I went to the bank this morning to initiate a wire transfer for the remaining amount due on the plane (pics) and was surprised at how unpredictable the process is.

My goal was to give them all the paperwork, ensure I had sufficient funds, and schedule the transfer such that the money arrives in the sellers' account on a particular date next week.

But they can't do that. They cannot hold the paperwork for any amount of time. They'll process it the same day I turn it in. I guess I can understand that. They're a bank, not a scheduling service.

However, they can't tell me which day to drop of the paperwork to ensure that the funds arrive on my target date. The teller informed me that "it usually takes 48 hours, but that doesn't mean the funds will be available on the other end."


Seriously, this is 2006 and we can't know how long it takes money to get from point A to point B? And they charge $30 for the transfer.

Contrast this with another option: FedEx.

I can get a FedEx envelope, stuff it with $100 bills (or a certified bank check), and send it overnight with a signature required for less than $30 (without insurance). In this scenario, I get to track the progress of my package remotely and am fairly certain that it will arrive on the right day.

It seems to me that FedEx is better at what ought to be a core competency of an organization like Bank of America. Perhaps Heisenberg helped design the system?

Posted by jzawodn at April 04, 2006 10:34 AM

Reader Comments
# Gregor J. Rothfuss said:

I heard this is because most banks actually print and mail checks for a wire transfer... This is something that has always puzzled me: why are banks not shutting down checks and moving to ACH? would save a LOT of money, and you could get rid of most branches at the same time.


on April 4, 2006 10:53 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Then why is it called a "wire" transfer if they're not, you know, using wires?!

on April 4, 2006 10:54 AM
# Joe Hunkins said:

It's crazy. Ultimately all bank economics are "wired". I spoze it's possible there are legal/federal reserve bank rules that complicate this but note that BofA only got a decent online environment going about 18 months ago.

on April 4, 2006 11:03 AM
# Michael Conlen said:

It could have something to do with the fact that you're using Bank of America. I remember when I lived in California and some banks advertised on the simple fact that they were not BofA. Additionally B of A is really Nations Bank which back east wasn't the most well thought of bank either. I mean, B of A had such a bad reputation that others advertised that they weren't B of A and when they get bought by Nations Bank Nations decides that B of A has a better name!

If you use a smaller bank and have any sort of a relationship with the people there they will likely provide you the kind of service you're looking for.

As for the actual wire transfer, my guess is that they are using the Fed Reserve system somehow (FedWire).

on April 4, 2006 11:08 AM
# Stephen Pierzchala said:

When I moved to the Bay Area from Canada in 1999 to take a job during the boom, I was floored by the lack of integration and technology in the banking industry.

In Canada, the banking industry benefits from a national bank infrastructure, instead of the insane state-by-state chaos that exists in the US.

I tried to wire money home...once. It took a month to get there.

We resorted to the method that Jeremy outlines -- drop a bank draft|cashier's cheque in a FedEx envelope and away it goes, complete with door-to-door tracking.

Frankly, my opinion is that the US banking system is stuck in the 1950s, falling far behind Canada and the EU.


on April 4, 2006 11:09 AM
# Marc Hedlund said:

FedEx doesn't get any benefit from the content of the envelopes that make their way through its system. Banks do. They have a strong incentive to keep your money as long as possible. See, for instance: .

on April 4, 2006 11:11 AM
# Marc Hedlund said:
on April 4, 2006 11:16 AM
# Michael Weber said:


you're very close to becoming a money laundering suspect ;-)

Have you thought about sending a wad of traveller cheques, for instance American Express (Does the AAA still have them without service charge for members?)

Good Luck!

on April 4, 2006 11:28 AM
# Doug G. said:

Maybe all of those TV shows with criminals demanding instantaneous wire transfers has set our expectations just a bit high. Wire transfers simply aren't all they are cracked up to be. I think banks only keep them around because people assume they are the only way to handle certain large transactions.

You would have probably been better off using BofA's online bill payment service. You specify the exact date you want the check to arrive. Or you could use Western Union to transfer the money. Or get a cashier's check from the bank and FedEx it to the recipient, as you suggested. Or if the seller also has a BofA account, you can do an online transfer to him at no cost.

on April 4, 2006 11:31 AM
# COD said:

I think Western Union quit doing money transfers a few months ago. You could have Paypaled the money ;)

Did I really just use Paypal as a verb?

on April 4, 2006 11:42 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

PayPal would cost 10 time as much as the bank, if I remember their fee structure correctly.

on April 4, 2006 11:44 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

It's also frustrating that my brokerage (Smith barney) charges that amount to effectively do a Direct Deposit. Why the fuck does it save my employer money to do a direct deposit, but it costs more for a damn BANK to do the same thing?

on April 4, 2006 11:46 AM
# Jeremy Wright said:

Don't get me started on wire transfers. We pay one of our bloggers via wire transfer. So, it costs 60$ to wire to Malaysia. Okay, fine. But, the Malaysian bank ALSO takes money off the wire amount. An indeterminate amount. No notice. No telling how much.

Oh, and if it gets routed to another international bank? They can take money off too.

Last month, it cost 320$ to send a 2000$ wire payment.

Banks suck.

on April 4, 2006 11:51 AM
# Scott Hanson said:

When I first came to Germany, I used to regularly wire money to my bank account in Minnesota. It usually took 2 weeks, but sometimes a month, or two months. One particularly large transfer went missing for over six months. Noone could trace what happened. It turned out it had landed at some bank in Missouri. After that I stopped sending money to the States.

The US bank system is not just 1950s, it's 19th century.

on April 4, 2006 11:58 AM
# Jeremy Cole said:

Yes, I've commented about this before as well. Banks really aren't in it to serve the customer, they are in it to increase their profit wherever possible.

Wire transfers should be free. It should cost to cash a check. That would make far more sense.

