Last Updated on July 28, 2021 by pf team
Whether you need to send money, make a payment, or move your own money, there are several ways to transfer money from one bank to another, but sometimes the reason for sending money determines the best way to make the transfer.
How to transfer money between your own accounts bank to bank (ACH)
You may have seen the term ACH used in reference to bank transfers or automated payments.
ACH is an abbreviation for the Automated Clearing House Network, which is one of the largest payment networks in the world.
If you have direct deposit for your paychecks or automatic debit payments from your bank account, that’s ACH at work behind the scenes.
The majority of ACH items are processed by the Federal Reserve, but a number of ACH associations operate nationwide to transfer money from one bank to another and provide the corresponding account number for the debit or credit amount when the transfer is processed.
Many banks allow you to send ACH transfers to another account you have at another bank
Typically, you can expect to pay a few dollars for the convenience of sending money this way — although it may also be free — and usually there is no charge to receive funds through an ACH transfer.
What you may find, however, is a fee for same-day availability when your bank receives the funds.
Each bank has its own fee structure. In most cases, an ACH transfer takes 1-2 days, although it’s possible that the transfer can take longer.
Very little information is needed to complete an ACH transfer
When sending money from one account to another, you’ll need the routing number, which is a 9-digit number that identifies your bank, and you’ll need your account number, which tells the bank which account to credit with the transferred funds.
Your bank may require identification or a transfer request form, but neither of these affects how the ACH transfer is processed.
The routing number and account number for the sending account are also used to know which account to debit and at which bank.
If your bank has a presence in another country, it may be possible to use an ACH transfer to move money from one account to another, making ACH a viable option for some international money transfers.
Check with your bank for details if you need to send money to an account in another country.
ACH is an integral part of many peer-to-peer (P2P) payment service networks as well and provides a way to move money into your payment service network account from your bank account or move money out of your payment network account into your bank account.
Payment services are convenient once you have an account set up, but if your needs are limited to a simple transfer from one bank account to another without writing a check, your local bank or credit union can usually help you complete the transaction.
How do I transfer money to someone else's bank account (wire transfer)?
When you think of wire transfers, you might begin to feel like you’re in a spy movie, but wire transfers are neither mysterious nor exotic. They are usually fast, however.
It’s common that a domestic wire transfer can be completed within hours and sometimes just minutes. International wires can take up to 2 days.
A wire transfer is a direct bank-to-bank transfer of funds using a real-time clearinghouse, like Fedwire or SWIFT.
Wire transfers can be done either domestically or internationally. In the US, one of the most common uses of wire transfers is when buying a house and verified funds are required.
There are also business-use cases to use a wire transfer or you might use a wire transfer if you need to get money to someone quickly. That speed comes at a price, though.
Typically, there is a charge ranging from $15 to $45 to send money via wire transfer. Incoming wire transfers may be subject to a fee as well.
Another distinction between ACH transfers is that wire transfers are irrevocable, whereas ACH transfers may have a window of opportunity to reverse the transaction.
In many cases, you’ll need to visit your bank or credit union in person to send a wire transfer, although some banks allow you to request a wire transfer online.
Whether you’re handling the transaction in person or online, there are some important numbers you’ll need to know, depending on whether your wire is being sent domestically or internationally.
Domestic wire transfer
For wire transfers within the US, you’ll need the same information you would need for an ACH transfer.
The transfer will require the routing number of the receiving bank as well as the account number of the receiving account.
Your bank may also require the recipient’s name and address.
Additional information about the sender, recipient, and reason for the transfer may be required by your bank or credit union as well but this information isn’t needed for the wire transfer itself.
International wire transfer
For sending a wire transfer to another country, the process is similar to sending a domestic wire transfer but there are different ways of identifying the receiving bank or the receiving account.
For example, here is a summary of the international wire transfer requirements of one major bank in the US:
- Recipient bank name, address, and country
- Recipient account number (CLABE for Mexico or an IBAN)
- Recipient bank’s SWIFT/BIC or National ID
- Currency of the recipient’s account (US dollars or foreign currency)
- Purpose of the wire
Depending on the country of the wire recipient, the account number can have a different structure.
An IBAN, for example, is an International Bank Account Number and can contain coded information about the country, bank branch, and account number.
An IBAN number is more common, but certain countries use other types of account identifiers, like CLABE, an 18-digit code used for bank accounts in Mexico.
The equivalents of a routing number in the US are called either a Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) code or a Bank Identifier Code (BIC), which are interchangeable terms for the same type of code.
Some wire transfer forms also ask for a National ID#, which is the equivalent of a Social Security number in the US and helps to identify the recipient.
Transfering money online peer to peer (P2P)
A number of payment services and money transfer services make it easy to send money within the US or internationally.
In most cases, these services work as an intermediary and require some extra steps when transferring money bank to bank.
To send money from your bank account, often you’ll first need to move money from your bank account to your holding account with the payment service via ACH.
This process can take a day or two. Once you’ve transferred the money, getting the money back into a bank account can take another day or two.
For peer to peer payment services to work, both parties have to have an account with the same service.
Without some creative money juggling, there usually isn’t an easy way to send money from payment service A to payment service B.
One payment service that works differently is Zelle, which is already integrated with many banks and credit unions and provides a convenient way to perform ACH transfers to other parties.
If you’re interested in using Zelle for transfers, check with your bank first.
There’s a good chance that Zelle is already supported and you’ll just have to complete a quick setup to choose accounts. You can also set up an account directly with Zelle.
To send money with Zelle, the recipient also needs to be set up with Zelle, after which you can send money with just an email address or a phone number.
