrong account, this is how you can find it.

How to cancel a wire transfer

Once initiated, the funds transfer is guaranteed. A transaction can only be stopped if the receiving bank gets a cancellation notice from the sending bank before instructions are processed to complete the transfer.

If a mistake is made by the sending or receiving bank, including duplication of a previous order or the transfer of the wrong dollar amount, they will reverse or adjust a completed transfer.

Cost of a wire transfer

Here’s a comparison of fees per wire transfer for the five largest U.S. banks (as ranked by Business Insider in 2019), including links to more information about each bank’s processes, policies, and timelines for sending wire transfers.

Institution

Domestic Receiving Domestic Sending International Receiving

International Sending

Chase Bank $15 $25–$35 $15 $40–$50
Bank of America $15 $30 $16 $35–$45
Citibank $0–$15 $0–$25 $0–$15 $0–$35
Wells Fargo $15 $30 $16 $30–$45
Goldman Sachs $0 $25 Not available Not available

Fees vary based on the type of account you hold, whether you use online or in-branch services, and whether you transfer funds in U.S. dollars or a foreign currency. The sender pays to initiate the transaction, and the recipient pays to receive it.

How to send a wire transfer with Divvy

At Divvy, wire transfers work as described. We automatically detect incoming wires and apply the transfer as immediately as possible (actual timing varies by bank and federal regulations). We don’t charge any fees for wire transfers, though banking fees still apply.

If you need to send a wire transfer through Divvy or have questions about the wire transfer process, reach out for help.

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