It’s become easier than ever to send money to people through websites and payment apps. But as with anything, there’s a right way to do it and many wrong ways.
In this article, we’re going to show you some of the safer ways to send money.
Money expert Clark Howard does have some concerns about payment apps because of their customer service, refund policies and how easy it is for you to send money to the wrong person.
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Safer Ways To Send Money
Online and Direct
Many people use third-party websites to pay their numerous bills, but Clark suggests going directly to the website of the business or financial institution to make payments.
“It’s more hassle than just going to your one bill-pay service and sending payments,” he says, “but it has become the safest way to pay bills.”
Payment apps like Cash App, PayPal and Venmo have exploded in popularity over the past few years and with good reason: They’re convenient and allow you to send and receive money instantly.
Clark’s only beef with them is that as legit money transfer services, they have primarily put the onus on the customer — you — to bail yourself out when something goes wrong.
Because of this Clark advises that any bank accounts attached to these payment apps come from a distinct and different account from your main one.
“What I recommend is that if somebody wants to use Zelle or Cash App or Venmo, set up a separate checking account that has very small amounts of money in it.”
You can check our list of the best free checking accounts to find the most ideal option for you. Remember to only keep a limited amount of money in there and use it judiciously.
Cashier’s Checks (Large Sums of Money Only)
From time to time, you may need to send a large amount of money — perhaps even thousands of dollars — to someone or a company you do business with.
Clark certainly doesn’t want you to send cash and wiring the money is also not his favorite idea.
“Wiring money with services like MoneyGram, Ria, and Western Union is like sending cash — once you send it, you usually can’t get it back,” the FTC says on its website.
As a safer alternative, Clark suggests using a cashier’s check to send large sums of money:
“You would send that cashier’s check with a method like UPS or FedEx where you’ve got tracking and tracing. And it’s sent in one of those envelopes that are not terribly expensive.”
Ways To NEVER Send Money
Of all the payment apps out there, Zelle is one of the most controversial because it has been making the most headlines when it comes to common scams. That’s a major reason why Clark says Zelle is a no-no for now, even with the banks’ renewed vows of better consumer protections.
If you absolutely must use it, read our guide to Zelle, which lists some safeguards for your wallet.
“What is the one thing that should not be on your person or in your purse? A checkbook,” Clark says.
“Carrying a checkbook has become one of the most dangerous forms of identity theft that exists,” he adds. “Once criminals get that checkbook, they can spend money as if they’re you, steal money from you that’s hard to get back and even as the victim of a crime, it can lead to criminal charges against you.”
One scheme that crooks have gotten adept at is “check washing,” which is when a criminal, using nail polish or some other ink-erasing solution, changes the payee’s name and/or the dollar amount on a check before fraudulently cashing it.
“Occasionally, these checks are stolen from mailboxes and washed in chemicals to remove the ink. Some scammers will even use copiers or scanners to print fake copies of a check,” says the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
If you’re a check writer, you need to protect yourself. Read up on how to avoid your checks being “washed.”
Via Gift Card
Scammers who pretend to be a reputable company, your bank or a government agency have tried to normalize paying and receiving payments via gift card, but that’s a scam every time, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC says on its website:
“Gift cards are for gifts. Only gifts. Not for payments. Never buy a gift card because someone tells you to buy one and give them the numbers.”
Read our guide on how to spot and avoid gift card scams.
“Today what’s the best way to pay? Electronic,” Clark says. “When you don’t pay electronic, the burden of everything falls back on you.”
As a recap, it’s safer to pay these ways:
- Directly on the company’s website.
- Via payment app (but not all payment apps).
- Via cashier’s check (for large sums of money only).
It’s been proven to not be safe to pay these ways:
- Via Zelle: “Don’t try to rely on these new administrative protections that Zelle, better late than ever, has put in place,” Clark says.
- By check: Speaking of check fraud and other check-related scams, Clark says, “The banking industry and law enforcement have never gotten their arms around them.”
- Via gift cards: “No real business or government agency will ever tell you to buy a gift card to pay them,” the FTC says. “Always keep a copy of your gift card and store receipt. Use them to report gift card scams to the gift card company and ask for your money back.”
Want more money-saving advice? Read up on the #1 bill you should get via mail.