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SMART INSIGHTS FROM PROFESSIONAL ADVISERS

Some of the Best Apps for Sending Money Internationally or Domestically

From Zelle to Venmo and TransferWise, after comparing the options, here are some of the top choices, based on fees, ease of use and transaction time.

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Are you looking for an easy, low-cost solution to send money overseas or to friends and family members domestically using a mobile device? That’s something I’ve been looking into a lot recently after my daughter was accepted into an intensive language and cultural immersion program for American students abroad. She’ll be studying in Indonesia, a great opportunity that, of course, comes with a few logistical and practical challenges that need tackling.

SEE ALSO: The Risks of Paying Peer to Peer

After doing some research, here is a list of some of the best apps and providers I found that you can use for sending money overseas and domestically.

What You Need to Know

Geographic Restrictions

Apps that you can use to make transactions may be restricted to certain geographic locations, which means that you won’t be able to send your money to people living in certain regions around the world. The geographic restrictions are different from one provider to another.

Transaction Speed

With some mobile apps your money will arrive within a matter of minutes. With others, delivery may take up to several business days. This is something you should confirm before you initiate a payment to make sure that your cash arrives in time.

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Transaction Fees

Some providers will charge a fee for every transaction you make, others won't. If a company doesn't disclose all fees clearly up front, don’t take chances. Also, transaction fees are not the end of the story. The best apps for sending money are also determined by currency exchange rates. Midmarket rates that are also used by established banks are usually the best option.

Security

If you live in the U.S. and plan to send money to, for example, Croatia, you want to have the guarantee that all your money is safe while being transferred and will actually be credited to the bank account or e-wallet of the intended recipient.

This is why it's important to rely on a reputable bank or provider that tracks funds through the whole process. For international transfers, this often involves credit unions.

Sending Money to Strangers

Generally speaking, peer-to-peer apps are not ideal for sending money to strangers. This is because you may not be able to retrieve your money in the event something goes awry. PayPal, for example, offers a purchase protection; Venmo does not.

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Best Apps for Sending Money Overseas

What if one of your kids is studying abroad or you have relatives overseas who you want to support financially? In this case, you need a mobile app that not only allows you to safely send money to specific countries, but also exchange it into the desired currency and at an acceptable rate.

These are some of the best apps I found for sending money overseas:

OFX

OFX’s mobile app allows you to send money to more than 190 countries and in 55 different currencies within one to two days. You can transfer as much as you want and also use the app to track all your activities, monitor exchange rates and set rate alerts. You can even lock in rates for future transfers.

In addition, there are no transaction fees. Instead, OFX takes a competitive margin on currency exchange rates, which is usually less than 2%. The only drawback is the minimum transfer amount of $1,000.

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Bottom line: OFX may be your best option if you want to send at least several thousand dollars overseas.

TransferWise

With TransferWise, you can send money to family members and friends as well as businesses based in more than 40 countries around the world.

TransferWise is a bit slower than OFX. Transactions will take one to three days to complete. The provider charges a variable — but very competitive — transaction fee, which you can quantify using TransferWise’s own calculator. As of the writing of this article, if you want to send U.S. $1,000 and exchange it into euros, TransferWise would charge a mere $6.96, a 0.7% fee.

A clear advantage that TransferWise has over OFX is that there is no minimum transfer amount, and TransferWise offers a very simple sign-up process.

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Bottom line: Low transaction fees make TransferWise a great tool if all you want to do is send a couple of hundred or a thousand dollars to the countries to which you usually wire money.

PayPal

We all know PayPal, and most of us already use it. So, chances are that you won’t have to set up a new user account and link your credit or debit card and your regular bank account.

Inside the U.S., PayPal allows you to store and send money for free, unless you pay for goods or services or settle an invoice. In this case, the payment provider will charge the business on the other end of the transfer and you can benefit from PayPal's buyer protection. Above that, PayPal charges for debit- and credit-card-funded transactions (2.9% plus 30 cents inside the U.S.) and to convert currencies.

