Getting money to loved ones might be a priority right now. You have options other than handing over cash, some as fast as a few seconds:
1. Zelle: Free and fast. This peer-to-peer transfer service partners with more than 750 banks and credit unions and is embedded in many financial institutions’ websites and mobile apps. Both sender and recipient must have bank accounts and register with Zelle with an e-mail address or phone number.
2. Digital gift card: Free and fast. Many major merchants offer e-gift cards, which you can find on their websites or on sites like giftcards.com and giftcardmall.com. You can e-mail a gift card and schedule it to arrive the same day or at another time. Some gift cards work at multiple businesses, including Visa gift cards and those for food delivery companies like GrubHub and DoorDash. “Make sure the e-gift card can be used now. Is that store nearby? Are they open and offering curbside pickup or delivery?” asked Shelley Hunter, gift card industry expert at Giftcards.com.
3. Third-party P2P apps: Free or fast. PayPal, Square Cash, Venmo and Apple Pay Cash may be good options if both you and your recipient have the same app. But they all have the same hurdle: Free delivery to a bank account isn’t instant. The standard time frame tends to be several days. To transfer funds to a debit card within minutes, the recipient must pay a fee, typically about 1%, with a maximum of around $10.
4. Transfers between prepaid debit cards: Fast. These work like debit cards for purchases and bills, except you load money onto the card before use. One strategy is to buy two: one to mail to your loved one and the other for you. Then, transfer from your card to the other one. Or use a card such as American Express’ Bluebird, which offers a master account with subaccounts, each with its own card. You can link up your bank account to your card and transfer money for free to and from the subaccount cards. Prepaid cards can have monthly or other usage fees.
5. Wire transfer: Fast. Traditional banks have a real-time transfer option, wire transfers, which cost a hefty fee to send and receive the money. The cost may be worth it in time-sensitive circumstances, especially if you are sending thousands of dollars. (Alternatively, if you don’t mind a few days’ delay, you can choose the low- to no-cost option of sending an online transfer to a linked account via ACH transfer.)
6. Money order: Sometimes fast. Money orders are available at the post office, Walmart and Western Union, and they cost a few dollars.