Citibank recently charged me $15 to *receive* a wire transfer. Go figure.

on April 4, 2006 11:59 AM
# Jeffrey McManus said:

The service you want is not provided by a bank. The service you want is provided by an escrow company.

on April 4, 2006 12:01 PM
# Doug Cutting said:

The late George Ball, after spending a career in law and diplomacy, retired back to Wall Street. Once there a few years, he is reported to have said, "How come no one ever told me about banking before?"

on April 4, 2006 12:16 PM
# Not a terrorist said:

You can blame the Department of Homeland Security for the delays. Any transaction over $5000 is flagged and sent through the DHS before it can clear. This was originally intended to keep an eye on terrorist funding paths, they created a database of "large" cash transactions to do data mining, looking for money laundering. But of course the DHS had some "mission creep" and now it's using these same laws to follow the money path of meth makers.
I had this problem happen to me. I bought an $8k computer system on my credit card, when I paid off the card balance in full, it took the card company 2 weeks to credit my account. No, I am not a terrorist, I don't do drugs and I don't launder money for drug dealers, I earned my money legitimately.
Did you ever notice that whenever the Government goes hunting for "terrorists," their guns are all pointed at innocent citizens?

on April 4, 2006 12:16 PM
# Christoph said:

The bank system here is really far behind. In Europe it is so easy to transfer money from account to account. It is all electronically done. No sending checks. And this is not just new. This is done for many, many years. When telephone banking became big in the US, Germany already had a working money transfer system for bank clients for years.

I think the banks here make more money by keeping it in their own account for a day then to speed up the transfer.

on April 4, 2006 01:14 PM
# Adam Dodsworth said:

USAA Federal Saving Bank is an exception. Coming from the UK, I have been perplexed on many occasions by the antiquated nature of USA banking - not to mention the attrocious customer service too.

But USAA do not change a cent to arrange a wire transfer and I can rely on the money being in my UK account within 24 hours - $5K or less.

Oh and they refund any machine charges levied by other financial institutions.

Here ends my plug for a great USA financial institution :-)

on April 4, 2006 02:14 PM
# Derek Scruggs said:

Banks, as a rule, suck. I'm in the middle of changing one of my business accounts to a different kind of account. Seems to me this should be something the rep can do by selecting a drop-down box on a screen. Nope. New paperwork that asks for the same info I gave them before.

And my personal bank one day decided my account would require a minimum balance of $30k (!) or charge me $25/month. This was a free account that I've had for over 19 years!

I keep hoping 37 Signals will start a bank.

on April 4, 2006 02:15 PM
# Joel Rowbottom said:

Christoph - in your definition of 'Europe', please don't think that means the UK. It's 19th Century here also -- much to the chagrin and dismay of small business.

on April 4, 2006 03:41 PM
# James Day said:

Joel, you probably haven't experienced just how bad the US system is if you think the UK is bad. :)

For a regular payment to me from Sweden to the UK I just give my IBAN number (international bank account number). That identifies the country, bank and account. Money shows up a day or two later and the bank sends me a letter saying money has arrived in my account. That letter arrives the next day. No charge for this at any point.

on April 4, 2006 04:58 PM
# John Walker said:

To Adam:

I couldn't agree more with regard to USAA. Transfers work very well with them. I think the key to the success there is that they don't have branch offices. Everything is done via the Internet or standard mail.

on April 4, 2006 11:40 PM
# Amit Doshi said:

I run one of those Indian outsourcing companies, and the biggest pain in the butt is recieving Wire Transfers from anywhere else. We probably see 10-15 incoming transfers a month, and if one goes missing theres just nothing you can do about it. Tracing them takes forever. All the banks use diff words for the same documents, which gets ridiculously confusing and impossible to explain..no no i want the MT100, no no i want the routing instructions, no no send me your banks remittance form. Sometimes I just cant believe that there isnt a better way to move money.

on April 5, 2006 03:37 AM
# Matthew Sheppard said:

It may well be quite different in the USA, but there's a very interesting series of posts on how inter-bank transfers work in Australia over at http://blog.jamtronix.com/2006/02/payment_systems_in_australia_p.html

In short, it seems to be much more complex than you would think, though that is almost certainly a result of the system having been built up over many years.

on April 5, 2006 04:35 AM
# Doug G. said:

Western Union most certainly has not stopped wiring money -- it is their core business. A momentary glimpse at their website will clear that up if there is any doubt.

Again, the problem here is assuming that old technology (wire transfer) is the way to go, when there are better and faster options available, both from a bank and from other sources.

on April 5, 2006 10:55 AM
# kirk said:

You guys sure complain quite a bit. I suppose no one has ever worked for a bank or actually knows what processes are involved in a wire transfer. But everything is easy for a critic.... Anyway here are a couple of tips and corrections. Banks don't write checks for wire transfers, banks are desperately trying to move everything to ACH, it's consumers and businesses who are reticent to change. An ACH transaction costs less than 25 cents. I agree that many banks are inefficient and just plan poorly operated. However, there are more than 4,000 financial institutions in the US and with this thing called the internet you are not obligated to bank with someone just because the are around the corner from you, a la 1950. Wire transfers are not everyone's specialty, it has overhead and costs associated with it. If you go to a Mercedes dealership to have your VW air filter replaced, they will want $125. Is that their fault, or did you just make a bad choice? Many banks offer Internet-based ACH transactions, in which you can send your money from the comfort of your own home, at a fraction of the cost of a wire payment. Don't just gripe, you've got choices, exercise them.

on April 5, 2006 11:54 AM
# Justin McHenry said:

I tried to do a wire transfer at a local bank one time and they couldn't make connection with the fax machine at the "home office" so they turned me away. Like a fool I went back--the wire transfer still didn't happen but no one from the bank called to tell me that until I got antsy and wondered why the money had not reached the other end.

