How to transfer money to someone else's bank account: A complete guide
You’ve got a few options if you need to send money to a bank account which is not held in your name. You’ll be able to transfer money from bank to bank online, in your bank branch, or through a third party provider. You can also send a check or money order - although both of these options may be less convenient for your recipient.
This guide looks at how to send money to someone, covering all your options as well as some of the features and fees you’ll want to consider.
Because international payments can be much more expensive than domestic, we’ll also briefly take a look at international transfer specialist TransferWise which can often offer better cost and convenience than regular service providers.
Options to transfer money to someone else's bank account
Here are your main options if you need to transfer money to someone else's bank account
1. Send money to a bank account directly
The most convenient option for your recipient is likely to be sending money to their bank account directly. You’ll usually be able to do this through your regular bank or using a specialist third party provider. Each bank and service provider has slightly different processes and costs for sending payments, so you’ll need to check how to deposit money to someone through your chosen service before you get started.
Transfer money online
Typically banks recommend that you set up payments online using your internet banking details or app. This tends to be the quickest and cheapest way to make a payment, both locally and internationally.
In most cases, making a transfer through your online banking is as simple as finding the right menu option, and then following the on-screen prompts. You’ll need to confirm who you’re sending money to, as well as their bank account details including routing number, bank name and address. If you’re making an international payment, you won’t need a routing number, but you might be asked for the reason for the transfer and for additional account details such as an IBAN number or sort code.
The costs involved with sending money online vary depending on the service you choose and the type of transfer. A recent report found that domestic transfers cost on average USD25-USD30, while international payments can cost USD45-USD50. You may also pay an additional fee wrapped up in the exchange rate used for your transfer, and your recipient may face charges from their own bank for receiving the payment.
Transfer funds in branch
If you normally manage your money in person you can also arrange a payment in your local bank branch. You’ll need to give the same information as for an online transfer, but you’ll be guided through the process by a customer service agent.
It’s worth noting that transfers made in branch normally come with higher fees compared with the online transfer options available.
2. Use an international transfer provider
Although your normal bank is a natural place to start when researching your options to send money to someone else’s account, it might not be your cheapest - or most convenient - option. You may actually be able to save money by using a third party provider - especially if you’re sending money overseas.
Making an international transfer? TransferWise could save you money
You might be able to get a better exchange rate, and lower fees, if you send your international payment online with TransferWise.
TransferWise payments are arranged online and delivered into your recipient’s bank account for convenience. All transfers use the real mid-market exchange rate - the one you’ll find on Google - and you’ll only ever pay a simple, transparent fee. There are no hidden costs, so you can see how much your recipient will get before you confirm the payment.
Take a look at the TransferWise website to get an instant quote for your payment, and a cost comparison with some major US banks and payment providers.
If you’re making a domestic or international payment to someone who needs to get the money quickly, and in cash, that is also possible. To have someone collect a payment in cash you’ll probably need to use a specialist third party provider such as Western Union. You’ll be able to arrange the payment online or in a branch of your chosen service provider, and have your recipient collect the money in person wherever they are. If you’re making an international payment, the money will be collected in local cash - and can be available in just a few minutes.
This type of service is quick and convenient if you’re sending an urgent payment or if you want to send money to someone who doesn’t have access to a bank account. However, the fees can be very high, and you'll usually find there is a markup added to the exchange rate used for international payments, which pushes the cost up further.
3. Transfer cash to a bank account
It used to be possible to take cash to a bank branch and deposit directly into someone else’s account. However, in recent years, many US banks have stopped allowing this as part of their efforts to stop money laundering and cut costs. Processing cash payments is an expensive business - and because cash is hard to trace, accepting deposits to other people’s accounts makes it tricky for banks to stop illicit activities.
It’s not actually illegal for banks to accept cash deposits like this - so you might want to check directly with your recipient’s bank to see if they still allow it.
If you have a checking account you’ll be able to get money to your recipient by writing a check.
Depending on the rules of your recipient’s own bank, you might be able to deposit this check directly into their account, or send the original or a scanned copy to your recipient for them to deposit themselves. If your recipient intends to deposit the check in a branch or using an ATM they’ll need the original - but if their bank offers a mobile deposit service they may only require a scan of the front and back of the check to get started.
It’s worth noting though, that funds deposited using a check are not available immediately. The check will need to clear which can take anything from a few hours to a few days.
5. Money orders
If you don’t want to use a check - or don’t have a checkbook linked to your account - you might also be able to use a money order to make a payment. In this case, you’ll need to buy a money order at any Post Office - some large stores also stock them. Complete the order to detail how much you want to send, up to a maximum of USD1,000 for a single order. You’ll then pay the cashier for the money order, and receive a receipt to help track the payment.
A money order won’t go directly to your recipient’s account, but they can either deposit it or cash the order at a Post Office or bank. The order won’t expire - unlike checks which typically only have a validity of 90 to 180 days from writing.
Making a payment to someone else’s account doesn’t need to be complicated - but you’ll want to check out your options before you decide which payment method is best for you. Don’t forget to look carefully at the costs involved in each method - and take a look at alternative specialist providers as well as your regular bank to make sure you get the best deal for your specific needs.