It happens to all of us. We need to send money to a friend or family member to cover our share of a purchase. Waiting to give cash in person isn’t an option. Neither is mailing a paper check (yes, people still do this) because it takes too long.
Thankfully, there are several apps that let you send money for free within the United States. In an instant, your money is on its way to your friend for dinner or a larger expense like next month’s road trip. And they don’t have to ask that awkward question of when you’re going to pay them.
There are two different sections to this guide. The first section lists the different apps that allow you to send money within the United States — sometimes, for free! While some of these apps offer international transfers, the second section focuses specifically on global send-money apps.
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Send Money in the United States
My wife and I use a few of these apps to send money. We like how easy it is to send digital payments for free. It’s less hassle for us and for our friends since they don’t have to deposit a check at a bank or potentially carry large amounts of cash around.
Plus, digital payment apps are safer and quicker than mailing checks or money orders.
This first set of apps makes it easy to send money to others inside the U.S. In most cases, these apps let you transfer money for free for personal transactions. If you own a business, you will most likely have to pay a fee.
If you currently use apps to send money, you probably know about Venmo.
It’s free to transfer money to other Venmo users when you send money from one of these three sources:
- Your Venmo account balance
- A bank account
- A debit card
If you use your credit card, the person sending the money pays a 3% fee. The other transactions are free.
It’s also free to transfer money from your Venmo account to your bank account. Transfers usually take one business day. Or, you can do an “instant transfer” to your bank account. You’ll you pay a 1% transfer fee (up to $10) to get your money in 30 minutes or less.
Another reason to consider Venmo is that it doubles as a social media platform. Venmo can add your Facebook friends and phone contacts to build your Venmo network. When you send money, you can include a note and emojis. The payment reason shows on the Venmo social feed, but not the dollar amount.
If you cherish your privacy, you can make the transfer private and your non-paid friends won’t see it. We keep our Venmo transfers private and still use Venmo for free.
Why We Like Venmo
- Free transfers to all Venmo users when you don’t use a credit card
- Send up to $2,999.99 weekly to other Venmo users
- In-app social feed lets you see what you and your friends spend money on
When we were looking for a PayPal alternative (because PayPal charges a 3% transfer fee), our friends told us about Venmo. It’s now our favorite app to send money.
PayPal does have a free friend and family option if both parties use PayPal, but most of our friends didn’t use it when they sent us money. This is because the default “send money” option is making a purchase. The sender doesn’t pay the 3% fee, but the recipient does. Those fees get annoying because you don’t get all of the cash your friend owes you.
As a bit of irony, PayPal owns Venmo. This platform makes it easy to send money for free. We also think Venmo is easier to use than PayPal.
2. Facebook Messenger
As the largest social media network, Facebook might be the easiest way to send money to friends. You both likely already have Facebook accounts, so you can skip the step of joining a separate app just to send money. And every transfer is 100% free.
In Facebook Messenger, choose the friend you want to send money to. Tap the plus sign near the area where you’d normally type your message. Tap the Payments icon, then choose the dollar amount and the transfer reason. Then, enter your debit card info and Facebook sends the money to your friend’s debit card.
Facebook doesn’t let you enter credit card numbers. You and your friend only need a debit card to transfer money. In the Facebook mobile app (not the online website), you can link your PayPal account to send or receive payment, too.
Despite having a global footprint, Facebook only allows money transfers between two U.S.-based users.
Why We Like Facebook Messenger
- Send money free to your Facebook friends
- Don’t have to join another app to send money
- Can link your PayPal account (in the Facebook mobile app only)
3. Cash App
Most likely, you’ve made a small business purchase using a Square card reader.
Well, Square also has a personal app that lets you send money to friends for free with a debit card. But you will pay a 3% fee if you send money with a linked credit card.
Simply known as Cash App, you only need an email address and a debit card. Unlike many other send-money apps, you don’t have to create an account to send or receive money. You can either use the mobile app or website to send money using Square’s Cash App.
However, creating an account gives you access to more free features. These include paycheck direct deposit and a free Cash App Visa debit card.
With the Cash App debit card, it’s also possible to enjoy “purchase boosts” that help you earn cash back on select purchases. For instance, you can activate offers to save money at restaurants or on Lyft rides. To get these offers, Square will send you a Cash App debit card. This card can also make ATM withdrawals.
