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Best Ways to Send Money to Your College Student

Banking, Banking Basics, Money Transfer
Best Ways to Send Money to a College Student

The early morning scramble to give your child lunch money might be over now that he or she has moved on to college, but you’re likely still helping out with expenses.

Lou Anne Alexander, group president of payments at consumer reporting agency Early Warning Services, was at work recently when her daughter called. She was in line to buy a college textbook that cost $250 — more than her bank account balance. Without breaking a sweat, Alexander used a “peer to peer” provider to send her daughter the money before she reached the front of the line.

Here’s more about P2P providers and other great tools that you and your college kid can use to avoid a money-sending scramble.

Transfer between linked bank accounts

If you and your child have linked checking accounts at the same bank, simply transfer money from one to the other using the bank’s website or mobile app. Details vary by bank, but transfers are usually free, and money arrives within minutes during business days.

Best if: You and your child share a bank.

Use a P2P service like Zelle or Venmo

P2P payment services tend to be free, fast and convenient, but there are differences among them. Here are two good choices:

Zelle: This is the service Alexander used to wing money from her account to her daughter’s. Zelle typically moves money between bank accounts for free and within minutes, regardless of the time of day. Zelle, created by Early Warning Services, went live this June on some of the biggest U.S. banks’ websites and mobile apps and will have a standalone app later this year. It’s not available everywhere, so see if your bank has signed up.

Venmo: Owned by PayPal, Venmo is popular among college students. It lets you send money online and on its mobile app. You can also include short messages and emojis, which appear on a Facebook-like feed. Transfers are free when you pay with a bank account or debit card, and the money typically arrives in one to two business days. The fast-growing app transferred $5.6 billion in the last three months of 2016.

Best if: You and your child have different banks.

Transfer between linked prepaid debit cards

Prepaid debit cards are easy to get and typically don’t require a credit check. More importantly, most don’t have overdraft fees or programs, so your child can only spend what he or she has.

To make transfers to a prepaid card, you and your child will likely need the same type of card. Some cards let users transfer money from a PayPal or bank account.

Bluebird by American Express and Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card are two solid options. Neither has a monthly fee or charges you when you make a purchase — which some prepaid debit cards do — and both let you send money for free to others with the same prepaid card.

Best if: You or your child don’t use bank accounts or your child tends to overspend.

Don’t be surprised

Internet-based transfers are far more secure and convenient than cash or checks — and faster, too, when time is of the essence. As your child heads to college, it’s wise to prepare for surprises.

As Alexander notes: “There’s always those unexpected things.”

Set yourself up to send money smarter

Compare banks to find your best fit

Find the fastest and best-rated P2P providers

See which prepaid cards are best for budgeting, reloads and more

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.