What Does It Mean To Wire Someone Money?

While you may use money apps like Venmo and CashApp regularly, there may come a time when you'll want to wire someone money, too. To wire money, you simply need to authorize a bank, credit union, or financial services provider (like Western Union) to send money on your behalf to another person or organization. Unlike ACH (automated clearing house) transfers, which are domestic-only, you can wire someone money within your country or abroad. When it comes to money wires, you can also wire much higher amounts, like (tens of) thousands of dollars versus the smaller amounts typical of peer-to-peer payment apps.

Wire transfers today are administered by networks like Fedwire, which is operated by the Federal Reserve Banks, and SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), which handles international transactions and payments. Wiring money is fast, but how fast depends on the service and delivery method; if you're sending someone a money wire internationally, expect it to take a few days at least to complete.

Choosing a wire transfer provider

As said, there are two types of wire transfers: domestic or international. There are also two types of providers: a bank/credit union or a nonbank, like Wise, MoneyGram, or Western Union. For sending money internationally, also known as a remittance transfer, fees are about 1 ½ more than they are for a domestic wire. According to Bankrate's roundup of wire transfer fees by financial institutions, the industry average for an outbound wire money transfer is $44.

For bank wire transfers, typical of domestic transfers, you simply wire money from your bank to the recipient's (which you can do from a website, via mobile app, or in person). To wire someone money from your bank, you'll need the recipient's bank account number and bank routing number. If you're wiring (or receiving) money internationally, however, you'll need a SWIFT code. For example, Wells Fargo's SWIFT code is WFBIUS6SXXX while its routing number is 121042882 (for California).

For a nonbank provider, like Western Union, you also have the option of wiring money online, via mobile app, or in person; plus, where you can send remittance transfers from the United States varies by provider. For example, Wise can wire money to 80+ countries while the Australian online foreign exchange and payments company OFX can send to more than 190. Meanwhile, the United States Postal Service's Sure Money/DineroSeguro service can wire money to 10 countries.

Wiring money is a common transaction

In 2022, the wire-transfer service Fedwire, operated by the Federal Reserve since 1915, originated 196,052,238 domestic wire transfers for the year. SWIFT, meanwhile, reports it recorded some 44.8 million FIN (or transmitted financial information) messages per day in 2022, a 6.6% year-over-year increase from 2021. That's a lot of money transfers, and perhaps one day you'll also send a wire. If so, you'll find the process is similar to P2P payment apps, in that both are done electronically. And quickly. Speed and efficiency are, in fact, two reasons why someone might choose to wire another person funds in certain cases.

Another reason is you may want to send a large amount of money. Though the limits to wiring a person money will vary depending on the money transfer provider, you can generally send a higher amount through a money wire. For example, with the Zelle app, the most you can send a week is $500, while you can wire $10,000 or more with a bank transfer. You can, of course, wire smaller amounts to recipients, too. Also, for larger wires, note that under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions are required to report wire transfers over $10,000 to the IRS.