How to Send Money Online

Woman using digital tablet on sofa
••• Hero Images / Getty Images

Sending money online is easy, fast, and often inexpensive or free. There’s no need to get cash or worry about it getting lost, and you don’t need to wait for checks to move through the mail. Plus, you can send or receive funds from anywhere in the world.

There are several ways to send funds electronically, and the best option depends on your needs. For example, sending money within the United States is quite painless, while sending money overseas requires you to choose from fewer service providers.

Person-to-Person Apps and Services

Multiple services allow you to make personal payments online for free if you pull funds from your bank account. Debit cards, which are linked directly to your checking account, also are usually free. However, if you prefer to use a credit card to fund the payment instead, you may have to pay a small fee.

Payment services are a good first option for sending money to another person online. In most cases, both the sender and receiver need to have an account with the service provider:

  • PayPal is one of the oldest and most popular payment services. You may be used to paying for purchases with PayPal at eBay and other sites, but it’s also useful for personal payments. Most people you know probably already have a PayPal account, so they won’t need to sign up for a new service, link bank accounts, or come up with a new password. Transfers are free when they come from your bank account or PayPal balance.
  • Venmo, owned by PayPal, is a free payment app that pulls funds from your bank account or debit card. The service is especially popular with millennials, and you can include messages with each payment.
  • Square Cash allows you to send money to and from debit cards by sending an email or by using an app. Your debit card will be charged so the funds will come from your checking account indirectly, and your recipient will receive a credit to her debit card. Transfers take several days, and there is no charge.
  • Google Wallet is integrated with Gmail, and you can send money to any email address for free or request funds online. Recipients don’t need to be Google Wallet users; they just need to enter their bank account information or debit card number when receiving a payment. If you use a debit card to receive payments, the credit can show up within minutes. Google also offers Android Pay, which may be a better option for some users.
  • Facebook Messenger allows you to do more than chat. You can send money to your friends online for free using your debit card.

Bank services also allow you to send money to individuals online, and those services increasingly look and feel like the services offered by online apps:

  • Person-to-person payments (P2P) go by a variety of names, but several banks work with Popmoney and similar competitors to facilitate transfers. To make a person-to-person payment, log into your account and look for “Personal Payments,” “P2P,” or similar options. Be sure to research any fees and find out if your recipient needs to have an account with the payment service. In many cases, the recipient can just provide their bank account information to claim a payment.
  • Online bill pay is another option for free payments, but your bank will print and send a check to somebody. As a result, you’ll have to wait for the check to travel through the mail, and your payee probably will need to wait a few days after depositing the check before the funds are available.
  • Wire transfers can move money from one account to another. The term traditionally refers to an instant transfer between one bank account and another, typically for a fee of $35 or so. But money transfer services are less expensive forms of wires. If you’re sending a large amount of money that exceeds the maximums allowed by apps or money transfer services like Western Union, or you’re sending overseas, a traditional wire transfer may be what you need.

Money Transfer Services

MoneyGram, Western Union, and similar services have offered money transfers at physical locations for years. They also allow you to request payments online using your browser or an app. You can send money overseas or within the U.S., and you even can send online to a recipient who will pick up cash in person.

Those services charge modest fees, especially if you send funds from your bank account or a debit card. Funding with a credit card also may be an option, but it’s quite expensive and probably only worth it in an emergency.

In addition to arranging payments online, money transfer services have physical locations, often in storefronts or at a customer service desk in supermarkets. You also can speak with somebody on the phone.

Send Money Overseas

Most banks, payments services, and money transfer services allow you to send money to foreign countries as well as sending domestically. However, you might prefer a service that is specifically designed for international transfers. Those services might operate in more locations or, depending on your needs, be less expensive.

Two popular options for overseas transfers are Xoom and Travelex. As you research options, start by verifying the legitimacy of any money transfer service you’re considering. Once you’re comfortable with a handful of options, compare the features such as:

  • The exchange rate you’ll get
  • How much it costs to send and receive funds
  • Options for claiming the funds