When you’re sending or receiving an international money transfer through a bank, you’ll often see the terms “telegraphic transfer”, “TT” or “wire transfer”.
In this guide, we’ll help you figure out what the different terms mean and the process behind sending money across borders.
Quick definition: What’s a telegraphic transfer?
A telegraphic transfer is what you get when you go to a bank to make an international money transfer. It means your money will be bounced along a network of correspondent banks until it arrives at its destination.
A telegraphic transfer works by bouncing money between different banks until it arrives at its destination. Each bank the money passes through en route will have its own fees and processing times, which is why telegraphic transfers can be slow and more expensive than a money transfer service.
This network of banks is called the SWIFT network.
Money will only pass between banks with pre-existing commercial relationships, known as “correspondent banking” relationships. Each correspondent bank en route will take a cut of the money to cover processing fees and may take a day or two to process the payment.
There are two main reasons why banks can only pass money through other correspondent banks:
Anti-money laundering laws require banks to know whose money they’re handling. By ensuring an unbroken chain of trust between banks, the final bank at the destination can safely assume the customer was appropriately vetted, and that it’s handling money in compliance with international law even though it hasn’t personally verified the sender.
Banks can’t constantly be physically sending money around the world every time a customer needs to make a payment. So instead, they maintain a system of “nostro” accounts with each other.
What are nostro accounts?
Correspondent banks hold nostro accounts with each other to facilitate international payments.
With this system, correspondent banks can simply add and deduct amounts from the nostro accounts to account for payments sent to them from partner banks as they pass through.
So when you send a telegraphic transfer, it will ripple through a series of nostro accounts at different banks until it arrives at its destination.
The number of banks in a chain will vary depending on the payment corridor. For straightforward transfers to or from USD, there might only be two or three. For other corridors, there will often be more since US dollars tend to serve as a hub.
For example, if you’re sending money from Ireland to Australia, it might go something like this:
Your bank. You go to your bank. It gets your EUR and converts it to US dollars through its nostro account at the intermediary bank.
Intermediary bank. Converts the US dollars to AUD through its nostro account at an Australian bank.
Australian bank. Sends the AUD to the bank of the person who’s receiving the money.
Receiving bank. Receives the money from the other Australian bank and hands it to its customer – the person you wanted to send money to.
How can I make a telegraphic transfer?
To make a telegraphic transfer, you will need to do the following:
Go to your local bank’s branch, app or website.
Ask to send an international money transfer.
Fill out the form either in-person or online.
Pay the transfer amount and applicable fees.
What are the fees for a telegraphic transfer?
Your transfer is going through multiple banks, so each one may take a fee. We can break the fees down into four parts:
Sender’s bank fees. Your bank will let you know how much these fees are upfront. In Ireland, this fee ranges from €5 to €25, depending on the bank.
Corresponding bank fees. These fees come from the banks your money is sent to along the SWIFT network to your recipient. While your bank may warn you about these, it can sometimes be unclear how much they are.
Exchange rate margin. Banks and most money transfer services add a margin to the exchange rate to cover their own fees. This margin can vary depending on your payment method and currency, but banks tend to add more than specialist transfer services.
Recipent’s bank fees. Depending on the bank, there may be fees for the beneficiary to receive the transfer.
When you initiate your transfer, you’ll often be given the choice of paying these fees yourself or having them deducted from the receiver’s funds.
What information or documents will I need?
To send a telegraphic transfer, you’ll need to provide the following:
Your (the originator’s) details. This includes your name and bank account details, or the details of the originator if you’re sending money on behalf of someone else.
The recipient’s (beneficiary’s) details. This includes the recipient’s bank, bank account number, address, name and contact details. This may include an IBAN or SWIFT code.
Transfer details. This includes the amount, the reason for the transfer, the currencies, the date and any other information the bank requests.
Cheaper alternatives to telegraphic transfers
The most important thing to know is that when you send money through a bank, it’ll typically take the form of a telegraphic transfer or TT, and that means it will usually be much more expensive than using a money transfer service instead.
Check out some money transfer services below to see if you can find a better deal. Our table below lets you compare the services you can use to send money overseas. By inputting how much you want to transfer and to what currency, you'll be shown live exchange rates, fees and more.
Frequently asked questions
Nothing. When you send an international bank transfer, your bank is sending your money as a telegraphic transfer. Wire transfer is another name for this and is more often used in the US, whereas telegraphic transfer is more often used in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK.
No. Telegraphic transfers will typically take several days. If you want a fast transfer, you can send money overseas instantly and more cheaply if you use a cash transfer service.
Telegraphic transfers will generally take from 3 to 10 business days to arrive, depending on where you’re sending money to and from, which currencies you’re sending and which bank you and the recipient are customers of.
Telegraphic transfers are the standard system used by almost the entire financial world, making them one of the safest and most reliable ways of sending money overseas.
But this doesn’t mean they’re entirely safe. As always, you still need to be aware of the money transfer scams that are out there. There’s very little chance of recovering money lost to overseas scammers and generally, you should only send money to people you know.
Andrew Munro is the cryptocurrency editor at Finder. He was initially writing about insurance, when he accidentally fell in love with digital currency and distributed ledger technology (aka “the blockchain”). Andrew has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales, and has written guides about everything from industrial pigments to cosmetic surgery.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com.au is one of Australia's leading comparison websites. We compare from a wide set of banks, insurers and product issuers. We value our editorial independence and follow editorial guidelines.
finder has access to track details from the product issuers listed on our sites. Although we provide information on the products offered by a wide range of issuers, we don't cover every available product or service.
Please note that the information published on our site should not be construed as personal advice and does not consider your personal needs and circumstances. While our site will provide you with factual information and general advice to help you make better decisions, it isn't a substitute for professional advice. You should consider whether the products or services featured on our site are appropriate for your needs. If you're unsure about anything, seek professional advice before you apply for any product or commit to any plan.
Products marked as 'Promoted' or 'Advertisement' are prominently displayed either as a result of a commercial advertising arrangement or to highlight a particular product, provider or feature. Finder may receive remuneration from the Provider if you click on the related link, purchase or enquire about the product. Finder's decision to show a 'promoted' product is neither a recommendation that the product is appropriate for you nor an indication that the product is the best in its category. We encourage you to use the tools and information we provide to compare your options.
Where our site links to particular products or displays 'Go to site' buttons, we may receive a commission, referral fee or payment when you click on those buttons or apply for a product.
When products are grouped in a table or list, the order in which they are initially sorted may be influenced by a range of factors including price, fees and discounts; commercial partnerships; product features; and brand popularity. We provide tools so you can sort and filter these lists to highlight features that matter to you.
We try to take an open and transparent approach and provide a broad-based comparison service. However, you should be aware that while we are an independently owned service, our comparison service does not include all providers or all products available in the market.
Some product issuers may provide products or offer services through multiple brands, associated companies or different labelling arrangements. This can make it difficult for consumers to compare alternatives or identify the companies behind the products. However, we aim to provide information to enable consumers to understand these issues.
Providing or obtaining an estimated insurance quote through us does not guarantee you can get the insurance. Acceptance by insurance companies is based on things like occupation, health and lifestyle. By providing you with the ability to apply for a credit card or loan, we are not guaranteeing that your application will be approved. Your application for credit products is subject to the Provider's terms and conditions as well as their application and lending criteria.