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What is a wire transfer?

A wire transfer is a convenient way to send money overseas, but high fees and exchange rate markups mean it's usually not the cheapest option.

If you need to send money overseas, a wire transfer is one option worth considering. This bank-to-bank electronic transfer method is simple and secure, but there are a couple of key drawbacks to be aware of before sending an international wire transfer.

What is a wire transfer?

A wire transfer is an electronic transfer method you can use to send money from one bank or financial institution account to another. The funds you transfer are sent via global networks administered by banks and other international transfer providers, such as the SWIFT network and the Fedwire network.

Wire transfers are sometimes also known as telegraphic transfers because they were originally sent using telegraphic wires. These days, you can initiate a wire transfer in online or mobile banking, or by visiting your nearest bank branch.

Once you provide the details of your wire transfer — such as who you're sending money to, their bank account details and the amount you're transferring — your bank then contacts the recipient's bank via the wire transfer network to relay the transfer instructions. The recipient's bank deposits the transfer funds into the recipient's account, and the banks then settle the payment between themselves.

You can send a wire transfer from your bank or credit union, or through transfer providers like Western Union, and domestic and international transfers are available.

How does a wire transfer work?

In order to send an international wire transfer, you'll need to provide a range of details to ensure that the money you transfer is sent to the right account. The easiest way to send a transfer is through mobile or online banking.

You'll typically need to provide the following information to complete a transfer:

  • Your recipient's name, address and contact details
  • Your recipient's International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
  • The SWIFT code or BIC (Bank Identifier Code) — this is used to identify different banks around the world
  • The amount you want to transfer
  • The reason for the transfer

Once you've supplied the necessary information and submitted your transfer request, your bank can contact the recipient's financial institution to start the transfer process.

Finder survey: How do Australians prefer to send a money transfer?

Response
I do not transfer money37.03%
App28.38%
Website19.1%
In person12.25%
Over the phone2.34%
Other0.9%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1110 Australians, December 2023

The costs to wire money

Many financial institutions charge wire transfer fees. These vary from bank to bank and depending on whether you initiate the transfer online or in a branch, but you can generally expect a fee of between $0 and $30.

Check out the table below for a quick guide to the cost of sending and receiving a wire transfer with the "big four" banks.

BankFee for sending a wire transfer onlineFee for receiving a wire transfer
NAB$0Up to $30
ANZUp to $9Up to $15
CommBankUp to $6Up to $11
Westpac$10–$20Up to $12

Bank fees for wire transfers

If you're sending an international wire transfer, the other cost you'll need to consider is the exchange rate markup. Unfortunately, banks and other financial institutions don't convert your Australian dollars into foreign currency at the "real" (or mid-market) exchange rate. Instead, they add a margin of 3–6%.

Let's take a look at how that can affect the cost of a transaction when you're sending $10,000 overseas. As you can see in the table below, a 5% exchange rate markup means your recipient will get £265 less than if you got the mid-market rate for your transfer.

Mid-market exchange rateBank international wire transfer
Transfer amount$10,000$10,000
Exchange rate1 AUD = 0.5300 GBP1 AUD = 0.5035 (5% markup)
Amount received£5,300£5,035

Pros and cons of wire transfers

Pros

  • Safe and secure. A wire transfer is a safe way to send money overseas, with transfers sent via well established and tightly regulated networks.
  • Easy and convenient. You can send an international wire transfer via online or mobile banking, and you can transfer money to banks all around the world.
  • Relatively quick. Wire transfers also offer a reasonably fast way to send money overseas, with transactions typically settled within a few days.

Cons

  • Wire transfer fees. Wire transfer fees of up to $30 mean this is often not the most cost-effective transfer method, particularly if you're only sending a small amount of money. Your recipient's financial institution may also charge fees to receive a wire transfer, and intermediary fees may apply in some cases.
  • Exchange rate markups. Banks add exchange rate markups of 3–6% on international transfers, which can significantly increase the cost of your transaction. You'll typically find better rates from an international money transfer service.
  • Limits apply. Check whether your bank has maximum wire transfer limits and whether they suit your needs.
  • There are faster transfer options available. If speed is important, you'll find faster transfer options from specialist transfer companies. Some providers even offer same-day transfers.
  • Can't be cancelled. You can't cancel or reverse a wire transfer once you've sent it, so you might not be able to get your money back if you make an error.

Compare international money transfer services

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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Bottom line

A wire transfer is a safe and convenient way to send money overseas, but it's usually not the cheapest. With lower fees and better exchange rates available elsewhere, not to mention faster transfer times in some cases, compare international money transfer services to get the best deal on your next international payment.

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