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Best Ways to Send Money

Banking, Money Transfer
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Best Ways to Send Money

To send money online, on mobile or in person, you need to find the right provider. 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 such as Venmo let you electronically pay friends within the country. Other companies, including 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.

» TOOL: Money transfer costs with real-time rates

Send money online, on mobile or in person

Domestic TransfersInternational Transfers
Best rated for mobile:
Venmo
Learn more
at Venmo







Cheapest:




Most streamlined on mobile:
Square+Cash
Learn more
at Square Cash





Fastest (Tie):
Xoom
Learn more
at Xoom






Most popular online:
Paypal
Learn more
at PayPal






Fastest (Tie):
MoneyGram
Learn more
at MoneyGram






Fastest:
Google+Wallet

Learn more
at Google Wallet







Best transfer options:
Western Union
Learn more
at Western Union






Best for nonbank transfers:

Walmart-2-Walmart transfers

Best customer experience:
Transferwise
Learn more
at TransferWise






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

Domestic transfers

Check out these options when sending less than $10,000 within the United States, plus information about bank wire transfers for sending more.

Venmo: Best rated for mobile

Why it’s our pick:

  • Highly rated app
  • Free, easy, socially engaging money transfers
  • Has iOS and Android apps plus a third-party app for Windows phones
Venmo
Learn more
at Venmo
Venmo, owned by PayPal, boasts a 4.7-star rating on the Google Play store and a 4.5-star rating on the iTunes App Store. That combination is 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.

With a few taps on Venmo, you can send or request up to $2,999 per transfer and per week.

There’s also a fun element. You can see friends’ transactions, minus the amounts, on a Facebook-like news feed. Money you receive shows up instantly on your Venmo balance, but it takes one to two business days before the funds are available in your bank account.

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Square Cash: Most streamlined on mobile

Why it’s our pick:

  • Simple approach
  • Sleek design on mobile
Square+Cash
Learn more
at Square Cash
Payment company Square provides a more nuts-and-bolts platform for sending money. Instead of an activity feed like Venmo’s, Square focuses on just you and your transactions.

The Square Cash app, started in 2013, links up with a debit or credit card to send money via website or mobile app on iOS and Android phones. Transfers with a debit card are free. Like Venmo, it charges a 3% fee for using a credit card. Its well-designed web and mobile interfaces make it easy to send or request up to $2,500, in most states. It also has a feature similar to PayPal.Me called “$cashtag” for receiving money securely from anyone.

Square Cash added an in-app wallet that holds money received, like Venmo and PayPal. Unfortunately, this means cashing out to a bank account for free now has delays: one business day except for transfers started on Friday or the weekend. That lag is about on par with other apps. You can get money cashed out instantly, but you have to pay a 1% fee.

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PayPal: Most popular online

Why it’s our pick:

  • High transfer maximum
  • Nearly 200 million active accounts worldwide, more than other P2P services
Paypal
Learn more
at PayPal
PayPal, begun in 1999, offers free transfers in the U.S. when you use a bank account or PayPal balance. Paying with a debit or credit card carries a fee: 2.9% of the sending amount plus 30 cents.

The maximum amount per transfer, $10,000, surpasses Venmo’s weekly maximum. Transferring money to bank accounts typically takes a business day except for Fridays and weekends. You can use its website or mobile app on iOS, Android and Windows phones and receive money from friends the same way or at PayPal.Me, where you create your own link.

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Google Wallet: Fastest

Why it’s our pick:

  • Smooth integration of money transfer service in email
  • Instant transfer of funds to debit cards
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 Square Cash, there’s a free option to cash out instantly from the in-app wallet to a debit card. Delivery can occur within minutes, which is the fastest cash out among P2P apps. The maximum is $9,999 per transfer.

Google Wallet also synchronizes with other Google accounts, including Gmail. This lets you send or request money by clicking a dollar sign at the bottom of an email.