One downside to using Cash App is that it’s almost too easy to send money. If a person gets into your email account, they can easily send payments. But, you can protect your account with Face ID, Touch ID or a passcode.
Why We Like Cash App
- Don’t need to create an account to send or receive money
- Can enroll in free direct deposit
- Bonus cash rewards with a Cash App debit card
- Can send up to $2,500 weekly with a verified account. (You can only transfer $250 weekly for unverified accounts.)
4. Google Pay
You can use Google Pay to send money to friends with a debit card, bank account or Google Pay balance. You can also use the app to pay for online and in-person purchases. And, it’s possible to link your PayPal account to fund your purchases.
To send money to friends, you only need their email address or phone number. Your friend doesn’t need to be a Google Pay user or even have a Gmail account. To limit fraud, all transfers are protected by Google.
You can send up to $10,000 per transaction. This is impressive, as other apps might only let you send a fraction of that amount. But, your friend needs to link their bank account if you send more than $2,500 at once.
With an Android phone, you can send money directly from the Contacts app. Also, you can send money from the text messaging app from your Android or iOS device. But you may have to download the Google Pay app first.
Why We Like Google Pay
- Works with almost any email address or phone number
- Can send up to $10,000 per transaction
- Integrates with Android device Contacts and Messages apps
Not too long ago, you could only use bank mobile apps to send money to other customers of the same bank. Now that’s changed. While not every bank lets you send money to non-customers, most of the big banks do.
Zelle is the app that most of the largest national and regional banks use. You can send cash to your friend’s email address or phone number for free.
If your friend hasn’t enrolled with Zelle yet, they must enroll to receive payment. It can take up to three days to complete the registration process and receive the deposit. For future deposits, the payments are received almost instantly.
You can access Zelle through your bank’s mobile app. Or, you can download the Zelle app and link your participating bank account. If your bank isn’t a Zelle partner, you can still join for free.
Zelle doesn’t charge you to send money. But your bank might. Before you transfer, check your bank’s policy to verify any potential fees.
How much you can transfer each day depends on your bank’s transfer policy. If your bank doesn’t use Zelle, you can only send up to $500 weekly.
What We Like About Zelle
- Free to send money to almost any U.S.-based email address or phone number
- Can send money even if your bank doesn’t use Zelle
If your bank lets you send money to other people and doesn’t use Zelle, they might use Popmoney instead.
It’s always free to receive cash through Popmoney. But you will pay a 95-cent fee if you initiate a money transfer from your debit card or bank account. If your friend submits the payment request, they pay the 95-cent fee when you approve the request.
If you initiate the transaction, you can send up to $500 daily on your debit card and $1,000 monthly. From your bank account, you can send up to $2,000 daily and $5,000 monthly.
When your friend requests payments, you can pay up to $2,500 daily and $4,000 monthly.
As you can see, Popmoney has lower transfer limits than other apps here. If you anticipate sending more money than the above limits, you should consider another app. Plus, the 95-cent fees seem excessive, given that there are other free apps you can use to transfer money.
Because PayPal is one of the first digital wallets, many people trust its brand name.
Plus, if you make money with PayPal, you can transfer your current balance to friends for free. Sending money to other countries incurs a transfer fee of at least 99 cents.
It’s free to send money with PayPal with these two accounts:
- Current PayPal balance
- Your linked bank account
PayPal charges you 3% of the balance plus 30 cents if you fund the transfer with a credit card, debit card or PayPal credit. For example, you pay $3.30 when you transfer $100.
You also have to select “Sending to a friend” to avoid the transfer fee. Otherwise, your friend will pay the 3% plus 30-cent transfer fee because PayPal handles the transfer as a business transaction, with PayPal providing purchase protection. This isn’t the default setting so you must manually change it each time.
Obviously, if you’re sending money to buy something from a stranger, maintain the default setting in case you need a refund. But switch to the “Sending to a friend” option if you’re simply paying your friend back for last night’s pizza for instance.
For these transfers, your friend must also have a PayPal account to accept the transfer.
