Every day, millions of people around the globe have to figure out how to pay for the things they need.
Whether you're an independent contractor filing an invoice, friends splitting the check or a family looking to divide up household expenses, electronic payments have become the norm for paying for almost anything in a fast, secure way simply by picking up your smart phone.
"I'll Venmo you," has nearly replaced the phrase, "Do you take a check?" But of course, not every business likes emojis alongside their invoices, and that's where apps like PayPal — which has a slightly more sophisticated invoicing set-up — come in.
Factors like cost, transfer speed and international capabilities all come into play when choosing the best method for transferring digital cash.
Get Philly local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Philadelphia newsletters.
Ahead, Select reviewed the best five apps for sending money to friends, family and even some small businesses. (Read our methodology for more information on how we choose the best money-sending apps.)
Select's picks for the top apps to send money
- Best between friends: Venmo
- Best for bank-to-bank transfers: Zelle
- Best for flexible payments: PayPal
- Best for budding investors: CashApp
- Best for sending money internationally: Remitly
Money transfer apps FAQs
Best between friends
Best for bank-to-bank transfers
Best for flexible payments
Best for budding investors
Best for sending money internationally
Money-sending app FAQs
How much do money transfer apps cost?
The best money transfer apps are free to download, but costs vary depending on how you use them. Most services offer free bank transfers at a standard speed of 1 to 3 business days, but charge fees if you want to pay with a credit card and/or speed up the delivery to your bank account. International money transfers vary based on the country's exchange rates and bank fees, but you may still be able to choose a standard or economy delivery versus a more expensive express delivery. Be sure to check fees before assuming that all money transfers are free.
Are money transfer apps safe?
Money apps are arguably safer than cash since most require you to create an account with a password and two-factor login methods (such as sending verification codes) to verify your identity and the person you are sending money to.
Likewise, using a money app is safer than writing a check because it will not expose your bank account number and routing number to the person who receives it. By signing up for a money transfer app, you are, in essence, making it possible for anyone to send you a digital payment without viewing any of your secure account information, just your user ID or email address/phone number. And unlike cash, digital payments cannot be lost.
Because digital money apps allow you to send money to anyone with an account, the one caveat is that it can be easy to send money to the wrong person if you're not careful. Some apps offer additional protections, like QR-code scanning, text or email verification, unique user IDs and profile pictures to ensure the right person is on the receiving end of your payment.
To determine the best money-sending apps, Select analyzed over a dozen options offered by the top companies in this market and narrowed down our ranking by only including apps that meet the following criteria:
- Pricing: Each app on our list offers low-cost (or free) standard checking account transfers and only charge higher fees when linking to credit cards as a payment method and/or requesting express money transfers.
- Features: The apps on this list offer a variety of perks, including quick transfer speed of under five business days and the ease with which you can connect the app with your bank account.
- Security: We chose apps that have at least two security features, including two-factor authentication and fraud detection.
- User reviews and ratings: All of the apps in our round-up have a sizable number of user reviews and high user ratings. Each app on this list has at least 1,000 reviews in both the App Store (for iOS) and on Google Play (for Android), as well as a rating over 4 stars (out of 5) on both platforms.
In addition to these baseline requirements, some of the above apps offer additional standout features like social sharing, investing capabilities and flexible payment options (such as the ability to pay over time). We noted these features with a brief explanation, and you can learn more by visiting the respective app's website.