6 Best Ways To Send Money Online

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Sending money online is more convenient than carrying cash and cheaper than writing checks, but it can be difficult to determine the best way to send money.

To help you decide, I’ve analyzed nearly a dozen apps you can use to send money.

Each app has its strong points, and I’ve pointed that out in my analysis to help you decide which app to send money best suits your needs.

I’ll also share advice from money expert Clark Howard on how to keep the money you send online safe.

Best Apps for Sending Money 

The most popular apps for sending money offer a wide range of features.

But in this article, I’m focusing on the best way to send money conveniently and cheaply to friends and family.

Keep in mind that not every app for sending money made this list. I left off some well-known apps because the process of establishing an account or completing a transaction is cumbersome or because the fees are too high — or even because there’s just nothing about the app that makes it special.

The majority of these apps carry warnings that you should use them for transactions only with people you know and trust.

And that echoes what Clark says. He warns strongly against sending money online to people you don’t know well.

AppsBiggest AdvantageDomestic or International?iOS RatingAndroid Rating
Cash AppEasy to SetupDomestic4.84.2
PayPalPerforms Multiple FeaturesBoth4.84.2
VenmoConvenience/Social AtmosphereDomestic4.94.4
Western UnionAccess to 200+ CountriesBoth4.84.5
WiseTransparent Fees & Exchange Rate; High Transfer LimitsInternational4.74.5
ZelleImmediate Bank TransfersDomestic4.84.3

Choosing the best app to send money will depend on your needs and priorities. You should consider these factors: price, convenience, transfer speed, transfer limit and whether the app serves the location where you want to send money.

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When using any of these apps, you should be careful to double check the recipient’s name before you complete the transaction to ensure you are sending money to the correct person. How difficult it is to reverse a transfer varies with each app.

Best for Beginners: Cash App

What To Know About Cash App

  • Countries/regions served: United States and United Kingdom
  • Transfer speed from bank account: Instant
  • Fee to send money with bank account: None
  • Transfer speed from credit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with credit card: 3%
  • Transfer speed from debit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with debit card: None
  • Transfer limit: $5,000 per transaction; $7,500 per seven-day period

According to Business of Apps, a website that analyzes the building and marketing of apps, Cash App quintupled its user base from 2017 to 2020.

I found the Cash App to be the quickest to set up. You start by providing an email address or phone number. Cash App will prompt you to link a debit card to your account. After you provide your debit card information, you’re ready to send money.

If you are physically with the person you want to send money to, Cash App lets you do that, using an app-generated bar code and touching the smartphones to each other.

Cash App offers Visa debit cards to use for paying merchants in stores and online. You can also connect the Cash app debit card to Google and Apple Pay.

After receiving funds in your Cash App account, you can transfer it to your bank account instantly if you want to pay 1.5% of the amount. Free transfers take 1-2 business days.

For customer support, Cash App recommends you make contact through the app or the company website. There is also a phone number to call for assistance. When I called, I followed a recording’s instructions to speak with an agent. The recording said someone would call me back later. I received a call within 30 minutes.

A help line operator told me that, if you call immediately after sending money to the wrong person, Cash App will likely be able to reverse the payment. However, the agent told me that once the payment is complete, the funds cannot be returned to the sender. The operator also told me that the only recourse at this point would be to contact a bank or credit card provider.

Most Versatile: PayPal

What To Know About PayPal

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  • Countries/regions served: 200+
  • Transfer speed from bank account: Instant
  • Fee to send money from a bank account: None
  • Transfer speed from credit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with credit card: 2.9% plus 30 cents
  • Transfer speed from debit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with debit card: 2.9% plus 30 cents
  • Transfer limit: $10,000 per transaction

PayPal claims 392 million active accounts worldwide.

If you’re looking for several different options for sending money online, I find PayPal to be the best choice. Not only does it accommodate transactions between individuals, but you can also use PayPal to shop online and even set up an account that multiple people can contribute to.

To get started, PayPal asks for your phone number and then texts you a verification code to continue. Next, you will have to provide your email address and create a password.

Creating a password is a little bit harder on the PayPal app than its competitors’ because you have to include a symbol and a special character. Then, you’ll need to provide a mailing address to finish creating an account. Overall, I found that establishing a PayPal account to send money was a bit more labor-intensive than the other apps.

PayPal is the only app on my list that offers purchase protection for commercial purchases. That’s an advantage over the other apps, but that policy has a lot of exclusions, so I recommend reading the purchase protection webpage thoroughly before buying anything.

Note that PayPal offers no protection for payments sent between friends. If you send money to the wrong person under the “Sending to a Friend” option, PayPal commits to refund the money only if the recipient does not have a PayPal account. Otherwise, you will have to reach out to the recipient, your bank or your credit card company to try to get your money back.