What We Like About PayPal
- Universal brand name recognition
- Free transfers from your PayPal account or linked bank account
Sending money with Walmart isn’t going to be the cheapest option. But, it can be convenient since many towns have a local store. In fact, there are more than 5,000 stores in the United States alone. Plus, you can send money to international locations, too.
You can fund your money transfer from your bank account, credit or debit card. Sending money from your bank account is cheaper, but the transfer can take three or four days. With a credit or debit card, the transfer only takes a few minutes to complete.
The receiver can get their money at most Walmart money centers in the U.S. Before you send, make sure their local Walmart accepts money transfers. One downside to sending money with Walmart is that you can’t deposit money in another U.S. bank account. In-store cash pickup is the only redemption option.
But, as the sender, you can send online from the comfort of your home or at your local Walmart.
As I mentioned, the fees aren’t exactly cheap. When you transfer $50 or less, you pay $4.99 to send money from your bank account or $6.50 from a credit or debit card. With a balance of $51 or higher, the rates jump to $9 for bank accounts and $12 for credit and debit cards. If you send the daily $2,500 maximum, you pay either $26 or $100 in fees depending on your payment method.
If you send money overseas, the recipient can choose cash pickup or direct bank deposit. The exact delivery methods depend on which country you send money to.
Why We Like Walmart
- Stores in most U.S. cities, so it’s easy to send or receive cash
- Transfers take 15 minutes or less when you pay with credit or debit card
Send Money Overseas
Estimating fees when sending money overseas is a little harder. This is because you have to factor in currency exchange rates. Most apps let you estimate fees before you send.
So, take the time to compare the fees and currency exchange rates from at least two of these apps. Comparing rates lets you see how much you pay to send money overseas. It also lets you see how much money the other person receives after your U.S. dollars convert to their local currency.
Transfer fees also depend on the delivery speed and redemption option you choose.
These apps usually offer four different delivery methods:
- Bank account deposits
- In-person pickup
- Cash delivery to recipient’s front door
- Cellphone balance recharge
Usually, direct bank deposits are the cheapest option. However, that’s usually also the slowest delivery option. If your friend needs money fast, plan on paying more for in-person pickup or home delivery if these options are available in their country.
When you and the recipient both have bank accounts, TransferWise lets you transfer large amounts of money. For personal transfers, you can send up to $50,000 daily or $250,000 annually.
In most countries, it takes up to two days to convert the currency. Then, it can take at least one more day for the balance to deposit into the recipient’s bank account.
Instead of charging a transfer fee on top of the amount your send, TransferWise deducts the fees from the amount you transfer. Let’s say you send $1,000. The person will receive slightly less than $1,000 because they “pay” the fee instead of you.
If you pay with a debit or credit card instead of your bank account, your bank may charge you an upfront fee. Making a bank account withdrawal is the cheapest option.
One way TransferWise can save you money is that they charge the mid-market exchange rate when converting your money into the local currency. The mid-market rate is the midpoint between the buy and sell points of two different currencies. It’s considered the fairest exchange rate.
Other apps either round the amount to the “buy amount” (the recipient receives less) or “sell amount” (you pay more to send) and pocket the difference. TransferWise averages these two rates and charges you this rate.
Because you can only send money to a bank account with TransferWise, the transfer time can take longer — a few days instead of a few minutes. But, it also keeps fees to a minimum.
If you the person doesn’t need money fast, TransferWise is possibly the cheapest way to send money abroad. This is mostly because they use a more favorable exchange rate.
Why We Like TransferWise
- Pay the mid-market exchange rate, which means the recipient can get more money
- High daily transfer limits
Xoom is another PayPal service for global money deliveries. In most countries, the recipient can pick up the money in person or opt for a bank deposit. For select countries, you can also add funds to a person’s cellphone account.
It’s possible to send up to $25,000 per day with Xoom. But you will need to submit personal information such as a driver’s license number and a bank statement if you want to send more than $2,999 per day.
Small transfers only take a few minutes to complete. When you transfer more than $10,000 at a time, it can take two to three days to transfer the money.
You can pay with any of these payment sources:
- Bank account
- PayPal account
- Debit card
- Credit card
Unlike domestic money transfers, when you use a credit card with Xoom, your credit card company may charge you a cash advance fee.