It is amazing.

As for kirk's comment above, if your bank can't do a wire transfer, maybe they shouldn't be a bank.

on April 5, 2006 12:26 PM
# kirk said:

To expect every bank to perform every financial transaction is what produces the non-responsive behemoths such as BofA and Citi, and quite soon Wal-Mart

on April 5, 2006 12:42 PM
# No wire said:

Many of hte commenters understand this, but some seemingly do not:

ACH transfers and wire transfers are two different things. ACH is quick and reliable. Wire transfers rely much more on human beings.

Don't use wires. Use ACH transfers.

on April 5, 2006 02:37 PM
# just.a.guy said:

it's worth repeating a prior poster's plug -- if you or anyone in your immediate family served in the US Military, you should be using USAA Federal Savings Bank for all your banking needs. Best consumer banking experience out there. PERIOD.

on April 5, 2006 02:53 PM
# money said:

About the sending of money through fedex, I would be really careful. It is a felony to send over $10,000. In fact, I think it is a crime just to posses that much cash. Ridiculous.

on April 5, 2006 04:06 PM
# Ed said:

neteller is the easiest way to transfer money to another person online.

on April 5, 2006 08:43 PM
# Matt said:

Keep in mind that, even if BofA were above reproach, they cannot guarantee that the money will be credited to the recipient's account on a certain day, because the recipient's bank is in control of that part of the transaction. BofA can only control when the recipient's bank receives it, not when he does.

on April 6, 2006 04:29 AM
# Kevin Burton said:

I had a friend who needed help after Katrina so I wired him $1200...

He had to produce, ID, SSN, be photographed, and submit his fingerprints in order to get the money.

Thanks patriot act!

Of course to add insult to injury they wouldn't provide any information about who this data is given to, how long it is kept, etc.


on April 6, 2006 04:37 AM
# florida guy said:

Even online banking has its drawbacks... I work in IT and find online banking incredibly lacking. Especially Debit transactions with a debit/check card. How the banks process only once or twice daily, is appalling. With the advent of computers in general and with the advances in software, online banking should be instantaneous much like online trading is within minutes of real time and if you pay for it, real time. Wire transfers are also mostly a thing of the past in this day and age as it is really misnamed by a bygone era. The technology exists for real time banking, but that wouldn’t produce as much money for the banking industry because they wouldn’t get their NSF and overdraft charges or many other fees, since they couldn’t prioritize how the credits and debits to your accounts are processed. Most banks debit your funds at one time of the day then credit funds at another time of the day thus triggering associated fees should your account be lacking funds in between times. Even though you make a deposit or online transfer into your account, they process your debits at midnight then your credits at 7am so for several hours you have a lack of funds available. They also process their fees before they process your credits. They also make it harder for you to track your money with them so they always have the upper hand. But that is how they stay in business. I bank with Wachovia(watch over ya)and just like every other bank they have gotten fee happy for any and every transaction.

on April 6, 2006 06:41 AM
# stonegatherer said:

Why are bank employees at branches generally morons who are paid pennies?

on April 6, 2006 09:41 AM
# Josh said:

As some have stated already, ACH is the way to go. I work for a small bank and we have customers using ACH all the time. I use it all the time to transfer funds between banks for my personal accounts. And to add to the glory of ACH, you can also put a date on when the transaction happens.

on April 6, 2006 10:49 PM
# Beau Bennett said:

I don't think ACH can be used for anything but domestic transfers. For international stuff we use 'Repetitive Wire Transfers' with Wells Fargo and they are usually done within minutes as long as it's before 2:00PM weekdays. These transfers are useful ONLY if you repeatedly pay the same person or company, as we do for some of our merchandise. They are also a bit cheaper $25, as opposed to $33 - it's still a ripoff. Sending more than $10K always triggers a look by the feds anyway.

on April 7, 2006 05:04 PM
# Niki said:

I have to agree the transactions these days are really slow and most of them charge you either in % or $, so it's really hard to get something on the other side or point B like you said in the time you want.

on April 8, 2006 02:00 PM
# rob said:

in canada, you can email money from any major bank to any other major bank. the recipient gets an email with a list of institutions, selects one, logs in and the money is deposited.

it costs a buck.

on April 9, 2006 09:23 AM
# Ken said:

Which airport will you based your plane on? I would suggest San Carlos Airport, wondering why?

Because it's airport code is SQL.


on April 9, 2006 11:09 AM
# Dennis Goedegebuure said:

Hi Jeremy, or is it Matt,

I recently moved from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to San Francisco for my work. I work for eBay International, and the company has done a tremendous job in securing my smooth transfer. The only thing they cannot control are the authorities and banks.
I already had a lot of problems with mistakes that were made with my Visa, but the banking system is so far outdated if you compare this to European banks.
I tried to transfer money through online banking. The site works pretty well, but then the bank is sending a real paper check through registered mail to the reciepient. Can you believe that!
It also took them more than a week. So my landlady already thinks I'm not an on time payer for the rent...so much for first impressions.

