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MoneyGram Money Transfer Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

MoneyGram is a widely-used money transfer service, and in our review, we found that it stacks up well against the competition in some areas, and not so great in others. If you’re looking for a way to send or receive money quickly, MoneyGram is certainly convenient and hard to beat — but if you’re looking for the most affordable option to send money, however, MoneyGram probably won’t make you happy.

The company traces its roots back to 1940, with the founding of Travelers Express Co., based in Minneapolis. Travelers Express went on to become one of the world’s largest processors of money orders and a key player in the electronic payments industry.

In 1998, Viad Corp (the parent company of Travelers Express) purchased a company known as MoneyGram Payment Systems Inc. MoneyGram Payment Systems itself had originally been founded a decade earlier in 1988. The acquisition lead the way for MoneyGram to become a globally recognized and well-trusted brand in the money transfer industry.

Keep reading for our full takeaway on MoneyGram.

ProsCons
  • Speedy same-day delivery within minutes may be an option when using a debit card or credit card.
  • Wide variety of transfer options including online transfers, transfers via the app, in store transfers, and cash (in store) transfers.
  • Send money to more than 200 countries and territories with MoneyGram’s large network (30,000 locations in the U.S. and 350,000 global locations).
  • Transfer money 24/7 to a bank account online.

  • May be expensive when compared with alternative money transfer services.
  • The cost and fees for transfers will vary depending on where you’re sending the money, how much you’re sending and your method of payment. If you use a bank account (must be a U.S. checking account) to pay for your transfer, it will generally cost less; debit or credit card transfers cost more. MoneyGram does provide a tool so you can estimate fees in advance.

MoneyGram key features

Large network: MoneyGram’s sizable international transfer network makes it more convenient to send money to friends and family members around the world.

Multiple ways to send and receive money: One area where MoneyGram stands out from competitors is in how many options the service has available to send and receive money. You can send money online, from MoneyGram’s mobile app (see below for details), or in person at a MoneyGram location. You can pay for your transfer in cash, with a bank account transfer, via credit card or debit card. Depending upon where your recipient is located, he or she may be able to receive the funds in a bank account, on a mobile wallet, or by picking up cash at one of the locations.

International and domestic money transfer capability: This service allows you to send money within the United States and abroad. That option isn’t available with all money transfer providers.

There’s an app for that: MoneyGram has launched a mobile app in the United States and 14 additional countries. The app makes it easier for customers to send and receive money from their smartphone or tablet.

Membership program: MoneyGram Plus Rewards is a membership program which rewards you every time you send money. The program offers you the opportunity to enjoy benefits such as:

  • 20% off the fee of your second money transfer
  • 40% off the fee after every fifth money transfer
  • Special “member-only” promotional offers
  • Premier status (after your fifth money transfer) with even more benefits

Sending a money transfer with MoneyGram

How long does a transfer take?
Many transfers may arrive in minutes, even to many international locations, but it varies. The actual time by which funds are available will depend on operating hours, regulatory requirements, destination and other factors, the company says.
Where can you send money?Money can be sent to 350,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe (including over 30,000 locations in the United States).
How much can you send?For online transfers, send up to $6,000 for most countries per transfer. There is also a $6,000 maximum per every 30 calendar days.

*If you need to send more money, you may send additional funds in person from a MoneyGram agent location.

MoneyGram has numerous options for sending money, both in the United States and abroad. This makes it easier to find the solution which best fits your needs.

