ACH vs EFT vs Wire Transfer: What’s the Difference? (2024)

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17 April, 2023

4 min

Vipul Taneja, VP, Finance Transformation

Table of Content

Key Takeaways

Introduction

What Is Automated Clearing House (ACH)?

What Is a Wire Transfer?

What Is Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)?

ACH vs. Wire Transfers vs. EFT: What's the Difference?

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between ACH, Wire Transfer, and EFT

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Key Takeaways

  • ACH transfers, wire transfers, and EFTs are types of electronic funds transfers.
  • ACH, wire transfers, and EFT vary in speed, cost, and transaction types; ACH is slower and cost-effective, wire transfers are immediate but costly, and EFT covers multiple methods.
  • Businesses should evaluate transaction speed, cost, and security to choose between B2B payment methods like wire transfers and ACH, aligning with operational needs to optimize efficiency and security in managing accounts receivables.

ACH vs EFT vs Wire Transfer: What’s the Difference? (22)

Introduction

In the world of business and finance, terms like “ACH,” “Wire Transfers,” and “EFT” are used frequently. But what do they really mean, and how do they differ from one another? Let’s break down the differences between ACH transfers, wire transfers, and EFTs in simple terms.

What Is Automated Clearing House (ACH)?

Automated Clearing House (ACH) is an electronic payment system used to transfer funds between bank accounts in the United States. It allows for the processing of large volumes of transactions quickly and efficiently, with lower fees than wire transfers.

ACH transfers can be used for a variety of payment types, including direct deposits, bill payments, and business-to-business transactions.

The fund transfer is processed via the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network, a platform that connects hundreds of financial institutions across the US. The ACH platform processes payments in batches, often resulting in a delay of a few hours in receiving the funds.

ACH payments include several different payment categories, such as person-to-person (P2P) payments, direct deposits, ACH payments initiated by paper checks, and bill payments initiated on e-commerce portals.

To pay via ACH, the customer needs to authorize the biller to directly withdraw funds from his account. The customers provide their bank accounts and routing numbers to their checking accounts. They also sign an agreement authorizing the biller to withdraw funds against invoices.

Advantages and disadvantages of ACH transfer

Pros

Cons

  • Cost-effective: ACH transactions are quite cheaper than credit card transactions or paper checks.
  • Convenience: Can be scheduled in advance and processed automatically, making it easy to handle regular payments like salaries, bills, and subscriptions.
  • Security: Processed under strict regulations and security protocols, reducing the risk of fraud compared to physical checks.
  • Integration: Can be easily integrated into accounting and financial software systems, streamlining record-keeping and reconciliation processes.
  • Acceptance: Widely accepted by banks and businesses across the United States, making it a reliable payment method.
  • Processing Time: ACH transactions are not immediate; they usually take 1-3 business days to process.
  • Reversibility: Can be reversed under certain circ*mstances, such as unauthorized transactions or insufficient funds.
  • Geographical Limitations: Primarily used within the United States, it has limited application for international payments compared to other payment networks like SWIFT.
  • Transfer Limits: There may be limits on the amount of money that can be transferred via ACH, which can be restrictive for larger transactions.
  • Operational Hours: Depends on the banking system’s operational hours and processing schedules, which can delay transactions initiated outside regular business hours.

What Is a Wire Transfer?

Wire transfer is a method of electronically transferring funds from one bank account to another. It is a fast and secure way to send money globally, using a network of banks and financial institutions. Wire transfers typically involve higher fees than other forms of electronic payments due to the speed and security of the transaction.

It is ideal for large transactions and international payments. Wire transfers are initiated by the sender, and the recipient typically receives the funds on the same day. Wire transfers are usually more expensive than other electronic payment methods due to their speed and security.

Instead of a centralized clearing house, banks act as intermediaries for wire transfers. They require the sender to have adequate funds in their accounts and don’t take more than a few minutes to clear the transaction and deposit the money in the recipient’s account. The sender’s bank sends a message to the recipient’s bank via secure systems such as SWIFT or Fedwire to initiate the wire transfer process.

Advantages and disadvantages of Wire transfer

Pros

Cons

  • Speed:Wire transfers offer immediate transfer of funds, often within the same day or even within minutes.
  • Certainty:Wire transfers provide a guaranteed method of payment since funds are transferred directly from one bank to another.
  • Global Reach: Wire transfers facilitate international transactions, making it suitable for businesses with cross-border operations.
  • Security: Wire transfers are generally considered secure due to stringent bank regulations and verification processes.
  • Convenience: Wire transfers simplify large transactions and urgent payments without the need for physical checks or cash.
  • Cost: Wire transfers are typically more expensive than other payment methods, with fees varying based on the banks involved and the destination.
  • Irreversibility:Wire transfers once initiated, wire transfers are difficult to reverse, increasing the risk of fraud or errors.
  • Bank Dependencies:Wire transfers rely on the availability and operating hours of banks, which can lead to delays if transfers are initiated outside of regular banking hours or on weekends.
  • Information Requirements: Wire transfers require detailed recipient information (bank account number, SWIFT code, etc.), which can lead to errors if not entered correctly.
  • Lack of Anonymity: Transactions through wire transfers are traceable, which may not be desirable for individuals or businesses seeking privacy in financial transactions.

