The 5 best ways to send money transfers online

Woman on a boardwalk, sipping a cold drink, and using the best ways to send money transfers online on her tabletImage: Woman on a boardwalk, sipping a cold drink, and using the best ways to send money transfers online on her tablet

In a Nutshell

Online money transfers can be a great way to send money to friends and family — and possibly even to pay for goods and services. Here's how to find the right platform for your needs.
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At a glance: The best platforms for online money transfers

Most widely used PayPal
Fast cash-outs Google Wallet
Best mobile experience Venmo
Affordable international money transfers OFX
Wide international reach Western Union

The best platform for money transfers depends on your needs.

Whether you’re looking to send money domestically or overseas, there are plenty of options to choose from. Many banks and financial institutions offer wire transfers, but these can often be expensive. They may also require a lot of information about you and the person you’re sending money to.

The main things to consider when looking for an online money transfer platform are where and to whom you’re sending the money, according to Matt Oppenheimer, CEO and co-founder of Remitly, a digital money transfer service.

Oppenheimer adds that the biggest pitfalls for money transfers tend to be fees and customer service. “The lower the fees, the more money your recipient will get,” he says. His advice? “Look into transfer fees and exchange rates to make sure they’re fair.”

It may go without saying, but customer service can also be lacking at some established money transfer companies. “Look for a company that’s open and transparent and lets you know exactly when your money will arrive to your recipient,” says Oppenheimer. “Find one that will share updates along the way, or is easily reachable 24/7 to help you.”

With those standards in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top five online money transfer platforms. Read on to find the right one for you.

Can I cancel an online money transfer?

It depends on the platform you use to initiate the transfer. Always be sure to check the cancellation or refund policy before sending money transfers.

Most widely used: PayPal

If you want to send money to friends or family, the chances are good that they have a PayPal account. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, it’s the most commonly used smartphone app to send money.

That’s probably because it’s so convenient to use. You can send up to $10,000 in a single transaction once you verify your account. Once the recipient receives the money, it usually takes just one business day to transfer it to their bank account.

What’s more, PayPal offers free money transfers within the U.S. when you use your PayPal balance or a bank account. If you use a debit or credit card to send money to family or friends, you’ll pay a fee of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents of the amount you send.

You can also send money overseas in more than 100 currencies. The total fees for international transfers depend on the currency.

When you send money through PayPal, the recipient doesn’t see your financial information like your credit card or bank account number. And if you purchase a good or service through PayPal, you’ll get added purchase protection in case of fraud.

Fast cash-outs: Google Wallet

Google Wallet is free to use, regardless of the type of transfer. What sets it apart from the competition, though, is its speed.

Google Wallet is best if you send money to someone who has a debit card as their default payment method in Google Wallet. When you send money using your own debit card, the payment will usually appear in their debit card-linked bank account within minutes. If you send or receive money using a bank account, however, it can take up to four days (in some rare cases) for the transfer to complete.

The maximum amount you can transfer in a single transaction is $9,999, or up to $50,000 in five days (Florida residents can send up to $3,000 every 24 hours). Google Wallet does not allow for overseas money transfers.

Google Wallet is mainly for peer-to-peer payments, so it doesn’t offer much in the way of purchase protection. However, you won’t be liable for verified unauthorized transactions.

Best mobile experience: Venmo

Owned by PayPal, Venmo is sort of a social network for money transfers. You can add friends and see their transactions (but not the amounts) in your account feed.

Venmo transfers are free if you use your Venmo balance, bank account, debit card or prepaid debit card. If you choose to send money using a credit card, you’ll pay a fee of 3 percent. Bank transfers typically take one business day.

There’s a weekly rolling limit of $2,999.99 for sending funds through Venmo once you verify your identity. There’s also a $2,000 limit per transaction for authorized merchant payments, and a rolling weekly limit of $4,999.99 for all transactions combined.

Venmo doesn’t provide any buyer or seller protection, so we recommend using this platform only with people you know and trust.

Affordable international money transfers: OFX

OFX is a relatively inexpensive platform for international money transfers. The platform doesn’t charge any transfer fees and has no transfer limits to most major currencies. It does, however, have a $150 transfer minimum.

OFX allows you to transfer money to 190 countries in 55 different currencies. The transfer time depends on the country you’re sending money to, but in most cases it takes one to two business days.

Once you send money through OFX, you’ll get email notifications so you can track the transfer’s progress. OFX employs fraud prevention technology to identify suspicious activity and to keep you from falling victim to would-be thieves.

Wide international reach: Western Union

Depending on where you need to transfer money, Western Union’s extensive worldwide network could be your best bet. The platform transacts in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 130 currencies, giving it a wider overall reach than OFX.

Online international transfers start with a $10,000 limit, but you can request to raise that limit in your online account.

The main drawback to Western Union is its fees, which start at $5 for standard delivery to select currencies and countries. Delivery time for this method is typically three to five business days. Wire transfers, which have a shorter estimated delivery time of one to two business days, cost $22. Heads up: The recipient’s bank may charge extra fees on top of Western Union’s fees, so be sure to do your research before transferring money.

If you’re not in a hurry and the recipient lives in an eligible country, you can choose to send a draft check at no fee. This method takes 10 to 15 business days to deliver the money, and the recipient will be responsible for cashing the check at their bank or financial institution.

Western Union doesn’t explicitly state its protections to fraud victims, but the company urges consumers to adopt best practices when transferring money. That means never sending money to a stranger and not falling prey to scams that seem too good to be true. You can contact Western Union to report fraudulent activity, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back.

Next steps

“There are way more options than the traditional brick-and-mortars that will get your money to your loved ones safely, quickly and at a better rate,” says Oppenheimer.

Before choosing an online platform for money transfers, compare the various platforms’ features and fees. The best one for you will depend on your preferences and needs.

If you’re transferring money overseas, Oppenheimer encourages you to also compare exchange rates. While these can fluctuate with the market, one company may not offer the best rates every time.

And one final note: If you choose a platform and decide you don’t like it, don’t be afraid to switch. In the end, it’s your money, and you’ll want to send it wisely.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Credit Karma, you can find his wo… Read more.