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What is a telegraphic transfer?

Learn everything you need to know about how telegraphic transfers work in Australia.

When you're sending or receiving an international money transfer through a bank, you'll often see the terms "telegraphic transfer", "TT" or "wire transfer". In this guide, we'll help you figure out what the different terms mean and the process behind sending money across borders.

Quick definition: What's a telegraphic transfer?

A telegraphic transfer is what you get when you go to a bank to make an international money transfer. It means your money will be bounced along a network of correspondent banks until it arrives at its destination.

How does a telegraphic transfer work?

A telegraphic transfer works by bouncing money between different banks until it arrives at its destination. Each bank the money passes through en route will have its own fees and processing times, which is why telegraphic transfers can be slower and more expensive than a money transfer service.

This network of banks is called the SWIFT network.

Money will only pass between banks with pre-existing commercial relationships, known as "correspondent banking" relationships. Each correspondent bank will take a cut of the money as they handle it to cover processing fees and may take a day or two to process the payment.

There are two main reasons why banks can only pass money through other correspondent banks:

  • Anti-money laundering laws require banks to know whose money they're handling. By ensuring an unbroken chain of trust between banks, the final bank at the destination can safely assume the customer was appropriately vetted, and that it's handling money in compliance with international law even though it hasn't personally verified the sender.
  • Banks can't constantly be physically sending money around the world every time a customer needs to make a payment. So instead, they maintain a system of "nostro" accounts with each other.

What are nostro accounts?

Correspondent banks hold nostro accounts with each other to facilitate international payments.

With this system, correspondent banks can simply add and deduct amounts from the nostro accounts to account for payments sent to them from partner banks as they pass through.

So when you send a telegraphic transfer, it will ripple through a series of nostro accounts at different banks until it arrives at its destination.

The number of banks in a chain will vary depending on the payment corridor. For straightforward transfers to or from USD, there might only be two or three. For other corridors, there will often be more since US dollars tend to serve as a hub.

If you're sending money from Australia to Europe, it might go something like this:

  • Your bank. You go to your bank. It takes your AUD and converts it to US dollars through its nostro account at the intermediary bank.
  • Intermediary bank. Converts the US dollars to euros through its nostro account at a European bank.
  • European bank. Sends the euros to the bank of the person who's receiving the money.
  • Receiving bank. Receives the money from the other European bank and hands it to its customer – the person you wanted to send money to.

Infographic on how telegraphic transfers work

Finder survey: What service do Australians use to transfer money overseas?

Response
Money transfer specialist (eg. TorFX or Western Union)48.89%
Bank41.11%
Other10%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1110 Australians, December 2023

How can I make a telegraphic transfer?

To make a telegraphic transfer, you will need to do the following:

  1. Go to your local bank's branch, app or website.
  2. Ask to send an international money transfer.
  3. Fill out the form either in-person or online.
  4. Pay the transfer amount and applicable fees.

What are the fees for a telegraphic transfer?

Your transfer is going through multiple banks, so each one may take a fee. We can break the fees down into four parts:

  1. Sender's bank fees. Your bank will let you know how much these fees are upfront. In Australia, this fee ranges from $6 to $30, depending on the bank.
  2. Corresponding bank fees. These fees come from the banks your money is sent to along the SWIFT network to your recipient. While your bank may warn you about these, it can sometimes be unclear how much they are.
  3. Exchange rate margin. Banks and most money transfer services add a margin to the exchange rate to cover their own fees. This margin can vary depending on your payment method and currency, but banks tend to add more than specialist transfer services.
  4. Recipient's bank fees. Depending on the bank, there may be fees for the beneficiary to receive the transfer.

When you initiate your transfer, you'll often be given the choice of paying these fees yourself or having them deducted from the receiver's funds.

What information or documents will I need?

To send a telegraphic transfer, you'll need to provide the following:

  • Your (the originator's) details. This includes your name and bank account details, or the details of the originator if you're sending money on behalf of someone else.
  • The recipient's (beneficiary's) details. This includes the recipient's bank, bank account number, address, name and contact details. This may include an IBAN or SWIFT code.
  • Transfer details. This includes the amount, the reason for the transfer, the currencies, the date and any other information the bank requests.

Cheaper alternatives to telegraphic transfers

The most important thing to know is that when you send money through a bank, it'll typically take the form of a telegraphic transfer or TT, and that means it will usually be much more expensive than using a money transfer service instead.

Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
TorFX
24 hours
$0
TorFX sends money overseas in 40+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Xe Large Transfers
24 hours
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
Send Payments
24 hours
$0

Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
Revolut
Within minutes
$0
Send money with great rates and low fees in 30+ currencies.
Xe Money Transfers
Within minutes
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Instarem
Within minutes
From 0%
50% off first transaction fee from any country in APAC (outside India).
Minimum transfer of $250 and max transfer of $500,000
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From 0.43%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 50+ currencies.
TorFX
24 hours
$0
TorFX sends money overseas in 40+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From $0.99
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Rocket Remit
Within minutes
From $0 to $5
Send money instantly to friends and family in over 45 countries using just your mobile number.
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $1.99
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
SingX
Within minutes
From 0.5%
SingX offers the real exchange rate every time you make a transfer and can help you send money across the world.
CurrencyFair
Within minutes
€3
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
Send Payments
Send Payments
24 hours
$0
Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
MasterRemit
Within minutes
From $0
Get your 1st and 2nd money transfer for free with promo codes FIRSTFREE and MASTERFINDER!.
Send money in minutes at competitive exchange rates to the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
Western Union
Within minutes
From $0
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
Qantas Business Money
Within minutes
$0
Limited time offer: Earn up to 125,000 bonus Qantas Points as a first-time converter. Ends 30 April 2024. Conversion limits and T&Cs apply.
Set up accounts in 11 different currencies and get rewarded for global business payments by earning Qantas Points.
Airwallex
Within minutes
$0
Streamline global payments in 60+ currencies. Send & receive securely in 150+ countries, with fast settlements & competitive rates. Simplify book-keeping & manage everything in one place.
TorFX Business Transfers
24 hours
$0
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
OFX Business Transfers
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
WorldFirst
24 hours
From $0
Open bank accounts in Australia, the UK, US, Canada, Japan and Europe. Send and receive funds with zero fees for large sums, including same-currency supplier payments.
Send business
24 hours
$0

Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
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