What Is Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)?

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) is a digital payment method that enables the transfer of funds between two bank accounts using electronic means, such as the Internet or a computer network. It allows for fast, secure, and convenient transactions without the need for physical checks or cash.

It is a broad term that encompasses several types of electronic payments, including ACH and wire transfers. Electronic fund transfers do not require the direct involvement of bank employees. EFTs are fully initiated and processed on digital channels using supporting rules and algorithms.

EFT transactions primarily include the sender and the receiver. The sender initiates the money transfer request on a payment terminal over the internet. The sender’s bank then sends a request to the receiver’s bank directly or via clearing houses. The receiver’s bank verifies the account details and collects the payment.

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Advantages and disadvantages of EFT

Electronic funds transfer- advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Efficiency:EFT offers quick processing and transfer of funds electronically between accounts.
  • Cost-Effective:EFT typically lower transaction fees compared to traditional methods like checks or wire transfers.
  • Convenience: EFT reduces the need for physical handling of cash or checks, enhancing convenience for both businesses and individuals.
  • Automation: EFT transfers support automated recurring payments, such as salaries, bills, and subscriptions, reducing administrative workload.
  • Security: EFT transactions are secure, with encryption and authentication measures to protect sensitive financial data.
  • Processing Times:While generally fast, some EFT transactions may take longer to clear compared to immediate wire transfers.
  • Potential Delays: EFT transfers depend on bank processing times, which can vary and may cause delays in fund availability.
  • Technical Issues:Electronic systems may encounter glitches or downtime, temporarily hindering transaction processing.
  • Fraud Risk:Despite security measures, EFT transactions are susceptible to hacking and fraudulent activities.
  • Dependency on Technology:EFT transfers rely on stable internet connectivity and operational electronic systems, which may not be available in all regions or circ*mstances.

ACH vs. Wire Transfers vs. EFT: What's the Difference?

ACH, wire transfers, and EFT are all methods of electronic payment, but they differ in terms of speed, cost, and availability.ACH is slower but more affordable, wire transfers are the fastest but most expensive, and EFT is a versatile payment method encompassing several electronic payment types, including ACH and wire transfers.

In this section, let’s compare the e-payment methods based on several parameters:

ACH

Wire

EFT

Feasibility

Can be used to send and request payments

Can be used to only send payments

Can be used to send and request payments

Use

Online bill payments

Urgent money transfer

Payroll, vendor payment, personal transactions

Cost

$0, (may be applicable for expedited transfers)

$26 for domestic transfers

$44 for international transfers

Varies by payment type

Speed

2-3 days

Same day

Varies by payment type

Security

Comparatively more secure

Less secure

Safer compared to sending checks

Limitations

~$25,000 maximum per transaction, (varies by bank)

~$1,000 to unlimited, (varies by bank)

~$200 or $300, (varies by bank)

Preference

B2B payments

Individual payments

B2B and individual transfers

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between ACH, Wire Transfer, and EFT

When considering among ACH (Automated Clearing House), wire transfer, and EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer), businesses should evaluate their specific needs and priorities.

  • ACH transactions offer cost-effectiveness and convenience for recurring payments like salaries and bills, albeit with a slight delay in processing time.
  • Wire transfers, on the other hand, ensure immediate funds transfer, making them suitable for urgent transactions despite being more costly.
  • EFTs encompass a broader category that includes both ACH and wire transfers, focusing on electronic transactions in general.

Businesses should assess factors such as transaction speed, cost, and security when choosing between these B2B payment methods. For instance, if prompt receipt of funds is critical, wire transfers might be preferable, whereas ACH could be more suitable for regular, lower-cost transactions.

Moreover, security considerations are paramount, especially for large transactions, where wire transfers offer greater protection against fraud compared to ACH. Ultimately, selecting the most suitable method hinges on understanding the business’s operational requirements and financial priorities.

By weighing these factors thoughtfully, businesses can make informed decisions that optimize efficiency and security in managing their accounts receivables.

About HighRadius: B2B Payments Suite

HighRadius offers a comprehensive, cloud-based solution to automate and streamline the B2B payments process for businesses. The B2B Payments Suite features a robust payments module with a payment gateway, surcharge management, and interchange fee optimization. The payment gateway for SAP integrates with SAP and makes cash applications seamless.

Trusted by 1000+ companies to deliver speed-to-value, including like P&G, Ferrero,Johnson & Johnson, and Danone, HighRadius has been a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader 3 years in a row, placed highest in the ability to execute and furthest in the completeness of vision.

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