SEE ALSO: Easier Ways to Send Cash Fast

For international transactions, fees for transfers from your bank or PayPal balance to Canada and Europe are $2.99, and fees for other countries are $4.99. When using a credit or debit card, on top of those fees add 2.9% of the transaction amount plus a fixed fee, which varies based on country. The good news is that you can send money to people living in more than 190 countries, and all you need is their email address or mobile phone number. More than 20 different currencies are available.

Bottom line: PayPal is an established player for mobile payments, and you can send money to almost every remote location in the world.

WorldFirst

WorldFirst does not charge a fee when you make a personal transfer for over $10,000. For transfers under $10,000, there’s a $10 flat fee. If you are based in the United States, you can send money to more than 120 countries. Transfers usually take two to three business days. The app also lets you track payments and exchange rates. To make a transaction, only the sender needs to have a WorldFirst account to send money. They can enter the recipient's bank account information.

One drawback is that with WorldFirst, the minimum amount of money one can send is $1,000.

Bottom line: WorldFirst is not suitable for sending small sums. If you go above and beyond $10,000 though, currency exchange rates are quite competitive.

WorldRemit

WorldRemit, a UK-based company, was founded in 2010 and lets you send money to family and friends in more than 140 countries. What makes WorldRemit unique is that it offers one of the fastest international cash transfers. According to the provider, transfers arrive instantly in most cases.

There is no minimum transfer limit, and fees are marginal. They depend on where you want to send money to and how much you want to send. You can pay from a bank account or credit or debit card, and the recipient can receive funds at his or her bank account or mobile wallet deposit, or as cash pickup.

The WorldRemit app is very straightforward; it doesn’t have many additional features, and the focus is on sending money quickly and easily.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a reliable provider for making money transfers, WorldRemit makes a great choice.

Best Apps for Sending Money to Family Members and Friends Domestically

When sending money overseas, fees and security are top concerns. When sending money within the United States to family members, the focus may be more on ease of use and fast transactions. Here are three of the best apps I found for sending money to family members and friends:

Zelle

Zelle is a “fast, safe and easy way to send money in minutes to your friends and family,” but you have to have a bank account at a participating bank in the United States to qualify to use the app. Those include the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi and Morgan Stanley.

Transactions won’t take more than a couple of minutes if you send money to another Zelle user. If the recipient has not signed up for the service, expect a processing time of between one to three business days.

Most important, the app is free and does not charge for sending and receiving money.

Bottom line: Zelle's banking app is the perfect solution for sending money to your family and friends.

Venmo

Venmo is owned by PayPal and was designed to send money to people in your personal environment for free (3% for credit card payments), and also to receive money. This is why the app comes with several social features, such as:

  • One that allows you to connect with other users (Venmo integrates with Facebook and your phone book).
  • You can define an audience who can see your transactions (public, private or friends only).
  • You can “like” transactions that other people in your network make and even comment on them.

With Venmo, you can also share payments with your friends and family and make purchases in mobile apps. You can link your bank account and debit or credit card when you set up your account.

Bottom line: Venmo is an all-around app that combines personal finance management with your social life.

Square Cash

Square Cash is another app for making quick peer-to-peer payments. It's quite similar to Venmo, but it doesn’t come with all the additional social features. You can request money from and send money to a person who doesn't have a Square Cash account.

Making transactions is free unless you are a business, and, as usual, you can link your bank account and debit or credit card. An additional feature is the “$Cashtag," which works like a personalized web page where friends and family members can make payments to you.

Bottom line: What makes this app stand out is that it’s really simple to use and enables you to stay ahead of things and keep track of your transactions with ease.

Choices Abound for Sending Money

There are a great number of apps available that allow you to send money overseas and to friends and family members at little to no cost. While some providers are faster than others, in general, transactions will happen in an acceptable time frame. When you plan to send larger amounts of money, remember to compare the fees and currency exchange rates of the different providers.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things That Will Soon Disappear Forever (And 7 That Refuse to Die)

Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠, Retirement Income Certified Professional and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. She helps educate the public, policymakers and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.