You have two options when sending money electronically: an ACH transfer or a wire transfer. Deciding which to use most often depends on how quickly you want the money to 'arrive' at its destination.
What is an ACH Transfer?
Many of us are familiar with automated clearing house (ACH) transfers in the form of bill pay. An ACH transfer goes through a clearing house each day, and this is where it gets its name. These transactions are actually processed in batches. Instead of money being available immediately, a receiving bank collects information about all of the transactions. At the end of the day, all of the transactions are batched and processed as a single transaction. Funds aren’t actually available until the day following the batch transaction in many cases.
You can use ACH transfers to set up recurring payments, such as bills. Additionally, when you transfer money from an account at one bank to to an account at another, or withdraw money from an investment account or a PayPal account and have it transferred to your bank account, you can use an ACH transfer. However, you need to be aware of the lag time. When you set up an ACH transfer, it can take three or four business days for processing. This is because the money won’t leave the sending bank until the batch is processed. Once the receiving bank has the money, it has to be batched and processed before it can be made available. The process is easier for the banks, and less expensive, but might not be as convenient for you.
Using a Wire Transfer Instead
Most consumers choose to use an ACH transfer because many banks won’t charge a fee
(not yet, anyway) when you use this service. A wire transfer, though,
is another matter. Wire transfers occur in real time, with a direct
connection bank to bank. The wire transfer requires that your bank
establish a direct and secure connection with the receiving bank. When
you send money, it happens instantly, without waiting for batching.
you might imagine, though, a wire transfer is more expensive. The
effort involved with arranging an individual transfer instead of a batch
ACH transfer results in higher fees. Some banks will charge a flat fee,
while others charge a percentage of the transaction. Before you make
use of a wire transfer, find out from your bank how much it will cost.
wire transfer is often used when the money needs to be in place
quickly. If you are running against a deadline, and don’t have time to
wait for the funds to go through the clearing house method, a wire
transfer might be worth it. A $15 fee for a wire transfer might be worth
the cost if the alternative is a $35 late fee. Additionally, if you are
sending a large amount of money, and you want to ensure that it arrives
securely, a wire transfer might be preferred.
As you consider your needs, determine which type of transfer is most likely to serve your purposes. In many cases, as long as you plan ahead so that the money arrives when it should, an ACH transfer is usually the way to go.