How to Send Money: The 9 Best Ways to Transfer Money

A phone accepts money from a person in this illustration of a money transfer.
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Sending money to friends and family is so common nowadays that “Venmo” has entered the lexicon as an actual verb.

And while peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo and Cash App are certainly the most convenient ways to pay your friend back for concert tickets or split a bill at dinner, some people need to send much larger sums of money, often internationally, to support families back home.

Fortunately, the average person now has access to a multitude of safe and affordable ways to send and receive money — but some are certainly safer and cheaper than others.

How to Transfer Money

Stuffing an envelope full of cash, slapping a stamp on the corner and dropping it in a blue United States Postal Service (USPS) box is certainly convenient, but it’s probably the least safe way to send money nowadays. To securely send money to a friend or family member, consider one of these options:

  • Money transfer apps
  • Wire transfers
  • Paper checks
  • Money orders
  • Linked bank accounts

What Are Money Transfer Apps?

Money transfer apps are a form of peer-to-peer payment using smartphones (or at least a computer connected to the internet). Popularized by PayPal, which is commonly used as a payment platform for small business owners and freelancers, money transfer apps are now a dime a dozen.

While it’s nice to have a choice, it can be frustrating when someone owes you money and you use separate apps. One of you will have to give in and download the app the other is using. “Do you have a Cash App?” is the new “Is Pepsi OK?”

Not sure which online service to use? We rounded up the best money transfer apps of 2022, including:

  • PayPal
  • Venmo
  • Zelle
  • Cash App
  • Facebook Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay

We’ll dive into some of these apps more below.

What Are Wire Transfers?

Wire transfers certainly predate money transfer apps and are a relatively secure (but costly) way to send large sums of money, domestically or internationally. You’ll work with a bank, credit union or institution like Western Union to electronically (by “wire”) send money to another bank.

So why wire transfers? Digital transfer apps often have caps on how much you can send at one time, but if you have a larger sum to send — whether as a down payment on a new house or money to support your family back in your home country — wire transfers can get the job done.

But just how much do wire transfers cost? We’ve broken down the typical wire transfer fees so you can plan for your next transfer.

What Are Paper Checks?

In this world of debit cards, online banking, e-commerce and the mobile wallet, checks can certainly feel antiquated. But they still serve a purpose (did you know you can use them to find your account and routing number?), and it’s important to know how to write a check, even in 2022.

Checks are tied directly to your checking account. You can write a check for the amount owed to another person and hand-deliver it to them or mail it. The recipient then needs to physically deposit the check at a bank or ATM (or just cash it). With mobile banking, the recipient might be able to deposit the check from the comfort of their own home.

Writing a check is a gamble sometimes. If the recipient waits several months to cash it, it’s possible you could forget about it and suddenly not have enough in your checking account when they finally take action.

That means the check could bounce (similar to a debit card being declined), or, if you have overdraft protection, you may just pay an overdraft fee.

As a recipient, you should be cautious of accepting a check as payment, especially if you will never see the payer again. When receiving payment for a service or sale, you should make sure it clears before ending the transaction with the other person.

What Are Money Orders?

With the advent of peer-to-peer payment apps, money orders are no longer a household name. However, they still exist, and they’re a great, affordable alternative to a paper check.

For a nominal fee (USPS charges $1.45 for money orders up to $500), you can pay for a money order, which is essentially a check that can’t bounce because you fund it when you purchase it.

Note: You can’t use a credit card or check to purchase a money order. Have cash or debit on hand.

For the person sending the money, this takes the guesswork out of the process. You don’t have to wonder when the recipient will ultimately cash your check; you’ve already spent the money, and you’ve washed your hands of the transaction.

For the person receiving the money, this instills a level of confidence. The check cannot bounce, so there’s no risk of being swindled by the payer.

The USPS caps money orders at $1,000, and if you purchase more than three separate money orders at $1,000 each in a single day, you’ll have to fill out a form (and provide a government-issued photo ID).

Pro Tip

If you need to send a larger sum of money, try a cashier’s check. These can be used to send greater amounts of money at once, but you’ll pay more for the service.

What Are Linked Bank Accounts?

If you have a checking account and savings account with the same financial institution, these are linked.

