8 Best Ways to Send Money

The best ways to send money are fast, free or low in fees, and offer good options for sending and receiving funds.
Ruth Sarreal
Spencer Tierney
By Spencer Tierney and  Ruth Sarreal 
Updated
Edited by Tony Armstrong

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When you send money online, the best way to do so depends on how and where you want to send it. We compared fees, speed and other features to identify the best domestic and international money transfer services. Many of these services are available online and through apps, and some are in-person options.

Why you can trust NerdWallet: Our writers and editors follow strict editorial guidelines to make sure our coverage is fair and accurate, so you can choose the options that work best for you.

How to send money online, on mobile or in person

Jump to each of our picks for the best ways to send money to friends and family:

Here's a rundown of the best ways to send money to friends and family.

Bank wire transfer

Why it’s our pick:

  • Delivers large amounts ($10,000 or more) from one bank to another within hours or minutes.

  • Sending a wire transfer through your bank might be the best way to send a large amount quickly; P2P apps limit how much you can send (generally $1,000 to $10,000 per transfer) and delivery can take multiple days. 

  • Bank wire transfers generally are delivered within hours or minutes.

  • There’s a steep fee for transfers. Based on an analysis of big banks, the median domestic wire cost for sending is $25, and $15 for receiving (see what most banks charge). 

  • The cost could be worth it if you need to send a lot of money within minutes.

» Interested in transferring money by wire? Learn how to wire money

Cash App

Why it’s our pick:

  • Receive a bonus when someone uses your referral code to sign up and send money.

  • No fees to send or receive money.

  • Cash App lets you send and receive money for free with cash from your linked bank account or debit card. 

  • You can create your own $Cashtag, or username to make it easier for people to find you and send you payments. 

  • Cash App offers a bonus when someone signs up with your referral link and sends at least $5 from their new account. 

  • You don’t need to have a bank account to use Cash App. If you have a Cash Card (Cash App’s debit card), you can make deposits to it to fund your Cash App balance.

  • Money you receive will show up instantly in your app balance, but it takes one to three days for the money to show up in your bank account if you choose to transfer. 

  • You can cash out instantly to your debit card but you’ll pay a 0.5%-1.75% fee.

  • You’re limited to sending and receiving a maximum of $1,000 per 30 days. 

  • To increase your limit, you’ll need to provide more personal information such as your full name, date of birth, and last four digits of your Social Security number. 

  • If you send money using a credit card, you’ll be charged a 3% fee. (For more information, see our Cash App review.)

Google Pay

Google Pay

Why it's our pick:

  • Instant transfers to a debit card for a smaller fee than what other P2P payment services charge.

  • Transfer money for free using a QR code, the recipient’s name, phone number or email address. 

  • Cash out instantly from the in-app wallet to a debit card for a 1.5% fee. 

  • Cash out for free to a bank account, which takes one to five business days. 

  • The maximum you can send is $5,000 every seven days. 

  • Bank accounts and debit cards can fund transfers, but credit cards and prepaid cards cannot.

  • Google Pay may refund you for purchases that you believe are fraudulent, which isn't a given for all money transfer apps and services.

PayPal

Why it’s our pick:

  • High transfer maximum.

  • More than 400 million active accounts worldwide.

  • PayPal offers free transfers in the U.S. when you fund with a bank account or PayPal balance. 

  • Paying with a credit card — and unlike other providers, a debit card — costs a fee: 2.9% of the sending amount plus 30 cents. 

  • Bank account transfers are free.

  • Depending on your currency, the maximum amount you can send per transfer ranges from $10,000 to $60,000. But if you're sending that much money, doing so through a federally insured bank provides more safeguards for your balance, such as Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insurance.

  • Transferring money to bank accounts for free takes one to five business days. 

  • You can also pay for an instant transfer to a linked debit card. 

  • You can send or receive money on the website or mobile app on iOS and Android, or at PayPal.Me, where you create your own link that family and friends can use to pay you. (Read our PayPal review.)

Venmo

Why it’s our pick:

  • Highly rated app for iOS and Android.

