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Difference Between Wire Transfer and ACH


Difference Between Wire Transfer and ACH

What is a Wire Transfer?

One of the fastest ways to send money is via wire transfer. Although a wire transfer can take days, in most cases a wire transfer takes place within in minutes. It is a direct bank to bank transaction that allows you to move money from your account directly into the account of someone else. This is because there is an agreement set up between the banks, allowing for this transfer to take place.

When a wire transfer is made from one bank account to another, both account holders are verified. Additionally, the amount of money in each account is verified, so there are no charge backs associated with wire transfers. In general, a wire transfer is fast and secure. Since it is handled individually by the banks, and does not go through a clearinghouse first, a wire transfer can take place almost in real time.

Financial institutions often charge fees for receiving wire transfers as well. Because a little more effort has to be made when receiving, since the institution is contacted directly, many banks and credit unions will charge a fee to receive transfers. However, the fee to receive a transfer is often less than the fee to send a transfer. Wire transfer fees vary according to financial institution, but many charge between $20 and $35 to send a wire transfer, and between $10 and $20 to receive one.

Wire transfer also does not have to take place from bank account to bank account. Western Union and MoneyGram are companies that make use of wire transfer with its funds. When you go to a Western Union or MoneyGram provider, you can accomplish a cash wire transfer. You take the money to the approved Western Union or MoneyGram counter, pay the fee, and then the person on your end verifies it with the person on the receiving end. A Western Union or MoneyGram wire transfer can take as little as 10 minutes if everything goes well.

Automated Clearing House (ACH)

While it may seem similar to a wire transfer, a transaction accomplished with the help of an automated clearing house (ACH) is not the same thing. The banking system has used the ACH method for close to 40 years. These types of transactions can be quite convenient. They are the sorts of transactions that you make when you use online bill pay, and often when you use your debit card.

When you arrange for the electronic transfer of funds, all of the information is included in a batch, which is then sent to the clearing house. All of the transactions in the batch then handled by the clearing house, rather than as a direct bank to bank transaction. Additionally, banks receive their ACH transactions at once as well, processing those as a single transaction, in a batch. This simplifies the process, since each individual transaction does not need individual attention; it is all automated.

As a result, your money is not available as quickly as it often is with a wire transfer. The ACH process is more convenient, and less expensive, but it also takes a little bit longer. This is why you often have to make sure that bill payments are scheduled a little bit early. Additionally, when you deposit a check, the ACH system means that the funds from the writer’s bank will not be cleared until the batch is run. So you will not have access to all of your money until at least the next day in many cases (and sometimes longer). You need to account for this when making deposits and planning on automatic bill pay and other transactions. Otherwise, you might be subject to overdraft fees.

Wire Transfer vs. ACH

Because a wire transfer requires the individual bank to bank process, it is usually more expensive than an automated clearing house, which requires minimal involvement by individuals at financial institutions. Many ACH transactions come with only a small fee, or even no fee at all, since they are run with more efficiency. However, if you want a better guarantee that your money will arrive on time, it might be worth it to pay the wire transfer fee.

With both cases, it is possible for errors to be made. However, since you often get to review the information before it is sent with a wire transfer, the method is a little more secure. Also, because identities are verified with wire transfers that take place between bank accounts, there is less chance of fraud. Wire transfers that take place between financial institutions are generally considered quite secure.

Dangers of Cash Wire Transfers

Most of the issues arising from wire transfers are related to cash wire transfers, like those made at Western Union or MoneyGram. While it can be a convenient way to send cash to relatives at a distance, a cash wire transfer also has its problems. The main issue is that there is no verifying the sender and the recipient. A false identity can be used at one of the transaction, with a fraudster collecting the money.

Another issue is that someone collecting the money can just disappear with the cash, leaving almost no trace. If you buy something using a cash wire transfer, there is no recourse if the seller receives the money but does not send the promised item. Even if you do get the item, if you have used a cash wire transfer to pay for it, there is no help if the item is damaged, or if it is not what was promised. A credit card allows you some protection, and there are fraud liability laws associated with ACH transactions. When you send cash via wire transfer, you are protected the same way.

