When you need to send money to a friend, family member, or business contact, wire transfer is one of the fastest and most reliable ways to do it. This is what it takes to send a wire transfer, as well as how long it takes to transfer the wire.
What is wire transfer?
Domestic wire transfers - transfers between US bank accounts - typically take 24 hours to complete. International wire transfers can take between one and five business days.
It only takes a few minutes to request and initiate a domestic wire transfer. Money then moves quickly between bank accounts; there is usually no bank hold on money received by wire transfer. However, it may take several hours for the bank receiving the transfer amount to show the results in the recipient's account. This is because there are a number of administrative matters that employees may need to do manually to make funds available.
Why does wire transfer take longer?
There are three factors that affect the wire transfer speed:
The time when you submit your transfer request
Where do you send funds
The method (network) your bank uses to make wire transfers
When you initiate the transfer it can have an impact when the wire money goes to the recipient's account. Banks and credit unions are allowed to set their own cut-off times - for example, when they stop processing wire transfers every day. Some banks, for example, set a wire transfer deadline at 3pm. When you make a transfer at 4 PM, the funds will be recorded as "received" on Thursday - meaning the 24 hour window actually extends to Friday. Likewise, banks cannot complete transfers on weekends or federal bank holidays.
Second, as mentioned earlier, domestic and international transfers have different schedules. There are some countries that are designated as "slow paying" countries. That is, there may be further delays. Contact your bank when making a wire transfer to a slow-paying country to learn more about what to expect.
Lastly, there are several ways your bank can process wire transfers. FedWire is a system designed for wire transfers with large amounts or that are time sensitive. That is, the amount will be processed immediately, but also can only be used for domestic wire transfers. Another option is CHIPS, which stands for Clearing House Interbank Payments System. It's "batch transfer" meaning it can process multiple transactions as part of a batch processing. And finally, the wire transfer service most commonly used for international exchanges is SWIFT, a service that allows a bank to send money through an intermediary bank until it reaches its final destination. CHIPS and SWIFT wire transfers may take slightly longer than FedWire due to downtime and other administrative delays.
Alternative to wire transfers
There are several alternatives to using wire transfers, such as Sigue Pay or money order services such as Western Union. ACH transfers are similar in that they move from one bank to another, but they use an Automated Clearing House network rather than SWIFT or FedWire. ACH transfers usually take one to two days. There are also many peer-to-peer services such as Zelle or Paypal that allow you to send money quickly, but be aware that these services are less secure than bank transfers. Talk to a bank representative or financial advisor to learn more about how you can send money quickly.