What type of transfer should you use?

  • ACH and wire transfers are the main ways banks send money to various financial institutions.
  • Banks usually offer free ACH transfers, and they can be ideal for payments that you can plan ahead.
  • Wire transfers incur a fee, but can be sent immediately.

If you need to send money to someone else’s bank account, your bank has two primary methods of moving money between accounts: ACH transfers and wire transfers.

To determine which transfer method to ask for and see if there are any fees involved, we compared ACH transfers and wire transfers.

ACH Transfer vs Bank Transfer: At a Glance

ACH transfers and wire transfers are handled 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 several 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 are not familiar with the term ACH transfer, you have probably used this type of transfer method before.

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

“In general, any time you can plan your payment ahead of time is a great opportunity to use ACH, or in case you get a recurring payment,” Thompson adds. “If you set up something like an automatic payment, what you often do is just link your bank account, and because that’s pre-planned, that probably goes over the ACH rails, and it’s going to be cheaper for the customer.”

ACH transfers sent through financial institutions generally have no fees. If you need to cancel an ACH transfer, you may be able to cancel the transaction online or over the phone.

Example of an ACH transfer

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

To schedule an ACH transfer on your account, you can pay bills online through your bank 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 person by entering the name of your beneficiary. You may also need to know the address and bank account number of the person or company you are sending money to.

After you enter and verify this information, the money can be routinely debited from your account so you don’t accidentally miss a payment. You can also easily cancel an automatic bill payment.

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 allow you to send money to people in other countries. The fees for an international wire transfer are much higher than for domestic wire transfers – you may need to pay anywhere from $30 to $50 per wire transfer.

Bank transfers are a good option if you need to transfer money right away. However, you should be mindful of who you are sending money to as it may not be easy to get your money back.

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

Tammy Robinson, the senior director of Arvest Bank Integrated Account Servicing, also notes that fraudsters often ask people to make wire transfers because they recognize that the money is often difficult to cancel.

Example of a bank transfer

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

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

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

  • Money you send, plus an additional amount to cover the transfer fee
  • Name and home address of your recipient
  • Bank details, such as the name of the financial institution, International Bank Account Number (IBAN) or SWIFT code

Since wire transfers incur fees, you may want to do a one-time transaction to avoid additional fees.

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