Send Money Online

Money is electronic these days, and that makes it easier to send money to friends and businesses. There’s no need to wait for checks to move through the mail (although you may have to wait for banks to clear your transaction), and you can send or receive from anywhere.

The list below describes some of the easiest, safest, and least expensive options for sending cash online. If you’re just transferring money within the United States, the process is simpler and often free.

If you want to send money overseas, it can be done but you’ve got fewer options (those options are described towards the bottom of the page).

We’ll start with some relatively new options and move on to traditional banks and money transfer services.

P2P Services

Several online services allow you to make personal payments online for free if you pull funds from your bank account. If you use a debit or credit card to make the payment instead, you may have to pay a small fee (unless you use Square Cash).

Square Cash: Square Cash allows you to send money to and from debit cards by sending an email. 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.

Payment Services: you’re probably very familiar with popular payment services like PayPal and Google Wallet, but unaware that you can use them for personal payments as well as purchases from businesses.

Most of the big names allow you to send money to friends and relatives at no charge (as long as you fund the transfer from your bank account – not a credit card).

Bank services: your bank might also allow you to make person-to-person payments electronically. These services go by a variety of names, but several banks work with Popmoney to facilitate transfers.

Log in to your account or contact your bank to find out more, and be sure to research any fees. Even if your recipient doesn’t have access to a service like Popmoney through her bank, there’s usually a way to claim funds by providing bank account information. For more details, see how Popmoney compares to PayPal.

Another way to use your bank is to simply set up a new payee for whoever you need to send funds to using your online bill pay system. Have your bank write and send a check, and be done with it. If you're going to pay somebody more than once, it's probably worth your time.

Money Transfer Services

MoneyGram and Western Union have offered money transfer services at physical locations for years. They also allow you to initiate transfers online. You can send money overseas or within the US, and you can even send online to a recipient who will pick up cash in person.

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

Sending Money Overseas

Some of the options listed above allow you to send money overseas as well as domestically:

  • PayPal
  • Western Union
  • MoneyGram
  • Your bank (you might have to do a wire transfer)

However, you might prefer a service that is specifically geared towards 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 transfer and/or 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?)

Alternatives

The options listed above are reliable methods that operate within the mainstream financial system. If you’re the adventurous type, you can also transfer money using instruments such as Bitcoin or virtual gold.

However, you’re taking significantly more risk once you get into “alternatives.” It’s possible to lose money quickly as the value of those instruments fluctuates, and you do not benefit from the same consumer protection laws that might be available in the mainstream marketplace. There are numerous other risks that are beyond the scope of this article, so do plenty of research before you go that route.