There are several free or nearly free ways to send money around the globe. With the rise of payment apps, sending money can also be very fast and easy. If you aren’t in a crunch for time, the old standards of “how we used to send money” still work, too. The more payment methods our technology brings us, the more our perception of money changes.
The flexibility we have with our buying power will likely have profound implications for our economy as a whole. However, the more we complicate the process by adding options, the more confusing things like pay structure can be. Here’s a breakdown of the cheapest ways to send money and where you might run into fees.
PayPal is a free way to send money in lots of different situations, but there are a few small fees for specific situations. International payments and payments that are considered “business payments” will be subject to a small fee by the receiver, while payments made with a credit or debit card through the site are subject to a small fee by the sender.
A PayPal account has several different methods available to both put money in and take money out. Although there are some small fees for PayPal users, nearly all personal transactions are completely free. The fees that are occasionally charged are negligible compared to other forms of sending money.
SquareCash is an option to send money that is completely free. Users have to set up an account and link it to a debit card. Then, users can send payments back and forth using their debit cards as a means of transferring money to their checking accounts.
SquareCash is a little more convenient than PayPal because the money goes directly into your bank account. You don’t have to wait for the service to transfer your money that additional step. However, SquareCash doesn’t help users who don’t have a bank account, while PayPal’s range of options can.
Venmo is a payment app where users can link a debit card, bank account, or prepaid card to their account and send money to other users. You can also use Venmo to pay with a credit card, but there is a 3% fee on the transaction. Venmo is more fun that the first options listed because it adds a social element: your transactions will be posted - without amounts - on a social feed that your friends and other users you interact with can see.
Venmo is owned by Paypal, and is similar in that the money you receive will sit in your Venmo account until you request a transfer to your bank account. This makes it really easy and fast to reuse that money through the platform, and takes an extra day or two to get the money in your bank account.
Google Wallet is another free option to send money that operates in much the same way as the apps already mentioned. Users link a bank account or debit card to their Google Wallet and use it to easily pay in a wide range of places online. The thing that makes Google Wallet so special is how easily it links to other Google features. For example, it’s very easy to send money through Google Wallet using your Gmail account or to make purchases on the go with your mobile phone.
If none of the previous apps meet your needs, most banks can transfer money domestically for free, or in some cases, a small fee. Banks can help you wire internationally, send money to a different bank, or set up electronic bill payments. If you need to send money on a regular schedule, such as paying for a bill or sending an allowance to a son or daughter at college, your bank can help you set up an automatic recurring transaction. While these are free in most cases, a $1 or less fee from time to time is not unheard of.
If you have a checkbook, a stamp, and the ability to wait a day or two before your money gets to where it needs to be, sending a check is still the “old-fashioned” method of choice. Although having a checkbook is not entirely free, and stamps are roughly half a dollar each, these tend to be items that are already in your home. If setting up an account with a payment app poses a problem for some reason, sending a check might be the fastest and cheapest next best thing.
Sending cash to a friend across the country is really easy if both people are near a Walmart. An individual can go into a Walmart and, for a small fee, can pay money that will be available to pick up at a different Walmart store in a matter of hours. Although you can use a debit card to pay for the transfer as well, the beauty of the system is that it gives people the ability to transfer cash without exchanging it into any other form or legal tender.
If you need to send money and you don’t have a bank account or checkbook, and also do not have the ability to create an account with a money-sending app, you can buy a money order from a bank, convenience store, or supercenter. For a small fee, a money order is the next best option to sending cash in an envelope. These offer very little protection against being lost, stolen, or damaged and can be notoriously difficult to cash. Money orders should be seen as a last option for sending money.