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Best Ways to Send Money

Banking, Money Transfer
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To send money online, on mobile or in person, you need to find the right provider for you. 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 find the best providers for domestic and international money transfers. Check them out:

» MORE: Step-by-step guide: How to send money online

Send money online, on mobile or in person

Domestic TransfersInternational Transfers
SENDING UNDER $10,000SENDING UNDER $10,000
Best rated for mobile users:
Venmo
Learn more
at Venmo







Best foreign exchange rates:
Transferwise
Learn more
at TransferWise






Most streamlined for mobile users:
Square+Cash
Learn more
at Square Cash





Fastest:
Xoom
Learn more
at Xoom






Best for online users:
Paypal
Learn more
at PayPal






Best for sending cash:
Western Union
Learn more
at Western Union






Fastest and best for email transfers:
Google+Wallet

Learn more
at Google Wallet







SENDING $10,000 OR MORE

Best: OFX (formerly 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.

Best rated for mobile users: Venmo

Venmo
Learn more
at Venmo
Among services that send less than $10,000, Venmo, owned by PayPal, has one of the highest rated P2P apps, or digital wallets. It boasts a 4.7-star rating on the Google Play store and 4.5-star rating on the iTunes App Store, a combination higher than all other domestic providers considered. 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.

Venmo’s app offers a streamlined experience: With a few taps, you can send or request up to $2,999 per transfer and per week. But it also has a fun element: You can see your friends’ transactions, minus the amounts, on a Facebook-like news feed. Money you receive goes into a Venmo balance instantly, but it takes one to two business days before you can access it from your bank account.

Why it’s our pick: Venmo’s highly rated app makes free transfers tied to bank accounts or debit cards easy and socially engaging. In addition to its iOS and Android apps, Venmo works with a third-party app for Windows phones.

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

Most streamlined for mobile users: Square Cash

Square+Cash
Learn more
at Square Cash
Payment company Square gives you quick ways to send money online and on mobile with a more nuts-and-bolts design. Instead of a feed of your friends’ transactions like Venmo, the mobile app keeps the focus on just you and your transactions.

The Square Cash app, started in 2013, now features an in-app wallet that holds money received like Venmo and PayPal do. Unfortunately, this means that cashing out to a bank account for free now has delays: It takes one business day during weekdays (except Friday) and longer on weekends, which is competitive with other apps but not the fastest. You can get money cashed out instantly, but you have to pay a 1% fee, which isn’t recommended.

The service links up with a debit or credit card and lets you send money via a website or mobile app on iOS and Android phones. Transfers with a debit card are free, but like Venmo, there’s a 3% fee for using a credit card. Square Cash’s well-designed web and mobile interfaces make it easy to send or request up to $2,500 (though the limit varies by state). It also has a feature similar to PayPal.Me called “$cashtag” for receiving money securely from anyone.

Why it’s our pick: Square Cash has a more streamlined design than other providers, especially its mobile app.

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

For online users: PayPal

Paypal
Learn more
at PayPal
An established online money transfer company since 1999, PayPal offers free transfers to others in the U.S. when you use a bank account or PayPal balance. Paying with a debit or credit card costs fees, though.

The maximum amount per transfer, $10,000, surpasses Venmo’s weekly maximum, but PayPal delivers money more slowly to a bank account than Venmo or Square Cash. 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 192 million active accounts worldwide.

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

Fastest and best for email transfers: Google Wallet

Google+Wallet

Learn more
at 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. Unlike with other P2P apps, you have a free option to cash out from the in-app wallet to a debit card, meaning that delivery can occur within minutes. Google Wallet also 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.

Why it’s our pick: Google Wallet offers the best integration of a money transfer service in email and gives users the free option to have funds go nearly instantly from the app to a debit card.

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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 cost goes up to $18 for sending the maximum, $2,500. You and your friend must be at different U.S. Wal-Mart stores, of the more than 4,000 stores 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, $2,500, compared with other providers that accept cash transfers.