PayPal also offers a feature called PayPal.me which allows users to exchange funds without revealing email addresses and/or phone numbers.

From Paypal.com/paypalme

With the app’s “money pools” feature, users can create an account that allows deposits from several people, so that a group can chip in together for a gift, contribute to pay a joint expense or raise money for charities or other causes.

PayPal also owns another cash app, Xoom, which provides international service.

PayPal lets you link a bank account, debit card or credit card. To instantly transfer money from your PayPal account to your linked bank account costs 1% of the amount sent with (maximum: $10). Free transfers to your bank account take 1-3 business days.

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For commercial purchases, getting your money back works just like a refund: It will go back to the form of payment you used to make the purchase. The PayPal website says refunds on credit and debit card purchases “usually takes 2-5 business days” but can take up to 30 days depending on the card company. Refunds for bank account purchases take 7-10 business days.

For customer support, PayPal offers three ways to seek help: an online resolution center, phone help line and direct messaging. The direct message function is available in the app and on desktop.

I tested the help number. I had to answer a few questions to get in line to talk to a real person. But after a few minutes of waiting, I got a recording that said an agent would call me back in 9-14 minutes. I did get a call back within that time frame; I missed the call, but I got another call within five minutes.

Best for Convenience: Venmo

What To Know About Venmo

  • Countries/regions served: United States
  • Transfer speed from bank account: Instant
  • Fee to send money from bank account: None
  • Transfer speed from credit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with credit card: 3%
  • Transfer speed from debit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with debit card: None
  • Transfer limit: $4,999.99 per week

Like many of you, PayPal was the first app I used to send money. But a few years ago, I asked a friend to pay me back for football tickets I bought for us, and he wanted to use Venmo. So I made a Venmo account at his request.

It’s become a very useful app to have, as many of my friends use Venmo. It turns out I’m not the only one. Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, continues to grow and finished 2020 with 52 million users according to Business of Apps.

To get started, Venmo asks for your email address and phone number. Venmo will then text you a verification code, which you will have to type into the app to continue.

Venmo uses the Plaid platform (embedded in the app) to verify your bank account, so you’ll be prompted to enter your online banking username and password. Verification happens almost instantly. 

If your bank doesn’t use Plaid, you will need to verify your bank account manually by providing your bank routing and account numbers. Then, Venmo will send two micro-transfers (under $1) to your account. To finish verifying your bank account, you must confirm the exact amount of the micro-transfers. This verification method can take up to three days to complete.

Once you’ve connected your bank account to Venmo, there is no charge for sending money, and it will arrive instantly in your recipient’s Venmo account.

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After receiving funds in a Venmo account, you’ll pay 1% of the amount to transfer it instantly to your bank account (maximum fee: $10). If you don’t want to pay that, it will take 1-3 business days.

What makes Venmo unique is its interface. It’s as much a social media app as it is a transactional one. When sending money, you can include emojis to describe why you’re sending it. Venmo shares your transactions publicly with your Venmo contacts in a Facebook-like news feed.

Venmo provides the option of finding Venmo accounts of family and friends by connecting to your Facebook account and phone contacts.

You can see what the interface looks like below in this screenshot of Venmo’s homepage.

From Venmo.com

Venmo also lets you send money by physically “bumping” phones with another Venmo user via a bar code generated in the app.

At a store, you can pay the same way if the merchant has a Venmo bar code to accept payments. You can also get a Venmo debit card, which connects to your Venmo account, and swipe it anywhere just like a regular debit card.

Note that you cannot transfer money to other users through Venmo on a desktop computer. You can, though, use your desktop to check your Venmo account balance and transfer money from your Venmo account to your bank.

Venmo offers you multiple ways to contact the company for assistance. I tested the help phone number, and I reached a real person in about two minutes. 

The customer service staff can help if you send money to the wrong person. To get your money back, Venmo says it will open an investigation and work to get your money returned. But the person I spoke with on the help line told me that reversing a payment you sent to the wrong person is usually done only as a one-time courtesy. 

Best for Access to Many Countries: Western Union

What to Know About Western Union

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  • Countries/regions served: 200+
  • Transfer speed from bank account: 1-5 business days
  • Fee to send money with bank account: Varies by how the recipient receives money (bank deposit or cash pickup at a Western Union location)
  • Transfer speed from credit card: Within 1 business day
  • Fee to send money with credit card: Varies by country & how the recipient receives money
  • Transfer speed from debit card: Within 1 business day
  • Fee to send money with debit card: Varies by country & how the recipient receives money
  • Transfer limit: Varies by country

If you need a best way to send money to a variety of countries, Western Union is the superior choice. It offers transfers to 550,000 locations in more than 200 countries/regions, and you have the option of sending money to the recipient for a cash pickup at a local Western Union location or via a bank deposit.