If you already send money overseas using PayPal, compare Xoom to see which platform offers a better price and delivery method.
Why We Like Xoom
- Transfer up to $25,000 daily
- Can use your PayPal account to send money
With OFX, you don’t pay transfer fees. But you should still compare exchange rates with these other apps.
You can transfer money from your bank account using account clearinghouse (ACH) direct account debits or wire transfers.
ACH account debits are cheaper but take longer to complete. This is because the money must first pass through a clearinghouse. This process is similar to online bill pay where your payment might not be withdrawn from your account until one or two days after the scheduled payment date.
Wire transfers, on the other hand, can be completed the same day. This is because the bank sends your money directly to another bank. Because wire transfers are more work for your bank, wire transfers tend to cost more than ACH account debits.
With OFX, compare the exchange rates for wire transfers and ACH debits to see which one lets you send more money. They don’t charge transfer fees, but that doesn’t mean their exchange rate is the same for every transfer type.
The minimum transfer amount is $150. This is more than other apps, but it’s not unreasonable. Most transfers take one or two days to complete.
Also, you can only send money to other bank accounts. If the recipient wants in-person pickup, you need to use another app.
Why We Like OFX
- No transfer fees. That can save you money if exchange rates are competitive
- Can set up recurring money transfers
12. Western Union
The above apps can be cheaper and offer a similar transfer experience to Western Union.
But we’re including it because Western Union is the “gold standard” in international money transfers. It’s the largest player, with more than 500,000 agents in over 200 countries. The next largest competitor (MoneyGram), only has 350,000 agents.
If you’re not sure you can send money using these other apps, Western Union is probably the best option. Your quickest option is to pay for the transfer with a debit card. Paying with a bank account is cheaper for you, but it can take a few extra days depending on how soon your bank transfers the cash.
While the transfer fees for Western Union can be higher than other apps, they’re aren’t excessively higher. The currency exchange rate can be worse than other apps like TransferWise.
As a quick comparison, I got quotes for sending $1,000 to Mexico. For bank account transfers, the Western Union fee was $5 versus $9.68 for TransferWise. But with TransferWise, the recipient gets roughly 230 more pesos (using the exchange rate available at the time I got the quote). That’s $11.70 more in the recipient’s wallet using TransferWise.
Within the Western Union app or online website, you have these three delivery methods:
- Direct bank account deposit
- In-person pickup
- Mobile wallet deposit
If you decide to send money to a mobile wallet app like Tigo or PayMaya, you can send up to $500 at once. As of January 2019, this delivery option is only available in five countries.
Why We Like Western Union
- The largest money transfer service in the world
- Multiple ways to receive money in over 200 countries
The second largest international money transfer service is MoneyGram. They have more than 350,000 agents in over 200 countries. If you send money using Walmart, it uses the MoneyGram network.
The upfront transfer fees are lower than Western Union and possibly the other apps on this list when the recipient picks up the money at a MoneyGram location. For instance, if you pay for the transfer with a credit or debit card, it’s only 99 cents. Transferring from your bank account costs $4.
Even if you deposit the money into a bank account, the transfer fees are still very low. For instance, sending $1,000 to a Mexican bank account would cost $1.99 to send from my bank account, credit card or debit card.
No matter which transfer method you choose, be sure you still pay attention to the exchange rate.
If you want to send instant payment with your credit or debit card, MoneyGram can be one of the best apps because of the low transfer fees. While they don’t offer the best currency exchange rates, they are competitive with most of the send-money apps on this list.
When you fund a MoneyGram transfer from your bank account, you will pay the same or higher transfer fee as using your credit or debit card (depending on how the recipient gets the cash). The currency exchange rate will be the same. So, the recipient gets the same amount of money regardless of how you pay for it.
The downside of transferring from your bank account is that the fee may be higher than using a debit or credit card, and the transfer can take up to four days.
Why We Like MoneyGram
- Second largest global money transfer service
- Low transfer fees when you pay by credit or debit card
With these digital apps, it’s quick and cheap to send money to almost anywhere in the world. In the United States, it’s possible to send money for free. And, it’s more secure than putting cash, paper checks or money orders in the mail.
What app will you use to send money? Please share and let us know on social media.