Wiring money can be a secure way to move funds quickly, but it often comes with a hefty fee. There are ways to reduce wire transfer fees or avoid them altogether if you know how. If you need to wire money often, you’ll want to pick a bank with the lowest possible fees.
Deal of the Day: Chase is now offering a $200 cash bonus when opening a Total Checking® Account. No minimum deposit and all deposits are FDIC insured up to the $250,000 per depositor maximum. Learn More at Chase
What Is a Wire Transfer and Why Use It?
A wire transfer is when you electronically transfer money from one bank to another. It’s a reliable and safe way to send money. It’s fast you can typically wire money the same day within the U.S. and within two days internationally which is why people tend to use it. Its often used with big purchases like a down payment on a house or a deposit for a wedding venue. And if youre doing business with a company overseas, it’s a reliable way to get paid.
When you wire money, it goes through a network, either the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) or Fedwire.
Pros and Cons of Wire Transfers
Fast – Transfers typically happen within one working day in the U.S. and two internationally. Once the money is wired, there is no bank hold for the recipient, meaning the recipient doesn’t have to wait for the money to clear.
Secure – If someone wires you money, unlike a check, you won’t have to worry about the funds bouncing.
Tedious – Bank-to-bank transfers are often easier than wiring money and require less information. Many banks have long instructions for wire transfers, making it easy to get a piece wrong.
High fees – Lots of banks charge for this service, both on outgoing and incoming wires.
Hidden fees – Your bank might not charge a fee, but there may be an intermediary bank that charges one. You may not know until the money shows up in your account.
Used for scams – Even though wire transfers are secure, scammers will often try and game the system and get you to transfer money into the wrong account. This is particularly common with down payments or other fees for buying a house – scammers email you instructions to their bank account (and not the one you’re meant to pay). Always make sure to double-check that the account name and number is correct by calling the wire recipient before initiating a transfer.
When Am I Charged a Wire Transfer Fees?
Banks charge wire transfer fees both on outgoing and incoming wires.
This means that if you want to wire someone money, you’ll likely need to pay a fee on top of whatever youre sending. For example, if you want to wire $20,000 for a down payment on a house, you might pay an additional $35 for the wire transfer fee.
Similarly, if someone in another country wires you $1,000, but you only see $970 in your bank account, it’s because your bank has taken out $30. If you’re really unlucky, the sending bank or a bank in the middle (an intermediary bank) will take out a chunk too meaning you could see upwards of $50 to $100 taken out of your money before it ever lands in your account.
How to Avoid Wire Transfer Fees
First, determine if you really need to wire the money. If you need to transfer money within the U.S., there are often ways to do that with your bank that don’t require a wire transfer. And if that doesn’t work, pick a bank with no or low fees (more on that in the next section).
Compare top bank accounts
Check to see if your bank charges external transfer fees. If they don’t, this can be a great way to avoid wire fees while still electronically moving money. Some of the banks that don’t charge for external transfers include:
If youre sending money to a friend or family member, consider using an app. You’ll need to link your bank account to the app so it can withdraw the funds and send them to the recipient. There are tons of apps to choose from, including:
- Paypal- The original person-to-person app for sending money. As long as you use your bank account (not a credit card) and send the money to a friend (not using the business option), this should be free.
- Venmo- One of the most popular money transfer apps around. Link it to your bank account to easily send money to a friend.
- Google Wallet- An easy way to send money. Link your debit card to the app (or use your desktop computer) to send money. But you cant send money internationally with Google Wallet.
To make these apps a fee-free experience, link your bank account and not a credit card those will incur a charge. To learn more about apps that allow you to easily send money, check out our Guide on Six Apps that Make Sending Money Simple.
If you need to send money internationally but don’t have a bank account with low wire fees, then TransferWise is a low-fee option that is particularly good if you are wiring money into the U.S. I use it frequently because it’s cheap and fast the company offers good exchange rates and low fees. If youre sending money with TransferWise, you need to register an account (it’s free) and you’ll need the banking information of the recipient. The one major drawback is that the fees for transferring money from the U.S. to other countries tend to be higher.
Read more: TransferWise Review
Use a Credit Union
Credit unions are more likely to have zero fees for incoming wire transfers both domestic and foreign than larger banks. So if you think you’ll be receiving a lot of wires, this is a good route to investigate. However, most credit unions will still charge for outgoing wire transfers, typically around $20-$25 for domestic and $40 for international. If youre not familiar with credit unions, these are local organizations. They often have better interest rates for savings and lower rates for borrowing, plus they tend to give back to the community. But they are limited in scope, with often just a few branches. If youre looking to wire money with a local credit union, learn more about the differences between banks and credit unions.
Best Banks for Low or No Wire Transfer Fees
There are a handful of banks that offer free incoming wire transfers both domestic and international. The lowest fees were often with online banks and financial institutions better known for investing rather than a typical checking account.
If you have ongoing wire transfer fees, think about switching banks to take advantage of one with no or low fees. Many of the banks listed in the table below offer free accounts that make it easy to open an account with them even if you’ll continue your relationship with your current bank.
Some of the lowest fees for incoming wire transfers (both domestic and international) include:
- Ally- This online bank has no fees for incoming wire transfers and a mid-range fee for outgoing domestic wire transfers. Since Ally has low fees all around, this is a good option if you plan to receive a lot of wires.
- Discover- While you may be more familiar with Discover for credit cards, they also offer money market and online savings accounts. Discover doesn’t charge for incoming wires, though its outgoing wire fee is $30.
- Fidelity- While traditionally known for its investment arm, Fidelity offers a cash management account with zero wire fees
- Capital One 360- Another online bank with generally low fees, they offer fee-free incoming wire transfers. Similar to Discover, outgoing domestic wire transfers are $30.
- Axos- Another online bank with an option for a checking account without a monthly maintenance fee, Axos offers free incoming domestic and international wire transfers. Fees for outgoing wires are on the higher end.
And the best bank for outgoing wire transfers is:
- TD Bank- The locations on the east coast, this bank offers free incoming wires and reimbursement for one outgoing wire per statement cycle (either domestic or international), making it a top option if you initiate wires frequently.
|Bank||Incoming Domestic Fee||Outgoing Domestic Fee||Incoming International Fee||Outgoing International Fee|
|Fidelity||$0||$0||$0||up to 3%|
|Capital One 360||$0||$30||$0||--|
|TD Bank||$0||$0- $25||$0 - $35||$0- $45+|
|Citibank||$0 - $25||$0 - $35||$0 - $35||$0 - $35|
|Radius||$10||$18 - $20||$10||$40|
|Wells Fargo||$15||$30||$16||$35 - $45|
|Chase||$15||$25||$15||$5 - $40|
|Bank of America||$15||$30||$16||$35 - $45|
Most banks charge for outgoing wire transfers (both domestic and international), so if you can avoid sending a wire, that’s your best bet.
Some banks have different tiers of fees depending on the account so you’ll want to check for your particular account.
Unfortunately, many online banks don’t yet offer wire transfers, so if this is a service you need, check out the list above to make sure your online bank is listed. Otherwise, you’ll either need to find a different way to get/send your money or open up another account with a different bank.
Related: Best No-Fee Banks
With the proliferation of peer-to-peer payment apps and free online bank transfers, there are lots of ways to avoid wiring money in the first place. But if you need to wire money, look for a bank account that has no or low fees.