How to wire money step by step

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When you need to send money in a hurry to someone in the U.S. or overseas, one of the best ways to make it happen fast is to wire the money. A wire transfer, which moves money electronically from your account to the recipient’s account, is almost always permanent. So, it’s important to double-check all your information before sending the wire to make sure the money gets to the right person’s account.

Here’s what you need to know about how to wire money.

Choose a company to use to wire money

The first step is to figure out what type of company you want to use to send the money to a family member or friend. Depending on the service you use, such as a bank or a nonbank provider, a wire transfer can take only a few hours, or can take up to a few days.

Many banks offer wire transfers, so if you need to wire money, you can start with your bank. Be aware, though, that many banks charge fees to complete a wire transfer. There are also non-bank companies, like Transferwise, that can help you move your money. Finally, MoneyGram and Western Union are known for their reputable and reliable wire transfer services.

Check the fine print

Review the fine print before sending the wire transfer. This includes being aware that, in most cases, once the money is gone, it’s gone. So, it’s important to know who you’re sending the money to, and be sure that all of the account information and other key details are correct. Also, you can ask about exchange rates if you’re wiring money outside the country, fees, taxes and the delivery date before signing the wire transfer. It’s a good idea to understand all the information and costs involved before moving forward.

Gather your information

As you prepare to wire money, it’s important to gather the appropriate information you’ll need to fill out the required paperwork. For the most part, you need:

  • Government-issued ID
  • The amount you want to send (and access to those funds via one of your accounts)
  • Your bank account number
  • The full name and contact information for the recipient
  • The recipient’s bank information, including account number and routing number

Depending on whether you use a bank or a nonbank provider, different information might be required. You might need the bank account information for the recipient, or you might just need a name and location. With a bank-to-bank transfer, you’ll probably need more information and verification than if you wire money with a nonbank provider. Check with the wire transfer service provider to find out exactly what you need, and have it ready ahead of time.

Fill out the required paperwork

It’s vital to fill out the paperwork carefully and correctly. The forms are precise, and if you misspell a name, or if your name doesn’t match your ID, or if you key in a wrong digit in the recipient’s account number, there might be problems getting the money to the recipient. Make sure the dollar amount shown is correct, too. When you send money through a bank, you might need to fill out forms in person. With companies like Transferwise, though, the forms are online. Before giving the OK to send the wire transfer, review the details of the wire transfer closely to make sure that all the information is 100% correct.

Save the receipt

As with most financial transactions, it’s important to maintain a paper trail. When you finish your transfer, you’ll receive a receipt. A bank transfer is considered very secure, and your receipt will include the wire transfer transaction number. If there’s a problem with the transfer, the receipt can help you track down the issue and potentially resolve it.

You receive a receipt with a nonbank transfer, as well.  But it’s important to realize that if you send money to someone in another location, and they take the money and disappear, even having the receipt might not help you.

Finally, with some of the newer online wire transfer providers, you might be able to track the progress of the transfer using an app on your phone.

Bottom line

If you’re hoping to send someone money, especially internationally, it can help to learn how to wire money. However, even though a wire transfer can be fast and secure, it also comes with pitfalls. You might not get your money back once it’s gone, and inadvertently making a small mistake in an account number or recipient’s name can lead to problems. Double-check everything if you decide to wire money to someone else.

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