  • Free, easy, socially engaging money transfers.

  • Venmo’s app ratings are strong from both Android and iOS users.

  • It’s free to send and receive money when you link a bank account, debit card or prepaid debit card. 

  • Using a credit card costs 3% of the transaction. 

  • After you’ve verified your identity, you can send up to $60,000 per week.

  • Your and your friends’ transactions will pop up — without amounts — on a news feed. 

  • If you prefer privacy, you can change your settings so that only your friends or only you and the other user you’re paying or receiving money from can see them. 

  • Money you receive shows up instantly in your Venmo balance, but cashing out to a bank account takes one to three business days. 

  • You can also transfer funds to a debit card, typically within 30 minutes, for a 1.75% fee. (For more details, read our Venmo review.)

Walmart2Walmart

Money Transfer

Why it’s our pick:

  • Convenient option for sending cash to and/or from a Walmart store.

  • Walmart is a convenient option to transfer cash, especially if you and/or your recipient are near a store: You can send money from a Walmart store for pickup at a Walmart. 

  • Walmart partners with several money transfer service providers, so you can also send money from any MoneyGram, Ria or Western Union location for pickup at any of the thousands of U.S. Walmart stores, where a recipient can pick up the money within minutes. 

  • You can also send money from a Walmart for pickup within minutes at a Western Union or MoneyGram location (Ria locations aren’t a pickup option).

  • The maximum you can send in a day is $1,000, and prices start at $2.50. (For more about Walmart financial services including information on the FTC lawsuit against the company, read our Walmart Money Center review.)

Western Union

Why it’s our pick:

  • Extensive worldwide network of locations so you can send money internationally.

  • Many ways to send and deliver money.

  • Western Union offers a sizable range of transfer options. 

  • On the provider’s price estimator tool online, you’ll see more than a dozen combinations of sending channels, payment methods and delivery options. 

  • Send money from the Western Union website or its mobile app using a bank account, debit card or credit card — or send from a nearby agent location using cash.

  • The transfer giant’s physical network covers over 200 countries and territories and more than half a million locations globally.

  • Transfers are expensive — especially compared with most of the P2P apps on this list, which offer free ways to send and receive money.

  • Only some options include same-day or next-day delivery. 

  • Some online transfer options at Western Union can take several business days for delivery. (Read our Western Union review.)

  • Note that in general, when you make a transfer abroad, you generally encounter two costs: 1) the fee for sending money (also known as the outbound or upfront fee) and 2) the foreign exchange fees, or the markup on the exchange rate that financial institutions use when transferring money among themselves. Consider both fees to find the best deal.

» COMPARE: See our picks for best ways to send money internationally

Zelle:

Why it’s our pick:

  • Delivery tends to be within minutes.

  • Already integrated with over 1,000 financial institutions, connecting more than 100 million people.

  • With Zelle, you can send and deliver money within minutes between bank accounts at different financial institutions. 

  • You might already be using Zelle's service through your bank’s website or mobile app. More than 1,000 banks and credit unions use the service which means that 100 million-some customers can use Zelle within their bank's website or mobile app. 

  • If your bank isn't part of the network, Zelle is also available as a standalone app.

  • You'll need a U.S. bank account to fund and receive payments. 

  • Zelle doesn't charge any fees, though any of its partner banks can decide to. 

  • Although limits vary by bank, some of the largest banks set daily transfer maximums from $2,500 to $5,000.

  • Zelle is not made for buying or selling things, and you’re not protected for those transfers. 

  • In addition, if you send money to the wrong person or transfer the wrong amount, you might be out of luck. 

  • Protections are limited to when someone steals your Zelle account or password and uses it to send money.

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What to know about the best ways to send money

Several different options for sending and receiving money are available. Depending on the money transfer service provider, options can include:

  • Sending money from an app (generally funded by a bank account, debit card or credit card), a bank account, a debit or credit card. 

  • Receiving money in a bank account, an app balance, mobile wallet or as cash at an in-person pickup. 

Some money transfer services are free but others charge fees.

