Every day thousands of users come to TrackMySwift to check a status of their SWIFT cross-border transfer, because their payment takes too long. Most cross-border SWIFT money transfers go via one or several correspondent banks where they sometimes await a manual screening for up to 1-2 months. In this article we will explain step-by-step how to avoid this situation and send a payment to USA within 1 business day maximum.
Just to be clear, this article is applicable to both individuals and businesses. It is based on the scenario that you need to send funds from overseas to USA, however the same concept can be used in other geographies: Europe, UK, Australia, etc. It contains affiliate links to Wise, however even if I would not be able to advertise them, I would recommend it anyway. I use it for several years myself, and I am a big fan of their services.
Imagine that instead of sending a transfer from abroad you would be able to open a bank account right in the US - remotely, on your name, in USD currency. In this case you can send funds to your counterpart via the local payment systems - ACH or FedWire. This is the main concept of Wise. If you already have an account on your name in the US and you struggle to top it up, don't give up here, this is the main advantage of Wise.
There are two major methods how to top-up Wise USD account and both of them do not require a cross-border SWIFT transfer. Trust me, you want to avoid a SWIFT transfer at any cost. The only exception probably would be high-volume amounts greater $50k USD.
Method #1. Your local currency account.
If Wise allows you to open an account in your local currency, it is preferred to go this way. Your currency exchange rate will be predictable and top up fee normally smaller.
Step 1. Register in Wise.
Step 2. Open a wallet (bank account) in USD.
In your Wise mobile app or web portal, scroll the list of currencies in a top part of your main app's screen. If you don't see USD account, just click the last button “+ Open”. Select “Balance” option and USD currency on the next screen.
Tap at your account number in your newly created USD wallet. See, you have a proper account in the US bank with an account # and a routing #:
Step 3. Open a wallet (bank account) in your local currency, for example, EUR in my case.
Wise supports 40+ currencies at the moment. Do the same steps, if you still don't have a wallet in your local currency, just create a new one.
Step 4. Top up your local currency account with a local payment method.
In Europe, for example, we have SEPA payments. If our bank is connected to SEPA Instant, our funds will arrive in minutes. Even if not, it is still a very safe method to send funds (no correspondent banks involved).
Tap on your local currency wallet on a main screen. Tap the first green button “+ Add”. Select the amount which you want to add. Select the same currency in the field below. So if we top up EUR wallet, we select Euro.
Tap “Continue” and select a top up method on the next screen. I would use a Manual bank transfer, because it is free of charge for EUR and I simply can make a transfer by bank details. However you make a decision based on options available for your currency.
Follow the instructions. Normally you go to your bank's mobile app and put Wise account details to make a transfer.
Step 5. Exchange your local currency to USD.
When your funds arrive at your local currency wallet (Wise will send you an e-mail), you need to exchange them in USD. Tap on your local currency wallet and tap on the green button “Convert money”.
The exchange rate in Wise is pretty decent. Here is a comparison of what Wise offers me for 50 EUR and the same in forex (ideal) currency rate. Note that most traditional banks will charge you more.
You are ready to send your local USD payment. Just tap on your USD wallet and select “Send” option.
Method #2. Top up with your Visa or Mastercard
Sometimes Wise doesn't allow you to open a bank account in your local currency. While they constantly trying to expand their business, it heavily depends on the regulations. Adding money directly to your USD account with Visa/Mastercard can help here. The good thing, probably it will be even faster - top-up with a bank card is almost immediate. Bad thing, currency exchange rate could be not so attractive and also additional fee will be applied.
Step 1. Register in Wise.
Step 2. Open a wallet (bank account) in USD.
The same procedure like in a first method. On a main screen check if you have a USD wallet. If not, just tap “+ Open”.
Step 3. Top up your USD wallet with Visa/Mastercard.
Tap on your USD wallet and press the green button “+ Add”. Select the method: Apple Pay, Debit card or Credit card. Follow the app's navigation, usually it is pretty intuitive.
Mistakes to Avoid When Sending Funds with Wise
1. Do not send funds directly from your account in a local currency. Always exchange in a currency of a destination country first (USD in our example). If you do not do that, you can end up with sending a SWIFT payment by Wise instead of a local payment. While they are pretty good in that (and use reliable partners like JP Morgan Chase) still you have chances your payment will stuck.
2. Be prepared for basic KYC procedures at Wise. On top of a national ID you will need a confirmation of your address (recent utility bill or a bank's statement) together with the confirmation of source of funds. If you receive a salary, payslip is an ideal confirmation. I know it could be annoying, but players like Wise are under pressure to comply with regulations of several countries at the same time.
3. Don't download Wise directly, use only our referral link. I am kidding, of course it doesn't influence a speed of your cross-border transfer. But I was just hoping that you can support our efforts to build this guide.
4. Wise is not a bank. It means your funds are not protected by deposit insurance programs. By regulation, all those fintech services are not allowed to play with customer funds and require to store them in a separate bank account. However I would not store large amounts for a long time.
5. Do not use Wise for large amounts if you hold funds in a foreign currency. For example, if you need to send to the USA $100k and you have them in your USD account in a local bank or in cash which you can put on your USD account (no currency exchange required) - most probably it will be cheaper to send them with SWIFT transfer from your bank.
Should I send ACH or Wire?
Most countries have a single local payment method, however in the USA there are two of them: ACH and FedWire (often called Wire). There are plenty of articles on the difference between them. Basically you can use both, however I suggest to use ACH for transactions lower $25k - it is cheaper.
Due to AML, counter-terrorist financing fight and sanctions screening banks by regulations are obliged to check thoroughly cross-border payments. Wise is a real chance to replace SWIFT cross-border payment with a local payment. Normally, it is also cheaper in comparison to traditional banks, especially when you initially hold a local currency (not USD).
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