Telegraphic Transfer (TT): How it Works & How Much It Costs

An illustrated man exploring how Telegraphic Transfer works

Commonly, the telegraphic transfer is abbreviated to just TT, TT payments, or TT transfers.

A telegraphic transfer is a way to send money electronically between banks, where the start and the end of a transfer are in different countries.

Average fees for sending an overseas transfer with SWIFT can range from $10 to $30 USD. For domestic rates, it can range by financial provider starting from $0 upwards.

With the skyrocketing rise of entrepreneurs launching e-commerce businesses and globalization, telegraphic transfer has played an important role in bridging the gaps between people and businesses, connecting them in a fast, secure, and cost-efficient way.

In this article, we will dive deep into the world of telegraphic transfer, exploring its benefits, methods, and how anyone can use it for their financial transactions.

What is a Telegraphic Transfer?

Telegraphic transfer or TT, also known as wire transfer in some countries, is a method of electronically transferring funds from one bank account to another. It is still one of the most popular ways to send money globally due to its convenience, speed, and security.

Commonly, telegraphic transfer is abbreviated to just TT, TT payments, or TT transfers.

What makes a telegraphic transfer complicated is not so much the technical process behind each transfer, but the terminology used between countries to capture this type of international transfer.

 Here are some other terms used instead of the term telegraphic transfer.  

  • SWIFT payment or transfer
  • International bank transfer
  • Telex transfers
  • International money transfer (IMT) (common in Australia)
  • International wire transfers

TT transfers can be both domestic and international and are typically fast and secure. It's important to note that there may be fees associated with this type of transfer, so it's best to check with your bank before initiating one.

Additionally in Hong Kong, many TT transfers can also be processed using the Clearing House Automated Transfer System or CHATS payment network, which allows for even faster processing times.

Although these terms are all ways to label international money transfers, telegraphic transfer is an overarching term for a facilitated transfer using the SWIFT network.

How do Telegraphic Transfers work?

The term telegraphic refers to information that is sent by telegram (in the old days) or by using telegraphy, which better aligns with how the modern-day term "electronic funds transfers"

When making a telegraphic transfer payment, no physical cash exchanges hands, but rather a concise set of instructions that details the parameters of a transfer is forwarded between sending and receiving banks.  

It involves the exchange of money from one bank account to another. The process typically begins with the sender providing their bank with the recipient's account details and the amount of money they wish to send.

The sender's bank then initiates the transaction by sending a message through a secure network to the recipient bank detailing how much money needs to be transferred. Upon receiving this message, the recipient bank will then credit the recipient's account with the transferred funds.

How are Telegraphic Transfers Processed?

In many instances, the instructions are sent using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. However, depending on where you’re sending money, other processing options for TT may be possible. Let's go through these types of processes.

What is the SWIFT Network?

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT network as it is commonly known is a membership network of banks and financial institutions that facilitate telegraphic transfers across the globe.

Only banks that are signatory members are able to use the SWIFT network to make international TT payments and benefit from the advantages associated with the SWIFT network.

Other processes to send a TT payment?

Some countries offer a secondary payment network to SWIFT to send a TT. Whether this other payment network is used will depend on if a transfer is being moved domestically, rather than internationally.

In Hong Kong, many TT transfers can also be processed using the Clearing House Automated Transfer System or CHATS payment network. This system is also known as the Hong Kong dollar Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS).

This means transfers denominated in HKD, will be settled continuously and get processed individually.

Hong Kong banks also offer transfers in other major currencies to utilize this domestic network upon membership.

CHATS payments are the most common payment network used for TT payments in Hong Kong and are faster and in some cases cheaper than using the SWIFT network for domestic transfers in other currencies.

How do you make a Telegraphic Transfer?

The procedure to make a telegraphic transfer can vary between countries, banks, and financial institutions.

Despite these variances, here are some common steps and considerations that you’ll need to take when you go to make a telegraphic transfer.

1. Most banks have the ability to make telegraphic transfers online or through a branch, but on rare occasions, some do not. So always check with your bank first if this type of transfer is possible. If it is not possible, research another financial provider that can complete this transfer for you.

2. If your bank allows it, ask if a telegraphic transfer can be set up and completed online or whether you must visit a branch in person. Remember, the term used to label these transfers vary between countries and banks, so be specific that you are looking to transfer money overseas.

3. Some details you will need to have ready to provide to your bank or input online include common details such as the full name, bank account details or IBAN number, and a SWIFT/BIC code of who you want to send money. In some cases, you’ll need to also provide the receiving bank's address and the personal address of your beneficiary.

4. Telegraphic transfers do incur fees, so be prepared to pay for handling fees from your bank, foreign currency commissions, and unforeseen intermediary bank transfer fees that may be incurred along the transfer path to your destination account.

It is always recommended to consult with your bank about what to expect before you set up your first transfer to save you from any surprises. This includes asking questions about the fees, processing times, and exchange rates.

How much does it cost to do a Telegraphic Transfer?

You may have noticed that paying fees for telegraphic transfers is inevitable, especially when utilizing the SWIFT network for sending money overseas. Average fees for sending an overseas transfer with SWIFT can range from $10 to $30 USD.

This also may not include any extra handling fees if a transfer goes through other correspondent banks en route to its destination.

For domestic rates, it can range by financial provider starting from $0 upwards.

💡Tip: Always check with your bank or financial institution for up-to-date fees on transfers.

What are the pros and cons of Telegraphic Transfers?

When you need to make a telegraphic transfer, you will be playing by two sets of rules, those of your bank and the SWIFT network policies. This is where the advantages and disadvantages are derived from. Let’s look at some of the top ones here for each side.

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Telegraphic transfers are a safe and secure method of sending money overseas.
  • Transfers are easily traceable
  • A transfer can be initiated anywhere, anytime with many financial institutions
  • There are always fees for making a TT and fees can be high and non-transparent
  • Transfers can go through several intermediary banks rather than directly to the beneficiary
  • Transfer times can be slower than other methods, varying anywhere from 1-5 business days to a few weeks for your funds to arrive.
  • Not all banks offer these types of transfers as part of their services

Alternative Solution to TT Payments

Sending and receiving money electronically has become the new norm.

However, they are not the only way to send money abroad, and if you have a business that needs to send money overseas frequently, this payment type may not be the most cost effective and can be time intensive. Luckily, there are a number of payment services available to help you send money overseas, like Statrys.

Statrys is a modern alternative to traditional business banking in Hong Kong. With a Statrys business account, businesses can send and receive money in 11 currencies—including USD, Euros, GBP, and HKD—all from one account.

Multi-currency business account illustration

FAQs

Is telegraphic transfer same as bank transfer?

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How long does a telegraphic bank transfer take?

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How does a telegraphic transfer work?

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What is the difference between SWIFT and telegraphic transfer?

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How much do telegraphic transfers cost?

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