Money Transfer vs. Wire Transfer: What’s Really the Difference?

17-04-2020 | treasuryXL | XE |

And is there really a difference? The two methods follow the same process. You have someone that you want to send money to, and sending cash in the mail isn’t going to cut it. So, you take your money to another service provider, pay them, give them your recipient’s information, and let them take care of the heavy details. Within the next couple of days, they’ll receive the money and you’re all set until your next transfer.

For a lot of customers, the biggest difference is where you set up the transfer. Wire transfers tend to run through banks, while money transfers are facilitated by other providers. It seems like a no-brainer: you already go to your bank for other financial matters, and you trust them to handle your money and information.

But is that really the best option? Let’s take a few minutes to explore the difference between wire transfer and money transfer, and what that means for you (and your wallet).

Wire Transfer

Wire transfers are a form of electronic funds transfer (ETF) that travel through banks and financial institutions. And though we used the word “travel” in the previous sentence, there’s no physical money transport. Instead, your bank verifies that you have the funds for the transfer and sends information through the SWIFT system to your recipient’s bank that will tell them to credit their account with the funds.

Money Transfer

Like wire transfers, money transfers don’t transport any physical money but transmit financial information between the relevant parties. But as we said above, money transfers don’t go through banks (though), and they use their own communication systems instead of using the SWIFT system.

So, what’s the difference?

Is how they send the money the only real difference? That is the biggest difference, but it also leads to a few smaller (but important) distinctions. Traditional wire transfers and online money transfer differ in these key areas:

  • Depending on your bank, you may or may not need to set up your wire transfer in person. Electronic money transfers, on the other hand, can be initialized online, often any day or time.
  • The SWIFT system and other systems function in the same way, but SWIFT system transfers require a fee for using the system. Online money transfer can vary; some providers will have third-party fees, while others have just a small service fee.
  • SWIFT fees aren’t the only fees. Wire transfer is typically considered a premium service, and comes with a higher price tag than other services. When a money transfer provider doesn’t involve any third parties, the fees will be much lower.

Now that you know the difference between the two services, you’ll know which questions to ask your provider and what to look for in a transfer provider.


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