Wire Transfer vs. Online Transfer

Woman on computer writing something on a document
Image Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Wire transfers and online transfers use electronic systems to give people different options to send money around the world. Both methods offer secure services with minimal risk. Online transfers tend to be slower but less expensive, while wire transfers provide the better choice for those who need to move money rapidly.


How a Wire Transfer Works

A wire transfer sends money electronically through wire networks, such as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or the Federal Reserve Wire Network.

Video of the Day

To receive a wire transfer, you need your account number and a wire transfer routing number. International wires require a SWIFT code instead of the wire transfer routing number. Sending a wire transfer takes place at your bank, over an internet banking website, or with companies that process wire transfers, like Western Union.


Wire transfers send money directly from one bank account to another, or a bank account to a business that provides wire transfer cash payment services.

Benefits of Wire Transfers

When shifting currency from one bank account to another, wire transfers offer a secure method of transferring money because both accounts must be verified by each financial institution. Wire transfers also provide versatility, with the ability to send funds as cash, allowing the receiver access to the money without a bank account by using services that allow for an in-person pickup from an authorized agent.


Wire transfers are among the fastest methods of sending money around the world. Depending on where you send the funds, a wire transfer can take as little as ten minutes and usually requires no longer than a day.


Comparing Wire and Online Transfers

Wire transfers move money around the world quickly. Online payment services like PayPal tend to take longer, requiring between 3 to 5 days to arrive in your bank account.


Due to an increase in work involved with wiring money, wire transfers have much higher fees than online transfers. Costs range from $15 domestically to $65 dollars internationally, depending on the bank you choose and whether you send or receive the funds.

Online transfers through PayPal are free domestically and have fees ranging from zero percent in Canada to two percent in Germany.


Safe Transfers

When wiring money as a cash payment rather than into a bank account, you risk the potential of fraud or theft because you cannot confirm the person at the other end of the transfer. Once the wire transfer turns into cash, it cannot be traced or recovered if someone intercepts the transfer.


Creating strong passwords that include a mix of numbers, letters and symbols prevents humans and computers from guessing your password to online money transfer services. Never provide personal information, banking information or any passwords through email, text message or over the telephone.




Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...