Telegraphic transfers work as follows:
- The sender (“the remitter”) instructs his or her bank to send funds overseas to someone (“the beneficiary”). This can be done at a branch or by internet banking.
- The remitting bank sends the funds to a bank it deals with in the destination country (“the correspondent bank”). If the beneficiary has an account at that bank, the funds are credited to his or her account and the transaction is complete.
- If the beneficiary’s accounts are at another bank, the funds are transferred again to that bank, at which point the transaction is complete. It is possible the funds will pass through two or more correspondent banks to get to the beneficiary’s bank.
How long it takes to complete a telegraphic transfer will depend on the country. Some countries have inefficient banking systems, which will delay payment processing. Ask your bank. Banks are expected to give an indication of when a transfer will normally be available to the recipient.
The remitting bank will charge you about $25, a fee that applies even if you use internet banking. Most correspondent and beneficiary banks will also exercise the right to charge fees for their services. Banks in New Zealand should warn you about these extra fees. As the remitter, you can choose to pay the remitting and correspondent banks' fees, or have them deducted from the beneficiary's funds. If you give no instructions either way, the beneficiary will bear the charges. The beneficiary’s bank may also charge the recipient fees.
If something goes wrong
If the funds don't arrive by the expected time, you can ask your bank to find out why. This may involve some cost. The terms and conditions of telegraphic transfers will generally disclaim any responsibility by the bank for delays, but banks still need to exercise due care and skill when providing the service.
New Zealand banks have only limited responsibility for a transfer once the funds have left the country. Their responsibility ends once the payment has left the correspondent bank.
If you've gone to your bank for help and are dissatisfied with the response, you can contact us about making a complaint. You should be aware, however, that we can investigate complaints only about New Zealand banks and their agents.
Some complainants who come to us about telegraphic transfers are victims of fraud. See our Quick Guide Banking scams.
Remitting banks may ask extra questions of customers as part of their anti-money laundering obligations. See our Quick Guide Money laundering for details.
Telegraphic transfer times will depend on the country. Some countries have inefficient banking systems, which can cause delays.
Lost opportunity no grounds for compensation
Alex needed to send $US20,000 as quickly as possible to a business partner in London to make an investment. She went to her bank, and a teller helped her complete the paperwork for a telegraphic transfer. The teller said the transfer would take three to five days.CASE 2
Bank failed to notice signature differences
Sarah and her husband Logan, who were overseas visitors, placed $100,000 on term deposit for three years with a New Zealand bank. Soon afterwards, the bank received an email request from Sarah’s email address asking how to withdraw funds. The bank emailed back a telegraphic transfer form to complete. Two forms were subsequently returned with Sarah’s signature, requesting the bulk of the term deposit funds be paid into two accounts, one in New Zealand and the other overseas.CASE 3
Exchange rate applied at time of processing transfer
Hana lived in Australia and wanted to take advantage of the favourable exchange rate at the time and transfer funds from a New Zealand bank account to an Australian one. She phoned the bank, but was told transfers could be done only at a branch or via internet banking. The latter could be done in one of two ways: either by completing an online telegraphic transfer request form or by sending a secure message to the bank’s email team.
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Last reviewed October 2021