Wire transfer, bank transfer or credit transfer is a method of electronic funds transfer from one person or entity to another.
A wire transfer can be made from one bank account to another bank account or through a transfer of cash at a cash office.
Different wire transfer systems and operators provide a variety of options relative to the immediacy and finality of settlement and the cost, value, and volume of transactions.
Central bank wire transfer systems, such as the Federal Reserve's Fed Wire system in the United States, are more likely to be real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems.
RTGS systems provide the quickest availability of funds because they provide immediate "real-time" and final "irrevocable" settlement by posting the gross (complete) entry against electronic accounts of the wire transfer system operator.
Other systems such as Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) provide net settlement on a periodic basis.
More immediate settlement systems tend to process higher monetary value time-critical transactions, have higher transaction costs, and have a smaller volume of payments.
A faster settlement process allows less time for currency fluctuations while money is in transit.
The first widely used service for wire transfers was launched by Western Union in 1872 on its existing telegraph network.
Once a sender had paid money to one telegraph office, the operator could transmit a message and "wire" the money to another office, using passwords and code books to authorize the release of the funds to a recipient at that location.
By 1877 the service was used to transfer almost $2.5 million each year.
Because the earliest wire transfers were using telegraph networks, it was termed telegraphic transfer and this name is still used in some countries, although more advanced electronic transfer networks are used.