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MoneyGram Money Transfer Review: Not Often Cheap, but Fast

Banking, Money Transfer
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MoneyGram
NerdWallet’s rating: 4.0 / 5.0

4.0 stars out of 5

MoneyGram.logo
  • Global reach and broad options
  • Money often arrive within hours, even to bank accounts
  • Costs can be high
Learn more at MoneyGram

MoneyGram, owned by the Chinese company Ant Financial, holds the title as the world’s second-largest money transfer provider, after Western Union. It lets you send money online, by mobile and in person between the United States and more than 200 countries and territories, with over 350,000 agent locations and kiosks.

Apart from its breadth, delivery speed is one of the provider’s key advantages. Transfers can reach recipients within a day in various countries, even between bank accounts in the U.S. and abroad. In contrast, many other providers can take several business days to process transfers involving bank accounts. But MoneyGram’s costs often are higher than what competitors charge in direct comparisons of the same services.

>>MORE: Compare money transfers

The bottom line

  • We rated MoneyGram 4 out of 5 stars based on its transfers from the U.S. to seven benchmark countries. Where the provider shines: transfers with cash pickup in India, the United Kingdom and Canada.
    MoneyGram's ratings by country
    Median rating for all countries4.0 stars out of 5
    Mexico3.5 stars out of 5
    China3.5 stars out of 5
    India4.0 stars out of 5
    Philippines3.5 stars out of 5
    Germany4.0 stars out of 5
    Canada3.5 stars out of 5
    United Kingdom4.0 stars out of 5
  • Same-day transfers are possible, even with bank accounts
  • MoneyGram’s costs tend to be pricey, especially ones paid and delivered with bank accounts
  • There’s no delivery to bank accounts in Canada
  • There’s no conversion to Chinese currency for transfers with cash pickup in China, which puts MoneyGram at a disadvantage compared with competitors that offer this

Overview

For each country, we analyzed MoneyGram’s money transfers based on four categories: transfer costs, speed offerings, transfer methods and options, and customer experience. We took the average of all countries’ category ratings to get its overall ratings.

Overall Ratings
Transfer costs2.5 stars out of 5
Speed offerings5.0 stars out of 5
Transfer methods and options4.5 stars out of 5
Customer experience4.5 stars out of 5
Overall4.0 stars out of 5

Transfer costs

Reasonable fees but unfavorable exchange rates
2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Looking only at fees on MoneyGram’s price estimator, transfers may seem cheap. Fees average around $10 for $200 transfers, $15 for $500 transfers and $25 for $1,000 transfers. Some transfers to Mexico don’t have a fee. The exact amount varies by destination and other factors such as whether you pay with a bank account or a debit or credit card.

But fees are only one part of the cost. MoneyGram uses an exchange rate that’s generally marked up from the mid-market rate by 1% to 6%, depending on your destination and the type of transfer you’re making. The least expensive providers, such as OFX, have markups of 1% to 2% over the mid-market rate, although they don’t offer the range of payment and delivery options that MoneyGram does.

The mid-market rate, also called the interbank rate, is the exchange rate that big banks use to swap currencies with each other. Most providers give customers an exchange rate that’s the mid-market rate plus an additional percentage, or markup, to make a profit on the transfer.

Example: If the mid-market rate for U.S. dollars to Mexican pesos is 20 pesos per dollar, then a 2% markup means the provider is giving you 19.6 pesos per dollar. For a $500 transfer, that’s the difference between 10,000 pesos from the first rate and 9,800 pesos from the second. So the higher the markup, the less your recipient gets in his or her currency.

There’s no other cost when you use a bank account or debit card as payment, but credit cards are different. As with any money transfer, your card issuer may charge interest and cash advance fees.

Beyond online and mobile transfers, MoneyGram also lets you send money from a MoneyGram agent location in the U.S. to one abroad for your recipient to pick up cash. This is one of the more expensive options, but money can arrive within minutes and be handy for emergency situations. Compared with Western Union, the main competitor that also offers this service, MoneyGram’s agent transfers tend to be cheaper overall.

Speed offerings

Same-day delivery possible for multiple transfer types
5.0 stars out of 5
5.0 / 5.0
Money can arrive at your destination within hours for transfers involving delivery into bank accounts, depending on the country and local banking hours. MoneyGram also shows a list of countries in its FAQs for same-day or next-day delivery.

Transfers with cash pickup, regardless of payment method, can get to your recipient within minutes, though they’re subject to operating hours and other factors.

Transfer methods and options

Multiple sending, payment and delivery choices; low transfer limits
4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 / 5.0

  • Sending channels: MoneyGram’s website, mobile app (iOS or Android) or in person at a local agent location.
  • Payment options: U.S. checking account, MasterCard or Visa debit card and credit card, and cash. Cash is an option for in-person transfers only. American Express and Discover cards are not accepted.
  • Delivery options: Bank deposit at the recipient’s bank and cash pickup at a location such as a post office, retail store or bank. Other options may be available for certain countries, such as home delivery or deposits to a debit card or mobile wallet account.
  • Transfer limits: The maximum you can send online is $2,999 daily and the same $2,999 per 30 calendar days. You can send more if you visit a MoneyGram agent location.

Customer experience

Informative website, live chat, average app ratings
3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0
The website features an extensive FAQ page and a price calculator for comparing transfer costs, but some information isn’t clearly presented. For instance, there’s no clear disclosure that MoneyGram’s exchange rates on the calculator can differ for transfers to the same country depending on your sending and delivery options. This means some transfers may result in better rates and more foreign currency to your recipient than others.

You have options for reaching out to customer service, including live chat online, a 24/7 phone line and a contact form.

MoneyGram’s mobile app gets 1.5 stars out of 5 for its current version for iOS on the iTunes app store and 3.8 stars for Android on the Google Play store.

Fast delivery, high costs, fair customer experience

MoneyGram
Learn more
at MoneyGram
MoneyGram is one of the main providers of money transfers, with an extensive cash pickup network all over the world, and it has an edge with its fast delivery speeds. The costs for in-person transfers, which generally are higher than for online transfers, are competitive with other money transfer giants. But if you want the cheapest transfers to common destinations, you’d best look at other options.

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


RATINGS METHODOLOGY

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).

What the ratings mean:

5 stars out of 5 — Excellent
4 stars out of 5 — Above average
3 stars out of 5 — Average
2 stars out of 5 — Below average
1 star out of 5 — Poor

How we rate money transfer providers