Hope it will improve in the future, or we build Paypal out to a bank!


on April 11, 2006 04:11 AM
# Tomi B. said:

I'm originally from Finland where checks haven't been used since the eighties. Everything is wired from bank to bank for free. I can even go online and send money from my Finnish account to my local BoA account. The orignating charge is 6 euros and receiving it costs $20. You figure it out. And "online banking" here? What a joke. You fill out the check online and the bank stuffs the envelope for you.

on April 11, 2006 09:19 PM
# Dunbar said:

I am the intended recipient of a wire transfer (few hundred thou USD) that is coming from a London bank to a US bank and then to my US Bank. It took 10 bus. days from London to first US bank - I have been advised that issuer of instruction with London acct has rec'd confirmation that wire is with first US Bank. Although I think I know the answer based on reading the posts - it's anybody's guess - how long can it/should it take for wire to go from first US bank to my US bank?

on April 12, 2006 12:36 PM
# Jennifer Hershey said:

I don't recommend them as your main processor. See http://www.paypalsucks.com. PayPal is popular because it was 'firstest with the mostest' on auction sites. For this reason, eBay bought them out. PayPalSucks.com alleges that if you have a bad order they freeze your account, and can even dip into your bank account to make up any shortfalls. Mitigating circumstances are not taken into account. I've read enough complaints about PayPal on webmaster forums to heed them.

on April 17, 2006 06:49 AM
# Luis said:

I'm from Canada and I think fedex is a lot faster, because I used to order lots of stuff from ebay and most of it was shipped by fedex. Peace.

on April 17, 2006 06:30 PM
# Scrooge said:

How's this for a joke. Open a Citbank account in country x and another in country y and then try to transfer money between your 2 accounts. Citibank offer NO benefits over transferring to their own bank rather than the bank of Timbuctu.
The easiest and cheapest method if you regularly transfer money overseas is to get a supplimentary card and mail it to a trusted friend and have them pull money from a local ATM for $1-2 a shot. The drawback is you can only get around $800 each time.

on April 18, 2006 08:11 PM
# Caz said:

In regard to the entry on B of A.....I second that emotion!

I have had a nitemare spannng over 10 years and 2 states and several different branches. Mine as ell started in California.

To be honest, I cannot even understand how they are still in business.

I had a personal account with them. Started a business account and they had a promotion going on. The lady that had opened my personal account was there and I spoke with her to open the business account (obviously thinking she knew what she was doing...NOT).
She suggested that I open a third account which would be joint with my husband and she would get some kind of extra points???? wanting to help her out we transferred our joint account to B of A and thats where the nitemare began.
When she put in her paperwork, seems she transposed the numbers of the new accounts and all our money was going into a business account . So...when we paid bills, NSFs were starting to pile up. We couldnt understand it. So I called the Manager of that branch....so please dont deal with the Paramount, CA branch., it took her over a day to figure out that the account numbers AND the money was all assigned to and deposited to WRONG ACCOUNT NUMBERS....

Final word? dont even deal with B of A....they cant open an account much less transfer monies from one country to another. That would be a tad "out there" for them and Im sure it would take forever.

On the other hand, Compass Bank has always been a good one for me. Anyone?

on April 21, 2006 03:50 PM
# Robert in Hawaii said:

Here's an idea which I started using for international purchases for my business. (I used to send many int'l wire transfers from Hawaii to China & Thailand)

Get either a cashiers check ($8) for the full amount, or for smaller purchases, a money order from 7-11 ($1.00 each for up to $500), then send via U.S. Expres Mail, Insured.

the cost is $20.00 (excluding insurance), and usually arrives within 2-3 days. Also, it can be tracked online.

Sure beats dealing with the bone-heads @ the bank and paying a ridiculious $35 wire fee! I HATE BANKS!

on April 25, 2006 03:10 PM
# free government money said:

Nice site. Check out ours sometime...free money grants

on April 26, 2006 03:02 PM
# Niki said:

I had some problem too a while ago. I went to the bank wanted to transfer some funds and employee from TD Canada Trust told me that it will take under 24 hours to transfer. I thought, Hey thats pretty fast, but then I was explained that in approximently 24 hours my money will be processed but not transfered, so after the money is transfered then I'll have to wait for the money to get to point B, in anonymous time? Whats up with that, like you said it's 2006, bank companies should be able to predict exactly when and what time will the shippment get to it's destination.

on April 26, 2006 03:27 PM
# Cathy said:

Help, I've wired some money last week from California, through Citibank in New Yark, and then to New Zealand - and it's ????where. (I see now I should have done it some other way.) I have a fedwire reference number, does anyone know how can I trace it?? Thanks.

on May 5, 2006 09:55 PM
# John said:

If you do business with the Treasury Department and buy short term TBills, you bid by noon on Monday. The following Thursday is the settlement day. You can be certain that the amount you bid will be withdrawn from your account on Thursday. Anyone know when the government actually has use of those funds?

on May 8, 2006 08:55 AM
# Samuel Chen said:

I just experienced the DHS trouble recently. My sister wired about 50K US dollars to my bank account in China almost two months ago. The bank waited for two weeks before it asked my sister to sumbit my SSN and DOB because the DHS figured out from my name that I have been to US before. Then nothing happened for about a month and a half, I kept checking my bank account in China and pushed the bank of china to check if a wire transfer went missing, those poor patient BOC staff!. Then my sister went to the US bank and they replied that the fund is still not cleard from DHS yet. What the fxxk is this? How could American companies conduct international business with a government as idiotic as this? What if I am in urgent need of this money? I really hate those idiotic bastards in DHS.

on May 15, 2006 09:01 PM
# Jeremy Smith said:

I did a wire transfer today from Bank of America to another bank. The wire transfer was initiated at 12:55 PM CST and I had my brother check his account just after 1:00 and the money was there...

on June 6, 2006 07:04 PM
# Ken Clemons said:

The people who work in banks are about a few IQ points above the burger flipper. I had a manager of a bank asking me questions about how to fill out the bank form after presenting a performa invoice to her from an overseas merchant. It is in her job description to know this stuff...that would be like a doctor asking you, "well you think I should cut here or here"? Nevertheless, the money was sent to the wrong account and the whole inconvenience is preventing me from receiving a product before a deadline. Banks do suck sometimes.

on September 8, 2006 09:39 AM
# The Jackal said:

(I just posted this at Techdirt here: http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20060405/0939226, but it's also relevant to this thread. One comment I wanted to make specific to this thread: someone mentioned that ACH is much better and more modern than wire transfers. Maybe so, but the chief disadvantage is the delay while it processes and settles. They're not instantaneous or even same-day. Is there another alternative?)

