Money Transfer Apps 101: Here Are Our Top Picks

Michael Collins
August 14, 2020

Money Transfer Apps 

20 years ago, every money transfer between individuals was made in cash. Back then, we would have never thought that one day we would be paying people with money that we can’t even hold. That is exactly what is happening today. Cash is on its way out of the door and our wallets are all but digital. This is in big part to money transfer apps. Money transfer apps have made it extremely easy to take funds from your digital bank account and digitally transfer it to someone else’s digital bank account. That’s a lot of digitals. 

These payment apps have completely revolutionized how we make payments to each other. Before, you constantly needed to have cash on hand. If you needed to pay someone, you’d better hope you had the exact amount you needed to pay them or you would end up over or underpaying them. If you were paying on your card at dinner, you’d better hope your friends had enough bills in the wallet to pay you! Not with money transfer apps. Before, you always needed to carry your wallet on you 24/7 and constantly go to the ATM to make sure you had enough money in your wallet. What if you lost your wallet or it got stolen? Too bad! All of that money is gone for good and there’s no getting it back! With money transfer apps, there is no need to always have cash on hand. Less cash means less stress!

While cash has its purposes, its usefulness for brief money transfers with your friends, family, and colleagues is no more. Money transfer apps are rendering cash obsolete with their convenient, fast, and inexpensive products. 

New to Money Transfer Apps?

If you are unfamiliar with what exactly money transfer apps are and how they work, you’ve come to the right place. Tangible cash and coin transfers have been the most common way  to pay others since currency was invented, so it can be easy to be confused and unsure about sharing your money to others digitally. 

Money transfer apps are exactly what they sound like. Simply put, they are applications on your mobile device that enable you to digitally pay a friend or a business. These instant transfer apps allow the user to link the app with their bank account so the transfer of funds can occur seamlessly. 

With cash, you always needed to be receiving money from others or going to the ATM to have enough money on hand to make payments. With these apps, if you have $1,000 in your bank account and you pay your friend $10 through one of these apps, your bank account will now have $990 in it. It’s that easy. No more ATMs, no more needed to swap two $10 bills for one $20 bill. Money transfer apps let you make easy and quick payments, right at your fingertips. 

Because the future of money transfers seems to be digital, the market for these apps is gigantic. A huge amount of companies offer their users a similar product, all in hopes of scooping up some of the market share for digital money transfers. This comes with a caveat. If you are using one app and your friend is using a different one, you oftentimes cannot send money to each other unless you are using the same app. 

Because of the huge amount of instant transfer apps, it can be difficult to choose between so many of them. To make your life easier, we took the liberty of digging deeper into a few of these apps to learn all about them. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a few of these apps. 

Zelle App

Zelle is a money transfer app that allows you to send money directly into someone else’s bank account. Zelle was developed by a conglomerate of around 30 banks, including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Because of this relationship with the banks, Zelle is extremely compatible with many of the banking apps and oftentimes works right within your banking app for an easy and quick exchange!

Pros

  • Instant Transactions: Because of the capabilities that come with partnering with so many large banks, Zelle transfers can be deposited directly into bank accounts without being held by a third party first or without taking a long time for the wire transfer to go through, like so many other apps do. 
  • Ease of Use: If you have an account with a bank that offers Zelle, using it can be very easy. It is oftentimes programmed within your own banking app so you can transfer money to others right within it. 
  • No Fees: While others tout no fees for some transactions, Zelle doesn’t charge any fees at all. Especially with big transactions, fees can hurt but Zelle users have no reason to worry about this. 

Cons

  • Canceling Transactions: If you send money with Zelle who does not have a Zelle account setup, you cannot cancel your transaction. Your money will sit there and can be lost unless the user you sent money to creates an account and accepts it. If you made a mistake with who you sent your money to, this can be an issue. 
  • Ties to Banks: While this is mostly a good thing, it can also have some drawbacks. If you are not with a bank or institution that does not offer Zelle with their other services, you cannot use it. 
  • Security: While Zelle is still safe, it comes with some security issues. If you succumb to a scam or are a victim of fraud, you likely can’t get your money app and Zelle usually pushes the issue off to your financial institution. Other apps provide better security for your money than Zelle does. 

Paypal App

PayPal was started in 2001 by now famous finance moguls Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. PayPal was later acquired by EBay and served as a fast and effective way to make digital payments on many marketplaces. Today, thousands of stores let millions of customers across the world make their purchases online through PayPal. While this is what PayPal’s main service really is, PayPal also has some skin in the game with peer-to-peer transfers. Along with owning Venmo, which we will get to later, the PayPal APP allows users to send money to other people by linking credit and debit cards or bank accounts. 

Pros

  • Multiple Services: PayPal is not just limited to money transfers. PayPal has many features within its app that let you make payments to companies, as well as receive payments if you run a company itself. Having all of these capabilities in the same place can be very useful for someone who is constantly moving money around. 
  • High Transfer Limits: PayPal has one of the biggest, if not the largest, money transfer size. Other apps may only let you transfer anywhere from $500-$2,000 in one go but you can transfer up to $60,000 in one payment with PayPal.
  • Ways to Transfer Money: PayPal allows you to transfer money using credit cards, debit cards, your bank account, the money in your PayPal account, as well as a line of credit that PayPal offers. 

