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. The list below highlights some of the safest, easiest, fastest, and least expensive choices.

P2P 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, are also often free. However, if you prefer to use a credit card to fund the payment instead, you may have to pay a small fee (unless you use Square Cash).

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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. For more details, read a review of Square Cash.
  2. 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 can just 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.
  1. Facebook Messenger allows you to do more than chat. You can send money to your friends online for free using your debit card. Learn more about making payments with Messenger.

Bank services also allow you to send money to individuals online, and those services increasingly look and feel like the apps above.

  • P2P payments 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. For more details, see how Popmoney compares to PayPal.
  • 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 will probably 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 (described below) are less expensive forms of wires. If you’re sending a large amount of money (more than 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 can even 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 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 the customer service desk in supermarkets), or you can speak with somebody on the phone.

    Learn more about how and when to use Western Union (and when not to).

    Send Money Overseas

    Several of the options listed above allow you to send money to foreign countries as well as sending domestically:

    • PayPal
    • Western Union
    • MoneyGram
    • Your bank (typically using a wire transfer)

    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, although there are certainly others. 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 (would your recipient prefer to have funds transferred to a bank account, handed over in cash, or loaded onto a payment card?)