11 Best Ways to Send Money

Spencer TierneyJuly 30, 2020
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.

How to send money online, on mobile or in person

  • Venmo: Best rated for mobile.

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

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

  • PayPal: Most popular online.

  • Walmart-2-Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers.

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

  • TransferWise: Cheapest for international transfers (tie with OFX).

  • OFX: Cheapest for international transfers (tie with TransferWise).

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

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

  • Western Union: Best transfer options.

best ways to send money: domestic

Venmo: Best rated for mobile

Zelle Money Transfer

at Zelle

Zelle: Fastest (tie)

Google Pay Google Pay

at Google Pay

Google Pay: Fastest (tie)

PayPal Money Transfer

at PayPal

PayPal: Most popular online

Walmart Money Transfer

at Walmart

Walmart-2-Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers

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

Best ways to send money: International

TransferWise Money Transfer

at TransferWise

TransferWise: Cheapest (tie)

OFX: Cheapest (tie)

Xoom: Fastest (tie)

MoneyGram Money Transfer

at MoneyGram

MoneyGram: Fastest (tie)

Western Union Money Transfer

Western Union: Best transfer options

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 ratings — in combination — are the highest of the domestic providers we considered: 4.5 stars in the Google Play store and 4.9 in the iTunes 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 transactions will pop up, along with your friends’ — without amounts — on a Facebook-like news feed.

Money you receive shows up instantly on 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% fee. (For more details, read our Venmo review.)

Zelle: Fastest (tie with Google Pay)

Zelle Money Transfer

at Zelle

Why it’s our pick:

  • Delivery tends to be within minutes.

  • Already integrated with over 800 financial institutions, connecting more than 100 million people.

Zelle can send and deliver money within minutes between bank accounts at different financial institutions. And unlike other P2P apps listed, Zelle's service might already be on your smartphone. Over 800 banks and credit unions are on board, which means that their 100 million-some customers can use Zelle within their bank's 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.

Like Venmo, 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 Google Pay

at Google Pay

Why it's our pick:

  • Smooth integration of money transfer service in email.

  • Instant transfer of funds to debit cards.

Google Pay lets you transfer money for free using a 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 is $10,000 per transfer. 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

PayPal Money Transfer

at PayPal

Why it’s our pick:

  • High transfer maximum.

  • More than 260 million active accounts worldwide, more than other P2P services.

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.

The maximum amount per transfer, at least $10,000, surpasses 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 one business day or longer 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.)

Walmart-2-Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers

Walmart Money Transfer

at Walmart

Why it’s our pick:

  • Beats traditional money transfer companies for cheap cash transfers.

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

The maximum you can send is $2,500, and costs can reach up to $16. (For more about Walmart financial services, read our Walmart Money Center review.)

Bank wire transfer: Best for sending $10,000 or more within 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 $2,000 to $10,000 per transfer, and delivery can take multiple days.

There’s a steep fee for transfers. The median domestic wire for sending is $25, and $15 for receiving, based on an analysis of big banks (see what most banks charge). If you need to send a lot of money within minutes, though, the cost might be less important.

International transfers

When you make a transfer abroad, you generally encounter two costs: the upfront fee and the foreign exchange margin, or the markup on the exchange rate financial institutions use when transferring money among themselves. Consider both fees to find the best deal.

TransferWise: Cheapest (tie with OFX)

TransferWise Money Transfer

at TransferWise

Why it’s our pick:

  • No foreign exchange rate markups.

  • Consumer-friendly web experience from signup to delivery.

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 guaranteed for at least a day. Other perks: Save previous recipients’ details, easily cancel transfers, and get help by checking the extensive FAQs.

TransferWise sends money from the U.S. to over 70 countries without a markup.

In most cases, you'll pay a flat dollar amount, which increases with the amount you send, and a percentage of the transaction — often less than 1%. From the U.S., delivery generally takes several business days. (Read our TransferWise review).

OFX: Cheapest (tie with TransferWise)

Why it’s our pick:

  • No 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. 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 currencies.

Xoom— a PayPal service —specializes in fast transfers to over 70 countries. You can send up to $25,000 to some countries, though in others the limit is $10,000 and in others, it's lower. You pay by bank account, debit card or credit card, 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 off exchange rates, but it gives better rates for sending higher amounts to certain countries. Transfers from one bank account to another are sometimes free, or Xoom may give you a better rate if you send larger amounts to some countries. 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 often take several business days for transferring to bank accounts.

Costs aren’t cheap. Average fees for sending $200 to $1,000 range from $5 to $35 in the countries we surveyed. Exchange rates also aren’t that favorable, with average markups of up to 3%. (See our MoneyGram review.)

Western Union: Best transfer options

Western Union Money Transfer

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 almost 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 aren’t the cheapest overall, and only some options include same-day or next-day delivery. Some online transfer options, generally the cheaper ones, can take several business days for delivery. (Read our Western Union review.)

» Looking for something more permanent? NerdWallet's best banks for international travel


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 money to recipient’s bank account, user reach (where transaction data were 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.

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.

Money transfer providers surveyed: Apple Pay Cash, Circle, Dwolla, Facebook Messenger, Google Pay, MoneyGram, PayPal, PopMoney, Ria, Square Cash, Venmo, Walmart, Western Union and Zelle.


METHODOLOGY FOR INTERNATIONAL TRANSFERS

We analyze 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.

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

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

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