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. You don't have to worry about meeting in person to exchange cash or checks. Plus, you can send or receive funds from anywhere in the world.
There are several ways to send money electronically, and the best option depends on your needs. Learn more about these options and how they work.
Person-to-Person Apps and Services
You have a lot of options when it comes to how to send money online. Multiple services allow you to make personal payments online for free if you pull funds from your bank account. Sending funds from debit cards, which are linked directly to your checking account, also is usually free. However, if you prefer to use a credit card to fund a 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 recipient need to have an account with the service provider. Here are some of the most popular options:
- PayPal: You may be used to paying for purchases with PayPal on 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. You can send money online with a credit card, debit card, bank account, or PayPal balance.
- Venmo: Owned by PayPal, Venmo is a 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.
- Cash App: This app allows you to send money to and from debit cards. Your debit card will be charged, so the funds will come from your checking account indirectly, and your recipient will receive a credit to their debit card.
- Zelle: This is both a standalone app and a service that's integrated with many bank accounts. With both options, you can typically send money for free, and funds are received quickly.
- Google Pay: Both a digital wallet and a way to send payments to friends, you can send funds easily to one or more recipients.
- Facebook Messenger: You can send money to your Facebook friends for free with Messenger. You can fund transfers using your debit card or PayPal account.
- Bank bill pay: You may also be able to pay friends and family through your bank's bill pay. Your bank will print and send a check, which means 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 it before the funds are available.
- Wire transfers: This is another way to transfer money from one bank account to another. The term traditionally refers to an instant transfer between one bank account and another. This option can be relatively expensive, though. For example, Bank of America charges $30 for domestic wire transfers. 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 transfer services 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 United States, and you can even send funds online to a recipient who will pick up cash in person. These services charge fees, and you can send funds from a bank account, with a debit or credit card, or with cash at a physical location.
If you're planning to send cash or use a debit card, you may also want to consider a Walmart2Walmart transfer. With this option, you can send money from a Walmart location to another Walmart location in the U.S., including Puerto Rico. You can start the transfer process from the Walmart app, and fees are relatively low. The maximum you can send is $2,500, and there's a $16 fee for that.
Only send wire transfers to someone you know and you're sure is legitimate. Many scammers use wire transfers as part of their cons.
Send Money Overseas
Most banks, payments services, and money transfer services allow you to send money to foreign countries and 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, might be less expensive.
Popular options for overseas transfers include Wise (formerly TransferWise), Paynoeer, Remity, and OFX. 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 (for both the sender and the recipient)
- The time it takes to receive funds
- Options for claiming the funds
The Bottom Line
There are a variety of services you can use to send funds to friends and family. Apps often allow you to send funds domestically for free, but the amount you can send may be limited. Wire transfers may be best for larger amounts and to send funds overseas. To find the best service, consider what apps and options your friends and family are most likely to use and the cost of using those services.