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Telegraphic Transfer vs Wire Transfer : What's the difference?

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Moving money electronically has become the new normal and there are many reasons for why you need to send money internationally. 

You may have heard a few terms thrown around when it comes to overseas transfers. Telegraphic Transfers (TT), Wire transfers, or even SWIFT transfers might come to mind. 

It can get very confusing for a new customer to make international transfers. The first thing to know is that technically speaking, a wire transfer and telegraphic transfers are one and the same. 

When it comes to SWIFT payments, well we’ll go through exactly where these sorts of transfers fit within this space throughout this article. 

To start this article off, let’s set the stage and briefly go over what each of these transfer types are.  

What is a Telegraphic Transfer?

Telegraphic transfers (TT) were the earliest form of an electronic money transfer (EFT) method to transfer funds between banks using cable or telegraph lines. These days, the term TT is still in use, but it summarizes the use of the SWIFT system to make an international money transfer only. 

SWIFT is the acronym for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication which is a member-owned network of banks and financial institutions that facilitate international transfers globally. Only SWIFT member banks or institutions can use this network to move funds between countries. As of 2022, it is the largest international payment network in the world. 

To learn more about TT, check out our article here. 

To learn more about SWIFT, check out our article here.  

What is a Wire Transfer?

Wire transfers are another way to move money electronically either domestically or internationally. This could be between individuals or entities and across either network of banks or by using specialist money transfer agents. In some instances, the SWIFT network can be used (you’ll learn more about this in the next section), but there are many older and newer wire transfer services that use their own network to facilitate wire transfers.

There are two types of wire transfers, a domestic wire transfer and an international wire transfer. For domestic wire transfers, usually countries have their own network setup. This makes moving money between local institutions faster and cheaper.
In Hong Kong, local wire transfers are settled using the HK Clearing House Automated Transfers System or HK CHATS

To learn about wire transfers in more detail, check out our article here

On that note, let's look at the key similarities between these two types of transfers.

What are the main key similarities between wire transfers and telegraphic transfers?

Here are the top three similarities between telegraphic transfers and wire transfers. 

1. These transfers are a type of EFTs

No matter what anyone else might tell you, a TT and a wire transfer are just two different forms of electronic funds transfer (EFT). EFT is an umbrella term for the transfer of funds electronically. EFTS can be moved domestically, internationally, for making online purchases, ATM transfers and withdrawals, bank transfers, or telephone instructed transfers. This leads to the second similarity. 

2. The actual transfers are a message, not the act of exchanging physical money

A telegraphic transfer and a wire transfer in action is a set of instructions, or a message about the details of a transaction sent through the corresponding network (whether it be SWIFT network, Fedwire, Western Union, etc). The actual transfer of cash will usually happen soon after the message has been received, processed, and cleared at the receiving bank. The time it takes for this to happen wholly depends on how many banks or institutions are involved in moving a transfer. 

3. Some countries and institutions may refer to a wire transfer and TT as the same thing

Who calls which transfer what, whether it be a wire transfer or telegraphic transfer is pretty much the only difference between these types of transfers in reality. Oh, and of course, the fact that wire transfers can encapsulate moving money domestically too. 

Nonetheless, this is where the world of an international money transfer gets confusing for people who are unfamiliar with each type of transfer available. Although the use of the terms telegraphic transfer or a telex transfer was more common around the world in the mid to late 1900’s, these days it is only a more popular term in Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Australia. You will find when you need to make an international transfer, local banks or banking regulations will use the term telegraphic transfer in either of these countries.

The phrases wire transfer, international wire transfer or domestic wire transfer is commonly used in most of the world for any electronic transfers, especially in the United States and Europe.

4. Specific wire transfer networks can utilize the SWIFT network too, but not always

For international money transfers, if you are looking to make a bank to bank transfer, your money (or message) will go through the SWIFT network. This is because SWIFT has over 11,000 member banks and financial institutions, in 200 countries making it the largest interconnected global bank network. If you use a third party, such as Western Union who also facilitates international wire transfers using their network, you will only use the SWIFT network if your money needs to be received into a particular bank account. If the money is to be received via a WU agent for example, your wire transfer will not use the SWIFT network. 

What details do you need to send a telegraphic transfer or wire transfer?

Details to send a telegraphic transfer or SWIFT payment

To send a telegraphic transfer, you will always be utilising the SWIFT network. This means you’ll require the SWIFT/BIC code of the SWIFT member bank you want to transfer funds to. You will also need the beneficiary's name, bank account details, IBAN (if for a European account, receiving bank address, and choose who will be responsible for the fees incurred for the transfer. 

See more about what a SWIFT/BIC code is in our article here.

Details for a wire transfer 

To make a wire transfer, the details you need depend on if the wire transfer is domestic or internationally. It also depends on if you need to send your international wire transfer to a specific bank account (see above SWIFT/BIC code) or will be solely using a third party agents network to get your money to its final destination. You’ll need the other person's name, account details, amount being sent, and pick up location for cash pick ups. 

For domestic wire transfers, it can be as simple as just the other person's email address, phone number or local bank details. This comes down to which country, bank and the domestic network they have set up for internal money transfers. 

Which option should you use? 

The option you should use really comes down how fast you need the money to arrive at its destination. Here are few examples of when you might choose to either send a telegraphic transfer or wire transfer to your beneficiary. 

Telegraphic Transfer (TT)
If you are from Hong Kong, Singapore or Australia and need to send money internationally, you’ll need to ask your banking provider if they facilitate international bank transfers. Here are some criteria you need to consider when deciding if a is your best option in these countries.
  • You want to make a bank to bank transfer
  • There is no urgency to when the funds need to arrive
  • Your local bank is a SWIFT member bank and can facilitate this transfer for you
  • You want the money debited directly from your bank account
  • You want to deposit physical cash in your local bank branch
Domestic Wire Transfer
Here are some criteria to help you decide if a domestic wire is the right option for your transfer.
  • Your transfer is not moving cross-border
  • You need to move money from your local bank account to another local bank account
Each country has their own domestic banking system set up to make sending money internally quick and easy. Usually domestic wires are cheaper or even free to make. For example, if you are a resident in Hong Kong and need to send money to a friend who has an account with another HK financial institution, your transfer will be sent using the HK Clearing House Automated Transfers System or HK CHATS.
International Wire Transfer
If you need to send money to a family member or friend overseas but not exactly to a bank account, then you might need to use a third party provider to send your international wire transfer. Here are some things to help consider if a wire transfer might be your best option.
  • You need to send money urgently overseas
  • Your friend or family member may not have access to a bank account
  • You need the transfer processed instantly
  • Your local bank does not facilitate international transfers
  • You can only deposit cash or the receiver needs to have a cash pick up
If you do need to send money directly to a bank account, your international wire transfer will utilise the SWIFT network, meaning the transaction may not be processed instantly.

Bottom Line 

When push comes to shove, both international transfer methods are a great way to send money internationally. It all really depends on how much you need to send, how urgent the money needs to be moved, where you are sending money to and if you have access to either option. There will be fees for both methods so this also needs to factor into your decision. 

Fintech alternatives such as Statrys allow businesses worldwide to spend less effort and costs on sending and receiving payments with a transparent and efficient payment system. Statrys's multi-currency business account grants the ability to make payments at cheaper rates compared to traditional banks.

Schedule a quick demo with Statrys and see how we can help streamline your international payments.

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