You can electronically transfer money from the U.S. to a German bank courtesy of the Fedwire system, which generally works more quickly and efficiently than mailing checks or drafts. However, you have to comply with both U.S. and German banking rules if you want to successfully move money.
The Federal Reserve Bank operates the Fedwire system to facilitate the transfer of funds between financial institutions both domestically and abroad. Transfers are irrevocable, so you need to ensure you direct money to the correct account. The Fedwire only operates between 9 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on standard business days. Many banks stop accepting wires an hour or more before the cutoff in order to have sufficient time to process transactions. Wires accepted after the cutoff time are processed on the next business day. The Fedwire system doesn't operate on weekends or federal holidays.
Every bank account in Germany and the rest of the European Union has an International Bank Account Number or IBAN. German law mandates the use of IBANs for cross-border money transfers. The IBAN begins with the nation's two-letter code, which for Germany is DE -- abbreviated from Deutschland. The rest of the 22-character code consists of a bank identifier number which designates a particular bank, and the actual account number. You must provide this information to your banker who can validate the number by entering it into the Fedwire system.
The Euro is the currency used in Germany and much of the rest of the European Union. When you send money to Germany, you have the choice of sending the funds as U.S. dollars or Euros. If you send the money as U.S. currency, it is converted to Euros upon receipt. Prior to sending the money, your bank must provide you with a remittance disclosure detailing any applicable fees and the exchange rate. The banker must also provide you with an estimate as to the sum of money, net of fees, that will appear in the recipients account.
The wire disclosures also include information about the timeframe for the transfer. Generally, international wires take two business days to complete. The process can take longer if you send money from a small regional bank. Such institutions are not equipped to send funds overseas and have to move the money through a larger intermediary bank. German banks operate similarly to banks in the U.S., meaning wire transfers are not subject to the kind of delays you experience with so-called "slow pay" countries. However, as with the U.S., German banks close for public holidays. Take such holidays into account when estimating the timeframe for the transfer.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: What are the New Federal Protections for Consumers Who Send Money Internationally?
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Remittance Transfer Rules
- NORDEA: IBAN Countries
- European Banking Resources: Germany Bank Account Number
- Bank of America: International Wire Transfers
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System: Fedwire Funds Services
- World Travel Guide: German Public Holidays