How to wire money to send or receive cash immediately

MangoStar_Studio / Getty ImagesWhen you wire money, the cash leaves your account immediately.
  • You can wire money through a bank or a wire service.
  • A wire transfers money instantly, meaning you won’t be able to cancel and likely won’t be able to get your money back. For that reason, you want to be completely sure of the recipient.
  • You’ll also want to make sure you’re clear on any fees before you initiate your wire transfer.
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For quick money in a pinch, using a wire service can be a good solution. The trick is understanding how the transaction happens, and what fees might apply.

Wire transfers occur immediately, which means the money leaves your account right away. Since that’s the case, there’s no real way to cancel a wire transfer, and you won’t be able to get a refund. Make sure you absolutely want to send the money – and that you know who the money is going to – before setting one up.

Here’s what you need to know about wiring money.

How to wire money

1. Pick a service

Wire transfers typically come in two forms: a transfer between banks or through a money service, like Western Union. Before picking which to use, do some research.

There is more on fees below, but in general, a bank account wire transfer tends to cost less than using a service like Western Union (depending on certain factors). However, depending on the bank you have, using a Western Union-type service to wire money may be more convenient since there are physical stores, as well as locations in other places, like many grocery and convenience stores, and it tends to keep longer hours.

Note that although Western Union provides both, a wire is not the same thing as a money order. A wire is an immediate electronic transaction, while a money order is like a more secure version of a paper check.

2. Avoid scams

If you’re purchasing something through a company that asks you to wire money as a way to make a payment, be wary. Remember that the money you wire typically comes out immediately, and there isn’t really a way to cancel.

There aren’t really any safety nets for the money you send via wire, either, so it can be hard to argue for your money to get returned. It’s best to stick to wiring money only to people you know and trust.

3. Decide where the wire money will come from

You can usually send money directly from a checking account, or you can sometimes use a credit card. When you use a credit card, this is often treated as a cash advance, which means it comes with some fees from the credit card issuer.

4. Gather the information you need

Exactly what information you’ll need will depend on the service you decide to go with, but in general you’ll want to gather:

  • the name of the bank where the money will be received
  • the recipient’s routing number
  • your bank account number
  • any further instructions that might be necessary, like anything pertinent to the delivery of the cash

Your bank will also likely provide you with a wire instruction sheet if you need more information or have questions about any details

5. Contact your bank or wiring service for instructions

You can call or visit the website of your wiring service to determine the best way to begin the transaction.

If you need to fill in some forms (very likely), you might be able to get that started at home before actually heading anywhere. In some cases (like for smaller wire amounts) you might be able to complete the entire transaction online without ever leaving your house.

6. Verify any additional fees

Whether you go with a credit card or checking account, wire transfers almost always cost money (on top of any credit card transaction fees), so be sure to ask about any fees you might be charged before completing the process. Doing this research might also help you determine which service is best to use.

7. Follow up

Even if you submit for a wire transfer online, be sure to follow up with the company you used to make sure everything went through as planned, and to verify exactly when the wire will take place.

Related coverage from How to Do Everything: Money

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