Transfer limits vary by country. You can use a bank account, credit or debit card to send the funds. Fees vary greatly based on country and method of payment.

How long it will take the money to get to your recipient depends on the country, the source account and whether the money is being sent to a bank account or to a Western Union pickup location.

To find out the exact fee and speed for your transfer, you will need to begin the process of sending money. You will need to input the amount, choose how the recipient will receive the money and method of payment.

The Western Union customer support online chat and the help phone number are open 24/7. When I called, I reached a Western Union representative in under three minutes.

Best for Transparent Costs & High Transfer Limits: Wise

What to Know About Wise

  • Countries/regions served: 60
  • Transfer speed from bank account: 1-4 business days
  • Fee to send money with bank account: Varies by country & amount sent
  • Transfer speed from credit card: Within 1 business day
  • Fee to send money with credit card: Varies by country & amount sent
  • Transfer speed from debit card: Within 1 business day
  • Fee to send money with debit card: Varies by country & amount sent
  • Transfer limit: Up to $1 million with wire transfers

Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, can send money to more than 60 countries. It is not always cheap, but it is transparent about its fees and exchange rates. 

Essentially, Wise works like two local transfers. Once you send money to the Wise app in your country, the company alerts an associate bank in your recipient’s country to convert the currency and send the equal amount to the recipient. 

Fees are a combination of a fixed amount tied to the sender’s country plus a percentage of the amount you’re sending. That percentage ranges from 1.19%-5.08% depending on whether the money is originating from a bank account, debit card or credit card.

While sending money from a bank account is much cheaper, it will take 1-4 business days for the funds to arrive. With a debit or credit card, your money can get to the recipient within one business day.

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For transfers larger than $15,000, you can use the wire transfer option. That method is actually faster and cheaper than the bank account transfers Wise offers, but your bank will likely charge fees on top of the fees Wise charges.

Customer support is available through live chat or over the phone. When I called, I reached a representative in about four minutes. He was very helpful, answering all the questions I had. The help line and live chat are not open at night or over the weekend.

Best for Immediate Transfers: Zelle

What To Know About Zelle

  • Countries/regions served: United States
  • Transfer speed from bank account: Instant
  • Fee to send money with bank account: None
  • Transfer speed from credit card: Not available
  • Fee to send money with credit card: Not available
  • Transfer speed from debit card: Instant
  • Fee to send money with debit card: None
  • Transfer limit: $500 per week with debit card; your bank may allow a higher amount from your account.

Zelle offers direct transfers between bank accounts. You enroll in Zelle through your bank. If your bank doesn’t offer Zelle, you can create an account on the Zelle app using your debit card.

Transfers to a recipient’s bank account happen instantly. Zelle doesn’t charge any fees, but your bank may charge per transaction.

You cannot use Zelle with a credit card. Zelle has a Q&A page on its website, and there’s a helpline available to call. When I called, I reached a real person in under two minutes.

In the event a payment is sent to the wrong person, you should contact Zelle to open an investigation. An agent from the help line told me Zelle might be able to get your money back. You can also contact your bank for help if you used Zelle through your online bank.

How Safe Are the Best Ways To Send Money Online?

Each of these apps has data encryption protection and provides an email confirmation when you send money. Venmo and Cash App also offer the option to add a PIN code to sign in to your account.

But money expert Clark Howard says those protections won’t be much help if you become a victim of theft or fraud while using one of these apps.

“Because there’s nothing in the law that recognizes a financial instrument like these [apps], the consumer bears all the risk of fraud,” say Clark. “It makes them very, very dangerous to use. Something that seems innocent enough can end up really ugly.”

Still, Clark acknowledges the benefits of sending money online. Since last year, he’s been using a digital wallet with his phone to pay merchants at places where he frequently eats and shops.

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“I’m really into convenience, but I’m also into mitigating risk,” he says.

If you really need to send money with any of these apps, Clark recommends that you open a separate checking account at a different bank from where you normally do business. Then you can tie that account to your payment app and keep only enough money in it to do what you need to do with the app. That way, you have fewer funds at risk.

Final Thoughts

Payment apps offer alternatives to sending cash or a check. They also present much faster and cheaper ways to send money internationally. Now that you know the advantages of each app, you can choose the best way to send money online for you.

But don’t forget the risks. If sending money through any of these apps is absolutely necessary, consider opting into all the extra security features. And it’s also a good idea to follow Clark’s advice: set up a bank account separate from the rest of your money.

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