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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 between $2,000 and $10,000 per transfer. And with those apps, you have to verify your identity in order to send the maximum, and it can take 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 need to send a large amount quickly. There’s a steep cost per transfer, though. The average domestic wire has a $25 fee to send and $8 fee to receive money, based on an analysis of big banks. 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 margin. The second one refers to the difference between the exchange rate used by financial institutions transferring money among themselves (called the “midmarket rate”) and the exchange rate that’s marked up and given to you. Banks and other transfer providers differ in how much they mark up exchange rates. Both costs were considered below.

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

Best foreign exchange rates: TransferWise

Transferwise
Learn more
at TransferWise
This United Kingdom-based money transfer platform, available online and on iOS and Android phones, sends money from the U.S. to 54 countries. The service prides itself on keeping foreign exchange rates at the midmarket rate, saving customers from the higher rates that banks generally charge. TransferWise charges a flat fee as low as $2.70 or $3 for smaller transfers and a fee as a percentage of the transaction, such as 1%, for larger transfers. The exact fee depends on the destination and the amount being sent. From the U.S., you can transfer only between bank accounts, and delivery can take one to several business days.

Why it’s our pick: Of the providers we considered, TransferWise has the best exchange rates consistently as well as a combination of the most easy-to-use web and mobile design, competitive costs and fast delivery times.

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

Fastest: Xoom

Xoom
Learn more
at Xoom
Xoom, a PayPal company, specializes in sending amounts of up to $2,999 to 55 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 and mobile phone reloads. Upfront fees for using a bank account are competitive. You can send up to the maximum amount with a bank account for a $4.99 fee in 70% of the destinations. The exchange rate isn’t Xoom’s specialty among the other providers in this list, but delivery speed is. Regardless of whether you pay with a bank account, debit card or credit card, transfers can arrive within minutes.

Why it’s our pick: Of the international transfer options we looked at, Xoom provides the most diverse delivery options at a low cost and fast transfers regardless of payment option.

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

For sending cash: Western Union

Western Union
Learn more
at Western Union
As the oldest and biggest money transfer company worldwide, Western Union has the most extensive physical network in over 200 countries. It has access to 100,000 ATMs and over 500,000 agent locations globally, making it the biggest international 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 less-traveled parts of the world. Fees and foreign exchange rates vary by destination, how you have money delivered and what payment option you choose.

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

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

OFX

OFX, an online currency exchange platform formerly known as USForex, combines convenience with reasonable costs, especially for larger transfers. Its online service lets you make a transfer at its current exchange rates or target future rates at any hour of the day — meaning that your transfer will be sent once your exchange rate is reached. You can also call up one of its dealers to make transfers for you.

OFX charges no fees, regardless of the amount you send. The minimum you can send is $250 per transfer. Like Xoom and many other providers, OFX profits from foreign exchange rate markups, but rates are competitive with others. Delivery takes at least one business day.

Why it’s our pick: OFX gives consumers low costs to send transfers, with customer service options for targeting better rates, and it doesn’t charge any fees.

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, so check out these providers to see if you can send your money fast and for cheap.

» 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.

Updated March 14, 2017.


METHODOLOGY FOR DOMESTIC TRANSFERS

To determine the best domestic transfer services, we examined the following features for 11 providers: fees, payment methods, sending limits, delivery speed for recipient to cash money out to bank account, mobile app popularity and security measures. Priority went to those that offer no-cost transfers, have established histories and high app store ratings 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 typically smaller initial amount limits when first using apps.

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 exchange rate margins, we looked at transfers from the U.S. to five countries: Mexico, China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. 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 exchange rates on providers’ websites with midmarket rates at noon Pacific time on Dec. 7, 2016, using midmarket rates from Bloomberg.

Money transfer providers surveyed: Currencies Direct, CurrencyTransfer, MoneyCorp, MoneyGram, OFX, PayPal, Payza, Remitly, Ria, Sharemoney, TorFX, Transfast, TransferWise, Travelex, Venstar Xchange, Viamericas, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo (ExpressSend), Western Union, World First, WorldRemit, XE and Xoom.