The best way to transfer money to someone depends a lot on how and where you want to send it. Person-to-person, or P2P, apps like Venmo enable you to electronically pay friends within the country. Other companies, like Western Union, let you send money abroad that can be picked up as cash.
We compared fees, speed and other features to highlight the best options for domestic and international money transfers. Check it out:
BEST FOR SENDING SMALL AMOUNTS WITHIN THE U.S.
For mobile users: Venmo
Venmo’s app offers a streamlined experience: With a few taps, you can send or request up to $2,999 weekly. Money you receive goes into a Venmo balance instantly, but it’s takes at least a day or two before you can access it from your bank account. You can also see your friends’ transactions, minus the amounts, on a Facebook-like newsfeed.
Why it’s our pick: While other services offer similar pricing and speed, Venmo has the strongest combination of a user-friendly, streamlined process and support for mobile operating systems (iOS, Android and Windows).
For online users: PayPal
The maximum amount per transfer, $10,000, surpasses Venmo’s weekly maximum, but PayPal delivers money more slowly to a bank account than Venmo. You can use its website or mobile app on iOS, Android and Windows phones. You can also receive money from friends at a personalized website link called “PayPal.Me.”
Why it’s our pick: While many providers have similar features and pricing, no P2P service has as wide a user base as PayPal, with over 170 million users worldwide.
For transfers directly to a bank account: Square Cash
Released in 2013 as Square Cash, the service links up with your debit card and lets you send money through email, website or mobile app on iOS and Android phones. Its well-designed Web and mobile interfaces make it easy to send or request money. It also has a feature similar to PayPal.Me called “$cashtag” for receiving money.
Why it’s our pick: Square Cash has the best combination of user-friendly online and mobile experience with the ability to instantly transfer money to bank accounts.
For sending via email: Google Wallet
Why it’s our pick: Google Wallet offers the best integration of a money transfer service in email and gives users the option to have funds go directly into a bank account.
For sending cash: Walmart-2-Walmart transfers
If you want to transfer straight cash, Wal-Mart has a service that’s cheaper than traditional money transfer companies such as Western Union and Moneygram. The fees are $4.50 to send up to $50 and $9.50 to send up to $900. Both you and your friend must be at two different U.S. Wal-Mart stores, of the 4,000 nationwide, and the money can be picked up within minutes. You can also fund a transfer with a debit or prepaid debit card.
Why it’s our pick: In the spirit of other Wal-Mart products, its money transfer service is the cheapest for sending the maximum amount, $900, compared to other providers that accept cash transfers.
BEST FOR SENDING LARGE AMOUNTS WITHIN THE U.S.
Bank wire transfer
As convenient as P2P mobile and online apps are, they limit how much you can send per transfer, $10,000 generally being the highest amount. And with those apps, you’d probably have to wait multiple days for a big sum to be delivered.
For these reasons, sending a wire transfer through your bank might be your best bet if you’re sending a large amount. It’s a fast and safe way to move money, with an average flat fee of $25 for sending and $10 for receiving funds, based on our analysis. For a large transfer that can happen within minutes, this cost is minimal.
When you make a transfer abroad, you generally encounter two costs: the upfront fee and the foreign exchange spread. The latter refers to the difference between the exchange rate a financial institution pays to buy a currency and the rate it charges when it sells that currency to consumers. Banks and providers can mark up this “sell” rate in order to make money off trades.
We considered both costs as we looked at the following providers.
BEST FOR SENDING SMALL AMOUNTS ABROAD FROM THE U.S.
Best for online and mobile users: TransferWise
Why it’s our pick: Of the providers we considered, TransferWise has a combination of the most easy-to-use Web and mobile design, competitive fees and fast delivery times.
Best for receiving money: Xoom
Why it’s our pick: Of the international transfer options we looked at, Xoom provides the most diverse delivery options at a low cost.
Best for sending cash: Western Union
Why it’s our pick: Western Union easily has the biggest worldwide network of cash pickup locations of any provider.
BEST FOR SENDING LARGE AMOUNTS ABROAD FROM THE U.S.
Amounts less than $5,000 cost a flat fee of $5, and amounts more than that have no upfront fees. Like Xoom, Western Union and banks, USForex takes a cut of the amount by charging slightly higher exchange rates to customers than the rates it receives when trading currencies.
Why it’s our pick: USForex gives customers exchange rates below mid-market rate, with customer service options for targeting better rates, and it doesn’t charge fees for large transfers.
Knowing the best ways to send money to individuals in the U.S. and abroad can save you both time and money. Banks aren’t the only option anymore, so check out these third-party providers to see if you can make transfers that work for you.
This post was updated. It was originally published Aug. 12, 2012.
Note: “Small amounts” in subheads means below $10,000. “Large amounts” means above $10,000.
METHODOLOGY FOR DOMESTIC TRANSFERS
To determine the best domestic transfer services, we examined the following features for 11 providers: fees, delivery speed of cash or to recipient’s bank account, user reach (where transaction data was available), sending amount limit and security measures. Priority went to those that offer no-cost transfers, have established histories and maintain high security standards. We excluded single-bank P2P services since they usually limit users to a given bank.
Money transfer providers surveyed: Fiserv’s PopMoney, Facebook Messenger, Google Wallet, Moneygram, PayPal, Ria, Snapchat’s Snapcash, Square Cash, Venmo, Wal-Mart and Western Union.
METHODOLOGY FOR INTERNATIONAL TRANSFERS
To determine the best money transfer services, we compared 23 providers’ fees, delivery speeds, security, number of supported currencies, number of physical locations worldwide and estimated foreign exchange spreads. Priority went to the providers with a combination of the lowest fees, fastest delivery, tightest security measures, most supported currencies and smallest foreign exchange spreads. We excluded services that don’t work in the U.S.
In assessing spreads, we looked at transfers from the U.S. to five countries: India, China, the Philippines, Mexico and France. These are the five countries that receive the biggest amount of “remittances,” or personal transfers that include money sent home by immigrants, based on the most recent data from the World Bank. We compared rates on providers’ websites with the foreign exchange rates at 4:30 p.m. PST on January 21, 2016, considering real-time currency data from Google, Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance.
Money transfer providers surveyed: Currencies Direct, CurrencyTransfer, MoneyCorp, MoneyGram, PayPal, Payza, Remitly, Ria, Sharemoney, TorFX, Transfast, TransferWise, Travelex, USForex, Venstar Xchange, Viamericas, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo (ExpressSend), Western Union, World First, WorldRemit, XE and Xoom.