How To Transfer Money From One Bank Account To Another: A Guide

by Ben Gran

Forbes Advisor

Friday May 28, 2021

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Stock image  (Source:Getty Images)

Transferring money is one of several common everyday banking transactions. You may use a transfer to move money from checking to savings, pay your credit card balance, pay bills or send money to friends or family. There are a few methods of transferring money from one bank to another that you need to be aware of, so you can move money as efficiently as possible while minimizing any fees.

Here are a few common ways to transfer funds, with various considerations for transaction times and expenses.


Transfers Between Connected Accounts

If you're the account holder of multiple accounts within the same bank, such as a checking account and a savings account, it's relatively easy and fast to set up a transfer between these connected accounts. This is also known as an "internal transfer" of funds. Go to your bank's online banking platform or mobile app and look for options on how to set up a funds transfer. You also should be aware of the pros and cons of linking your bank accounts.

You'll usually have the option of setting up a one-time transfer or a recurring transfer. Most banks will let you choose to transfer funds immediately (during the current business day) or to set a future transfer on a specific date. If your two accounts are already connected, the bank may approve the transfer to happen immediately, during the same business day. If you are connecting to a new account for the first time, it may take two to three business days for the first funds transfer to be processed.


Transfers to External Accounts

What if you have accounts at two different banks? For example, suppose you have an online savings account at a separate bank from your usual everyday checking account. In that case, you can connect your online savings account with your regular checking account and set up an "external transfer."

To transfer money to an external account, you will need the bank routing number and account number for both accounts — the external account receiving the transfer and the account from which you are transferring money. The bank that's going to receive your transfer may help you set up the transaction. Once the accounts are linked, you'll usually be able to make future transfers into that external account without reentering your routing number and account number every time.

Most bank transfers that you need to make in everyday life, such as signing up for direct deposit for your paycheck or using online bill pay, are types of electronic funds transfers (EFTs), where money is sent back and forth using electronic payment networks. One of the most common types of transfers occurs on an electronic funds transfer network called the Automated Clearing House (ACH). With an ACH payment, banks make payments on behalf of customers, verifying accounts and confirming amounts, moving money within one to three business days.

Most ACH bank transfers and other EFT payments are processed without any extra fees for customers, but be sure to check with your bank to make sure.


Peer-to-Peer Transfers

There are many payment apps available now — Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, Zelle and others — that help move money back and forth between people in peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers. These apps are a fast way to send money to friends or family or make payments to small businesses, often at no fee or for a low fee that equals a small percentage of the total transaction amount.

Make sure you understand the fees, timing and limitations of each P2P app before using it to transfer money. For example, Zelle has a transaction limit of $500 per week, Venmo lets you send $4,999 per week or less and Facebook Messenger's limits are subject to bank limits. Some payment apps do not allow international transactions — if you need to send money to someone in another country, you may need to choose a different payment method or be prepared to pay a larger fee.


Wire Transfers

If you need to transfer a more considerable amount of money, wire transfers can help you send money quickly and securely. However, wire transfers often come with a fee. The wire transfer fee depends on the bank and whether you're wiring money domestically or internationally, but it may cost anywhere from $15 to $50 or more to send or receive a wire transfer.

Wire transfers are generally considered to be a highly secure, fast way of sending money. If you're sending a wire transfer to another bank within the U.S., the funds might be available within one business day or even within a few hours. Sending an international wire transfer may take more time to process.

When making a wire transfer, make sure you are wiring money to the correct recipient and not a scam artist. Wire transfers can't be reversed once they are processed.


Writing Paper Checks

Another simple way to transfer money from one bank to another is a low-tech, classic option: writing a check. When you write a check, you are authorizing your bank to transfer funds to the recipient. You can also write a check to yourself if you need to move money from one account to another or to make a deposit into a new account.

Now that mobile check deposit has become so common with mobile banking apps, you can often write and deposit a check from the comfort of your home. Keep in mind that checks are not an instant form of money transfer. It may take a few business days for the check to be deposited and to clear, during which time it will be listed as a pending transaction in the deposit account.


Bottom Line

The financial system is designed to make it as easy and efficient as possible for people to move money. Whether you're getting your paycheck direct deposited, signing up for online bill pay or sending $50 to your friend, there are more ways than ever before to quickly send money—without having to wait in line at a bank or fill out a deposit slip.

Many of these high-tech payment and transfer options can be made at low cost or for no fee at all. Check with your bank and read the fine print on any payment apps so you understand the fees and time frames for when your transfer will be processed. Some types of money transfers require you to wait a few days for the transaction to process, while other transfers happen on the same day or even instantly. Understand your options and decide which form of money transfer is right for your situation.

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