The Cheapest Ways to Send Money
It's easier than ever to send money to friends, family, or businesses.
Checks and cash have their advantages, especially because most people already know how to use them. However, there are other ways to transfer funds that are safer, faster, and easier to manage.
If cost and speed are priorities, person-to-person payment apps are some of the cheapest ways to send money.
Venmo, owned by PayPal, pulls funds from your bank account or debit card for free. You also can pay for free out of any balance stored at Venmo. If you fund a payment with a credit card, however, there is a 3% fee.
The app is designed to make it easy to split expenses like meals, rent, and entertainment costs. You can also have paychecks directly deposited to your Venmo account.
In addition to the payment feature, Venmo includes a social element. You can include a message explaining what each payment is for, and you can comment on friends' transactions.
Because of this social element, Venmo is best used with people you know and trust. You can use Venmo's privacy settings to change who can and cannot see your transactions.
Cash App, owned by Square Inc, is another person-to-person (P2P) payment service that allows users to send funds instantly via a mobile app. There is no cost to use the service.
To use the service, the sender and receiver both need to set up a Cash App account. You can link it to your own checking account or debit card or have funds like a paycheck directly deposited in your Cash App account.
You can also have government payments, such as a tax refund or a COVID-19 relief stimulus payment, deposited to your Cash App account.
You can also get a Cash Card, a Visa debit card that links to whatever money is in your Cash App account. You can then use it to make payments anywhere that accepts debit cards.
Cash App has attempted to separate itself from other competitors by allowing users to make stock purchases, buy Bitcoin, and make cash withdrawals at ATMs, among other features.
PayPal is popular for buying from online merchants, but you also can send money to individuals. Both parties must have a PayPal account to transfer money.
When making personal payments out of your PayPal balance or linked checking account, PayPal is free. You’ll need to pay a fee if you send from a debit or credit card. You will also need to pay a fee if you receive a business payment via PayPal.
PayPal can be used to send money internationally. You will have to pay a fee for each international transfer; the fee varies among countries.
PayPal offers a second app, Xoom, specifically for sending money internationally. It is particularly useful if you have family overseas who you regularly send money to or support financially.
Xoom can be used to:
- Pay international bills
- Transfer money between bank accounts in different countries
- Send cash for pickup or delivery in select countries
- Reload mobile phones overseas
Recipients do not need a PayPal account to receive a Xoom payment.
If you spend a lot of time on Facebook, Messenger payments are a convenient and free way to pay friends. To send or request a payment, you and the other party will need to be friends on Facebook, and payments can be made using your browser or the Messenger app.
Set up your payment account by adding debit card, prepaid card, or PayPal account information. Once you're ready to send, start a conversation, and select the dollar sign icon ("$").
Funds can be sent through Facebook Messenger only in the U.S.
Whether you have an iPhone or an Android, your phone probably has a built-in app for transferring money.
Google Pay is a free option for personal payments. There’s no charge to send money from your Google Pay account balance, linked checking account, or debit card.
For Gmail users, sending money is especially easy. Once the money comes into your Google Pay account, you can send it elsewhere, transfer it to your bank, or use a Google Pay Mastercard for purchases and ATM withdrawals.
Similarly, Apple Pay works directly on your phone, allowing you to make payments in apps like Messenger with the credit or debit card you have already added to your Apple account.
Both parties must have Apple accounts. To use, you can select the "App" icon in messenger, then choose Apple Pay from the available apps.
The app will show a toggle that lets you select the amount, then choose either "Request" or "Pay." The payment is sent instantly from your Apple wallet app.
Any payment you receive is added to your Apple Pay Cash card in your wallet app. You can either use this balance to make payments or have it deposited to your checking account.
Online Bill Pay
If your bank offers online bill payment, you often can make payments for free.
In your online bank portal, add a payee using the name and address of the person you want to send money to. It doesn’t have to be a business. Banks generally print and mail a check for you, so you won’t have to pay for postage or dip into your supply of checks.
This is only free if you can avoid paying monthly fees for your checking account, and if your bank truly sends those payments at no charge. Check with your bank or credit union to see what types of features it offers.
Bank P2P Payments
There’s a good chance your bank offers a P2P payment service. Many consumers already have access to Zelle in their bank accounts, but check with your bank or credit union to be sure.
In many cases, those payments are free, and funds are available almost instantly once you're up and running. If your bank doesn't offer Zelle, you can use the service on your own or see what's available with your bank.
Look for an option to “send money to a friend” or similar. Some institutions use Popmoney, which also offers inexpensive transfers.
If you're sending money internationally, TransferWise is one of the least expensive options. It tries to match the best exchange rate possible, and fees are usually 1% of the payment or less.
Payments sent with a debit or credit card usually happen instantly. Transfers from one bank account to another may take one or two business days.
Fees increase with the size of your payment. Larger payments will also take longer, as TransferWise will verify your identity before transferring funds.
Things to Consider
Most P2P services require both the sender and recipient to have an account. Even if they don't, it's usually easier if both people do.
Creating an account is generally easy, but it might be inconvenient or undesirable, particularly for a recipient. Try to find a method that works for both of you.
It might not be worth saving $1 if the recipient has to figure out how to create an account and get everything linked, just for a one-time payment.
Such services often limit how much you can send, at least initially. Be aware of daily or monthly maximums, and find out what it takes to increase those limits.
Some services allow you to send more after you request an increase and provide additional information about yourself.
If you are hesitant to use an app for a specific transaction, you can always write a check. The total cost of the stamp and envelope is likely less than a dollar, and there’s no need to fiddle with a new online service. If you don’t plan to send money regularly, a check might be an easy one-time solution.
If you’d like to send money overseas, be sure to research whether that’s an option and how much it will cost. If you are unsure about using an app for international transfers, wire transfers (which cost more) or money orders are also options.
No matter how you send money, be sure to watch for scams. You should only send money to people or businesses that you know and trust.