The tempo of contemporary culture seems to accelerate every day. This, in turn, affects human expectation which, in turn, again, ups the cultural and economic velocity of life. As a result, waiting becomes less and less tolerable. Waiting for flights and trains, food orders and deliveries, loan approvals and college admissions all create more stress than ever before. More stressful yet is waiting for money.
Fortunately, wire transfers allow individuals and entities to convey funds electronically, almost always within one business day, often in minutes and sometimes instantly. Yet those minutes can add up. After a while, the recipient wants to know what the hold-up is. How can they find out?
How Does a Wire Transfer Work?
To "wire" money hearkens back to an era where distance communication was performed via telegraph wires. Someone making a payment to another party would bring cash to the telegraph office, which would then contact the office close to the recipient and say that it was OK to release cash in the same amount to that person or business.
Things have since changed but the basics remain the same: a sender, a go-between or intermediary and a receiver. Still, the manner of conveyance has evolved considerably since the 19th century. In this day and age, senders need only to contact their own bank to send funds directly from their accounts. In order to deposit the desired amount into the recipient's bank, the sender must provide his or her own bank with the following:
- Receiver's name
- Receiver's bank account number
- Receiving bank's routing number
- Amount of money to be sent
More About Wire Transfers
Funds need not be conveyed bank-to-bank, though. Alternatively, they can be sent person-to-person by means of a third-party communicator like Western Union or MoneyGram. In this case, the sender needs to show up with cash or certified funds before any such electronic delivery can be made. Electronic technology allows wire transfers between banks to occur very quickly, and enables both domestic and international transfers.
While many of these are processed rapidly and without a hitch, not all wire transfers are created equal. Any wire over $10,000 (USD), for example, must appear on a currency transaction report (CTR) to be reviewed by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Even wire amounts under $10,000 will be examined if the bank deems the particulars of the transfer request to be suspicious.
Meanwhile, any wire transfers going overseas must first be assigned a code by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). If one of the banks is affiliated with the Federal Reserve System, the money must be conveyed through the Federal Reserve Wire Network. Such procedures and evaluations add to the time it takes for funds to get from source to destination.
Can You Track the Wire Transfer Status?
Essentially, those people sending money can find out if a wire has been initiated by simply checking the available balance in the account to be accessed. If the money is still there, there is a delay at your bank, the point of departure, and you might want to call the branch for a wire transfer time estimate before funds are released. The recipient needs only to check the balance – at the branch, an ATM or online – of his or her account to know whether the funds have arrived.
Should the wire be interrupted in process, the transmitting bank has the capacity to determine the nature of the delay. Some countries are slower to receive. Make sure the recipient account information is correct.
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.