Electronic transfers have replaced wire transfers as a faster, less-expensive way to move money from one person to another. However, there are still instances where a wire transfer is the only option. If your recipient requires a wire transfer, you’ll often be saddled with higher-than-usual fees, but there are a few options that can help you keep costs low while also making your recipient happy.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
There are ways you can save money while wiring money domestically, with options from Walmart, MoneyGram, Western Union and TransferWise. TransferWise is the cheapest option, offering domestic wire transfers for only $3.
Electronic vs. Wire Money Transfer
An electronic transfer may be the cheapest way to send money, but it isn’t always an option. Both technologies work similarly, with money wired from the sender’s bank to the recipient’s bank electronically. Electronic transfers use the Automated Clearinghouse, which requires a setup process, making it popular for payroll payments and automated bill pay. A wire transfer usually only requires an account and routing number. However, the fees make it cost prohibitive in many cases.
Electronic transfers do have their limits. The banks and apps that power electronic transfers generally limit the geography of those transfers. Even if you can send money outside of the U.S., you may find the fees are too high. Depending on the payment amount and where you’re sending it, in some cases wiring the funds is a better option, especially if you can find an inexpensive service to do so. If you’re sending money within the U.S., though, you may find that you have to wire money because the recipient requires it. This often happens with high-dollar purchases such as buying a house.
Bank Wire Transfers
When a wire transfer is requested, many people head straight to their bank. It is a feature many banks offer, so this is a good route to take. In some cases, this is the least-expensive money transfer option since banks offer this perk to members as an incentive to keep their money there. Bank fees for wire transfers generally range from $0 to $30, and you’ll most likely see them in the $25 range. Since some banks charge more than others, though, it’s important to compare your own bank’s fees to other wiring options.
If you’re wiring internationally, you can expect those fees to be higher, whether you’re using your bank or a third-party service. Your bank may also steer you toward an electronic transfer if you have that option, especially if they offer that service for free. If you’re setting up a recurring wire transfer, your bank may also provide a discount on fees.
Nonbank Wire Transfer Services
Western Union has long been the go-to service for wiring money, but it has plenty of competitors. As always, Walmart has found a way to provide the same service for slightly cheaper, with fees starting at $4.50 when Western Union starts at $5. With the Walmart wire service, though, you’ll only be able to transfer money domestically, which means that exchange rates don’t apply. Walmart has a separate service for international wire transfers called Walmart2World. Another benefit of Walmart’s service, called Walmart2Walmart, is that it happens in minutes instead of the five or more days it can take with Western Union.
Another inexpensive service is MoneyGram, which has fees similar to Western Union. MoneyGram powers Walmart’s international wire transfer service. With MoneyGram, though, you’ll have a limit of only $2,999 every 30 days, while Western Union has a maximum of $5,000. Walmart2Walmart limits transfers to $2,500. The cheapest option of all, though, is TransferWise, which offers domestic wire transfers for only $3. This service allows transfers of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for businesses. TransferWise specializes in low-cost international wire transfers, though, using its own two-step method to save consumers and businesses on fees when they’re sending money overseas. Although this will save you significantly on fees, reviewers have found TransferWise to be slower than other methods, but this primarily applies to international transactions.
- Tipalti: ACH vs. Wire
- NerdWallet: Wire Transfers: What Banks Charge
- Finder: Western Union vs. Walmart-2-Walmart
- Finder: Western Union vs. MoneyGram: Who’s Cheaper? Faster?
- Walmart: Walmart Delivers Lowest Prices Ever for Domestic Money Transfers
- TransferWise: Transfers from USD: Domestic Wire
- TransferWise: What is TransferWise?
- NerdWallet: TransferWise Money Transfer Review: Not Fastest, but Cheap