Payments

What is a Wire Transfer? How It Works & Different Types

Wire Transfer

When you need to make a transfer quickly, you are most likely going to send a wire transfer. Wire transfers arguably dominate how money is sent around the world.

If you have ever wondered what wire transfers are or wanted to know more about how wire transfers work and their cost, you’re in the right place.

This article will do just that, while briefly introducing you to Statrys, an alternative service that makes domestic and international wire payments cheaper and easier for businesses.

What is a wire transfer?

A wire transfer is a type of money transfer that is sent electronically. Wire transfers are also known as 'wire payments' or 'international bank wire transfers'. A wire transfer can be initiated through a bank or a financial institution specializing in electronic money transfers.

Most of the time, there are no physical exchanges of cash required to initiate a wire transfer, however, some banks and payment providers can accept cash to set up a wire transfer or offer the option of a cash pick up for the receiving entity or person.  

How do wire transfers work?

The ‘wire’ in wire transfer is a set of instructions sent from one bank to the other, kind of like a messaging service between banks or financial institutions.

The wire instructions include all the details you provide to set up the transfer (described below) and a confirmation that the funds are available to be cleared from the sending institution to the recipient bank.

Available funds for clearance means that the funds have been deposited physically or are available for use in the sender’s account.

Once the recipient bank receives this message, the bank deposits funds from their own reserve funds into the recipient’s account. It is not until after that the banks organize to transfer actual funds as a back-end process.  

Are there different types of wire transfers?

There are two types of wire transfers, a domestic wire transfer, and an international wire transfer.

Each type has different costs and timeframes associated when making a transfer.

Wire Transfer

Domestic Wire Transfers

If you have ever transferred money electronically between different banks in the same country, you have successfully made a domestic wire transfer.

Each country uses different national methods to facilitate domestic wire transfers that are based on the amount being transferred, the currency being transferred, and how fast a payment needs to be settled.

For example, in Hong Kong (HK), a large domestic wire transfer denominated in the local Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), is settled through the HK Clearing House Automated Transfer System or HK CHATS. The Fast Payment System (FPS) is used for smaller domestic transfers in HK in HKD and CNY.

The key difference between these two payment systems is that FPS can be used 24/7, with funds being received by the recipient almost immediately. The HK CHATS system can take a little longer to clear the funds and facilitate the process of sending the funds to the recipient.

International Wire Transfers

An international wire transfer is an electronic money transfer between different countries. This is usually through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions (SWIFT) network. This type of wire transfer is also referred to in some countries as telegraphic wires or telegraphic transfers (TT).

As the name suggests, the SWIFT network is made up of a society of member banks and other financial institutions that facilitate money transfers across borders. However, in cases of large domestic wire transfers, the SWIFT payment method can be used to make this type of bank wire transfer.

The SWIFT network is considered the international standard when needing to transfer money internationally. Funds can be sent in the same denominated currency or converted into the local currency of the receiving bank.

One of the pitfalls of the SWIFT network is that sometimes the transfer may require an intermediary bank — or correspondent bank — to complete the transfer. This can delay the time it takes for a transfer to arrive at its destination and incur unforeseen transfer fees along the way.

What details do you need to make a domestic and International wire transfer?

There are different details that you need to provide to be able to facilitate a domestic or an international transfer. Some requirements can change depending on the bank or financial institution where a transfer is being made.

How to make a domestic wire transfer

When making a domestic transfer, your bank will request you to provide necessary details such as:

  • The transfer amount
  • Recipient's information: full name, phone number, and any other personal information that could facilitate the transaction like email.
  • Recipient's Banking information, including their account number and branch number (which can vary by country)
  • The receiving bank's information, including the bank's name, address, and bank identifier (the bank identifier varies depending on the country. For instance in Hong Kong, it's the Bank Branch code)
  • Reference or description of the transfer

Each country has its own list of details that they use for domestic wire transfers between local banks.

For example, to make an FPS payment in Hong Kong, you may only need the recipient's email or phone number to initiate and send money successfully. While in Europe, you may only need to provide the recipient's IBAN code to make a domestic wire transfer.

How to make an international wire transfer

Similar to domestic wire transfers, there will be two distinct details that are always required to make an international transfer.

1.     A BIC/SWIFT code: This code is a unique bank identifier code (BIC) that identifies a bank and its location globally. Every member of the SWIFT network has their own unique BIC code.

2.    IBAN: IBAN stands for International Bank Account Numbers. IBANS usually contain 34 alphanumeric characters including a 2-letter country code.

An IBAN differs from the BIC/SWIFT code as it identifies the actual account involved in an international wire transaction. Generally, IBANs are used throughout most European countries.

Some other details that you may need to have ready are:

  • The transfer amount
  • The recipient’s information, including full name and address
  • The receiving bank's information and address
  • A reason/reference for the transfer 

When you set up an international bank wire transfer, whether through your financial institution’s online portal, through a branch, or over the phone, you will need to allocate who is responsible for any associated fees with the transfer, and unfortunately, the actual amount you need to pay may not always be clear upfront.  

How long does a wire transfer take?

Timeframes will be different depending on if you are sending money domestically or internationally.

Timeframes for domestic transfers

A domestic bank wire can be received within minutes or up to 3 days depending on which payment systems are available in a specific country.

Depending on the country you're from, we recommend you check with your bank the payment network available, the timeframe, and the price associated.

Timeframes for international transfers

An international bank wire takes a little longer, averaging anywhere between 3-5 business days. However, in extreme cases, it can take a few weeks. This is because some transfers will go through one to several correspondent banks that are part of the SWIFT network, which have their own international wire handling procedure.

What costs are associated with wire transfer fees?

As you may have gathered, wire fees can vary based on many factors. Some common fees you can be charged include:

  • Bank handling or service fees for setting up or receiving a transfer (domestic or international transfers)
  • Intermediary or correspondent bank handling fees
  • Foreign currency exchange rate commissions or margins
  • Fees for transfer changes, cancellations, or return of funds

For reference, we will show you a quick example of making an international wire with a Statrys business account, and an average fee range when using a local bank in HK.

  • To send an international payment upwards of 50,000 USD with Statrys will cost you 75HKD per transfer.
  • To make an international transfer with a local bank in HK, it can cost you anywhere from 40 - 100 HKD to send a transfer online, and upwards of 200 HKD when going through a branch.

This range is just a general guide. Always check with your bank for actual fees and rates.

Conclusion

Wire transfers have effectively made sending and receiving payments faster and easier, without the need to exchange any cash. If you are a business incorporated in Hong Kong, Singapore, or the BVI, that frequently needs to make wire transfers, you should check out what a Statrys Business Account can offer you.

With a Statrys business account, you can hold 11 currencies to send and make payments, at cheaper rates compared to traditional banks. Plus the signing-up process is fully online and only takes a few minutes.

FAQs

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