Electronic Payments FAQ

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about sending and receiving electronic payments (wires and ACH payments).

The SWIFT address or BIC (Bank Identifier Code) is an 8 or 11 alphanumeric character sequence assigned by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (S.W.I.F.T.) that uniquely identifies a financial institution and its location. The code, which may be obtained from the receiving bank, is used by banks to exchange data for funds transfer between financial institutions on international/wire transactions. Not all banks participate in the SWIFT system, therefore not all banks have a SWIFT or BIC code.

The ABA number, or routing transit number, is a nine-digit number assigned by the Federal Reserve System that uniquely identifies each domestic financial institution. This number, which may be obtained from the receiving financial institution, is necessary in order to complete a domestic bank-to-bank electronic transfer.

The automated clearing house (ACH) system was developed by the financial industry in the early 1970s as an electronic alternative to checks. ACH transactions received by the bank during the day are stored in batches for processing overnight. The ACH system is designed for high volume, low value transactions in which payment information is processed and settled electronically. ACH transactions generally settle one business day after the payment is initiated (example: a payment initiated on Monday would be paid on Tuesday). Both the receiving account and the originating account are settled on the same day so the delays associated with checks (mail, processing, funds availability and clearing) do not exist with an ACH transaction.

A wire is a real-time method of transferring immediate funds and supporting information between two financial institutions and is relatively expensive to use. An ACH is similar to a wire transfer only it uses a batch- process. Transactions received by the bank during the day are stored and processed later in batches and do not become available to a beneficiary until the next day. ACH transfers are less expensive than wire transfers.

A correspondent bank, sometimes referred to as an intermediary bank, is a foreign bank’s representative that regularly performs services for a bank which has no branch in the beneficiary bank’s area. The most common service provided is to facilitate the transfer of funds.

Not necessarily. When inquiring about an electronic funds transfer, be sure to specify as to whether you intend to send the transfer via ACH or wire.

A domestic wire will be posted to the receiving bank account the same day it is sent.

Typically the funds will be credited to the receiving account within five business days depending on the country and the bank receiving the funds.

An ACH (Automated Clearing House) credit will be posted to the receiving bank account the following business day.

Many times the amount sent is not necessarily the amount credited to the receiving bank account. As bank fees have been applied to the incoming amount, the actual credit will be less. The recipient should approach their bank with dates of when the funds could have been received and also state that the funds were sent from Washington State University’s bank, Bank of America. If the funds still cannot be located, the WSU department should contact Treasury Services so that we may pursue this matter through our bank.

Payments made to recipients outside of the U.S. MUST be made via wire transfer. Foreign banks often make it difficult and expensive to cash check from a U.S. bank, and ACH payments are for domestic payees only. Funds can be wired in U.S. dollars or foreign currency so when preparing a wire transfer request, be sure to specify the desired currency.

Please contact Treasury Services at fi.treasury@wsu.edu and include the name of the sender, the amount of the payment and the approximate date that you expect the payment to arrive. Treasury staff will email you with the payment details when WSU receives the payment. You will then use this documentation to receipt your payment.