12 Best Ways to Send Money

Spencer TierneyAug 27, 2021
Zelle Money Transfer: What It Is, How to Use It

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When you send money online, the best way depends on how and where you want to send it.

We compared fees, speed and other features to find the best providers for domestic and international money transfers.

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

  • Venmo: Best rated for mobile.

  • Cash app: Best for referral bonus.

  • Zelle: Fastest for domestic transfers (tie with Google Pay).

  • Google Pay: Fastest for domestic transfers (tie with Zelle).

  • PayPal: Most popular online.

  • Walmart2Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers.

  • Bank wire transfer: Best for sending $10,000 or more within the U.S.

  • OFX: Cheapest for international transfers.

  • Xoom: Fastest for international transfers (tie with MoneyGram).

  • MoneyGram: Fastest for international transfers (tie with Xoom).

  • Western Union: Best transfer options.

  • Wise: Best for easy sign-up.

Best ways to send money: Domestic

Venmo: Best rated for mobile.

Cash app: Best for referral bonus.

Zelle: Fastest (tie).

Google Pay

Google Pay: Fastest (tie).

PayPal: Most popular online.

Money Transfer

Walmart2Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers.

Bank wire transfer: Best for sending $10,000 or more

Best ways to send money: International

OFX: Cheapest.

Xoom: Fastest (tie).

MoneyGram Money Transfer

at MoneyGram

MoneyGram: Fastest (tie).

Western Union Money Transfer

at Western Union

Western Union: Best transfer options.

Wise Money Transfer

at Wise

Wise: Best for easy sign-up.

Venmo: Best rated for mobile

Why it’s our pick:

  • Highly rated app for iOS and Android phones.

  • Free, easy, socially engaging money transfers.

Venmo’s app ratings — in combination — are the highest of the domestic providers we considered: 4.3 stars in the Google Play store and 4.9 in Apple's App Store.

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. With a few taps on Venmo, you can send up to $4,999.99 per week for peer-to-peer transactions.

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

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 1.5% fee. (For more details, read our Venmo review.)

Cash App: Best for referral bonus

Why it’s our pick:

  • $5 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, in the app, to make it easier for people to find you and send you payments. Unlike the other P2P apps and ways to send money on this list, Cash App offers a $5 bonus when someone signs up with your referral link and sends at least $5 from their new account.

You’ll need to have a bank account to use the Cash App. Money you receive will show up instantly in your app balance, but it will take 1-3 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 1.5% fee.

You’re limited to sending and receiving a maximum of $1,000 per 30 days. If you want 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.)

Zelle: Fastest (tie with Google Pay)

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. Over 1,000 banks and credit unions are on board, which means that their 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 a daily transfer maximum of $2,000 or $2,500.

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.

Google Pay: Fastest (tie with Zelle)

Google Pay

Why it's our pick:

  • Smooth integration of money transfer service in email.

  • Instant transfer of funds to debit cards for free.

Google Pay lets you transfer money for free using a QR code, the recipient’s name, phone number or email address. You can also cash out for free within minutes from the in-app wallet to a debit card. 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 covers 100% of all verified unauthorized transactions, which isn't a given for all money transfer apps and services.

PayPal: Most popular online

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 — carries 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, surpassing Venmo’s weekly maximum. But if you're sending that much money, doing so through a bank provides more safeguards for your balance, such as FDIC insurance.

Transferring money to bank accounts for free takes 1-4 business days, depending on if the transfer was initiated after 7 p.m. ET or on a weekend. 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 phones, or at PayPal.Me, where you create your own link that family and friends can use to pay you. (Read our PayPal review.)

Walmart2Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers

Money Transfer

Why it’s our pick:

  • Cheaper cash transfers than some traditional money transfer companies.

If you want to transfer cash, Walmart is cheaper than traditional money transfer companies, such as Western Union and Xoom. You can send money to any of the thousands of U.S. Walmart stores, where a recipient can pick up the money within minutes.