Glad to see I'm not the only one that thinks that the way financial institutions transfer money is antiquated. I began suspecting that there had to be a better way of doing things once I opened an online savings (5% interest) account and had to start moving money into it--a three-day delay for ACH transfers? Sheesh--for an electronic system, I'd expect either real-time or at most one business day (if they batch it at the end), but three days? How old-fashioned is that?

I really started getting frustrated when a family member needed an emergency $200 loan while I was out of town. Between my local credit union and my online savings account, I had several options, but none was the right combination of fast, cheap and easy. I ended up wiring money to her account, but at $18.75, that's not a good deal. And wires *still* require a human on the back-end to verify the info. We need to come up with a system that's instantaneous, easy, and free.

Let me cover some of the options in today's arena:

1. PayPal: Several people mentioned PayPal. It's a start, but as mentioned by others, PayPal suffers (or has in the past suffered) from some questionable business practices. Really, PayPal isn't a new invention: it's instantaneous because everyone holds their accounts with the same company (PayPal). The same effect would happen if everyone in the world had accounts at CitiBank--Citi allows their customers to instantaneously transfer money to other CitiBank accounts. There's nothing really innovative about PayPal except that they don't make everyone go through the rather difficult process of applying for and opening accounts--all you need to receive money is an email address. (The reason I'm not big into PayPal is that when you actually start needing the money in your PayPal account, you still need to use ACH transfers and wait three days for your money to show up in your checking account.)

2. ACH push/pull: There are two problems with ACH: one, it's slow (three days? Gah!) and two, it's only for use between accounts owned by the same person. The process of verifying accounts is still long and arduous (mailing a voided check in or waiting three days for trial deposits). It does no good if you need to bail out your kid or Aunt Sally (unless, as one poster said above, that person files an ACH push-only acceptance form--which not all banks may offer). The ACH system is a start, but it's really just a way of processing the back-end stuff without really changing the way we do stuff on the front end. Oh, and many banks charge for ACH transactions (especially push transactions)--while it may only be a buck or two, that's still enough to make me think twice about using it and writing a check instead (which surely costs them a bit in labor costs to deal with it).

3. Wire transfers: The biggest problem with this is that it's not free. It's not even cheap. The main reason is because it's not automated. Monkeys in the back room have to process the wire transfer request and send out a transfer to the receiving bank, which has to have their monkeys in the back room process the request and accept the funds. Monkeys have to be paid (expensive bananas, I guess), and also the 800-pound gorilla of wire transfer networks (Western Union) sets their fees in a monopolistic fashion. The smaller chimps follow. The other downside to it not being automated is that it only happens during daylight (bankers') hours. I can't send money in the middle of the night. And sometimes on heavy days, banks may not get through all of the wire transfer requests.

4. One of the better options involves the use of the international credit unions' shared branching network, affectionately known as the "CU Swirl" network. This network allows most anyone with an account at a participating credit union to access his or her account at any other participating credit union. It's mostly designed to let people access their accounts while out of town, but it has a hidden benefit: I can go to the teller at my credit union, withdraw funds from my account, and deposit them in an account at another credit union (whether it's owned by me or not)--all I need is the name of the other credit union and the account number. (In fact, I could even do this from a third credit union not affiliated with the other two--actually kind of scary, if you think about it. It's probably not that hard for someone to fake an ID and pretend they're you and withdraw funds out of your account...)

5. The old cash-and-carry method alluded to by a few people above. It's fast (assuming the necessary branches are within easy driving distance) and almost fraud-proof and secure (except for getting robbed at gunpoint while carrying the cash), but it's labor-intensive and certainly doesn't have that "cool" factor.

6. The European method: the second poster mentioned being able to send funds to any other account in Europe while he was in Poland. I've read just enough to guess that he's referring to the European Giro system (although it could be something else). I haven't yet been able to find much info on it, but it sounds like the Europeans are (as usual) much more advanced than we are when it comes to technical things like this. Anyone able to contribute more info on this?

Cash is still king (although reports of it being dethroned by credit and debit card usage might have some truth to them), but the main method of money transfer between people--checks--is really an antiquated way of doing it. Debit cards (especially PIN-based transactions) are much more appropriate in today's world for retail transactions (technologically speaking, PIN-based debit card transactions are more "modern" and real-time than signature-based VISA/MasterCard debit or credit card transactions, which are still end-of-day batch/ACH-transfer-based and also require a paper record), but that's not an appropriate solution for person-to-person transfers. In the future, I envision a network that allows instantaneous (real-time), free transfers directly from one account to another, using online banking (which could also be accessed from a hopefully-better-designed cellular phone Web interface to provide access to your money anywhere). But, alas, for the reasons mentioned by others--the fact that banks make money off of their slowness--I doubt this will happen any time soon. As someone mentioned, the most innovation is likely to be by credit unions (whose chief concern is their members), although I don't know if there are any sufficiently large enough to undertake developing such a system.

