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What Are the Best Ways to Send Money to an Individual?

Banking, Money Transfer
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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 them out:

Domestic TransfersInternational Transfers
SENDING UNDER $10,000SENDING UNDER $10,000
Best for mobile users:






Best for online and mobile users:





Best for online users:





Best for receiving money:





Best for transfers directly to a bank account:




Best for sending cash:





Best for sending via email:






SENDING $10,000 OR MORE

Best: USForex





Best for sending cash:

Walmart-2-Walmart transfers

SENDING $10,000 OR MORE

Best: Bank wire transfers

Domestic transfers

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 WITHIN THE U.S.

For mobile users: Venmo

Among services that send less than $10,000, Venmo, owned by PayPal, has one of the fastest-growing P2P apps, or digital wallets. It’s free to use when you link a bank account or debit card from a major bank.

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 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 news feed.

Why it’s our pick: Although 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).

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 WITHIN THE U.S.

For online users: PayPal

An established online money transfer company since 1999, PayPal offers one of the cheapest ways to send money within a country. It’s free when you link up a bank account.

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: Although many providers have similar features and pricing, no P2P service has as wide a user base as PayPal, with over 170 million users worldwide.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 WITHIN THE U.S.

For transfers directly to a bank account: Square Cash

Instead of having a mobile wallet like Venmo or PayPal, online payment company Square gives you a free way to send money almost immediately to a person’s bank account.

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.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 WITHIN THE U.S.

For sending via email: Google Wallet

Like the previous three services, Google Wallet lets you transfer money to friends via the web using a phone number or email address. But it has the advantage of synchronizing with other Google accounts, including Gmail. This lets you send or request money by clicking a dollar sign at the bottom of an email, a simpler process than Square Cash’s more manual email transfer option. As with Square, you can fund a transfer with a debit card to make a delivery directly to a bank account, which can be instant.

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.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 WITHIN THE U.S.

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. You and your friend must be at 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 with other providers that accept cash transfers.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING $10,000 OR MORE 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; the limit is generally $10,000. 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.

International transfers

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.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 ABROAD FROM THE U.S.

For online and mobile users: TransferWise

This United Kingdom-based money transfer platform, available online and on iOS and Android phones, works in 36 currencies for U.S.-based transfers. The service prides itself on keeping foreign exchange rates at the midmarket rate, saving customers from the higher rates that banks generally charge. It charges a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction, depending on the countries sending and receiving the money and the amount being sent. From the U.S., delivery can take less than one business day to several days.

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.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 ABROAD FROM THE U.S.

For receiving money: Xoom

Recently bought by PayPal, Xoom specializes in sending amounts of up to $2,999 to 50 countries quickly and with different delivery options. Xoom partners with major banks abroad, allowing users to have money delivered to bank accounts or, in some countries, as cash pickup. Transfers can take minutes and be received in the currency of the sending or receiving country. Upfront fees are competitive and the exchange rate is generally close to the midmarket rate that the biggest banks use when they send money to one another.

Why it’s our pick: Of the international transfer options we looked at, Xoom provides the most diverse delivery options at a low cost.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING UNDER $10,000 ABROAD FROM THE U.S.

For sending cash: Western Union

As the oldest and biggest money transfer company worldwide, Western Union has the most extensive physical network. It has access to 100,000 ATMs and over 500,000 agent locations globally, making it the best provider for cash transfers. Although it offers a mobile app and website, the company specializes in sending and delivering cash. These transfers cost less than international bank wires and often are the only alternative in many parts of the world.

Why it’s our pick: Western Union easily has the biggest worldwide network of cash pickup locations of any provider.

Back to table

BEST FOR SENDING $10,000 OR MORE ABROAD FROM THE U.S.

USForex

This U.S.-based foreign exchange company, owned by the global transfer provider OFX, has some of the lowest foreign exchange rates. USForex’s online service lets you book exchange rates or target future rates at any hour of the day — meaning that your transfer will be sent once a certain exchange rate is reached. You can also call up one of its dealers to make transfers for you.

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 midmarket 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.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best banks for international travel

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

This article was updated. It was originally published Aug. 12, 2012.


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.

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 Jan. 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.

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