In a NutshellDo you know when to use Venmo or PayPal versus a money order or check? Knowing when and how to use each option – and how to stay safe – can help you decide between the different ways to send money.
When you were a kid, your grandmother may have sent you money by tucking a $5 bill into your birthday card.
In today’s digital age, we have more options than ever to send money to friends and family or to pay for goods and services. And it can be tough to know which method of sending money to choose in different situations.
For example, you wouldn’t want to send your friends a wire transfer every time you split the bill at a restaurant. And if you’re sending money to family overseas, you can’t use Venmo.
Some methods are also safer than others in certain situations.
Read on for more on what your options are for sending money, depending on your situation.
What to consider when you want to send money
There are a lot of reasons you might want to send someone money. Maybe you’re going in on a birthday gift with friends — or maybe you want to send money to help a family member pay a bill.
To start figuring out which method might be best for sending your funds, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Speed — How fast does your money need to get to its destination? Some methods transfer the money in the blink of an eye, and others take days or even weeks.
- Cost — The faster the transfer, the more you’re likely to pay in fees, in some cases. Some of these fees could even add up to more than the amount you’re transferring itself.
- Security — You’ll want to make sure that the method you choose to send money has security protections in place, making it less likely you’ll fall victim to a scam. Some methods are more secure than others.
- Recourse — If you do fall victim to any common scams, are there ways to get your money back?
10 ways to send money
Available as an app or through a browser, PayPal was one of the first companies to revolutionize sending money online. PayPal can be a good way to send funds if you need to send large amounts of money domestically. The company says you can send up to $60,000 from a verified account (though you may be limited to $10,000 in a single transaction).
But make sure you have the right information, because if someone scams you into sending it to the wrong person or you make a mistake when typing their information in, you may not be able to get your money back (this is true for other money-sending services).
Zelle partners directly with banks and credit unions to offer you a way to send money to your friends and family — often within minutes — if they’re also signed up for the service. If they’re not, they’ll get an email or text prompting them to sign up within two weeks.
The downsides are that you can’t use it to send payments to a foreign bank account abroad, and your bank may limit how much you can send.
Venmo is one of the most popular ways to send money. That could be because there’s a social aspect to it that allows you to add comments and emojis to transactions, and to easily split payments.
It’s free to send money to friends if you use a debit card, bank account or Venmo balance, but you’ll pay an extra 3% fee if you use your credit card as the source of funds. You may be able to send up to $60,000 per week if you complete a verification process, but Venmo doesn’t allow for sending money internationally.
4. Cash App
Cash App offers features like being able to buy investments or design your own debit card. But you can also use it to send money to friends and family for free — even if they’re located in the United Kingdom.
However, like PayPal, it allows you to keep money stored in-app, which you can pay others with or transfer separately to your bank account (instantly for a fee, or slower for free).
5. Apple Pay
Apply Pay is a popular example of a digital wallet where you can store information from your credit cards, debit cards and other online payment sources and use it to make purchases. You can also use it to send money by setting up a digital “Apple Cash” card, which you can use in much the same way as PayPal or the Cash App, with a separate balance to send money and transfer it into your bank account when you want.
6. Google Pay
For people who aren’t Apple users, Google Pay is a similar service. You can create a wallet where you store payment methods, including a feature that you can use to send money to friends or transfer funds to your bank account.
7. Western Union
When someone in your life needs cash fast, especially if they’re overseas, Western Union is one of the old standbys — and for good reason. You can send money directly to the recipient’s bank account, or even to any Western Union location where they can pick the money up in person.
But you pay a price for this convenience. Rates vary depending on how much you’re sending and where, but you can get an idea of fees on its website. And because of Western Union’s global footprint and ability to get cash quickly, it can be a target of scammers — so be cautious with this option.
8. Personal checks
Personal checks cost you nothing to use — unless your bank doesn’t cover check printing fees. But you’ll need to physically get the check into the other person’s hands. If you mail it in, be aware that it could be stolen and cashed, although you’re generally able to reverse these charges. The other person will also need their own checking account to cash it, or they may have to use an expensive check-cashing service or cash the check at your bank (sometimes with a fee) to get the funds.
9. Money orders
Money orders are another way to send money. But unlike a personal check, a money order doesn’t directly pull funds from your bank account. Rather, you purchase the money order (usually with cash) and it represents that amount of money for the receiver. You can buy money orders at places like the post office, Walmart or your bank.
Money orders can be a more secure way to send money because they don’t have your bank account number printed on them.
10. Wire transfers
If you’re sending a large amount of money and need to do it securely and quickly, wire transfers might be a good choice. Wire transfers may be available to a recipient within the same day. It’s more costly, though, at around $30 per transfer.
You’ll also need your recipient’s bank account details, which not everyone is happy to give up — and you’ll want to be especially wary of scammers. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns about a common and devastating real estate scam in which people have been lured into sending their house down payment to the wrong person by wire transfer.
There’s probably no one method of sending money that can work for everyone in every situation. The best thing is to get familiar with how the various methods can work (or not) depending on your circumstances.
For example, consider Venmo for domestic transactions if that’s what your friends all use — or Western Union if you need to send money overseas. Whatever the case, understanding the speed, costs and security of different methods will help you make your choice.