International Wire Transfers: How Bank Wires Work

Need to send money to friends or family abroad? Your best bet is to use an international wire transfer. This quick and convenient method will let you securely transfer thousands of dollars.

Wondering how to conduct an international wire transfer? Seeing as most banks offer the service, many people just go through their local branch. They determine which account they’re sending the money from and enter the bank details of the recipient. After they confirm the transaction, the bank will wire the funds to the recipient in their currency.

Sounds easy enough. But, using a bank for international wire transfers can get expensive. You’ll have to pay high flat fees and deal with poor exchange rates. After your bank takes its cut, you won’t have nearly as much money to send to your recipient.

Luckily, banks aren’t the only way to conduct international wire transfers. You can use alternatives that are just as safe and much cheaper. Read on to learn about the best ways to send your money overseas.

What Is an International Wire Transfer?

An international wire transfer lets you transfer funds from your bank account to a recipient’s bank account overseas. People use this service to send money to family and friends, conduct global business transactions, etc.

If you need to get funds to another country, international wire transfers are the way to go. They’re easy to create and keep your hard-earned cash safe.

How Long Does An International Wire Transfer Take?

Unlike other types of transactions, international wire transfers are rarely instant. The bank will have to verify the details of both you and the recipient.

That being said, wires can be relatively quick. Funds typically arrive at the destination bank within3-5 business days after you send them. The arrival date might be sooner or later depending on factors such as:

  • How much you’re sending
  • What countries you’re sending money between
  • When you send the transfer

Let’s consider an example: You live in the U.S. and want to send money to a friend in Australia. You create an international wire transfer on Thursday.

A transfer like the one you made typically takes two business days, so you expect the money to get there by Friday. However, in Austrlia, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. Your friend might not be able to get the money until after their weekend.

So, to ensure your transfers go through as quickly as possible, you should plan accordingly. Take note of weekends and holidays in other countries that could delay the transaction.

Bank vs. Specialist Service: Which Is Better?

To make an international wire transfer, you have a couple of options.

You can go through your bank as most U.S. banks offer these services. This option is convenient and ensures your transactions are secure.

The only bad thing about using your bank is that it’s expensive. You’ll have to pay a pretty penny just to transfer the money. On top of that, banks usually offer poor exchange rates. These high fees will cut into the money you can actually send to your recipient.

If you want to keep costs low, use a specialist money transfer service. These services are just as convenient and safe while being much more affordable. The fees are cheaper, and the exchange rates are much better.

How to Conduct an International Wire Transfer Through Your Bank

There’s no doubt that specialist services are cheaper. But, if you need to wire money through your bank, we’ll explain how to do so. You can create an international wire transfer through your bank using the following methods:


Some banks may require you to complete this transaction in-person. If this is the case, you’ll have to visit a local branch.

Be sure to come prepared. You’ll need to provide your banking details and the recipient’s banking details. The teller will collect this information from you and go over details about fees, exchange rates, etc.

After you confirm the details and fund the transfer, the bank will send your money to the recipient.

Over the Phone

A more convenient method is by creating the transfer over the phone. You’ll talk to a customer service agent and provide them with the same information. To ensure the call goes smoothly, have your banking details and the recipient’s details ready.


An even more convenient method is to use your bank’s online portal. These days, most banks offer this as an option.

To create your international wire transfer online, log in to your bank account. Look for the page to create international wire transfers. If you can’t find it, go to the website’s “Help” section or call the customer service line.

Once you find the page, you’ll have to enter the recipient’s details (including their banking information). You’ll also have to determine how much you want to send and what currency you want to send it in. Note that some banks place daily or monthly limits on how much you can send. So, make sure that your transfer amount is within these limits.

After entering these details, verify that everything is correct. Your bank will then tell you how much the transfer will cost. Confirm the transaction and wait for your bank to send the money to your recipient.

How Much Does It Cost to Go Through Your Bank?

As we’ve mentioned, going through your bank is more expensive than using a specialist service. The exact cost will depend on factors such as:

  • What bank you use
  • What method you use to create the transfer (in-person, over the phone, or online)
  • The total transfer amount
  • Where you’re sending your money to
  • The currency you want to send your money in

While costs will vary, here’s some more info on fees:

Flat Rates

Banks charge a flat rate for you to create an international wire transfer. On average, the fees range from $25-$50. Here’s an overview of the most popular U.S. banks and how much they tend to charge per wire transfer:

  • Wells Fargo: $30 to $45
  • Citibank: $35 to $45
  • Bank of America: $35 to $45
  • Chase: $40 to $50
  • US Bank: $50

To see exactly how much your bank will charge you, check online or call its customer service line.

