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What Is a Wire Transfer?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Do you need to send money to someone right away? Maybe you are putting a downpayment on a home, or a sick relative is requesting money for medical care or your child is away at college and needs help paying for an unexpected expense. Sending money by wire transfer is quick – if you are sending it domestically – and easy, but there are some things you should know before you do it.

What is a wire transfer?

In today’s day and age of online banks, websites and apps, everyone seems to call any form of sending money a wire transfer. Truth is, a traditional wire transfer is sending money to someone, either domestically or internationally, from one bank or credit union to another through their secure systems, such as SWIFT or Fedwire. Today, sending wire transfers also includes using alternative providers such as Western Union, TransferWise and MoneyGram.

Sending a wire transfer is simple to do. All you need is the recipient’s full name and address, their bank account number and their bank’s routing number, SWIFT/BIC/IBAN code, and the amount you want to wire. Some banks and credit unions allow you to send wire transfers through your account online, while others require that you come in and fill out paperwork. Once all the paperwork is filled out, the bank will charge you a fee for the service (more on that below) and your money will be on its way. Pretty simple.

It’s important to note that your bank or credit union might have limitations as to how much you can transfer. Western Union, TransferWise and MoneyGram also have limitations. For example, Western Union’s domestic transfer limit ranges from $300 to $2,500 and various countries have limits on how much can be sent at one time, so verify that information first.

Because of the cost of wire transfers, try to use low-cost money transfer methods when you can such as tools like Venmo or Zelle.

How long does a wire transfer take?

How long a wire transfer takes to reach the recipient depends on quite a few factors. Domestic wire transfers are typically sent the same day but depends on how the recipient is receiving the money. For example, if they are picking it up at a Western Union location, they may be able to receive it in just a few hours. A domestic bank-to-bank wire transfer, such as from Chase Bank, can take from one to two business days. However, sending an international transfer can take a few extra days, because it depends on your bank and the country’s processing system that you’re sending it to.

Western Union actually states that funds may be delayed or services rendered unavailable based on certain factors, including the amount sent, destination country, currency availability, regulatory issues, identification requirements, agent location hours, differences in time zones, and selection of delayed delivery options.

In addition, Chase’s Global Transfer stipulates that they process wire transfers through their own internal review process and may contact the sender to verify their request, which could delay the delivery.

As a result, an international wire transfer could take up to a few days to show up in the recipient’s account, so it may not be not quite so instant, but it is faster than mailing a check.

How much does a wire transfer cost?

The fee for sending a wire transfer also depends on a variety of factors – such as the amount you are sending, whether you are sending the money through your bank or through an alternative provider like Western Union, whether you are sending the funds online or in person and whether the transfer is domestic or international.

Domestic wire transfers can start at $4 through Walmart, which uses MoneyGram. Ally charges $20, for example, while Wells Fargo charges $30. International wire transfers can become much more costly. For example, banks typically charge about 5% on the daily exchange rate in addition to hefty international money transfer fees, so a $10,000 transfer could cost you up to $500 in fees to your bank, plus other fees.

Some banks and credit unions do not charge a wire transfer fee to their account holders, but there might be stipulations. For example, Chase Global Transfer does not charge a wire fee if their account holder is sending an online wire of $5,000 USD or more to a bank outside the U.S. in foreign currency.

Keep in mind too, that you can send a wire transfer through such services as Western Union or TransferWise using money from your credit card, but your credit card company considers the transfer a cash advance and will charge you higher cash advance fees and interest rates. This is in addition to the fees you will be charged from the service you use.

Keeping your money safe

Hopefully you have never fallen for the “You won a trip, now wire us a deposit to hold your spot!” scam and you’re sending your wire transfer to someone you know and trust. There are many such wire transfer scams out there, including one where you’ve been told that you won a jackpot and need to secure your money and another where Facebook scammers pose as your friends who direct message you that they are in trouble and need money. Once you wire the funds, you may never see your money again.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued rules to protect consumers who send money electronically – typically over $15 – to foreign countries. It won’t cover every situation, so you should still be careful who you are sending money to, but it does provide some protection. For example, rules generally require that banks and wire transfer companies disclose the exchange rates and fees that are collected by the company and information on when the funds will be available to the consumer before sending the transfer.

