The term "wire transfer" refers to the early days of quickly moving money from one person to the next, when actual telegraph wires were used to transfer funds. Today's wire transfers happen electronically, going from the sender to the recipient after passing through the Federal Reserve. The process should happen instantaneously, but you can track it either using the authorization number your sending authority gave you, or the wiring service you used can help trace it using the IMAD/OMAD number, which is short for input/output message accountability data, issued by the Federal Reserve.
Track Wire Transfer
When you wire money to someone, you have a variety of options. Your bank is one option, but fees may be cheaper through other sources, such as Walmart and Western Union. Services like PayPal and Venmo offer electronic funds transfers for free. When you use one of these services, you'll be given an authorization number you can use to track your account, if you can't just log in and see the status on the list.
If your service doesn't provide wire transfer tracking, it still should be traceable through the Federal Reserve. Each transaction is given a unique Fed reference number called an IMAD/OMAD ID. This number can be used to track any wire transfer's path through the Federal Reserve, but consumers can't contact the Federal Reserve for the trace. You'll have to rely on the service that initiated the transfer to track it down for you.
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Tracking Using Sender Authorization Numbers
If you haven't yet sent your wire transfer, make sure you choose a service that issues a way to track wire transfers after they've been sent. Ideally, you'll be given a way to easily track its status online. This will save you the trouble of tracing it through the Federal Reserve, as well as keep you from pacing the floor, anxious that your money won't make it.
Before you use your bank for the service, research their fees and whether tracking is provided, then compare it to some of the most popular services:
- Western Union – The Western Union name has long been synonymous with wire transfers. Today, you'll need either your Money Transfer Control Number or the sender's phone number to track the status of your funds transfer. For security purposes, you'll be asked to verify the receiver's country and the amount sent.
- MoneyGram – This popular service issues an authorization number that you input, along with your last name, to track wire transfers through the MoneyGram website.
- Walmart – Whether you use Walmart2Walmart or MoneyGram Transfer through Walmart, you can go to Walmart's site and track the status of your transfer at the click of a mouse.
- Online Payment Services – With services like PayPal and Venmo, all you need to do is log into your account. The status should be listed alongside the recipient's name and the amount. If you need details, such as the transaction ID, you can find it there.
Tracking Through the Federal Reserve
When all else fails, there's a way to track down your transfer using the Fed reference number. You won't be able to pick up the phone and contact the Federal Reserve yourself, but you can get the source you used to send the wire transfer to do it. Simply tell them you need the IMAD/OMAD number of the transfer, which is a combination of letters and numbers.
If you weren't given an IMAD/OMAD number at the time of transfer, don't worry. Your resource only has this information after the funds have been wired. You may need to ask for the bank manager to get the information you need but if that fails, ask for the wire department that facilitated your transaction.