What’s The Fastest Way To Beam 10 Bucks To A Friend?

Let’s say that you owe a friend money, but you can’t just hand them some cash and call it a day: your friend lives in a different state. What is the easiest, most cost-effective, and most importantly the fastest way to beam money from one person to another? Over at the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch, staffers decided to race four different services and see how they differed.

Here’s the funny thing about the modern banking system: it isn’t terribly modern. Here in the United States, transfers of money generally only move from one place to another during business hours on weekdays. That means that some cash-beaming services might seem surprisingly slow as soon as we want that money back in the standard banking system.

The competitors: Popmoney, PayPal, Google Wallet, Square, and an old-fangled check. $10 traveled from a reporter in New York City to a colleague in San Francisco. They tracked how long the money took to get from one bank account to another. That’s the easy part: a transfer from one PayPal or Google Wallet account to another takes seconds, but the part where it enters the regular banking system gets complicated.

How did the competitors do? The race began at 3 P.M. on a Friday, to find out how the services would fare at the end of the business week.

Popmoney: This transaction could be funded from a credit card, and did require both parties to sign up for an account. The transfer took three days in total, and cost 95 cents. It would have taken longer to move a larger amount of money or fund the transaction with a bank account.

Google Wallet: This account was relatively easy to set up, and the transfer was quick, but the process becomes slower and more complicated if you need to move cash to a regular bank account instead of using it to get some pizza with a side of free chicken or something. The transfer was free if funds came from another bank account instead of a credit or debit card, and took four days to hit the recipient’s bank account. You’ll need your account and routing numbers to withdraw the money.

PayPal: Out of these services, this is probably the one most readers are familiar with, but the problems and pricing structure were very similar to those of Google Wallet: free transfers if you use a bank account to fund the transaction, but small fees otherwise.

Square Cash: You might be most familiar with Square as one of the first smartphone credit card readers to hit common usage. They aren’t just for merchants, though: you can use Square Cash to send money to anyone, whether they already have an account or not.

The service doesn’t require users to sign up for an account: you send an e-mail to your friend, copy Square on the message, and then follow up later with your financial information to fund the transaction. This makes it easy to use, cash-sender Jonnelle Marte a little nervous, noting that “anyone who hacked into our email account could theoretically empty our bank account.” This transaction had no fees, and the money reached the recipient’s bank account the same day.

Paper check and snail mail: This venerable method didn’t take that much longer than the others: the check showed up on the recipient’s desk in San Francisco only a day after the Google Wallet transaction had cleared. The fee for this transaction was 46 cents, the current price of a postage stamp. The transfer took a total of four days.

Square, Google, Paypal, Popmoney — who’s faster? [MarketWatch]

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