Just me dreamin'...

on October 3, 2006 12:06 AM
# said:

I cant stand bank of america two weeks ago a company sent us a wire transfer on wednesday as they always do, wednesday night it was available. This week with thanks giving on thursday we figured maybe it will be delayed a day, its now monday and the funds are still not available a person in their wire department said it can take up to 3 days to become available its a F*****G wire there is nothing to clear no wait time the money is there as good as cash. So we called B o A and asked why it wasn't available and they said it always takes 3 days well what about the other week when we had it on wednesday they told us they dont know its impossible the company must have sent it out on monday...Well this other company is another bank and each and every wednesday they send the wire not monday not tuesdya but wednesday i dont know what BoA's problem is but the shit they have put me through is beyond belief.

on November 27, 2006 05:33 AM
# Joy said:

Hi im an Australia, im currently living in Phoenix, AZ and have a BOA account. My father wanted to send money from his bank account(via wire transfer) to my BOA account, but after reading these posts im not quite sure if i should give him the green light or tell him to send it with Western Union or send it in the mail? which method would be least costly fees wise? PLEASE HELP coz he wanted to send it b4 my birthday which happens to be christmas eve, so not much time. Any advice is grantly appreciated. Thanks

on December 18, 2006 11:06 PM
# Cindy said:

Have any of you heard of the Virtual Money card?
Its great to tranfer money in 5 seconds for $3.00

on February 7, 2007 08:40 AM
# photon said:

American banking system lags far far behind that in Asia or Europe. In South Korea, it takes literally a few seconds (this is not a typo. It's really a few seconds) to transfer money between two accounts at different banks. You can do it online, over the phone (phone banking), or at an ATM around the clock (24/7).

To Koreans, it's really puzzling how services like paypal could even exists.

BTW, sending money from my account in Korea to BoA in CA was not that slow considering the antiquated state of the US banking infrastructure. It shows up in my BoA account in a day or so and the full amount of fund is available for withdrawl in a few days.

on February 10, 2007 02:08 AM
# Peeved.. said:

I've been coming across and realizing myself just how outrageously antiquated we are in interbank transfers.. Have two accounts, one at an FCU and the Other with Citibank. Both say "up to 3 days" (for a standard transfer). I could not believe that this is the case in this 'technological' day and age. Anyway, I have a question. How is it, that when you use Paypal to pay for a purchase, they have the ability to withdraw funds from your checking account *instantaneously* but no other bank has this ability?? What form of transfer are they using that is only available to them?? And can we utilize this service/technology independently (outside of paypal, for other accounts)?

on February 11, 2007 08:36 PM
# think said:

What's the difference between direct deposit and wire transfer? Or Paypal withdraw?
You have immediate access to your money (visit a teller or atm) but wire transfer takes up to 3 days. Why is that?
Come on think people. Really think.

The answer is "Government". It's not the bank people. Bank needs to wait for the funds to clear from the government. Imagine if one walked up to a teller and deposited $500,000 US in cash and ask for it to be transferred to Columbia. Does it raise any suspicion with you? Money laundering, drug trafficking are a few things I can think of.

And don't compare Amercian Banking with Korea. Citibank is bigger then all the Korea banked added together. Managing 1000000000000000 accounts is alot harder then managing 10000000 accounts.

on February 13, 2007 01:36 PM
# Carsten Cumbrowski said:

Funny, your blog comes up on the first page for "iban wire transfer usa Europe consumers" (at the "other" search engine). I skimmed the post and chuckled and had to respond (almost a year later).

It is 2007 now and the United States banking industry is still living in the international banking stone age.

Some of it is not or only slowly adapted on purpose. The "late fees", because of "delays" somewhere in the pipe, which is not the banks problem and only yours and the "overdraft fees" business are huge.

on February 26, 2007 12:38 PM
# said:

Well, it is March 15, 2007. We had a wire transfer coming from Norway of $5000. and was sent on Feb. 19th, we have not seen it yet in our account. We had our father-in-law, who sent the money, do a trace, and it was sitting in Brussels, they had a back-log. They said it would be in our account by end of this week...I am not holding my breath...as I see that the real delay may just beginning. Does anyone know why Brussels is delaying this as well???

on March 15, 2007 12:42 PM
# Dan said:

On the subject here, I wanted to warn people that wire transfers using internet companies can be outrageously expensive. For a meeting I had to go to, they would only accept a bank transfer - no Paypal, no credit cards, how stupid. Anyway, I used a service I found on the internet orderwires.com (other names: currencysource.com, ordercurrency.com, travelcurrency.com). I did not trust them so I tried to find problems with them on the internet, but did not find any. Anyway, I went ahead and used them. Of course, the first thing I asked them was the cost, and they said $25. Ha. It was $25 plus an exchange rate that would shame my cousin Vido, adding approximately 20% + $25 to an $800 transfer. They did not even give me any documentation of the cost until I requested it. When I called them to complain of such a high cost, they acted like I was born yesterday and that this is normal. Argh!
My advice: use a local bank.

on April 2, 2007 08:10 AM
# Carsten Cumbrowski said:

Dan: "My advice: use a local bank.".

"Great" advice! :) My local bank charges $35 for an international wire (which I would enter myself into the computer, if my bank would let me). Great bargain.

You know what, getting a paper money order in the branch, sending it via mail to the destination and cash/deposit there cost less than 1/3 of that, but takes a lot more time and human labor for all involved parties. Or I send a personal paper check that is free with my bank (even the deposit, if in USD).

"Unfortunately" have European banks a different fee structure and make the personal check an expensive way of transferring money. But you know what, they charge a lot less (if any) fee if you wire the money yourself (a service that is available at most European ATM's and of course online).

Virtually no manual labor for the bank, it's fast, has less sources of potential problems that could result in an error = is a lot cheaper to do than messing around with paper documents (e.g. checks).

Hence, paper work = more expensive and less available than self-service electronic transfer = cost virtually nothing and fee structures that reflect that.

U.S. Banks seem not to have made this cost/fee analysis yet or U.S. paper and computers work differently in this country than anywhere else hehe.

on April 6, 2007 12:02 PM
# Ram said:

I guess sending a check will be much easier than a wire transfer . does the check cashed by a foreign bank also go through DHS ?

on April 22, 2007 08:17 AM
# fitzit said:

Answer to some questions posted here:

The ACH network as it exists in May of 2007 allows debit/ credit between all US odfi's, debit/credt to/from some Canadian ODFI's and US Odfi's, and credit from US odfi's to Mexican National ODFI's.

There is also a time line and some effect for a EU ACH but with so many countries and a 1000 years of banking rules to over come don't hold your breath. Several national banks are already tryig it though.