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Walmart-2-Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers

Why it’s our pick:

  • Beats traditional money transfer companies for cheap cash 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 $16 for sending the maximum, $2,500. You can send to any of the 4,600 U.S. Wal-Mart stores, where a recipient can pick up the money within minutes. You can also fund a transfer with a regular or prepaid debit card.

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

As convenient as P2P mobile and online apps are, they limit how much you can send per transfer, generally $2,000 to $10,000. To send the maximum, you have to verify your identity, and those transfers can take multiple days for delivery.

Sending a wire transfer through your bank might be a better bet to send a large amount quickly. There’s a steep fee per transfer, though. The average domestic wire has a $25 fee to send and an $8 fee to receive money, based on an analysis of big banks. If you need to send a lot of money within minutes, though, the cost might be less important.

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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 are considered below.

OFX: Cheapest

Why it’s our pick:

  • No fees
  • Setting target rates leads to cheaper transfers
OFX, an online currency exchange platform formerly called USForex, combines convenience with cheap costs. Its online service lets you make a transfer at current exchange rates or target future rates at any hour of the day — meaning your transfer will send once your exchange rate is reached. You can also call up a customer service representative to make transfers for you.

OFX charges no fees, regardless of the amount you send, and rates tend to be better than through other providers because of low markups. The minimum you can send is $150 per transfer. Delivery typically takes several business days.

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Xoom: Fastest (Tie with MoneyGram)

Why it’s our pick:

  • Transfers to bank accounts abroad within one or two days
Xoom
Learn more
at Xoom
Xoom, a PayPal company, specializes in sending amounts up to $2,999 to 57 countries quickly. Whether you pay by bank account, debit card or credit card, transfers can arrive within minutes to many destinations. 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. Although transfers from one bank account to another have a maximum fee of $4.99 in over 60% of countries served, fees can be high if you use a debit or credit card. Exchange rates tend to have average markups from 1% to 3% above the midmarket rate, which is higher than other providers.

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MoneyGram: Fastest (Tie with Xoom)

Why it’s our pick:

  • Fast transfers to bank accounts or as cash for pickup worldwide.
MoneyGram
Learn more
at MoneyGram
MoneyGram, owned by Chinese company Ant Financial, commands a network of 350,000 locations in over 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.

Like Xoom, costs aren’t cheap. Average fees for sending $200 to $1,000 range from $10 to $25. Exchange rates also aren’t that favorable, with average markups of 1% to 6% above the midmarket rate.

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Western Union: Best transfer options

Why it’s our pick:

  • Extensive worldwide network of locations
  • Many ways to send and deliver money
Western Union
Learn more
at Western Union
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 just short of 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 with half a million locations globally.

Downsides? 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.

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TransferWise: Best customer experience

Why it’s our pick:

  • Cheap costs
  • Consumer-friendly web experience from signup to delivery
Transferwise
Learn more
at TransferWise
This United Kingdom-based money transfer platform makes sending money online and by mobile phone easy. You can sign up or log in through your Google or Facebook account or with an email address, instead of needing a site-specific password. Your exchange rate is guaranteed for a day. Other perks: Save previous recipients’ details, cancel a transfer with a couple of clicks and get questions answered via live chat with customer service or by checking the extensive FAQs.

TransferWise sends money from the U.S. to 58 countries more cheaply than most providers. It prides itself on keeping foreign exchange rates at the midmarket rate, saving customers from higher rates that banks generally charge. There’s a flat fee generally as low as $3 for smaller transfers; or for larger transfers, a fee as a percentage of the transaction, such as 1%. From the U.S., you can only transfer between bank accounts, and delivery generally takes several business days.

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» 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 28, 2017.


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: 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

We analyzed 11 top money transfer providers that operate in the U.S., including major players and smaller, innovative companies in the international money transfer industry, based on market research, experts, cost analysis and U.S. internet traffic.

Providers considered: MoneyGram, OFX, Placid Express, Remitly, Ria, Transfast, TransferWise, Western Union, World First, WorldRemit and Xoom (owned by PayPal).

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

How we rate money transfer providers