Which Type of Transfer Should You Use?

  • ACH and wire transfers are the primary ways banks send money across different financial institutions.
  • Banks usually offer free ACH transfers, and they may be ideal for payments you can plan ahead.
  • Wire transfers cost a fee but can be sent immediately.

If you need to send money to another person’s bank account, your bank has two primary methods of moving money across accounts — ACH transfers and wire transfers.

To determine which transfer method to ask about and see whether there’s a cost involved, we’ve compared ACH transfers and wire transfers.

ACH transfer vs. wire transfer: At a glance

ACH transfers and wire transfers are processed differently, and choosing the right one will likely depend on the purpose of your transfer.

  • An ACH transfer is sent in batches through the Automated Clearinghouse network and usually takes a few business days to process.
  • A wire transfer is sent immediately and may not be easy to cancel.

What is an ACH transfer?

Even if you’re not familiar with the term ACH transfer, you may have likely used this type of transfer method before.

Tristan Thompson, payments strategy director at Arvest Bank, says common examples of ACH transfers include direct deposit and online bill pay.

“In general, anytime you can plan your payment ahead is a great opportunity to use ACH, or in the instance where you’re going to have a reoccurring payment,” adds Thompson. “If you set up something like an auto-pay, a lot of times what you’re doing is just connecting your bank account, and because that’s scheduled in advance, that’s likely going to go over the ACH rails, and it will be cheaper for the customer.”

ACH transfers sent through financial institutions generally won’t cost a fee. If you need to cancel an ACH transfer, you may be able to cancel the transaction online or by phone.

Example of an ACH transfer

If you are looking for a tool to help you pay for monthly bills, an ACH transfer could be ideal.

To schedule an ACH transfer for your bill, you can set up online bill pay through your banks online or

mobile banking

. All you need to do is log into your account, and look for a tab that says “Bill Pay.”

You can add a company or individual by entering your payee’s name. You also may need to know the address and bank account number of the person or company you are sending money to.

Once you’ve entered this information and reviewed it, the money can get taken out of your account routinely so you won’t accidentally miss a payment. You may also cancel an automatic bill payment easily.

What is a wire transfer?

There are two different types of wire transfers — domestic wire transfers and international wire transfers.

Domestic wire transfers can be sent to any bank account in the US. Depending on your bank, you may have to pay anywhere from $0 to $15 per transaction.

International wire transfers let you send money to people in other countries. The cost for an international wire transfer is much greater than domestic wire transfers — you may have to pay anywhere from $30 to $50 per transfer.

Wire transfers will be a good option if you need to send money immediately. However, you’ll want to be mindful of who you send money to, since it may not be easy to get your money back.

“If you send a wire transfer, once you send it, the money is gone,” says Thompson.”It’s considered immediate and irrevocable.”

Tammy Robinson, the Arvest Bank Integrated Account Servicing senior director, also notes that fraudsters often ask people to send wire transfers because they recognize that the funds are often difficult to cancel.

Example of a wire transfer

If you need to send money to a family member internationally for a pressing issue, you may consider using an international wire transfer.

To initiate a wire transfer, you’ll usually have to contact your bank’s customer support or visit a branch. By having a banker help you with the transaction, there’s also an additional layer of security.

You may also have the following information readily available to make an international transfer:

  • Money that you are sending, plus an additional amount to cover the wire transfer fee
  • Name and home address of your recipient
  • Bank information, such as the financial institution’s name, International Bank Account Number (IBAN), or SWIFT code

Since wire transfers cost a fee, you may want to make a one-time transaction to avoid additional fees.

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