How to Make an International Wire Transfer – A Complete Guide

There are plenty of reasons you may need to send an international wire transfer. From paying for a dream vacation to sending a gift to a loved one overseas or shopping online with your favorite international boutique store. No matter where your payment is headed, you’ll want to know your money is safe – and you’re getting the best available deal on fees.

International wire transfer

This guide walks through all you need to know about choosing an international payment provider, including what payment details you need, which fees and exchange rates you should know, and how to check your money has arrived safely.

Make an international transfer online or in branch

The first thing you’ll need to decide when setting up your international wire is whether you want to make your payment online or in person. If you’re using your regular bank for the payment you’ll often have both options – making an online transfer usually comes with lower fees.

The exact process you have to follow will depend on your chosen bank or alternative provider. In person you’ll need to call into your local bank branch, and give the details of your transfer to a customer service representative. They’ll be able to talk you through your payment options including the costs and exchange rate, and when your money will arrive. Don’t forget to have all the details required to hand before you head out to save time and hassle – more on this in a moment.

If you’d rather make your payment from the comfort of your own home, many banks allow you to set up international wires online. You can also choose an alternative online provider to get the same 24/7 service.

Using your regular online banking is usually a pretty simple process. Log into your account and follow on screen prompts to navigate. You’ll need to complete your recipient’s details, as well as checking and confirming the amounts, currency and costs before you can start the transfer. Most banks will also have some level of security checking – maybe a passcode sent by SMS, or a digital verification step. This keeps you – and your money – safe.

Alternatives to traditional banks

It’s good to know that banks aren’t your only option when it comes to sending an international wire. You can also choose from a range of reputable alternative services.

Alternative international payment providers often offer online transfers which you can fund using your debit or credit card, or with a bank transfer. These companies are specialists in processing international payments – which can mean that transfer times are faster than using regular banks, and the fees are lower. You could even find you get a better exchange rate, which cuts the overall cost of your wire significantly.

If you want to check out alternative ways to send your international payment you can find lots of helpful resources online, including reviews and comparisons of different services.

Internet banking

Double-check your recipient details

Whichever provider you choose, you’ll need to give your recipient’s full bank details to make sure the payment is processed safely. The details you need vary between destination countries but can include:

  • Recipient’s full name as shown on their bank account
  • Recipient’s bank account number and type – savings or checking
  • Bank name and branch address
  • SWIFT/BIC code
  • Additional details by country – an IBAN for Europe, CLABE for Mexico, or BSB for Australia for example

The basic information you need will be the same no matter where you’re sending a payment. But different countries or regions may have specific details they need to guide the payment to its final destination. These additional details are the international equivalent of routing numbers – an additional layer to make sure the transfer is processed quickly and safely.

Check with your recipient which details are required for their home country. One common requirement is an IBAN – an international bank account number. This format was adopted originally in Europe, and is now used in some other global regions including the Caribbean and the Middle East. Ask your recipient for their IBAN to make sure you’ve got everything you need to process the payment safely. You can also use this helpful IBAN validator tool to check the number you have is correct.

Decide the amount and the target currency

The next step will be to confirm the amount you’re sending and the currency you want it to be received in. If you need your recipient to finish up with a fixed amount in their account in the end, you’ll need to make sure you send enough to cover all fees and charges. These costs may include SWIFT fees if you’re arranging your transfer through your regular bank.

SWIFT fees – which are also known as correspondent bank charges – are paid when transfers pass through the SWIFT network. This is a series of partner banks which work together to process international payments – much like your money taking a series of connecting flights to get to its destination. This is a safe and established method of making wire transfers, and is favored by traditional banks. However, each correspondent bank involved in a payment can deduct a fee for their service. This may mean your recipient gets less than you expect in the end unless you cover the costs upfront. Ask your bank what SWIFT fees may be levied to make sure your payment goes smoothly.

International transaction

International money transfer fees and rates

Before you confirm your international wire take a few moments to check you understand the fees and exchange rate being used. Fees may include transfer and administration fees, SWIFT or correspondent bank charges, and a markup on the exchange rate.

You’ll often find there are different transfer fees depending on how you set up your wire – online options are usually cheaper than calling into a branch in person to make arrangements. The exchange rate being offered is also important when it comes to the overall cost of your international wire.

Exchange rates for international payments often include a markup or margin. This may be called a currency conversion fee or a spread. Whatever it’s called, it’s a fee which is rolled into the rate offered. This can push up the charges overall, and make it harder to work out the true cost of your wire. Check the exchange rate you’re being offered against the mid-market exchange rate which you can find on Google. If there’s a difference it’s probably because there’s a markup being used.

Comparing a few different providers is a smart way to get a better deal. Look for a combination of low fees and a good rate to get the best service available for your specific payment.

Check your transfer limits

Different providers have their own limits for international wires – including minimum and maximum send amounts. If you’re sending your wire with your regular bank, you’ll be able to see your transfer limits online or when you visit the branch in person. With alternative providers, the limits will show up on screen when you model the transfer to see the rates and fees.

Confirm the transfer time

International wires can take anything from a few minutes to a few days, depending on where you’re sending money, your own bank’s processes, and the processes in place at your recipient’s bank. However, your bank or alternative provider should be able to give you an indication of the arrival time when you’re setting up the transfer.

One thing to look out for is bank cut off times. If you place an international wire after the cut off it won’t be processed until the next business day which can mean an extra delay. Your payment may also be held up if the bank stops processing wires on weekends and public holidays – or if there are holidays in the country you’re sending to.

If speed is of the essence for you, you can find the quickest provider for your specific payment with some online research, or by modeling the payment with a few different services to see what your options are.

International currency transfer

Pay the international transfer fee

You’re almost ready to confirm your international wire. Now it’s time to double check, and pay the international transfer fee. Review everything to make sure you’re happy with the final details of the payment, confirm the transfer and you’re done.

Track your international transfer

Once your payment is on its way you may find you can track its progress online. This service depends on the bank or provider you choose to use. Some offer an email or SMS notification when the payment arrives, or give a code you can use to view the payment details digitally.

It’s worth noting that some banks will only trace transfers if something seems to have gone wrong. In this case, there may be an extra fee to pay. Check the service available from your chosen provider when you place your wire.

So there you have it – everything you need to know about making a wire transfer, from choosing a provider to making sure your money gets safely into your recipient’s hands. Sending an international wire doesn’t need to be a headache. Follow this simple step by step guide, and you’ll be on your way in no time.


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