If there are any problems, the rules also require that consumers have 30 minutes (and sometimes more) to cancel a transfer and companies must investigate if the consumer has a problem or that the money has not arrived.

Here are a few tips to keep your money safe from fraud:

  • Know the person or business you are sending your money to.
  • If your friend messages you on Facebook that they are in trouble and need money, take caution. Ask them a question only they would know the answer to or ask for some other proof of identification.
  • If you are purchasing a home and receive a phone call from a settlement company to send money in order to close, verify that information with your mortgage broker before sending a dime.
  • Do your due diligence: Make sure the items you purchase and the person you purchase them from are legit.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lisa Iannucci |

Lisa Iannucci is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lisa here

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Banking

How Do I Get a Cashier’s Check?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Whether you’re paying for your groceries or paying the rent, writing a personal check will usually suffice. However, for much larger purchases, such as a down payment on your dream home or the classic 1950s hot rod that you’ve always wanted, you might be required to pay with a cashier’s check, also known as a teller’s check.

A cashier’s check — now called an official check by many financial institutions– is different from a personal check in that the bank or credit union signs it and guarantees the receiver that the funds are available — no chance of bouncing a check here! And, because the bank is signing the check, the chance of fraud is significantly reduced.

To get a cashier’s check, first ask your own bank if they offer the service. Most banks do it for their account holders as well as walk-ins; whereas most credit unions offer this service only to their members. You may also obtain a cashier’s check online. For example, Capital One members can order a cashier’s check by signing into their online account, choosing “Account Services and Settings” and then “Cashier’s Check” under the Checks tab.

How much does a cashier’s check cost?

According to MyBankTracker, the average fee for a cashier’s check is $9.10. For bank account holders and credit union members, the fee typically will be lower, or waived altogether. For example, Chase charges its account holders an $8 fee for a cashier’s check, but the fee is waived for those who have a Premier Plus Checking account. At Wells Fargo, the fee for their account holders is slightly higher than average — $10, plus an $8 delivery charge — but this can vary depending on the type of account the customer has.

Credit unions typically provide cashier’s checks for their members only and the costs can vary. For example, Alliant, a credit union based in Illinois, does not charge its members a fee for a cashier’s check unless the member wants the payment expedited. First Tech Federal Credit Union only provides cashier’s checks for its members and charges a $5 fee.

What information you need

Unlike a personal check, it is the bank or credit union representative who will be filling out and signing the cashier’s check, not you. You also cannot have a blank cashier’s check. When you order a cashier’s check online, however, you are the one who fills out the information. In both scenarios, you will need the name and address of the person or business you are paying, the amount of the check and, if you are doing the transaction in person, your identification. You also need cash or a debit card to cover the cost of the check. The money must be available in your account, and, importantly, the amount of money you assigned to the check will be frozen until the cashier’s check is cashed.

Other ways to pay

Say you need a check for $5,000 but a cashier’s check is not possible and you do not want to use your personal checking account. There are other payment options to choose from:

  • Money order: A safer alternative to personal checks — they do not have your personal information on them — money orders have a limit of $1,000 and can be purchased for as little as $0.89 at Rite Aid or $1.20 at the post office. They can also be sent internationally (the cost of sending an international money order at the post office is $8.55). In this $5,000 scenario, you would need to purchase multiple money orders and pay multiple fees, but in this case it is still less than a cashier’s check fee.
  • Wire transfer: Another way to send money is through wire transfer companies, such as Western Union or TransferWise. TransferWise allows a maximum of $50,000 per day or $250,000 per year to be sent by an individual. Western Union allows a wire transfer of as much as $2,999 per day. Fees vary depending on the cost of the transfer, whether the transaction is made online or in person and whether it is being sent domestically or internationally.
  • Certified check: A certified check is a personal check written by you, the account holder, and certified by your bank that the money is available and that the signature is yours. It is very similar to a cashier’s check, except that it’s your check and not the bank’s.
  • Apps: There are a variety of apps available to pay someone for goods and services, including PayPal, Venmo and Zelle. The fees and limits vary. For example, Venmo offers a $2.999.99 limit per week once your identity is verified. With PayPal, you can send as much as $60,000 per transaction, but you may be limited to $10,000 in a single transaction until you are verified. With Zelle, it depends on the bank. For example, Bank of America customers using Zelle may send $2,500 per day.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lisa Iannucci |

Lisa Iannucci is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lisa here

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Banking

How to Write a Check

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Writing a personal check has almost become as obsolete as using a floppy disk or folding a paper map. In today’s digital age, whether you are buying milk or a pair of shoes, paying bills or giving back money you owe to a friend, you typically pay for it all using a debit card, credit card or a money app. They are faster and easier to use than writing out a paper check, and sometimes come with rewards.

