How to make an international wire transfer: 4 easy steps


A wire transfer is an electronic payment which lets you deposit money directly into your recipient’s bank account. You can make both local and international wire transfers through your regular bank or a third party provider - although it’s important to know that there are usually fees to pay for this service.

It’s especially important to check out the fees and exchange rates available when sending an international wire transfer. Upfront transfer fees, a poor exchange rate, and hidden costs related to the SWIFT network can all push up the overall cost of your payment. This guide covers all you need to know about arranging an international wire transfer - and also a smart way to save on fees, by using TransferWise.

Making an international transfer? TransferWise could help you save money

If you need to send money overseas, arranging a wire using your normal bank is not your only option. In fact, you could save if you set up your international payment using a specialist third party provider like TransferWise.

Cross border payments aren’t core business for most banks, which pushes up the costs of administration. And to make sure there’s a good profit to be made, it’s common to find a markup - an extra fee - added to the exchange rates used by banks. 

That’s where TransferWise comes in. TransferWise is a specialist in overseas payments, and uses smart new approaches to keep the costs down. All payments are made using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup - that means there are no hidden fees, and you’ll see how much your recipient will receive before you confirm the payment. Sending transfers is simple, fast and convenient - and even easier if you get yourself a free online TransferWise multi-currency account

Now, let’s take a look at how to set up your international wire payment.

How to wire money internationally

In most cases, you’ll be able to choose between sending money internationally with your own bank, or choosing a third party provider to set up the payment. 

If you’re sending with your bank, you should be able to make a payment online, by phone, or in person in your local branch. It’s worth knowing that the fees for in-person services are typically much higher than setting up your payment using online banking.

Third party payment providers often operate online and via apps for convenience, with additional phone support for setting up payments and offering advice. Because these services specialize in international payments, you’ll often find the process is smoother and more intuitive than using your bank - and cheaper too.

How to make an international wire transfer online

Let’s take a look at how to make an international wire via your regular bank. The processes used by most banks are similar, although you’ll need to check the small print for your account before you get started. 

Here are the basic steps you need to follow:

1. Go to the wire transfer section of your internet banking

Start by logging into your online banking service in the normal way. Usually making an international payment online will be significantly cheaper than visiting your branch - and means no waiting in line, or working around limited opening hours.

Within your online banking you’ll find the option to make a payment, and can select international wire from the on-screen menu.

2. Double check your international transfer limit and your recipient details

You’ll be prompted to enter the details for your recipient, which will usually include their name, bank name, address and account number and SWIFT code. Depending on where you’re sending to, you may also need to provide the reason for making a transfer, and additional information such as an IBAN for European accounts, a sort code for the UK, or CLABE number for transfers to Mexico.

Typically banks have limits on the amounts that can be sent using an international wire, which vary according to the specific account and the destination country. This is also a good time to check your own account limits, to make sure your payment goes through smoothly.

3. Enter the amount you want to transfer and choose the currencies

Continue following the online steps to enter the transfer details, including the amount to send and the currency it should be received in.

4. Pay for your international transfer 

You can now review your details, including the fee and exchange rate which will be used, before confirming and initiating the payment. Check if your payment will be processed using the SWIFT network, as this can result in additional fees levied by correspondent banks.

It’s worth taking a moment to compare the costs quoted against an alternative like TransferWise to see if you could save on fees, or get a better exchange rate. Learn more about the fees involved in sending an international wire.

Get the mid-market rate for you money transfer

Make an international wire transfer in person

If you prefer to manage your money face to face, you can also usually arrange your payment in person at a bank branch. Here you’ll be guided by a customer service advisor to provide the details required to set up your payment. There is usually a higher fee for this service compared to online transfers.

Information needed for international wire transfer

Whether you’re setting up your payment online or in person, you’ll need similar details to make sure the payment arrives safely. You can expect to be asked for the following:

  • Recipient name
  • Recipient’s bank name, address and account number
  • Recipient bank’s SWIFT code
  • Additional information as required by the destination country

The law and local practise in some countries may mean you need to give more information to make sure your payment is safely received. This might include further details to help identify the recipient account, or the reason for the payment.

How long does a wire transfer take?

How long your wire transfer takes will depend on the country it’s headed to and the way your recipient’s own bank processes the payment. 

Payments may arrive within a day or two on major currency routes, but you can  expect to wait up to 5 working days for some destination countries.

How to receive international wire transfer?

If you’re expecting an international wire which will be paid directly into your bank account, the sender will need your name as shown on your bank account, the bank name, account number and branch address. The deposit will then arrive in your account automatically once the payment has been processed.

How to track an international wire transfer?

You’ll be able to see the progress of your international wire by logging into your online banking system. If you have any problems, or have sent the wire to an incorrect account, you’ll need to contact customer services for help.

Sending an international wire payment isn’t hard. But finding the best service for you might require a little research. Check out the fees, exchange rates and delivery times your bank offers, and compare against modern alternatives like TransferWise to see if you can save time and money.