Cons

  • Security Issues: Because of PayPal’s widespread use by millions of customers and businesses, its users are often targets of phishing attacks and other scams. 
  • Fees: PayPal makes millions a year taking small percentages of customer and other business transactions. This translates to peer-to-peer transfers as well. If you are not transferring money directly from your bank account or your PayPal balance, you can expect to pay a fee of 2.9%, which can really add up if you are transferring thousands of dollars at one time. 
  • Speed: The speed of transfers to and from bank accounts is much slower at PayPal than other money transfer apps. Such transfers can take anywhere from 3-5 days to be fully deposited into your bank account. 

Venmo App

Although Venmo is a PayPal product and essentially competes with its money transferring for market share, Venmo outshines its parent company in many respects. Venmo is no doubt the dominant money transfer app for Millenials and Gen Z’s, with reportedly 66% of young Americans using Venmo. 

Pros

  • Incredibly Easy to Use: Venmo is not difficult to set up on your phone, and the user graphical interface is very easy to navigate and use. 
  • Widespread Use: Because Venmo is so widely adopted by the younger U.S. population, there is a much higher chance the person you are sending or receiving money from also uses Venmo. This makes transfers extremely easy. Using another app that is incompatible with Venmo can make transferring money a headache. 
  • Social Aspect: While it does not add to the actual effectiveness of transferring money, Venmo particularly has a fun and engaging social aspect of its app that can make it very fun and enjoyable to use. Describing your payments and being able to see your friends payments and comment on them is strangely fun. 

Cons

  • Fees with a Credit Card: While debit card and bank account transfers are free, using a credit card to make transfers results in a 3% charge from Venmo on your purchase that would otherwise be free with a different app. 
  • Transfer Speed: Like PayPal, transferring your Venmo balance to your bank account can take some time. These transfers take 1-3 days to process and you will be charged a fee if you want it to transfer instantly. 
  • Inability to Cancel Payments: Like Zelle, if you send money to the wrong recipient, you cannot get your money back. 

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Transferwise App

Transferwise is an app from a digital bank that allows you to transfer money all across the world. Transferwise offers many international money transfer services that you will not find with most apps, so if you’re traveling around the globe frequently, this app could really come in handy. 

Pros

  • International Capabilities: As mentioned above, Transferwise has an amazing ability to transfer money to people all across the world. Transferwise allows you to exchange and transfer your money with 50 worldwide currencies and more likely to come in the future. 
  • Cheap Internationally: Currency exchanges and other dealings between different countries’ money can be expensive and difficult. Transferwise is relatively inexpensive in this space. Transfer fees across currencies range from about $.50 - $2.00 and currency exchanges range from .3% - 2%. 

Cons

  • Not as Cheap Locally: Unlike U.S. based apps like Venmo and Zelle, Transferwise charges a flat fee for all money transfers within your own currency. While small, these transfer fees can add up over time, especially if you are constantly transferring funds. Minimum transfer fees also exist with Transferwise. 
  • No Banking License: Apps like Zelle are backed by gigantic U.S. banks that guarantee your deposits for the most part. Since Transferwise is a digital bank, your money is not guaranteed and therefore is inherently more risky to keep with Transferwise. 

Google Pay App

Google has tried their hand at the money transfer app Google Pay. While it offers relatively the same money transferring product as apps like PayPal and Venmo and Zelle, its ability to integrate other Google services could make Google Pay worthwhile to use. 

Pros

  • Large Transfer Limit: Google Pay allows you to make transfers of up to $10,000 per transfer. This is larger than Venmo and most other apps. 
  • Google Integration: Google offers a very large arsenal of products and services that can directly link with your Google Pay. For example, you can request payments right through Gmail. If you use an Android mobile device or are often using many of Google’s other services, this option could be the best for you. 

Cons 

  •  Limited iOS Capabilities: Since many Google services directly compete with Apple, mainly being the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, Google limits the amount of capability you have when using Google Pay on Apple. Since a large benefit of using Google Pay is the ability to use other Google services along with it, it does not exactly make sense to use Google Pay if you are a die hard Apple product user. 

Our Verdict

Cheapest: Zelle

With few transfer fees as well as zero foregin exchange rate markups, Zelle can end up saving you more money than if you were to use many of these other apps. 

Best Internationally: Transferwise

If you’re constantly making payments across the world with your business or to friends and family members abroad, Transferwise is arguably your best option to do that. 

Best for Large Transfers: PayPal

If you need to move large amounts of money to friends and family or customers and suppliers, PayPal and its business capabilities allow you to effectively and seamlessly transfer large amounts of money. 

Best for Mobile: Venmo 

Venmo is arguably the easiest and most effortless way to transfer money to people. Despite its lower maximum transfer amount and credit card fees, its great and simple interface makes transferring money fast and simple to do right from your pocket. 

Our Pick: Venmo 

Millennials and Gen Z or not, we feel Venmo is the best app for you. If you’re like most people, you aren’t moving gigantic amounts of money every day and you’re not paying someone 5,000 miles away from you frequently. Venmo is the easiest, most casual, and weird enough, the most fun way to transfer money. It's easy to use and its social aspect makes Venmo the best money transfer app for the everyday person.

Michael Collins

Michael has a passion for writing and has since brought that passion to Possible. He enjoys reading everything there is to know about film, sports, and finance. His studies in college allow him to be on the forefront of business knowledge so he can better inform his readers.

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