For example, you can move money from your savings account over to your checking account to prepare for an upcoming automatic payment, or you can take part of your direct deposit paycheck into your checking account and fund your savings with it.

Sometimes, you might have a checking account with one bank (perhaps for their generous ATM reimbursement policy) but a savings account at another (maybe because of a higher APY). You can set each up as a linked bank account to the other.

As an alternative to sharing one bank account (called a joint account), some spouses and domestic partners choose to link their own bank accounts. This makes it easy to send money back and forth for shared expenses, but there is inherent risk to this. Only link bank accounts with someone you absolutely trust.

Note: If your banks include Zelle (more on this below), there’s no reason to link your accounts to send and receive money. Zelle can do all of that through your bank apps for you — without sharing confidential account numbers and total access to accounts.

9 Best Ways to Send Money

So what’s the best way to send money? It depends on your needs: How fast do you need to send and receive money? Is it domestic or international? How much money are you sending?

To get you started, we’ve broken down the basics like fees, transfer limits and transfer time of nine unique ways of sending money.

Zelle: Best for Fast Money Transfers

With Zelle, you can send money instantly (or just about). Most mobile banking apps include Zelle, which means you don’t have to download and link your bank account number to a third-party app.

Pro Tip

If you need to send a larger sum of money, try a cashier’s check. These can be used to send greater amounts of money at once, but you’ll pay more for the service.

Within your banking app, you can easily find friends and family with an email address or mobile phone number to request and send money. As long as the other person has Zelle through their bank, domestic transfers should be fast and secure — without any fees.

A chief selling point for Zelle: Money goes directly into your or your recipient’s bank account. No need to shuffle funds from an app over to your bank after you receive money from a friend.

If you can’t find Zelle within your bank’s mobile app, you can download the Zelle app directly for iOS and Android, but your recipient must bank with a financial institution that partners with Zelle.

Fees: $0.

Transfer limits: Vary by bank or credit union; if using Zelle through its own app, you are capped at $500 per week.

Transfer time: Zelle is one of the fastest ways to send money online. You can receive your funds in just a few minutes, if not instantly, at no charge to you.

Venmo: Best for Easy Transfers

Venmo is arguably one of the best apps for sending money solely due to its popularity. In 2021, Venmo saw $230 billion in payment volume, which was up nearly 50% over 2020.

The social media aspect of Venmo is popular with younger spenders, as is the ease of setting up the account. You can link Venmo to your bank or credit union for direct withdrawals and deposits into your account, or you can set up Venmo with a linked debit card.

As long as you connect Venmo to a checking account or debit card, domestic transfers are free. If you’re willing to pay a fee, connecting a credit card is just as easy. International transfers are not possible.

Fees: $0 for bank account and debit card transfers; 3% for using a credit card to send money; 1.5% fee (minimum $0.25 and maximum $15) for instant transfers.

Transfer limits: Upon sign-up, person-to-person spending is limited to $299.99, but once the account is verified, you can send up to $4,999.999 on a weekly rolling basis.

Transfer time: 1-3 business days, unless you pay fees for instant transfers.

Cash App: Best for Cryptocurrency

Venmo does not necessarily corner the market on transferring money. In fact, in late 2021, Cash App announced that it had more than 75 million active customers, meaning the app is gaining on Venmo, which stands at 75 million active users.

And Cash App is appealing. If you’re into cryptocurrency, this app serves as a platform for buying and selling (for a fee). There are also in-app “cash boosts,” which are promotions and discounts for different goods and services, like Chipotle and DoorDash.

There’s even a $5 referral bonus when you get a new friend to sign up using your invite code.

Unlike Venmo, debit card transfers carry a fee, but they are instant. Otherwise, you can connect your bank account or request a Cash Card that you can spend like a debit card (with instant access to funds in your account).

Fees: $0 for bank account transfers; 3% for using a credit card to send money; 0.5% to 1.75% (minimum of $0.25) for instant debit card transfer.

Transfer limits: Starting out, you can send up to $250 in a week and receive up to $1,000 a month. You can increase these limits by providing info like your birthday and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

Transfer time: 1-3 business days, unless you pay fees for instant transfers.

Money Orders: Best for Paper Payment

Not a fan of linking your bank account to an app? Your options for sending money are limited, but you can still do it the old-fashioned way. Rather than send a paper check in the mail, go to the USPS and get a money order (or cashier’s check for a larger amount).

