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I have some small amount of US dollars (< $500) wired from China to my credit union in US monthly. There are extra fees deducted recently by the intermediary bank(s). I'd like to find out who the intermediary bank(s) was. I'd like to see every step of the wire transfer stops. However, my credit union (the receiving bank) doesn't have that info. Is it possible to find it out and how? Thanks!

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  • Have you tried asking the sending bank?
    – Flux
    May 10, 2022 at 3:19
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    It may be possible if you really insist, but the question is - why? If you want to avoid the fee - it may not be under your control at all (although banking at a large national bank instead of a CU may help, as explained in the answer)
    – littleadv
    May 10, 2022 at 4:53

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Usually no it isn't possible because it may not take a fixed path.

On the customer's side, a wire appears to be a fixed thing, but on the bank's side, it does not have to be. It also depends on the laws involved.

Imagine the bank you are sending from uses the central bank for most wires except the United States. If it is sending a wire to the US, it may have a correspondent banking relationship with an Australian bank. It uses the Australian bank as its correspondent because when money is going to the US, it costs less and is faster than the central bank.

Those relationships are quite possibly not set in stone. There may be multiple correspondent or intermediary banks.

The bank you are sending from might know its correspondent bank but it won't know the correspondent's correspondent bank. A wire can have more than one institution between the sender and the receiver.

Under US law, credit unions may not be members of the Federal Reserve System. They are required to bank at a National Bank. I do not believe they are permitted to use state non-member banks as correspondents. It has been decades since I cared about the answers to such questions, so I could be wrong. They may be permitted to use state non-member banks.

It is possible, conceptually, to know where the credit union banks at. It is doubtful that any bank would reveal their private banking arrangements with the customer of a credit union who was curious. Wires can be traced but it is expensive and won't be done just because a customer is curious. They do it because the money got lost in transit.

It might be better to think of a wire as a package that needs to go from Los Angeles to New York. There are many different trucking, rail companies, and airlines that could be involved over many possible varied routes. It may be that some of these firms place their business out for bid so that two packages sent on different days take different routes with different carriers. Money is the same way. It is possible to trace where the last wire went, but that does not imply that the next wire will go along the same path.

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