By Megan Doyle
One reason why wiring money internationally is so convenient is because most banks belong to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). SWIFT helps verify and process financial messages like wire transfers, and each bank in the network has its own SWIFT code to streamline the transfer process.
However, each financial institution, transfer service, and country may require different information in order to effectively send an international wire transfer. To help SMEs make the transaction as seamless as possible, this article outlines how to wire money internationally in a series of five steps.
Wire transfers can be made through a designated wire transfer service, bank, or credit union. However, not all banks and services provide international wire transfer options. To successfully wire money across borders, the institution must offer international options. Like international phone service, this sounds dead simple—until an SME suddenly realizes that its long-time service doesn’t include it!
Some institutions offer the ability to make an international wire transfer online or in person, while others may only offer one or the other. Whether transfers are made online or in person, the rest of the process is essentially the same, though fees may differ.1
SMEs may also wish to consider that some wire transfer providers have limits on the amount of funds being transferred per transaction or per day.2
Whether money is being transferred to or from a foreign country, there likely will be processing fees issued by both the sending and receiving bank, as well as fees from any intermediary banks.3 Outbound international wire transfers may cost anywhere between $20-$85.4 Many inbound international wire transfer services will receive funds for free, but fees can reach up to $30 depending on the institution.
It may be worth noting that consistently sending small amounts to the same recipient can result in a large amount of fees paid over time. In other words, if an SME plans to send a supplier $500 every month for a year and fees amount to $80 for each transaction, they could save over $800 in fees by making a one-time payment of $6,000.5
And, if SMEs are sending money that will be received in a different currency, they may wish to note foreign exchange rates, which change daily. Knowing the foreign exchange rate can help ensure the recipient receives the expected amount, or that the SME pays the right amount—depending on which party has taken on the foreign exchange rate risk.6
To wire money internationally, the sender must provide specific information about the recipient, such as their name and address, bank and account information, the relevant SWIFT number, transfer amount, and reason for the transfer.7 Many countries and financial institutions may also have additional requirements, so SMEs may wish to contact the destination bank to ensure they obtain the correct information. Inaccurate or incomplete information can lead to processing delays or transfers sent to the wrong account, so it’s important to ensure all information is correct.
SMEs may also wish to be prepared with information about their own accounts, especially when choosing to send a wire transfer through a service other than their own bank.
Exact instructions depend on the international wire transfer service provider, but senders typically enter information about themselves, the beneficiary, the recipient bank, and the transfer itself. One common error of wiring money across borders is inaccurately matching currencies.8 SMEs may wish to double check to make sure the money being transferred is in the recipient’s desired currency, especially if the recipient bank allows clients to hold accounts in multiple currencies.
It’s worth noting that international wire transfers are typically irrevocable, and even a minor typo can delay a transaction—or send funds to the wrong recipient. Senders may wish to take care when filling the form to help make the process as smooth as possible.
To make an international wire transfer, the sender must have the transfer amount in its bank account or as cash in hand. Most wire transfer services automatically withdraw funds from the sender’s authorized bank account, but some also allow transfers to be paid with a credit or debit card. However, using a card can introduce extra fees.9 Many institutions also automatically debit appropriate fees from the sender and recipient account, but the parties engaged in the wire transfer may wish to discuss fees to avoid surprises.10
Once sent, most institutions give senders an estimate of how long the transfer will take, usually between 3-5 business days.11 Finally, as a best practice, SMEs may wish to hold onto their receipt with the transaction number in case any discrepancies arise.12
Wire transfers are a fast and safe way for SMEs to pay suppliers and receive payments from foreign countries. Before filling out the wire transfer form and finalizing the payment, SMEs can take several steps to help ensure their international wire transfer is successful. These steps include choosing a wire transfer service provider, preparing for fees and exchange rates, and accurately obtaining the correct information from the beneficiary.
Megan Doyle is a business technology writer and researcher based in Wantagh, NY, whose work focuses primarily on financial services technology.
1. “What Banks Charge for Wire Transfers,” Smart Asset; https://smartasset.com/checking-account/average-wire-transfer-fee
2. “The truth about international wire limits,” TransferWise; https://transferwise.com/us/blog/international-wire-transfer-limits-us
3. “How do I receive a wire transfer to my account?,” TD Bank; http://td.intelliresponse.com/accounts/index.jsp?requestType=NormalRequest&source=2&id=423&uuid=cbf763bb-62d3-11e9-ba55-27d438afea82&question=How+do+I+receive+a+wire+transfer+to+my+account
4. “What Banks Charge for Wire Transfers,” Smart Asset; https://smartasset.com/checking-account/average-wire-transfer-fee
5. “How to Make an International Wire Transfer,” The Simple Dollar; https://www.thesimpledollar.com/banking/international-wire-transfer/
6. “6 steps to make an international wire transfer,” TransferWise; https://transferwise.com/us/blog/making-an-international-wire-transfer
7. “Receiving an incoming international wire transfer: The basics,” Transferwise; https://transferwise.com/us/blog/how-to-receive-international-wire
8. International Wire Transfer Quick Tips and FAQ, BPFCU; https://www.bpfcu.org/images/docs/international_wire_tips_faqs.pdf
9. “The truth about international wire limits,” TransferWise; https://transferwise.com/us/blog/international-wire-transfer-limits-us
10. “Receiving an incoming international wire transfer: The basics,” Transferwise; https://transferwise.com/us/blog/how-to-receive-international-wire
11. “How do I send a wire transfer?,” TD Bank; http://td.intelliresponse.com/accounts/index.jsp?requestType=NormalRequest&id=231&source=5&question=How
12. “How to Wire Money,” NerdWallet; https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/how-to-wire-money/