What Is Fedwire?

Fedwire refers to a real-time gross settlement system of central bank money used by Federal Reserve Banks to electronically settle final U.S. dollar payments among member institutions. The system processes trillions of dollars daily, and includes an overdraft system that covers participants with existing and approved accounts. Along with Fedwire, the Fed operates two other payment systems: The Fedwire Securities Service and the National Settlement Service.

The Fedwire system processes trillions of dollars daily among its member participants.

How Fedwire Works

The Fedwire system is an electronic funds transfer system used by banks, businesses, and government agencies for large, same-day transactions. According to the Federal Reserve, about 7,300 participants conducted Fedwire transactions in 2008. Banks that use the system include depository financial institutions in the U.S., as well as the American branches of certain foreign banks or government groups, provided they maintain an account with a Federal Reserve Bank.

The Fed holds accounts for both senders and receivers. Transactions are settled individually and immediately. Once settled, all transactions are final and irrevocable, with the receiving bank notified of the credit. While Fedwire is not managed for profit, the law mandates that the system charge fees in order to recoup costs. Both participants in a given transaction pay a small fee. Participating institutions can initiate fund transfers online or through the phone. They can send money from their accounts for themselves or on behalf of their clients to settle commercial payments, settle positions with other institutions, remit tax payments, or buy and sell federal funds.

The Fedwire system is owned and operated by the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. It is a networked system for payment processing between the member banks themselves, as well as other participating institutions. It operates Monday through Friday between 9 p.m. ET on the prior calendar day to 6:30 p.m. Hours may be extended by the Fed. The system is shut down on all federal holidays.

Key Takeaways

  • Fedwire is a real-time gross settlement system of central bank money used by Federal Reserve Banks to transfer funds between member institutions electronically.
  • The system is used by banks, businesses, and government agencies for large, same-day transactions.
  • Transactions are settled individually and immediately, and are final and irrevocable after settlement.

History of Fedwire

The Fedwire system, along with the other two wholesale payment systems operated by the Fed, goes back more than one hundred years. It is considered to be very robust and reliable. The Fed began to transfer funds between parties as early as 1915. In 1918, the Federal Reserve Banks established their own proprietary system which processed the transfers. Until 1981, the Fedwire system was only available to member banks and services were free of charge. The Fed began charging fees after the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 was enacted.