Fees: $1.45 for transfers up to $500; $1.95 for transfers up to $1,000.

Transfer limits: $1,000 per money order.

Transfer time: You will mail your money order, so it depends on the shipping option you choose.

PayPal: Best for Small Businesses and Contractors

PayPal has been in the game a long time and can be used for peer-to-peer payments and business transactions alike. PayPal offers stability and security just by virtue of having been established for so long.

Unlike some of the apps already discussed, a PayPal account enables international transfers (fees apply). You can also get a business account with PayPal, but the fee structure (already complicated for individual users) is more nuanced.

You’ll link your bank account to PayPal, can send and request funds through the platform and need to know the mobile number or email of anyone you plan to transact with. Fees apply for connecting cards.

Fees: $0 for domestic transfers; 1% for instant transfers; 2.9% + fixed fee for cards; 5% for international transfers (minimum $0.99 and maximum $4.99). Because the PayPal service is more complex, we recommend reviewing their dedicated fee resources.

Transfer limits: Up to $60,000, but this can vary.

Transfer time: 1-3 business days, unless you pay fees for instant transfers.

Bank Wire Transfer: Best for Large Domestic Transfers

Wire transfers are the most expensive way to send money, but if you need to get a large sum of money to someone securely, it might be your best option.

If the transfer is domestic, banks and credit unions often offer the lowest wire transfer fees. Depending on your bank, you might pay a small fee (or nothing at all), and your recipient is less likely to have to pay a fee to receive the money.

That’s why we recommend using a bank or credit union, rather than a service like Western Union, for domestic wire transfers.

Fees: Vary by bank.

Transfer limits: Vary by bank ($100,000 a day is common).

Transfer time: 1-3 business days domestically, with many done in 24 hours.

Western Union: Best for International Money Transfers

Because Western Union is the largest money transfer company in the world, it has the most extensive network of locations for sending and receiving money. This makes it ideal for international wire transfers.

Just be prepared for fees to match the convenience.

Fees: Vary by location, currency, in-person vs. online banking, etc. Fees are generally expensive.

Transfer limits: Varies by receiver’s country.

Transfer time: Generally 24 hours domestically and 1-5 business days internationally.

Digital Wallets: Google Pay or Apple Pay

If you are comfortable with digital wallets, paying with Google Pay (Android users) or Apple Pay (Apple users) can be quite convenient.

These not only allow you to send and receive funds from friends and family, but you can also use them to make in-store purchases at participating vendors. You’ll just need a linked debit card or linked bank account.

There generally aren’t fees for Google Pay and Apple Pay unless you need instant transfers.

International Transfer: WorldRemit and Remitly

WorldRemit is growing in popularity for speedy international cash transfers. Its network is nowhere near as extensive as Western Union, but the transfer is fast and the fees are low.

Remitly is great for home delivery. You can send money from the U.S. to one of many developing countries. Rather than requiring your recipient to go to a store or bank for a cash pickup, you can have the funds delivered to their home, for a fee.

Here are some other payment methods to transfer money online:

  • Wise
  • Walmart2Walmart
  • Facebook Pay
  • Xoom
  • OFX

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About How to Send Money

You have lots of questions about the best ways to send money to friends and family. We’ve got the answers to the most popular questions.

How Can I Send Money to a Friend?

Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to send money to friends, but one of the easiest ways of sending money is via digital banking apps like Venmo, Cash App or Zelle. You can download these from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Android users can also consider Google Pay while Apple users have Apple Pay at their fingertips.

What Is the Fastest Way to Send Money?

Zelle offers instant bank transfers for free. For a fee, you can typically do instant transfers via other money transfer service options like PayPal and Venmo.

What Is the Safest Way to Send Someone Money?

Digital peer-to-peer payment apps are generally safe, as are wire transfers when you personally know the recipient. (Never wire money to a stranger.)

Money orders and cashier’s checks are a safer alternative to paper checks or sending cash in the mail.

Contributor Timothy Moore is a writer and editor in Cincinnati, Ohio. He focuses on banks, loans and insurance for The Penny Hoarder. His work has been featured on, The Ladders, Glassdoor, WDW Magazine, Angi and The News Wheel.