Wire Transfer vs. ACH

Electronic transfers of funds is a practical means of moving money from one place to another. It’s safe, convenient and trackable. Two of the most popular and established ways to move funds electronically include wire transfers and ACH transfers.

A wire transfer is a real-time way of moving funds and supporting data immediately between two financial institutions. An ACH transfer is similar to a wire transfer except that it uses a batch process.

Transfer speed

Wire transfers move funds from financial institution to another almost immediately, and are generally available the same business day, although it may sometimes take longer for the funds to reflect in the recipient’s account. International wire transfers may also take an additional day or two to process. ACH transfers usually take 2 to 3 business days to complete. This is because they are processed in batches, as opposed to wire transfers that are processed individually as they occur. However, modern advancements are speeding up the ACH process and payments are eligible for same-day treatment.

Certainty and safety

Because wire transfers are processed almost immediately, it’s important for the sender to have the available funds in their account before issuing the payment. As soon as the payment is issued the bank will immediately remove the funds from the sender’s account, allowing the recipient to use it as soon as it’s credited to their account. This is convenient for the recipient and also offers certainty that the money is cleared and available immediately. A wire transfer cannot be reversed. Wire transfers are relatively safe and aren’t often the targets of fraud or scams.

ACH transfers are also a safe form of transferring funds. One difference is that ACH transfers can sometimes be reversed. This occurs when a payment is made in error, and can also occur in fraudulent situations. However, banks must authorize any reversals, so the risk of fraudulent transfers out of an account is low.

As with every other type of electronic payment, sensitive account information will need to be entered when sending either a wire transfer or ACH transfer. This data can be intercepted if not treated in privacy and security by both sender and recipient.


Wire transfers are typically more expensive than ACH transfers. There’s almost always a fee to be paid for consumers sending a wire transfer, which will normally be higher still if using a credit card. Receiving a wire transfer is usually free, but some banks and unions may charge a small receiving fee.

ACH transfers are almost always free for consumers.

Which to use?

The differences between wire transfers and ACH transfers mean that they are suited to different needs. If you’re looking for speed and certainty, wire transfers are a better choice. If you’re willing to wait a few extra days and avoid the higher fees, ACH transfers may be more appropriate. Wire transfers are also more useful when making a large payment that needs to be guaranteed. ACH transfers are better suited to small and frequent payments, such as automatic utility bill payments, and employee salaries or wages.

For more information about wire transfers and ACH transfers or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to Charge.com.

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