Bottom Line

Wire transfers can be fast and convenient. They represent a quick way to transfer money from one bank or credit union account to another bank or credit union account, and can also provide a quick way to send cash to someone who lives far away. However, wire transfers are also more expensive. If you have some time, sending money electronically through the ACH system can be a good choice. However, if the money needs to be transferred more quickly, you may have to pay the fee and get a wire transfer.



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Comments
28 Comments.
Comment #1 by adityanm posted on
adityanm
Another way to look it is to compare with process of sending documents by snail mail, email and fax.

When you send email you cannot be sure if recipient is the intended person only. Fax is sent in real time since there is a direct circuit link between the two parties and you are sure who and when gets the message but it is still a photocopy of the document. Only s-mail can transfer oroginal document but it may take days.

17
Comment #2 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
That analogy is a little confusing. If talking about the underlying physical methods of transfer, you're right. But on a user level, I see email and fax the other way around. An email will arrive in the inbox that only the recipient can access, while anyone could walk by and pick up a fax off the machine.

22
Comment #3 by adityanm posted on
adityanm
Any email can be easily intercepted and monitored by hackers or FBI etc before it reaches your inbox.

How can anyone walk by a fax machine in your home or office? fax machine will deliver the  fax only after a secure connection is established.

11
Comment #38 by Dana (anonymous) posted on
Dana
You ask how it is possible for a person to walk by a fax machine and take a fax not meant for them? Seriously? This is a difficult scenario for you to imagine? For example, I work in an office with around a hundred others and we share about a dozen fax machines. I have often missed faxes that were swept up or thrown out by irresponsible co-workers. It's practically negligent to send sensitive information this way.

8
Comment #41 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Depends on location of FAX machine.  Some are very secure because they are in a secure location and are used for sensitive confidential information because no one can intercept a FAX during transmission.  Email on the other hand is very insecure, someone could intercept it without either the sender or receiver ever knowing.

2
Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
If you don't understand this simple, in-depth description of ACH vs. wire transfers, than analogies aren't going to help you.

33
Comment #9 by anon (anonymous) posted on
anon
Have had bad experiences with wire transfers due to the human element

Instructed a major institution to send two seperate wire transfers of the same amount to two different institutions. They sent them both to the same place. I could understand if they had viewed the second one as a duplicate and not executed it.

Took several days to figure this out because the receving institution simply tossed the extra $100K in the $5 savings account.

Lesson is to make multiple transfers of slightly different amount to make tracing easier.

In most institutions, wire transfers are so rare that they are handled by only one or two people. Got caught one time where the person was out for a day.

If you are near the sending institution you can go in, get a cashiers check, and FedEx the check to a specific person or department. Costs less than wire transfer. You get credit the day it arrives.

 

12
Comment #10 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Have had bad experiences with wire transfers due to the human element

Instructed a major institution to send two seperate wire transfers of the same amount to two different institutions. They sent them both to the same place. I could understand if they had viewed the second one as a duplicate and not executed it.

Took several days to figure this out because the receving institution simply tossed the extra $100K in the $5 savings account.

Lesson is to make multiple transfers of slightly different amount to make tracing easier.

In most institutions, wire transfers are so rare that they are handled by only one or two people. Got caught one time where the person was out for a day.

If you are near the sending institution you can go in, get a cashiers check, and FedEx the check to a specific person or department. Costs less than wire transfer. You get credit the day it arrives.

5
Comment #13 by Jeanne (anonymous) posted on
Jeanne
Response to #9. The cashier's check method works well. Depending on the sending/receiving bank fees, it could be less costly. Wiring sometimes takes an extra day anyway, due to time zones and bank hours (since a "real" person is needed). For both cases, if you don't go into the branch, a memo can work, but you'll still need to get a signature guarantee. Patriot Act and all that (is what they say).

4
Comment #15 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Are wire transfers and ACH's FDIC insured? Do they ever disappear?

