Don’t fall victim to wire transfer myths.


As a small business owner, the last thing you need is to lose productive time to administrative tasks that are easy to complete electronically. One prime example? Taking paper checks to the bank for manual deposit.

For many years, I’ve received the majority of my payments (including all overseas payments) by direct deposit or wire transfer (also known as electronic funds transfer, or EFT). I rarely pay any transaction or currency conversion fee to receive the money. But I know from conversations with other freelancers that many see those fees as an inescapable part of being paid electronically.

To keep more of the income you’re earning, learn the truth about these EFT myths.

Myth 1: All banks charge wire transfer fees. Mine doesn’t—to a point. Within my business account, I’m allowed a certain number of incoming and outgoing international EFTs each month at no cost.

If you’re a freelancer or micro-entrepreneur and you’re using your personal account for business purposes, ask your bank whether it offers a small business account that waives fees for some or all of these transactions.

Ask whether fees vary depending on the transfer mechanism you use. For example, my bank charges me $12 if I make an EFT from my business to my personal account. But there’s no fee for transferring that money via an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer, which is also done electronically.

Also be aware of intermediary bank charges that may occur if the wire transfer isn’t going direct from your client’s bank to yours.

Myth 2: It doesn’t pay to switch banks. It may, depending on the programs and services you need. Time invested in comparison shopping could generate a nice return, especially if you’re receiving payments from abroad.

This Consumer Reports article includes information about how to compare fees and value.

Myth 3: Comparing costs is too complicated and time-consuming. OK: what if there were an online tool you could use to see fees for each transaction?

There is. (It’s recommended in that Consumer Reports article linked above.) Enter the amount of your payment (denominated in U.S. dollars or other currencies) in the calculator. It will give you an instant comparison of fees from a variety of non-bank transfer service options—so even if you’re sticking with a service rather than your bank, it pays to do some comparison shopping.

In the end, the only thing better than being paid is being sure you were paid as fully as possible.