A wire transfer is a method of sending money to someone at another bank domestically or internationally through a service such as the Federal Reserve Wire Network.
Wires are one of the most expensive ways to transfer money, because banks generally charge outgoing wire transfer fees. Some banks and accounts may even charge for incoming wire transfers.
Domestic outgoing wire transfer fees average about $26 and outgoing international wire fees average $44.
What are wire transfer fees?
A wire transfer is a convenient way of sending money to another party without the need to hand over cash or write a check. You’re essentially transferring the money electronically from your bank account to the bank account of your intended recipient.
The service is usually quick and convenient, although many banks will charge you a fee for sending money this way. The fee can vary among financial institutions, and a bank may charge a different amount for sending wire transfers than it does for receiving them.
What you need to know about wire transfers
Wire transfer fees exist in part because there’s a cost to send money between banks. But wire transfer fees are also a source of revenue for banks, similar to the monthly maintenance fees charged on checking and savings accounts.
A domestic wire could arrive in a few hours or a few days. Sending a wire on a weekend or a weekday after the daily cut-off deadline can affect the speed of a wire. Also, providing incorrect information for the wire transfer can cause delays.
International wires typically take one to two business days if the wire is sent before the bank’s deadline, according to Bank of America, but they could take longer.
Making a down payment on a house, funding a brokerage account, settling tax bills, paying school tuition or sending money quickly to family or friends are all common situations for using a wire transfer to get funds into the hands of another person or entity.
Average wire transfer fees
Wire transfer fees typically range from $0 to $50.
Domestic outgoing wire transfer fees typically range from $0 to $35, while international outgoing wire transfer fees are usually $35-50.
Average wire transfer fees by bank
Banks tend to charge similar fees for sending outgoing wire transfers, but they vary from bank to bank.
For instance, Fidelity, a brokerage, doesn’t charge a wire transfer fee, while some banks, such as Citi, may waive the fee for customers who have certain types of accounts. Other banks, such as Chase or PNC Bank, may have a lower wire transfer fee for sending a wire online.
Wire transfer fees by financial institution
|Bank||Incoming domestic||Outgoing Domestic||Incoming international||Outgoing international|
|Bank of America||$15||$30||$16||$45|
|Capital One||Up to $15||Up to $30||Up to $15||$40-$50|
|Citi||Up to $15||Up to $25||Up to $15||Up to $35|
*Includes the average of the highest fee in each category at each bank.
Ranges that exist in the above table can be due to factors such as whether a wire transfer is made online or with a teller.
How to avoid wire transfer fees
Here are some strategies for avoiding wire transfer fees:
- Select a financial institution or account that waives wire transfer fees.
- Use a payment or money transfer app, such as Zelle or Venmo to send money for free.
- Send a check (if time permits).
- Send money using online bill pay, possibly for free.
Check with your bank to see what accounts you can wire money from. Not all accounts — including some checking accounts — allow wires. For instance, the Chase First Checking account doesn’t allow check writing or incoming or outgoing wire transfers.
Look for fee discounts
Shop for the lowest rate
Consumers who expect to send or receive wire transfers frequently should pay close attention to the fees a bank charges for them, and shop around for an account that charges low fees for these transactions.
Wire transfer FAQs
Which bank offers the lowest fees?
Many of the financial institutions on Bankrate’s list are available to consumers nationwide, so it’s easy to shop around to find the best deal. But many consumers might not be able to meet the requirements to get the lowest fee at a particular bank. For example, while Citibank waives wire transfer fees for its Citigold Private Client customers, they’re required to have a combined balance of $1 million or more in linked accounts.
Can I get a lower fee for online vs. in-person transfers?
It’s possible. Some banks offer a discount for wire transfers that are initiated on the bank’s website instead of with a teller or customer service representative. Check with your bank to see if sending a wire yourself will save you money, but also keep in mind that having a banker’s help may be beneficial with complex wires or when wiring a lot of money.
Does the recipient pay a fee?
Some banks charge incoming wire transfer fees, which also might be waived depending on the type of account the recipient holds at their bank.
Third-party money transfer services
These days, wire transfers aren’t the only fast way to send or transfer money. Your bank may offer Zelle, or you can go with popular apps and services such as PayPal, Venmo Wise, Western Union or MoneyGram.
Some of these services do not charge for sending and receiving money, while others charge a fee. Compare such fees with wire transfer fees. Generally, wire transfers are more expensive than using a service like PayPal, Venmo, Wise or Zelle. But wire transfers may send money faster than apps, transferring services or websites.
Western Union’s website, for instance, lets you see an estimated quote of the fees being charged for a potential transfer. Seeing the fees should help you decide whether this option is less costly than sending a bank wire.
Third-party services offer these benefits over wire transfers:
- Potentially low or no transaction fees.
- May be easier to use than going into a bank branch to make a wire transfer.
- May transfer money more quickly than a wire transfer.
- Transfers with third-party services can often take place anytime, unlike many bank wire transfers that are limited to certain hours on certain days.
Third-party services do have some downsides compared with wire transfers:
- May be slower than sending money via a wire transfer.
- May require consumers to sign up for another service instead of using existing bank services.
- May have transfer limits, whereas a wire initiated with a banker usually won’t have limits — as long as you have the funds available in your account.
Services such as PayPal and Zelle have been the subject of consumer complaints, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Consumer Complaint Database.
Free wire transfers
Some financial institutions or bank accounts do not charge for domestic wire transfers. Fidelity offers free wire transfers and Charles Schwab waives its wire fee on up to three domestic wire transfers initiated online per quarter for clients with $100,000 or more in household balances.
Wiring money is often a quick and secure way to send funds — although it can be pricey, so anyone who uses this service frequently would benefit from shopping around for a bank with the lowest wire transfer fees. It can also pay to look into alternative money transfer options — such as Zelle, Venmo or PayPal, which may save you money and send it more quickly than a wire transfer.
— Bankrate’s Karen Bennett contributed to an update of this story.