The days of visiting a bank branch in person are over.
There are a few reasons you might want to move money from one bank to another. Maybe you’re combining finances with your spouse or transferring money to a savings account with a higher APY. Maybe you’re sending money to someone else or simply planning to switch banks and want to get a head start by moving the funds.
These days, transferring money between bank accounts rarely requires leaving your house. You can move money using an online banking platform or pay back a friend with the ease of your smartphone through one of many third-party money-sending apps. The best way to transfer money between banks ultimately depends on where you want to send it and how fast you want it done.
Transferring funds between banks can take anywhere from minutes to days depending on your chosen method of transfer. The chart below broadly demonstrates the different ways to transfer money within the U.S., the estimated time your chosen method takes, and any fees involved. Transactions occur only on business days, which are Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
|Personal check||1-6 days||None||None|
|Cashier's check||1 day||$8 -$10||None|
|ACH transfer||2-3 days||Generally none||Varies based on bank|
|Wire transfer||Hours||$30 - $40||Varies based on bank|
|PayPal||3- 5||None||$10,000 per transaction|
|Venmo||3-5 days||None||$2,999 per week|
|Zelle||Minutes||None||Varies based on bank|
No matter how you're choosing to transfer your money, make sure you know exactly how much you have in your account. Insufficient funds can delay the transfer process and incur overdraft fees.
Recession-proof your money. Get the free ebook.
Get the all-new ebook from Easy Money by Policygenius: 50 money moves to make in a recession.
The main ways to transfer money between banks are:
Check (personal or cashiers)
Internet-based alternative (P2P payment services like PayPal)
Paper checks might seem lost on today’s digital world, but they remain a tried and true way to send money. You can write yourself a check from one account and deposit it into the other, and with your smartphone at that. Alternatively, a cashier’s check will usually have the funds available within the day, but at a cost. If you’re depositing checks with your phone, make sure to confirm any daily mobile deposit limits set by your bank.
Read everything you ever wanted to know about checks.
Reliably the fastest — as funds transfer within a few hours — wire transfers come with a fee and you’ll have to call or visit your bank to initiate one.
One of the most common methods of moving money from one bank to another is through an ACH transfer. The Automated Clearing House is the electronic payment network in the U.S. that’s responsible for moving money from one institution to another. They cover everything from business-to-business transactions to the direct deposit you get from work and even recurring payments for bills and streaming services like Netflix.
Think of the ACH as the middleman or landing pad for your money while it waits for things to clear. When you initiate a bank transfer, your money exits one bank account to go to the ACH, then from the ACH to the recipient bank account. It might sound like a lot, but you can easily initiate this transfer online between banks so long as you have your bank information ready.
How to transfer money between banks online:
Find your routing and account numbers. The routing number is the 9-digit code and shorter of the two. Both are printed on your personal checks. If you don’t have a checkbook nearby, you can use your bank’s online banking platform or mobile app to scroll through past purchases and search for a check transaction — it usually includes an image scan of your check.
Link the external bank account. After you log into your bank account online or through the mobile app, look for the “transfer” option and choose to add an external account.
Input the requested information. In addition to the routing and account number and the name of the bank, you’ll be asked whether the account you’re transferring money to is savings or checking, and personal or business. You can also give it a nickname; this is helpful in distinguishing it from your other accounts.
Verify the account. Some banks may require you to enroll in trial deposits, or small transfers (often just cents), to confirm that the bank account you’re adding actually exists and works. This can add two to three days to the process.
Schedule a transfer. Once your accounts are linked, you can freely transfer money between them. Set one-time or recurring transfers and even set them ahead of time.
Generally ACH transfers have no fees between different banks, but there may be limits on how much you can transfer at once, or within a certain period of time.
P2P, or peer-to-peer, payment services are internet-based alternatives to bank transfers. They are attractive for their ease-of-use since they don’t always require all those pesky bank account numbers to make a transfer happen. For most of these apps, transferring funds to your own bank account can be a hassle because it might necessitate creating multiple accounts. So as the name suggests, these options are best for transferring money from your bank to someone else’s.
Transferring money between bank accounts is essentially why Zelle exists. Partnered with many popular banks and credit unions, Zelle might already be integrated into your online banking or mobile app. To transfer money, all you need to know is the name and phone number of the recipient. Bank transfers happen within minutes and there are no fees.
Venmo is a social network that lets you see other users’ payment activities. It has an initial limit of $299 and a rolling weekly limit of $2,999 once your account is confirmed. Though it can take less, three to five business days is the cited timeline. Venmo is easiest for on-the-go transactions like paying friends back for drinks or dinner on the fly. Since Venmo is like an electronic wallet, you'll have to remember to transfer the funds to your bank account. For a fee, Venmo also lets you make an instant transfer (about 30 minutes) using a debit card.
Sending money via PayPal is free if both users have PayPal accounts. There are no limits on the total amount of money you send, but a single transaction is capped at $10,000. Touted for its safety, PayPal transactions are processed using email addresses. As with Venmo, moving money this way takes three to five days, but could potentially take less if your PayPal account already has funds or has been linked to bank account. If you’re looking for something faster, PayPal will charge a fee for instant transfers with a debit card.
Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in esate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.
Elissa has a B.A. in Film Studies from Barnard College.
Was this article helpful?