Paypal can debit your checking account seemingly instantly using CHECK21, digital transaction legislation that has been in existance from 2004 forward, any bank can also do (this most don't) There is little to no motivation for the banks to adopt sameday settlement from Check21. The movement is coming from Third Party Senders and Third Party Originators under NACHA rules using the system by offering check reading and Virtual Terminals to merchants who are screaming for same day settlement. Why? In the US is it agaist the law to cash a check until you ship the goods, only to find out three days after you shipped the goods that the check did not clear? Yes.

NACHA is trying to do away with WEB and TEL coded ACH all together. There has been huge fraud over the last 10 years from outbound tel and anything online involving recurring subscriptions. This would not effect ODFI's though as the billpay you use in a banks application does not get coded as WEB.

Now questions from me to the forum as it is.
Anybody here still use SWIFT, or even heard of it?
Anyone here aware of a US based bank that has online account sign up and online origination of wire transfers?
Fianlly, anyone here into online or virtual Digital Currencies such as E-Gold.

Nice blog Jeremy, a litte ranty but fun.

on May 8, 2007 10:00 PM
# Carsten Cumbrowski said:


thanks for the information. Here my answers to your questions.

"Anybody here still use SWIFT, or even heard of it?"

yep, heard of it and used it. I also educated the clerks at the local branch of my bank about its existence. Yeah, I know, you can not simply walk into the bank and ask them what their SWIFT code is. That's mean hehe. It has been a while since I used it though.

"Anyone here aware of a US based bank that has online account sign up and online origination of wire transfers?"

yes and no. ePassporte.com allows wire transfer to be initiated online, but they are more like a Paypal. Not suitable for a checking or savings account. Fee for wire transfers is the usual. :(

"Finally, anyone here into online or virtual Digital Currencies such as E-Gold."

Gold in Heroes of Might and Magic, oh, like real money.. nah :)

"Nice blog Jeremy, a little ranty but fun."

Good topic to rant about. Not really search related, but who cares. hehe


on May 9, 2007 08:08 PM
# Carsten Cumbrowski said:

Hi Fitzit,

Quick update for you. I recently read the print version of the magazine "Digital Transactions" and guess what, it had several articles to the topic of electronic transactions, including international wire transfers, electronic bill pay and the ability to wire money from any bank account to any other bank account (at the same or different bank).

The magazine is also available online in PDF format (free).
Here is the link to the Issue. It's good read and also mentions some alternative services that sound promising.



on June 4, 2007 06:47 AM
# Gary said:

I went to the bank today to transfer money from Hawaii to Virginia. I asked for a wire transfer and they wanted $75. asked them, for what? I mean, don't they now process all their check electronically. How hard is it to send money to another bank. I don't by their excuse especially since my employer can transfer money into my bank account for free. Well, I took a cashiers check instead (they offered that free) and went to FedEx and overnight it to Virginia. Funny thing is that it will get to them before the wire transfer at less cost.

And it is not against the law to send more than $10,000. It is against the law to send more than $10,000 of cash. A check is perfectly fine.

on August 3, 2007 10:26 PM
# Harry Shulman said:

Hi. My name is Harry Shulman, and I am a consumer class action attorney. We are investigating improper wire transfer fees, and in searching Google, I found your blog. If anyone received a wire transfer, and had the bank deduct wire transfer fees from the amount sent (I saw that this happened at least once in the comments, but outside the US), I would be interested in hearing from you. My email address is harry@millslawfirm.com. There may be something you can do to stop this.


Note: California law requires me to say that this is an advertisement for legal services.

on October 22, 2007 04:31 PM
# Bryan said:

I regularly do banking transactions at both US and European banks. I wouldn't say either system is "better," both systems have their pros/cons. If you find the US system very antiquated it is likely you are banking with the wrong company.

For example, French banks can work very well but everything is very bureaucratic and fees are high. Want a debit card on your current (checking) account? That will be 30€ per year, please. No interest, either. Want the card to defer the debit until the end of the month? That will be a higher fee. (No credit cards, which is ok.) Checks are usually free even though they are more expensive for the banks, go figure.

Consumer BillPay in the US generally will send payments electronically to most companies (even individuals can sign up to receive them). Checks are sent when the receiver has not set themselves up to accept payments electronically. If you want the ability to direct deposit (ACH) payments to anyone that gives you their banking details, a la Europe, consider an ING Electronic Orange Account. You can't write paper checks, but you can have them send electronic credits to anyone in the US with a bank account, or else mail a paper check if you wish.

The trouble is finding someone who can help you. If you are just an average customer at a huge mega-bank, this will be difficult. I am also extremely fee adverse (and hassle adverse!)

Many organizations offer wire transfers for a low fee or no fee if you do enough business with. Vanguard is an example, I use them for wires and they never charge me. I can call them if I need assistance and a real person will take care of me right away.

For sending international wire transfers, I've used XE.com. It takes some time to setup and verify an account, but then you can convert currency at extremely modest costs and excellent rates. To convert from US dollars, you can send the funds with a wire from your bank or they will ACH debit your account (naturally takes a bit longer). The funds can be sent to the receiving country (e.g. Euros to Germany) in either a check (slow, but FREE) or a wire (just $15 and sent immediately after they collect the dolloars.) For going the other way, I could send a wire in Euros to their bank or they also offered the ability to electronically credit their bank in the country that I was in (my bank charges much lower fees for this I find it just as fast.) International money payments are not instantaneous with their service however.

In the USA, there are a ton of banks, brokerage houses, and other financial institutions to choose from. Look around and find one that works for you and is cost effective for the transactions you need.

on January 1, 2008 06:15 AM
# S.O.S. said:

Ok, I have a Bank Of America checking account I signed up for online. I can go to any branch and deposit or withdraw money.

