Wire Transfers: A Complete Guide

What is a Wire Transfer?

A wire transfer is an electronic money transfer from one bank account to another.

It’s usually the best option if you’re sending money internationally, or sending large amounts domestically.

A wire transfer is a fast, safe and reliable method for sending or receiving larger sums of money.

How Long Does A Wire Transfer Take?

Wire transfers are not completed instantly – to learn why, and how long you should expect them to take domestically and internationally, here are the details.

Within Canada

Wire transfers within Canada can generally be done within a few hours.

The only reason wire transfers are not instant is because both the sending and the receiving financial institution need to clear the funds.

If the funds are being sent to another Canadian financial institution, the clearing process can be done quicker than if they were being sent internationally.

International

International wire transfers can take anywhere from 2-5 business days to get cleared.

How to Send a Wire Transfer

To complete a wire transfer, you’ll have to visit the bank and complete it in person.

You’ll need to provide the following information regarding the recipient’s bank account:

  • Name of the account holder and their full address
  • Account number
  • Branch transit number and full address
  • Institution number
  • ICAN code / BIC / Swift Code
  • International Routing Number

The best way for the recipient to obtain this information is by contacting their bank.

It’s imperative that you, as the sender, get the most accurate information to prevent sending the money to the wrong place.

Key Insight

Both the sender and the recipient may need to pay wire transfer fees. These fees are usually lower for the recipient (usually under $18) and higher for the sender (usually starting at $30), and will vary based on the amount of money being sent. Each bank charges different rates, so check with your bank to see how much you’ll be charged.

Considerations When Sending a Wire Transfer

With all the ease, speed and practicality of a wire transfer come certain risks.

The largest risk is that once the wire transfer has gone through, there is nothing that can be done to reverse it.

In other words, once your funds have cleared from both financial institutions, that money is gone from the original bank account.

However, until those funds have cleared, you can cancel the wire transfer.

If you manage to get your bank to send over a cancellation notice before the funds have cleared through the recipient’s bank, they can usually cancel the transfer. 

In terms of the money going to the wrong bank account, the chance of that happening is generally slim.

Since the sending bank requires quite a few details to complete the transfer, there are processes in place to prevent any mistakes once the bank has the recipient’s information.

Wire transfer scams could be a problem if you are not careful.

A common scam is one where you get an e-mail from an unknown sender claiming that you have won a prize, and asking you to wire them some money to cover the shipment costs in order to claim your prize.

To be safe from any kind of wire transfer scams, do not send or accept any wire transfers to and from people that you don’t know.

If you are conducting business with someone, such as purchasing a home, make sure that it is with a trusted seller, and call them directly to verify their bank account information prior to wiring any money.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are wire transfer funds available immediately?
  • How do I know if a wire transfer went through?

Tara Al-Khudairi is a freelance personal finance writer who has worked in the financial services industry since 2017. She graduated from McMaster University with a degree in Finance and is pursuing her CFA.

She has worked at a major Canadian financial institution in various client-facing advisory roles, starting as a bank teller and working up to a Client Services Associate within the Asset Management division. She specializes in simplifying concepts of personal finance for people of various financial backgrounds.

When she’s not examining the markets looking for the next SHOP.TO, she’s either practicing yoga, planning her next vacation, or has her nose buried deep in a book.