ACH Vs. Wire – What Is The Difference?


If you are looking for a reliable way to send money electronically, you’ve got a few options. Two of the most common methods are still Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments and wire transfers. They’re similar in that they involve the use of the bank to initiate the process, but there are some key differences when it comes to security, speed, and cost. Before you send that payment, you’ll want to understand how these methods differ to determine which option is right for you. Read on for an in-depth look at both ACH vs. wire transfers. 

Security: Is ACH or wire transfer safer?

Both ACH and wire transfers are considered safe. However, it’s possible that neither is immune to occasional security breaches. Both ACH transfers and wire transfers could pose potential risks in different ways.


While they are safe, the biggest concern is that ACH transfers into your bank account can be reversed. But this is rare as most banks strictly regulate reversals. If this happens to you, it’s likely that a mistake has occurred or there has been a case of fraud. 


Wire transfers are also a generally safe way to send and receive money. The main security issues associated with wire transfers are scams or fraud. Because funds are available for withdrawal almost immediately after they’ve been wired, it’s impossible for transfers to be reversed. This poses less of a threat if you are receiving money via wire transfer. However, if you’re sending money via wire transfer, it’s important you verify who you are sending the money to. 

Speed – differences between ACH and wire transfers

An important factor to consider before you plan on transferring money is how long it will take to deposit. Time frames can vary depending on whether you are using an ACH transfer or a wire transfer. 


ACH transfers can take anywhere from two to five business days to deposit. This timeframe is because multiple parties are involved in processing the transfer, including the bank, ACH, and Federal Reserve. However, ACH systems are rapidly moving toward same-day transfers. You should expect to see faster transaction times in the future. 


Wire transfers are usually processed within one business day. Money tends to move much more quickly with wire transfers because banks are the only parties involved in the transfer. That said, it can still take a couple of days before you are able to withdraw your money. Sometimes, bank employees may need to verify the funds. If you are wiring money internationally, it can take up to a couple of days to process. 

How much does a wire transfer vs. ACH cost?

Costs are a major deciding factor when you’re considering how to transfer money. There are some key differences between how much ACH transfers and wire transfers will cost you. 


Most ACH transfers are free. If you are sending money, you may have to pay a couple of dollars in the rare case that you are charged. If you are receiving money, you most likely will not be charged at all unless you need the money instantly. For example, money-sharing apps like Cash App and Venmo will charge a couple of dollars to get funds into your account right away but charge no fees for regular processing times.  


Wire transfers tend to be more pricey than ACH transfers. You can be charged anywhere from $15 to $25 if you are sending money to a domestic bank — and up to $45 if you are sending money internationally. Unlike ACH transfers, it’s hard to avoid wire transfer fees.

When are ACH and wire transfers used?

Because of the differences between ACH transfers and wire transfers, it may make more sense to use one method over the other in certain scenarios. Take a look below to get an idea. 


ACH transfers are best for smaller, frequent transfers. Whether you are paying bills or sending money to a friend to cover your share of last night’s dinner, ACH transfers are a good choice because they are simple and in most cases, you won’t be charged. Here are some everyday scenarios where ACH transfers work best. 

  • Direct deposits
  • Paying bills online  
  • Moving money between different bank accounts
  • Automatic contributions to savings accounts such as retirement accounts
  • Government benefits
  • Tax refunds


If you need to transfer a large sum of money or time is of the essence, a wire transfer is probably the best option. You will need to pay the fees, but they may be small in comparison to knowing that your funds will arrive quickly and securely. Below are some common scenarios where most people will use a wire transfer. 

  • International transfers
  • Down payments on a home
  • Emergencies
  • Large financial transfers

What is best for international transfers? ACH payment or wire transfer?

The best method to use depends on your needs, budget, and how quickly you need the money to arrive. 


Wire transfers are generally considered the most reliable and secure way to send large amounts of money abroad. When using a wire transfer, the funds are sent directly from one bank account to another, eliminating the need for intermediaries or third-party services. This makes wire transfers an ideal option for international transactions that require high security, such as business payments. This process is usually completed in one to two days, making it an excellent choice for urgent payments. 

The downside of wire transfers is that they can be more expensive than other options because of their speed and complexity. Generally speaking, the sender must bear both transaction fees and foreign exchange rates, which can quickly add up if you’re transferring large sums of money abroad.

ACH payments

ACH payments tend to be slower than wire transfers because they involve third-party payment processors such as PayPal or Wise. They also require additional verification steps before a transfer can be made, which can cause some delays in getting the funds where they need to go. 

Even with these restrictions in place, ACH payments still offer several advantages over wire transfers, including lower fees and better foreign exchange rates depending on who processes your payment. This makes ACH an attractive option if you’re looking to send smaller amounts of money overseas or want to keep costs down when transferring larger sums of money abroad.

Choosing between an ACH or wire transfer comes down to personal preference and what your specific needs are at the time of transfer. 

Weighing the pros and cons for your needs 

Choosing between ACH and wire transfers depends on factors such as cost-effectiveness, speed requirements, reliability needs, and international use considerations. Those looking for an economical choice that’s suitable for domestic use only with no need for immediate transfer of funds may find that ACH offers all the benefits without the extra costs associated with setting up a wire payment service. But those who have global clients who require immediate fund transfer when making international purchases may find that a wire payment service best meets their needs — despite its slightly higher cost structure.


How long does a wire transfer take?

A wire transfer usually takes between one and three business days. However, in many cases, the funds can be received within minutes. This depends on various factors such as the time of day the transaction is initiated, whether there are any delays resulting from weekends or holidays, and the processing speed of each individual bank.

What is the difference between an ACH transfer and a wire transfer?

Wire transfers involve the immediate exchange of funds between two financial institutions via a secure network. These transactions are often used for larger amounts of money and typically require additional information for identification purposes. An ACH transfer involves two financial institutions exchanging payments electronically over an extended period of time. It is typically used for smaller payments such as payroll deposits or direct bill payments.

Is it better to make a payment with an ACH or wire transfer?

Whether it’s better to make a payment with an ACH or a wire transfer depends on your specific needs. If you need to send or receive money quickly, a wire transfer may be the better option. If you want to save money, an ACH transfer may be right for you.

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