Anyways, I had a $940 wire sent to me from another country to here in the USA. It has been about 5 weeks now and when I call the local branch, they haven't seen any wire come in or be rejected.

If anyone needs more details on this, reply here. :)

I have the details sent to me from the company via email.

on January 3, 2008 11:15 PM
# Sid said:

Soo,it seem that a lot of people here are spreading misinformation. For ACH transfers, 3 days is the standard transfer time between bank accounts. The funds are withdrawn from the account the first day, (or the second depending on ACH cutoff times) the funds are transfered to the receiving bank the next day. The bank processes the incoming ACH deposit and the funds should be available the next day. There is no mystery here. The ACH company does not draw interest on the funds during this time and neither bank will hold the funds any longer then they would for any other type of ACH transaction. People seem to think that everything is instant... numbers just disappear on one computer screen and appear on another at the speed of light.. it just doesn't work like that. Not in the UK, not in the USA, not anywhere.

on January 31, 2008 03:35 PM
# said:

Type your comment here.

After you submit the comment, check your email. There will be
a link you need to click to make your comment visible.

Your email address WILL NOT appear on the site, so don't worry
about being anonymous, even if you think you are.

on March 5, 2008 11:21 AM
# madraida said:

I use Paystone to transfer funds to/from Canada/US.

The sender pays $1 to send funds.
The recipient pays $2 to cash out to a bank account.

on March 6, 2008 04:01 PM
# Fernando Imperator said:

Whoa! what a class of banking this post is. I'll add my two cents comparing my BoA experience in California with my banking experience in Brazil.

Brazilian banks really rock! They make a lot of money out of you, no doubt about it. They are breaking record after record of profitability. But there's no problem, because they provide a valuable service around here.

In Brazil, we have a national banking industry, much like in Canada, as I read above. So, wherever state you go (and there are a lot), you can always use the same banks. In a big city like mine (São Paulo), we have several bank stations wherever you go. Where I live, it's a 3-minute walk to one "bank agency" as we call it, and a 5 minute walk to another one of the same bank (Itaú). Now, Itaú is the biggest around, here, but you will hardly be more than 15-min walk from any major bank. That's just great.

About money transfers. In bank accounts of the same bank, you can do it by phone or online, or even in one of the hundreds of "eletronic cashiers" (which are like little terminals you can withdraw from - much like ATM but they don't look like the 80's), and it transfers instantly, real time. If you transfer to another bank, you can as well do it eletronically too, no big deal, we do it all the time, and it costs R$8 (about US$3) and it's on the recipient's account the next working day. Also, if I want (and I do it all the time), I may just write a check and deposit in the other bank's "eletronic cashier", they still have to check the envelope and all, but it it never takes more than one working day to do it. No bank transaction will ever take more than 48 hours, ever.

About debit cards: they are all connected real time. There's no such thing as overdraft fee in Brazil, because when you try to debit and you have no funds, it will say "NO FUNDS AVAILABLE" and you just don't buy things, because you have no money. You can try your credit card for that matter, but once it hits the limit, they ring the same alert.

When I lived in California, I opened a BoA account. The bank was very far from where I lived, although I lived in a small city (Sonora, CA). And I had no idea that I could buy stuff even if I had no money in my account, so I received about 11 overdraft fee notices in my mail. This was very frustrating and I understood right in my pocket what cultural differences and assumptions can cost you. I checked my balance in the ATM (didn't know they charged me for just viewing a screen, we do it for free here) and it costed a buck, and then I was charged an overdraft fee for trying to see my balance o_O The balance also was never up to date. Let's say I spent $50 about 5 hours ago, it still didn't show up, so I thought a had money.

just: what a mess!!

oh, and when I moved back to Brazil, I did not close my account. After 2 years or so, I called my bank agency of BoA to see if I still had the account. They said I never had an account there. I had my card in my hand, and told her all the info she needed, I even have the confirmation emails for the online banking subscription. She asked me my SSN and couldn't find anything. Now, I should have 5 or 10 dollars left there, but what if it was more money? How can an account disappear with no way to track it?

well, we're in 2009 now, and the bank crisis is really fucking the world somehow. Our banks in Brazil are very happy making a lot of money and serving us really well. Oh, and also our savings account here yield around 9%year + (just savings, no risk involved unless the bank crashes). well, just would like to add my complaint to the big pile of complaints already here. Maybe they change something.

Oh, and one very nice text is Robert Kyiosaki's new book in progress: http://www.conspiracyoftherich.com/chapter

on February 6, 2009 07:29 AM
# momoko said:

In winter of 2007 I sold my merchandises in Germany but by that time I was already in the US, where I live. There were two wire transfers, and one of them was initiated on December 3 in German time. As you know Germany is about half a day ahead of the States. I finally got the funding coming to my bank account on December 18th, which means 19th already in Germany. It took more than two weeks to "wire transfer" the funding!

And another transaction, also from Germany to US, took one week to arrive.

Now, this year, 2009, I am waiting for the wire transfer, again from Germany, which was initiated five days ago, and guess what? That's right! It has not been gotten here yet! But I am not surprised this time.

It is so very mysterious on what German banks are doing to keep this service extremely slow. When I get wire transfer money from Japan, I get the funding almost instantly. Yes, INSTANTLY!

Oh, one time someone put cash in a certified mail and mailed it to me. I think if the sender and receiver know each other very well and trust each other, just mailing bulk of cash might be the cheapest and stress free way to send money.... You just claim the content of the mail to be "document" or something.

Wire transfer from Germany to US really drive me crazy!

on September 18, 2009 03:32 PM
# Etalaze said:

I'm from Canada and I think fedex is a lot faster, because I used to order lots of stuff from ebay and most of it was shipped by fedex. So i love DHL and Fedex this guys are realy fast.

on July 26, 2010 02:08 PM
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