The difference between a bank wire & a bank transfer

Updated July 19, 2017

A bank wire is an electronic money transfer transaction from one financial institution to another, either foreign or domestic. A bank transfer is an electronic money transfer that is domestic only. Both transactions can be completed in a bank branch or online, and a domestic bank wire is often completed faster than a bank transfer. Bank wires are more secure than bank transfers; however, bank transfers cost less.


A bank wire can be completed at the financial institution, online or via telephone with a preset PIN. The PIN is assigned after completing a telephone wire transfer application. The application is account specific, and needs to be completed for each account a wire transfer will be withdrawn from.

Bank transfers can only be completed at the financial institution or online.

Time Frame

In most cases, domestic wire transfers completed before 5:00 p.m. EST will be available the same day. International wire transfers typically take five business days to complete; however, some will take up to 10 days.

Bank transfer times are less predictable because they have to run through an Automated Clearing House (ACH). This allows the sending bank to send transfers at their convenience rather than at the time of the request.


Wire transfer fees are charged to both the sending and receiving accounts. These fees range from £13 to £29 for the initiating account and £6 to £9 for the receiving account. International transfers cost more than domestic transfers. It is important to check with the bank when the wire transfer is initiated, as some banks will waive fees depending on account status.

Bank transfer fees are often less than wire transfer fees. Some banks offer free bank transfers while others charge up to £6. The receiving account does not pay any fee for the transaction.


Wire transfers are more secure than bank transfers. A wire transfer requires the account numbers of the sending and receiving accounts and either the ABA number for domestic accounts, or the SWIFT number or IBAN for foreign accounts. The initiator of a wire transfer also needs the full account name, bank name, and location of the receiving bank. In contrast, a bank transfer needs only the account number and routing number of the receiving account. The minimal amount of information required leaves open a higher possibility for errors.

Problems and Solutions

When a wire transfer is unsuccessful, funds are automatically returned to the originating account, usually within one business day for domestic transactions and 14 business days for foreign transactions. When a bank transfer is unsuccessful, funds are automatically returned to the originating account, typically within one business day.

In case of a bank error, the originator of the transaction must file a dispute with the bank. The bank will research the transaction and refund the funds to the originating account if it is found at fault. The bank has a range of 10 to 20 days after receiving the dispute to complete the investigation, and can request and extension of 45 to 90 days. The bank then has three days to report the findings to the consumer.

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About the Author

Sarah Frobisher began writing professionally in 2004 for a biography company based out of Los Angeles, Calif. She has been published on both eHow and Answerbag. Frobisher holds a Master of Advanced Studies in criminology, law and society from University of California at Irvine.