» Curious about the latest transfer service? Learn about FedNow

The amount you can send may be limited. Each provider generally has a certain amount you’re limited to spending. There may be per-transaction, daily or monthly limits. Some providers allow a higher limit if you verify your identity, which may require sharing personal information such as your Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

Delivery time varies. Some providers offer instant transfers with money showing up in the recipient’s account immediately or within minutes or hours. Other options may include delivery within a day or up to a few business days.

For app-based money transfer services, you can generally cash out to your bank account. Cashing out, or transferring your balance, to a bank account or debit card can take a few business days. You may be able to opt for an instant transfer but it might cost a fee.

You can avoid money transfer and P2P payment scams by following best practices. Note that you should always take precautions when using person-to-person (P2P) services to ensure you’re sending money to the right contact. In most cases, you’re not guaranteed a refund if your money goes to the wrong recipient. Read about how to avoid P2P scams.

If you’re sending money abroad, there are some key terms it’s helpful to understand. When sending money to a different country, if currency exchange is involved there may be more fees than with a domestic money transfer.

Definitions: Money Transfer Rates

There are three rates that determine how much your money transfer will cost and how much money your recipient will receive.

  • Exchange rate: An exchange rate is the price of one currency in relation to another currency. For example, if you want to convert U.S. dollars to euros, you would check what one U.S. dollar is worth in euros.

  • Midmarket rate: The midmarket rate, also called the interbank rate or interbank exchange rate, is the exchange rate that big banks use to swap currencies among one another.

  • Exchange rate markup: Most providers use an exchange rate markup when pricing your transfer. They give customers an exchange rate that’s the midmarket rate plus an additional percentage, or markup, to make a profit on the transfer. The higher the markup, the less your recipient gets in their currency.

General advice for international money transfers

1. Know how exchange rates work (and how to find the best). One of the ways money transfer providers make money is through exchange rate markups. Most transfer providers won’t give you the exchange rate you’d find on a currency exchange platform like the one at Bloomberg.com or Reuters.com. Those sites just tell you the price of one currency in relation to another, but they are a helpful starting point to know what the best rate looks like this minute. When you check the exchange rate for an international transfer with services like Western Union, focus on the exchange rate markup by looking at the foreign currency amount. The higher it is, the lower the markup is, and the more money your recipient receives.

2. Compare total transfer costs across multiple providers. There are two types of costs: upfront fee and exchange rate markup (see above). Find the provider that has the lowest fee combined with the best exchange rate you can get. Usually online nonbank providers offer cheaper transfers than banks.

3. Avoid paying with a credit card. It’s an option for some providers, but there might be a higher upfront fee and your credit card issuer may tack on costs such as interest and cash advance fees. A transfer paid by bank account directly tends to be a much cheaper (and much slower) transfer. If you need money delivered quickly, use a debit card, which will also incur a lower fee than using a credit card.

» Looking for a bank that's useful when you go abroad? Check out NerdWallet's best banks for international travel


METHODOLOGY FOR DOMESTIC TRANSFERS

To determine the best domestic transfer services, we examined the following features for 14 providers: fees, delivery speed of cash or money to recipient’s bank account, user reach (where transaction data were available), sending amount limit and security measures. Priority went to those providers 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.

Note: All transfer amount limits given assume users have verified their identity as each app requires. There are also initial amount limits when first using the app.

Providers surveyed: Apple Pay, Cash App, Meta Pay (formerly Facebook Pay), Google Pay, MoneyGram, PayPal, Ria, Samsung Pay, Venmo, Walmart2Walmart, Western Union, Wise, Xoom and Zelle.


METHODOLOGY FOR INTERNATIONAL TRANSFERS

We analyzed seven providers that work in the U.S., mostly focusing on major players in the international money transfer industry, based on market research, experts, cost analysis and U.S. internet traffic.

Countries surveyed: Germany, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Providers surveyed: MoneyGram, OFX, Remitly, Ria, Wise, Western Union and Xoom (owned by PayPal).

Fees and exchange rate markups mentioned are based on the analysis linked below.

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