Zelle takes care of the rest and doesn't charge a fee to send or receive money.
A number of peer to peer payment platforms can be used to send money as well:
A pioneer in online payments, PayPal remains a popular way to make payments or send money using just an email address.
Many online stores also support PayPal, which means you can use your balance without having to first transfer the balance to your bank account.
PayPal also offers a debit card, which provides an easy way to use the funds in your account. Depending on the type of transaction, there may be a fee for the recipient when sending money.
In addition to fees, another possible concern with payment services, including PayPal, is that account balances can be frozen for a variety of reasons and the freeze can last up to 180 days, during which time account funds can’t be used or withdrawn.
One advantage of PayPal, when compared with other platforms, is that PayPal allows international transfers. Many other services limit transfers to domestic transfers.
Owned by PayPal, Venmo is a popular money transfer app that offers free transfers from one person to another.
You can also link your Venmo account to your PayPal account, which then allows you to make purchases with your account balance.
Another popular payment service app is Square Cash, which can be linked to a bank account or act as a standalone virtual wallet, storing your cash in dollars or in Bitcoin.
Square Cash also offers a debit card to use the funds in your account.
Google Pay Send
The replacement for Google Wallet, Google Pay Send allows free peer to peer domestic money transfers.
Recipients don’t need to have an account already set up with Google Pay Send; you can send money using a phone number or email address and the recipient has 15 days to claim the funds, after which unclaimed funds are returned to you.
Google Pay Send isn’t limited to Android devices. The service can also be used on iOS devices or online.
For iOS devices only, you also have the option of using Apple Cash to send money to others.
There is no fee for using Apple Cash to send, request, or receive money and Apple Cash is tied to your Apple Pay account, so you can use funds for purchases or payments where accepted.
Like some other services, Apple Cash is limited to domestic transfers.
If you link a credit or debit card to a payment service, it’s possible to fund your transfer faster than by an ACH transfer, but you may be charged a processing fee for using a credit or debit card.
Be aware that some services do not support credit cards.
Cash, check, money order, or cashier’s check
With all the high-tech ways to transfer money, it may seem strange to consider paper options, but paper still has its appeal.
After all, your payment can’t disappear into the digital ether, leaving you discussing the missing funds with online support chatbots.
With many types of paper-based money transfers, however, you may want to handle the transaction in person.
- Cash: Mailing cash isn’t safe, so you’ll want to deliver the cash in person or deposit the cash in person.
- Checks: Checks are routinely mailed, but delays can be a concern if you need fast access to the funds. Checks for over $200 can take 2 business days before the deposit hold is lifted.
- Money orders: Money orders are guaranteed funds, but may be subject to the same deposit hold as checks. Expect to pay a small fee for money orders and face amounts are usually capped at $1,000.
- Cashier’s check: A Cashier’s Check is a guaranteed payment, much like a money order, but the cost of the check is often about $10. One advantage over a money order is that the face amount for a cashier’s check can exceed $1,000, making it a viable option for sending larger amounts of money.
What is the easiest and safest way to transfer money from one bank to another?
Safest and easiest may not be the same thing when it comes to making money transfers.
Often, the reason you’re sending money can be the deciding factor in the transfer method you choose.
For sending money to pay for a transaction, the other party may accept an ACH transfer, but larger transactions may require a wire transfer or certified check.
In many cases, the best option for sending money to family or friends in the US is Zelle.
Well-integrated with banks and credit unions, Zelle offers fast transfers via ACH without the risk of third parties holding funds.
It isn’t uncommon for third-party payment service accounts to be frozen for various reasons, which can put transferred funds at risk and make funds unavailable when needed.
Zelle was founded by a consortium of large banks and continues to extend its reach to regional banks and credit unions, making the service more convenient. In 2018, nearly $120 billion in payments were sent through Zelle.
For larger transfers or for international money transfers, a wire transfer may be the best option.
You’ll have to be careful with the transfer details, however, because wire transfers often can’t be reversed.
If the wrong account gets the money, you may be at the mercy of the account owner’s willingness to return the money to you.
How long does it take to transfer funds from one bank to another?
Expect ACH transfers to take 1 to 2 days for domestic transfers within the US before funds are available. Often, funds are available the next day, however.
Transfers done through payment services may be instant — but if you need the funds in a bank account, the additional transfer can add another 1 to 2 days to the process.
Domestic wire transfers are often completed the same day or even in less than an hour.
International wire transfers can take several days and may pass through various international clearinghouses during the process.
Are bank transfers safe?
Every type of money transfer has risk. Some of the most convenient methods of sending money also have the most risk.
Take a step back from the appeal of convenience to consider how the transaction is handled and who else may have access to the funds.
Online payment services can be a target for hackers and a misplaced and unlocked mobile device can be the keys to your financial kingdom if you have money transfer apps installed.
Even ACH transfers, which only involve banks and clearinghouses, can have risk.
Although primarily the risk is that someone uses your routing number and account number for fraudulent payments.
Generally speaking, it’s reasonable to think that the more parties that are involved in the transaction, the more risk there may be.
In cybersecurity, this concept is referred to as a larger attack surface, in this case meaning more possible ways for the transaction to be compromised. Having fewer entities involved may be safer for a number of reasons.
There are limitless reasons for sending money to other people or moving money of your own from one account to another.
The reason for the transfer and the location of the sending and receiving accounts often guides the choice of the money transfer method.
Keep funds availability in mind when transferring money that someone may need in a hurry and always consider third-party risk. Convenience can have a cost that can’t be measured until there’s a problem with a transfer.