However, there are certain circumstances where personal checks are preferred. “Some landlords ask for the rent to be paid by check and some people do not have access to apps or smartphones,” said Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing: A Beginner’s Guide to Leveling Up Your Money.”

“Most people also write a check when they are gifting money at a wedding or graduation, even though at those events you can still use apps like Venmo or PayPal.”

If you do not know how to write a check, or the last one that you wrote was back in 1992, here are the step-by-step instructions you need:

Date: Write the date that you wrote out the check. “You can also post date a check for it to be cashed at a later time,” said Kara Stevens, founder of The Frugal Feminista and author of “The Happy Finances Challenge.”

“Just make sure that no matter what date you write on the check, the funds are available [that day],” she said.

Pay to the order: On this line, write out the name of the person or business whom you are paying. For example, let’s say Aunt Mabel fronted you $50 for movie tickets, you would write out her full name, Mabel Smith, on this line. Paying for groceries at Walmart? Then write “Walmart” here. Sending your dentist a payment for your root canal? The dentist’s full and legal business name must be written out. Ask what it is if you are not sure.

In some situations, you may not want to put a name on this line. Instead, you can write the check out to “cash” so it can be cashed or deposited by anyone. It’s convenient, yes, but it comes with the risk that someone you didn’t intend to can find it and deposit or cash it.

Amount in numbers: In the box next to the dollar sign, write in the numeric amount of the check. For example, if you are paying back Aunt Mabel, you would write the amount as $50.00 or $50.—. How to write a check with cents? If the amount has dollars and cents, write it like this: $105.93.

Amount in words: On the long line in front of “dollars,” write out the dollar amount of the check in words and the cents as a fraction. For example, Aunt Mabel’s $50 would become “Fifty and 00/100.” The price of those cool shoes as dollars and cents would be written as “One hundred five and 93/100.”

Then, draw a line from the end of the fraction to the end of the line. “Drawing this line prevents someone from fraudulently changing the amount,” said Stevens.

Most importantly, the numbers in the box must match what’s written out in words. “When my husband and I got married in 2018, we received a check that had $100.00 written in the box, but ‘Two hundred and 00/100’ written out. We couldn’t cash it because of this discrepancy,” said Lowry.

Signature: Every check must be signed legibly by you. Some stores have machines that will automatically fill in everything on the check for you except your signature. Only do this at the store and watch that the check has been completely filled out. “Do not sign a blank check,” said Stevens. “Anyone can fill in their name and cash it.”

“Once you are done, record the date of the check as well as the check number, amount and who you wrote it out to in your checkbook register,” said Stevens, who said that to stay organized, you should write out your checks in numerical order.

Memo: Stevens said that the memo section is often overlooked, but should be used every time you write out a check. “Write a reminder for yourself here that you bought a gift for mom or repaid a friend,” she said. It’s not necessary to write out a memo, but over time, you may not remember what the check was for. Since banks no longer send copies of the check back to you once they are cashed or deposited, you can still see a picture of the check and your memo electronically.

Learn more

Voiding checks: When setting up a direct deposit or automatic bill payment, an employer or bank may need a voided check from you. To write a void check, simply write the word VOID in big capital letters across the entire face of the check. “It prevents someone else from cashing it,” said Stevens.

Account numbers: On the bottom of your checks, there are two sets of important numbers that you should memorize. The one on the left is your bank’s routing number and the number on the right is your personal checking account number. Knowing these numbers is important in case you lose your checks or must call the bank.

Stevens also suggests keeping your extra checks in a safe location inside your home. “If someone does break in, they can steal your checks and use them to take money from you,” she said. “Treat your checkbook as you would your credit or debit card.”

Keep in mind that when you write a personal check to pay for items, you may be asked to show identification.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lisa Iannucci |

Lisa Iannucci is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lisa here

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