In most states, the maximum you can send in a day is $2,999.99, and prices start at $4. (For more about Walmart financial services, read our Walmart Money Center review.)

Bank wire transfer: Best for sending $10,000 or more within the U.S.

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

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). If you need to send a lot of money within minutes, though, the cost could be worth it.

International transfers

When you make a transfer abroad, you generally encounter two costs: the fee for sending money (also known as the outbound or upfront fee) and 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.

OFX: Cheapest

Why it’s our pick:

  • No outbound fees.

OFX doesn't charge fees, regardless of the amount you send. In addition, its online service lets you make a transfer at current exchange rates or target future rates — meaning your money will transfer once your exchange rate is reached — and markups are low. From the U.S., you can send money in over 55 currencies.

OFX has a minimum amount per transfer of $1,000 and no maximum. Delivery typically takes several business days. (Read our OFX review for more details.)

Xoom: Fastest (tie with MoneyGram)

Why it’s our pick:

  • Transfers to bank accounts abroad within minutes for some countries.

Xoom— a PayPal service — specializes in fast transfers to over 160 countries. You can send up to $100,000, though the higher the amount you want to send, the longer you may have to wait and the more personal information you’ll have to provide (such as a passport or Social Security number and a bank statement or pay stub). You can send money by bank account, debit card, credit card or the payment methods stored in your PayPal account, and most transfers arrive within minutes. Xoom partners with major banks abroad, allowing users to have money delivered to bank accounts or, in some countries, for cash pickup or as mobile phone reloads.

Cost is where Xoom lags behind competitors. Xoom makes money from exchange rates, but it gives better rates for sending higher amounts to certain countries. Transfers from one bank account to another are only sometimes free. Overall, fees can be higher if you use a debit or credit card. (For more information, see our Xoom review.)

MoneyGram: Fastest (tie with Xoom)

MoneyGram Money Transfer

at MoneyGram

Why it’s our pick:

  • Fast transfers to bank accounts or as cash for pickup worldwide.

MoneyGram commands a network of locations in more than 200 countries and territories. Transfers between locations take minutes for delivery as cash pickup, which is similar to MoneyGram’s main competitor, Western Union. Transfers sent online or by mobile phone to bank accounts in various countries take hours or a single business day; other providers can take several business days to transfer to bank accounts.

You’ll have to pay fees. Average fees for sending $200 to $1,000 range from about $5 to $12 in the countries we surveyed. MoneyGram also marks up the exchange rates up to 0.60%. For the countries we researched, the maximum amount you can send is about $10,000. (See our MoneyGram review.)

Western Union: Best transfer options

Western Union Money Transfer

at Western Union

Why it’s our pick:

  • Extensive worldwide network of locations.

  • Many ways to send and deliver money.

The biggest money transfer company worldwide, Western Union also has 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. You can send money from the Western Union website or its mobile app, and you can use 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 — one of the most expensive of the providers we looked at — and only some options include same-day or next-day delivery. Some online transfer options can take several business days for delivery. (Read our Western Union review.)

Wise: Best for easy sign-up

Wise Money Transfer

at Wise

Why it’s our pick:

  • No foreign exchange rate markups.

  • Consumer-friendly web experience from sign-up to delivery.

Wise (formerly TransferWise) balances convenience and costs on its online and mobile money transfer platform. You can sign up with your Apple, Google or Facebook account, instead of a site-specific login, and your exchange rate is generally guaranteed for at least a day. Wise sends money from the U.S. to over 80 countries without an exchange rate markup — they do charge you an exchange rate fee, which pays for making the exchange happen, but there's no markup and they don't make money off this fee.

In most cases, you'll pay two fees: a flat dollar amount (the upfront fee), which increases with the amount you send, and the exchange fee, which is often less than 1% of the amount you send. From the U.S., delivery generally takes several business days. (Read our Wise review).

» 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 12 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, Facebook Pay, Google Pay, MoneyGram, PayPal, PopMoney, Ria, Venmo, Walmart2Walmart, Western Union 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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