How to Send Money to Someone Without a Bank Account

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · May 20, 2024 · 8 minute read

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How to Send Money to Someone Without a Bank Account

Many people send and receive funds via their checking account, the hub of their financial life. But not everyone has an account. In fact, an estimated 4.5% of U.S. households (approximately 5.9 million) were “unbanked” in the most recent year studied, according to the FDIC. This means that, in their household, no one held a checking or savings account at a financial institution such as a bank or credit union.

Not having a bank account can make it more challenging to send and receive money, but it’s not impossible. Here, you’ll learn how you can move funds around without a bank.

Key Points

•   Many U.S. households do not have a bank account, making traditional money transfers challenging.

•   Before choosing a transfer method, consider reliability, cost, and security.

•   Mobile wallets offer a convenient way to send and receive money without fees.

•   Money orders provide a reliable alternative for transferring funds without a bank.

•   Prepaid debit cards and money transfer services are practical options, though they may involve fees.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Transfer Method

As with all financial services, you don’t want to rush and just go with the first method available. Each option you review will probably have its pluses and minuses. If you are trying to send or receive money without a bank account, do your research. Consider these important factors as you move toward making your decision.

Reliability

Reputation matters, always — and especially with something as important as money. You want to use services that have been around long enough to have a track record. You can start by asking your inner circle of friends and family to hear what they use. You can read online reviews as well at trusted sites. Key things to consider are whether money transfers were completed successfully, on time, and without excessive charges.

Transfer Cost

Without a bank account, you may not have the ease of, say, having your paycheck direct-deposited via Automated Clearing House (or ACH) or using a debit card. In fact, you may have to spend time and money to send or receive some cash. So read the fine print on the options you are considering to make sure you’re clear on the fee structure.

When it comes to how to transfer money from one account to another, what will you be charged for and what’s free? Will there be certain criteria to meet in order for a transaction to be done without fees? You don’t want any surprises.

Security

Security is critical. When it comes to cash changing hands, you want to feel confident about safety. You don’t want to risk your hard-earned dough getting stuck in the ether somewhere or vanishing entirely. Look into what layers of protection are in place, such as two-step authentication, data encryption, and an adequate privacy policy. Fraud and identity theft are rampant these days, so safeguarding financial information is a must.

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Options for Sending and Receiving Money Without a Bank Account

With all those factors in mind, here are specific options you may have to send or receive funds without a bank account involved.

Mobile Wallets

Here’s one idea for how to send money to someone without a bank account: mobile wallets, or digital wallets. These are smartphone apps where you can store your debit and credit cards. Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are a couple of examples you may have heard of. These services offer a way to pay a friend without cash exchanging hands. Or you might receive funds. Some points to note:

•   There are often no fees involved, and you may enjoy cash back and other rewards for completing a transaction with your linked card.

•   Both the sender and receiver must have the same digital wallet for the transaction to be free. If you have PayPal or Venmo, your recipient needs to have them too in order to do a peer-to-peer or P2P transaction.

•   Fees may apply when using extras like expedited transfers or paying by credit card, and mobile wallets in the US are often restricted to transfers within our country.

•   Mobile wallets can get all sorts of information as you use them — your name, mailing and email addresses, mobile number, records of your calls and texts, your contacts and calendar, the unique ID number of your mobile device, account information, what you buy and where and for how much. Not everyone is comfortable with sharing all of that personal data.

Money Orders

Money orders may seem like they’ve gone the way of the dinosaur, but they still serve a purpose, including offering a way to send money without a bank account (or to someone who is unbanked). Some details:

•   You get one from the post office or stores like CVS and Western Union, among others.

•   They may not be the fastest way to send money without a bank account.

•   The recipient will need to show identification to cash it.

•   Prices vary depending on the service you use and how much money is sent, but they can be reasonably priced. For instance, at the post office, you may pay $2.10 for a money order up to $500 and $3.00 for one that’s more than $500, up to $1,000. By the way, money orders are typically capped at $1,000. You could buy multiple ones if you need to transfer more than that amount.

Credit Cards

If you don’t have a bank account to fund the transfer, know that some money transfer services allow you to pay by credit card. Then, your recipient will be able to pick up cash pretty much instantly. It’s easy and convenient, but it’s likely to be more expensive than other methods.

For example, Cash App allows you to use a credit card to send funds, but will charge you 3% of the transaction value, and then the credit card you’ve linked may also charge you interest or fees. This might not be your first choice if you have less pricey options available.

Prepaid Debit Cards

A prepaid debit card is another way to move money when a person doesn’t have a bank account. It shares some features of a credit card, debit card, and gift card.

•   It is a debit card that’s been pre-loaded with money, and you can generally use it at any retailer (online or in person) that accepts credit cards.

•   Prepaid debit cards may be associated with credit card networks; think MasterCard or Visa, for example. This means they can be used anywhere that accepts that kind of plastic.

•   These cards may be riddled with fees. For instance, you might get hit with a fee for card activation, making a purchase, adding money to the card, and/or withdrawing money at an ATM. You’ll want to read the fine print because these fees may make prepaid cards a less attractive option.

Recommended: Alternatives to Traditional Banks

Cash or a Check

Cash is king and can be a super-simple way to send or receive funds, even if you don’t have a bank account, provided you can safely hand over the bills. If the two parties involved are in different locations, this becomes a lot riskier. Mailing cash is probably never a wise move.

Checks are also a time-honored way to transfer money; the person who receives it can then cash the check, perhaps paying a fee since they don’t have a bank account. But if you use mail to send the payment, a lost check situation can occur or a check might be stolen. So, there could be some risk involved.

Money Transfer Services

Money transfer services can be a godsend. No bank account is required for either the sender or recipient. It’s easy. In addition to in person retail outlets, you can now access money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram online.

•   It’s a quick transaction; money can arrive as early as the same day.

•   You have some flexibility, such as sending money transfers to a debit card or a mobile wallet.

•   Pay attention to fees, though, as they vary and depend on the amount you’re sending and more. For example, if you use Western Union to send money to someone in Mexico, the fee could be anywhere from $4.99 to $26.49 or more, depending on the specifics.

The Takeaway

Having a bank account can be a cornerstone of good money management, but there are a number of Americans who don’t have one. If, for whatever reason you are without one or you want to transfer money with someone who doesn’t have an account, there are still ways to send and receive money. These include digital wallets, money orders, money transfer services, and other options. Some will have fees and security risks, among other downsides. Take your time to explore the safest, most convenient, and affordable choice for your situation.

If you are an account holder in this situation, you might also see what options your financial institution offers to simplify transfers.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Can I transfer money to someone without a bank account?

Yes, there are a number of options to transfer money if someone doesn’t have a bank account. These include using a money transfer service, prepaid debit card, mobile wallet, or money order.

What is the best way to transfer money to someone without a bank account?

What’s best depends on the two people involved. What are any time constraints, what is cost-effective, and what method is most convenient? Once these and other factors are considered, you can determine the best method, which might be a money transfer service, a mobile wallet app, a money order, or a prepaid debit card.

How much does it cost to send money without a bank account?

Costs vary depending on the method you use, the amount of money you’re sending, and whether it is being transferred domestically or internationally. While a domestic money order from the U.S. Postal Service will cost up to $3.00 for an amount between $500 and $1,000, you might wind up paying considerably more for other transactions.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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