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What is a Wire Transfer Routing Number?

By Grayson Millar
Updated May 16, 2024
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A wire transfer is an electronic transfer of funds between individuals through one or more financial institutions, often from one individual's bank account to the bank account of another person, whether domestic or international. In addition, wire transfers are commonly used to pay bills with a bank account, sometimes in the form of an electronic check. A wire transfer routing number identifies the financial agency that is conducting the electronic transfer, both sending and receiving, in the same manner as a bank account number identifies the individual sending or receiving the funds. Bank wire transfers are an efficient and secure method of sending money. There are also wire transfer companies that conduct electronic transfers for individuals who do not have bank accounts, these agencies too are identifiable by a wire transfer routing number.

Similar to a routing number on a check, this routing number identifies one bank to another when a transfer is received. Moreover, a routing number identifies the institution to which the funds will be transferred to the transferring institution. When a bank receives a wire transfer, it also receives the bank account numbers of the individuals sending and receiving the funds in order to route the funds from institution to institution, and from individual to individual.

When used for electronic bill pay, a wire transfer routing number identifies the bank and individual account to the agency receiving the payment's financial institution in order to transmit the specified funds. In most cases, both the sending and receiving institutions will charge a service fee for a wire transfer. When money is transferred between individuals, the sending individual will pay a fee to his or her bank and the receiving individual will have a fee deducted from the amount received by his or her bank. In bill pay transactions, the individual paying the bill may be charged a fee by both her or his bank and the agency receiving the payment.

Retail wire transfer companies ordinarily maintain a retail establishment to process cash into electronic funds transfers. These agencies also charge a fee for their services, and in some cases both sending and receiving individuals may be required to pay for services. Despite the seemingly instant speed of electronic transfers, most wire transfers require a certain amount of processing time, which may be several hours or several days depending on the institutions in question. Domestic transfers are normally conducted bank to bank with a wire transfer routing number, while banks generally conduct international transfers through an agency that specializes in global transfers.

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Discussion Comments
By anon348502 — On Sep 17, 2013

If I want to transfer funds from my pay pal account to my bank account, which routing number I must use?

By myharley — On Oct 04, 2012

I don't understand why some companies charge a fee to have money sent electronically and others don't. Some times when I go to pay a bill online, they will charge a fee for a debit card transaction, but don't charge anything if I use an electronic check.

This doesn't make sense to me because the money is coming out of the same account. I have my bank ABA number and bank account number memorized so I don't have to look it up in my checkbook every time I want to wire money this way.

I hardly ever write checks anymore and pay as much as I can electronically. I think this is definitely the way of the future and see checks as being obsolete some day.

By John57 — On Oct 04, 2012

In our age of electronic payments and communication we don't think anything about having money wired from one place to another. The process of doing a wire transfer has been around a long time though.

Many years ago people often used something like Western Union to wire money. This service is still available and if money is needed quickly, this is still the best way to go.

By honeybees — On Oct 04, 2012

When my son was living in another state he was robbed and had no money or identification. I used a wire transfer company to wire money from my bank to his bank. In a situation like this I didn't care if there was a fee or not, and expected that there would be one.

This is the first time I had wired money like this and the process was really simple. He was able to receive the money the same day so he at least had some extra cash available to him.

I paid a fee on my end to have the money wired, but there was no fee that needed to be paid on the other end. I could have transferred money to him through something like Paypal, but it would have taken 2-3 days for the money to show up.

By Mykol — On Oct 03, 2012

I pay most of my bills online and many times will use an electronic check to make the payment. I like the convenience of using electronic transfers to pay a bill, but if they charge a fee that is greater than a postage stamp, I will just send a check in the mail.

This probably doesn't make a lot of sense to some people, but if it is cheaper for me to send a check than pay by wire transfer, this is what I will do. Through my bank account I get free checks, so I am not paying anything extra for the check.

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