Exchange Rates

Aside from high flat rates, you’ll also have to deal with poor exchange rates. Banks offer exchange rates that are 2-4% worse than those of specialist services.

Other Fees

Unfortunately, fees don’t end at flat rates and exchange rates.

When you use an international money transfer, your funds will pass through intermediate banks, which are slightly different than the correspondent. These intermediate banks charge fees of around $10-20.

Additionally, the destination bank will take a cut. It will charge you another $10-20 to deposit the money into the recipient’s account.

Understand the Fees Before Using a Bank

If you decide to use a bank, make sure you understand exactly what the total international wire transfer fee is. Use the bank’s online calculator or talk to a teller. This will ensure you don’t end up paying more than you’re willing to.

How to Use a Specialist Service for an international bank transfer

If you want to avoid your bank’s high fees, you should use a specialist service. These services focus exclusively on helping you send money abroad and are much more affordable.

To use a specialist service, go to its website and make an account. You’ll have to wait for the company to verify your details before you can make transfers. In most cases, the waiting period takes less than 24 hours.

To make a transfer, you’ll need to specify how much money you want to send and the currency you want to use. You can pay directly from your bank account or with a debit or credit card.

You’ll also need to provide your recipient’s information. When you use a specialist service, the recipient can access the money in different ways. You can deposit it directly in their bank account, have them pick it up as cash, etc.

The Best Specialist Services

Wondering which specialist service to use? There are tons to choose from. A few great options include:

XE Money Transfer

XE Money Transfer has worked with 139 currencies across over 220 countries and territories. With this provider, you can send money pretty much anywhere.

Users like XE Money Transfer as it works slightly faster than competitors. Many transfers are complete in as little as one business day.

There is no minimum transfer amount, and the most you can transfer at once is $500,000. You will only have to cover the cost of the exchange rates as there are no transfer fees.


Need a simple service to send money to friends and family? Remitly is a safe, reliable option. It has 24/7 support and offers special gifts to new customers.

Remitly is nice in that you can qualify for higher limits. You will have to provide some basic personal information and details about where you get your funds. Once Remitly approves you, you can send more money. The highest tier lets you send $10,000 every 24 hours and $60,000 every 180 days.


WorldRemit comes with many perks. It has a handy online calculator so that the final cost of the transfer never surprises you. It also offers helpful customer service via phone, chat, and online guides.

Users find that the service is beneficial for sending money to Africa, Asia, and South America. Recipients get their funds quickly and can receive them directly in their bank account. They can also pick up the funds up as cash or even get it delivered to their home.

With WorldRemit, there is no minimum transfer amount. The maximum is $5,000, making it perfect for sending smaller amounts.


Wise is a straightforward, convenient service. Senders can fund the transfer via their bank account, credit card, debit card, etc. Recipients will need a bank account to receive the funds.

When you fund the transfer with a credit card or debit card, the recipient can get the funds within minutes. Bank transfers take around 3 business days.

What we love about Wise are its low, transparent fees. The flat rates are usually no more than 1% of the amount you’re sending. Even better is that Wise does not markup its exchange rates. This is very unusual for specialist services.

One downside to Wise is that it has limited phone support. You can only talk to a representative during normal business hours. On all other fronts, however, Wise is a fantastic option.


OFX offers coverage for over 80 countries, making it a versatile option. It’s easy to register for an account, view exchange rates, and starting sending.

You can’t use the service for amounts less than $1,000 as this is the sending minimum. But, OFX is perfect if you need to send big amounts. There are no transfer fees, and the markups of exchange rates are usually less than 1%. You’ll get the best rates if you send more than $20,000 at a time.

While there are no same-day delivery options, OFX completes transfers in about 2-4 business days. If you ever run into problems, you can count on its customer service team. The support line runs 24/7 and is super helpful. If you would rather resolve an issue yourself, you can consult the FAQs on its website.

What Details Do You Need to Provide to Make an International Wire Transfer?