4
Comment #16 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
To 9&13, Only the first $5,000 is available on cashier checks. Depending on the routing number funds  can be on hold for up to 3 weeks and longer if the bank thinks it is suspicious.

3
Comment #18 by upsetincali (anonymous) posted on
upsetincali
This was my first wire transfer, and my last! I was told it was instant, from one branch, told it would be 2 hours, from the sender. Then my bank said 24 - 48 hours. The institution from where my money was being wired, did so at noon on weds. Nov.23. So let's cut out the next day, Thanksgiving. So, on Friday, at noon, 11/25/11, we' ll call that 24 hours. My bank is open on Saturday, did I get it? Nooooo, "they don't do wires on Saturdays"!!!! I swear to God I'm going to have some choice words for them if I don't have my money tomorrow (Monday)!!!!!!

7
Comment #19 by John Mullen (anonymous) posted on
John Mullen
I get so tired of these lies. In today's word everything is technically a "wire transfer" (unless it's a book transfer). I speak from experience as I used to work in the funds transfer department of a major bank for several years.  ACH is simply just a different medium from Fedwire, SWIFT, or CHIPS  but ultimately every payment has to be debited from one account  transmitted to another institution, or intermediary,  then deposited into another account. It's nothing but a glorified (outdated and slow) email system. It doesn't really "cost" more to send one large automated machine processed email message than it does to send  several hundred smaller similarly automatically processed email messages.  Banks even use the same systems to process incoming and outgoing funds. I used to process CHIPS, Fedwre, ACH and SWIFT payments, both incoming and outgoing in the same window on my computer screen. Charging $25 to send or receive a "wire transfer" is like charing $25 to send or receive an email message. Claiming that an ACH payment is not a "wire transfer" is like claiming  that sending a file via MSN messenger vs  Skype or FTP is not a "file transfer'.  Even checks ultimately generate "wire transfers" today and in theory could be executed immediately, but banks are still trying to pretend that computers don't exist so that they can sit on the float for 3 or 4 days. It's all one big scam. In Europe "wire transfers" are free to both send and receive. But in the US banks just like to treat these  "wire transfers" as if they are some kind of complex magical beast. They are not. US banks just use the term "wire transfer" as a marketing tool so that they can extract exorbitant fees from ignorant customers.

55
Comment #33 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I agree with some of what you wrote.  At Alliant CU ACH is both free and quite fast, with money moving within the space of 24 hours.  That might not be up to your standard, but I can live with it.

As for wiring of funds, it's something I did only recently, at a cost of $20.  There was time involved, by at least three employees of my financial institution, to process my wire.   Part of that was to ensure absolute accuracy, as a very large sum of money was involved.  I appreciated the effort which went into executing my transfer properly.  I was not wrankled by having to pay the $20.  However, at the same time:

For smaller amounts of money I can agree an automated wire transfer facility would be appropriate.  The cost, as you suggest, would need to be very much reduced.  Direct involvement of financial institution employees would need to be eliminated.  Customers would enter all data via computer, and customers would be held responsible for any errors in the information they entered.

4
Comment #34 by Dana (anonymous) posted on
Dana
How is charging $25 to send a wire like charging $25 to send an email? A person who earns a salary is providing a service. There IS a cost to sending wires per the article's well-written description of said costs ("individual attention"). Do you suppose the bank should not be paid for that service?

2
Comment #21 by Todd (anonymous) posted on
Todd
I have to add a positive comment about wiring.  Even though it's not cheap, I can wire money from Saudi Arabia, where I currently live and it will be at the intended within 10 mins.  Have not had one problem so far.  However, this time I sent the money from a local bank here to my bank in the US via ACH.  Today will be the 4th business day, let's see!

3
Comment #23 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Thank you........

2
Comment #24 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Thank you for writing this simple and well-worded article. I have been working at a global investment bank for almost 10 years, including 4 years on the trading desk, and despite this never really gotten into the mechanics of cash transfer and settlements. This article and the following one (Using Wire Payments) have been very educational and mean I've got a better appreciation for the process now.