Whether you go through a bank or specialist service, you’ll need to provide your banking details. You’ll also need to provide the recipient’s information, including:

Note that with some wire transfers, you can include a short message to the recipient. People usually use this space to indicate what the money is for.

Are There Limits?

Most banks place daily or monthly limits on how much you can transfer.

Typical users don’t find these limits inconvenient. They only need to use international wire transfers to send small amounts to friends or family.

However, if you need to transfer a large amount or send money regularly, these limits can cause problems. They can prevent your recipients from getting the funds they need.

If you don’t want to worry about limits, choose a specialist service. Companies like OFX let you transfer as much money as you want.

Are International Wire Transfers Safe?

Some people hesitate to wire money overseas. They fear that their hard-earned cash won’t make it to the recipient.

As long as you choose a reputable bank or specialist service, your transfer will be safe and secure. The financial institution you use should be well-established and have a good reputation in the industry.

To further ensure your transfers are safe, choose an institution that adheres to SWIFT regulations. SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions) is the global standard for international money wires. The regulatory body ensures that your money safely makes it to its destination.

How to Stay Safe While Wiring Money

With the right financial institution, international money wires are safe. But you should realize that once a transfer is complete, it’s hard to get the money back if you discover a problem.

For this reason, it’s important to stay safe while wiring money. Keep the following tips in mind before you send funds to a recipient overseas:

Only Send Money to People You Know

As a rule of thumb, you should never send money to someone you don’t know. You should trust the recipient and ensure you want them to have access to the funds. Ideally, you should have met the recipient in person before.

Be Cautious with Requests

It’s one thing to send money to a family or friend. It’s another when a total stranger asks for funds via a phone call, email, or even dating service.

If a stranger solicits you for money, be careful. It’s likely them just trying to scam you. They might promise something in return only for you to never hear from them again.

Verify Overseas Companies

When you need to wire money for business purposes, it’s a different story. You can’t necessarily meet the operator in person to verify their identity.

So, you will need to verify the company’s credentials. Do this by making phone calls, checking online reviews, etc. These measures will ensure your money is going to who you think it’s going to.

Verify Investment Companies

Overseas investments can be profitable. Before you dump your money into foreign accounts, check the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). You will be able to confirm that the investment company is licensed and regulated.

Verify Overseas Charities

Donating to an overseas charity is honorable. But, if you want your donation to be worthwhile, you need to check the organization’s credentials. You can do this by verifying the charity’s identity and tax status.

Receiving an International Wire Transfer

We’ve talked a lot about sending an international wire transfer. But, what if you want to receive one?

Receiving an international wire transfer is easy enough. You just have to provide the sender with your banking details and wait for the money to deposit. To access the money, you will probably have to pay your bank a fee of around $10 to $20.

When receiving an international wire transfer, you can take measures to make the most of your money and keep yourself safe. Here are some tips to consider:

Don’t Receive Money From Someone You Don’t Know

Receiving an international wire transfer might seem safer than sending one. But, receiving one can be just as dangerous.

After all, you need to provide the sender with your banking details. A scammer can use these details to hack your account and dip into your funds. If you are receiving an international wire transfer, make sure you know and trust the sender.

Communicate With the Sender

With international wire transfers, the sender will be automatically responsible for paying most fees. The only exception is the fee that the recipient will have to pay to their bank to access the funds.

However, the sender may expect you to cover some of the fees. Be sure to communicate with them so that there are no misunderstandings.

Encourage the Sender to Use a Specialist Service

A specialist service will cut down fees for both of you. This way, you’ll get as much money as possible.

As the recipient, you can’t choose the method the sender uses. But you should encourage them to use a specialist service instead of going through their bank. Encouraging them to use a specialist service should be easy as you know them and convince them it will be beneficial for everyone.

Final Recommendations on Making an International Wire Transfer

When choosing between a bank or a specialist service, you’ll want to consider factors like:

  • The countries you’re sending money to and from
  • The currency you’re using
  • The payment method you’re using
  • How the recipient wants to receive the money

In most cases, a specialist service will be the best option. Your transfer will be quick and secure while cutting down on costs. Compared to a bank, you’ll see savings of around 5-7%. Whichever method you use, remember to be safe. Never send or receive transfers from someone you don’t know, and always go through a reputable institution.

Next time you need to send money abroad, consult our guide. This info will help you make international wire transfers easily and safely.

Categories Money Transfer