3
Comment #25 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I ask my clients to pay invoices using wire transfers. The issue I consistantly have is that when a wire is iisued from a banking instituion the issuing banks may often use intermediateries that will deduct aditional fees ($15-20.) directly from the wire amount WITHOUT any requirement for disclosure or record to the sender or receiver (note: this is not the bank fees associted to the issuing bank or receiving bank which is receorded and shown on statements) My question is why are these amounts not presented and recorded and what happens to this money and how are banks liable for taxes on "income" generated from these hidden charges?. Why are there also no legal action to change this?

5
Comment #36 by Dana (anonymous) posted on
Dana
The bank that sends the wire is charging a fee to your client. Your client should be smart enough to know what fees they are being charged by their own bank. They should send send the invoice amount + wire fee to you so that you receive what you are owed. That is industry standard.

2
Comment #26 by User from Mexico and US (anonymous) posted on
User from Mexico and US
I am very impressed that Mexico has a faster, better, more reliable, and much much much cheaper inter-bank transfer system than the US.  In Mexico the latest version of the system/interbank standard is called "SPEI" (in order of appearance, the translated idea is "system payments electronic interbank"), and it works marvelously.  To the person issuing the SPEI transfer, the cost is seldom slightly over the equivalent of US$1 Dollar, regardless ot the SPEI amount; actually, the average cost for a SPEI to the issuer is only about 50 US cents; and often these transactions, depending on the bank and bank account, are even FREE to issue.  AND THE SPEIS ARE ALWAYS FREE TO RECEIVE (provided the receipient also has a bank account).  The funds usually show up in the destination accounts in minutes (during banking days and hours), and can be programmed online up to one month in advance.  In Mexico, with SPEIs, there is no such thing as the ridiculous outrageous and abusive "incoming wire fees" as it happens in the US.   When I try transfer ("wire transfer") in the US, I always get charged a fortune for either making them or receiving them.  In the States, what use is it to have somebody pay you, say, US$100 to your bank account via wire transfer, when there will be charged US$12 commission to receive those funds and end up only with a net of US$88??  Really??  A 12% commission just to get a deposit ("an incoming wire")??  I wouldn't want to annualize that in terms of APR!!!!  I agree with John in comment #19.  Something is fishy with US bank transfer/wires schemes.

8
Comment #35 by Dana (anonymous) posted on
Dana
My guess is that with SPEI, YOU enter all of the information yourself, therefore taking on all of the risk and effort involved yourself. That is why it is free. At my personal bank, I can do the same thing with funds. I can transfer it immediately to anyone's account to which I know the account number. It is free. I live in the U.S.A.

1
Comment #28 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
U.S.banks always do their best to rip customers and they have achieved at the shameless level of art of corruption.  The innovation is always about how to rip customers.

Why is incoming wire transfer charging free or $10 and outgoing charging $30 to $60? 

If U.S. banks don't charge fees, they have no way to create "shareholder values" and "customer values!"

 

7
Comment #37 by Dana (anonymous) posted on
Dana
Taking in a wire requires much less time, effort and risk. Sending a wire requires multiple levels of authorization and takes anywhere from ten minutes to an hour or more to be sent, requiring the attention of at least three individuals. That is why.

3
Comment #30 by paoli2 posted on
paoli2
Can someone advise me what is the difference between an ACH, Wire transfer and just giving one institution the routing number and account number for your savings account and letting them withdraw the funds you want to have them deposit into your savings account at "their" institution so that you can then purchase a couple of CDs over the phone from them?  Is it more dangerous to do it this way than to pay for a Wire transfrer or ACH transfer?  Thanks so much!

4
Comment #31 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
This info. helped me understand better about Wires and Ach transfers!

2
Comment #32 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Wire Transfer Systems and ACH systems take a large amount of expense to implement and operate.  Why is anyone surprised that there are fees for these institutions to cover their costs and a margin of profitability?

2
Comment #42 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Sooooooooooooo, how can/does one object to ACH/wire transfer from "your" account w/o your prior approval?  What are "you" doing to have your bank/cu not make any/all transfers w/o your consent?  Are there any financial institutions that do that?

1