Sending money online

  • Step one: Set up your online account
    Provide your name, email address, mobile phone number, and address.
  • Step two: Select your receiver
    Provide MoneyGram with information about who you’re sending money to, the country where he/she is located, how your recipient wishes to receive the money, and how much you want to send.
  • Step three: Choose how to pay
    Select from payment options such as your credit card, debit card, or your bank account itself.
  • Step four: Review the details of your transfer and send

Sending money in person

  • Step one: Find a location
    MoneyGram provides a location lookup tool online.
  • Step two: Bring your information
    Provide MoneyGram with information about your recipient, including name (which matches his or her I.D.) and location. Be sure to bring your I.D., and be prepared to provide your full name to the MoneyGram agent as well.
  • Step three: Give the agent your money
    Bring the cash you want to send (plus fees) to provide your MoneyGram agent.
  • Step four: Review the details of your transfer and send

Transfering money to international bank accounts

  • You can send money to an international bank account either online or in person. Just follow the appropriate steps above, based upon how you will be sending the funds.

Sending money to a mobile wallet

  • Step one: Select a recipient
    If you’re sending money online or via the MoneyGram app, choose who you are sending money to, how much you wish to send, and provide the recipient’s mobile number (including international dial code for transfers outside of the United States). You may also send money to a mobile wallet in person at a MoneyGram location — just remember to bring your receiver’s information, including mobile number and international dial code. It is also worth noting that mobile wallet transfers may only be available in certain countries, so make sure you confirm that it can be used where you’re sending your money.
  • Step two: Choose “Account Deposit” as the receive option
  • Step three: Enter the amount you wish to send.
  • Step four: Select your payment option
    You can choose from credit card, debit card, or bank account.
  • Step five: Verify your identity
  • Step six: Review the details of your transfer and send

Fees and fine print

MoneyGram transfers are often convenient, though that convenience can come at a hefty price.

Moneygram fees may vary widely based upon where you’re sending money, how much you’re sending, and how you’re paying. Fees are generally lower if you use a bank account to transfer funds (U.S. checking accounts only). If you pay with your debit or credit card, fees will be higher. MoneyGram does allow you to estimate fees in advance to see how much a transfer will cost.

In an estimate using MoneyGram’s Estimate Fees feature, a $1,000 transfer to Ontario, Canada, was estimated to cost $19.99 if sending funds through an online bank account, $61 if sending cash from a MoneyGram location, or $95 if using your credit or debit card.

When compared with other competitors, the cost of sending funds through MoneyGram is often higher and may include additional transfer fees.

Fees and Penalties
Transfers Within the United States:
Fees will vary based upon the payment method you’re using to send funds. If you are using a credit card or debit card to pay for a transfer, expect higher fees. You can use the “Estimate Fees” tool to get exact pricing for your domestic money transfer.

International Transfer Rates:
Once again, MoneyGram fees for international transfers can vary based upon a variety of factors, including how you will sending the money and where you will be sending it. You can use the “Estimate Fees” tool to get exact pricing for your domestic money transfer.

Alternative money transfer options

Want to compare other options? Here are a few alternative money transfer services to consider.

OFX

  • Where can you send money? Send money to over 190 countries in 55 different currencies. (Transfers within the United States are not available.)
  • How long does a transfer take? Transfers generally take 1 to 4 business days. Times vary based upon the country where you are transferring funds.
  • How much can you send? Unlike many online marketplaces, OFX does not have a maximum limit on the amount you can transfer. (Certain currencies may be subject to limits due to government regulations.)
  • Fee to send money: OFX does not charge any transfer fees, but makes its money by charging you a markup on the foreign exchange rate. These markups (also called margins) are often less than 1% with OFX. By contrast, banks often charge you as much as 5% on your foreign exchange transfers, with extra fees added on top of that. However, some online competitors might still beat OFX prices depending upon where and how you’re sending money. It’s smart to estimate and compare fees from a number of websites to try to get the best deal available.

The best perk which OFX has to offer is the ability to save money on many transactions. If cost is your primary concern, OFX may be a good choice.

Western Union

  • Where can you send money? You can send money to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide through Western Union’s network of over 500,000 agent locations.
  • How long does a transfer take? Send and receive money in minutes in 130 currencies to over 200 countries and territories. (Factors like the service selected, destination country, regulatory issues, etc. may impact delivery time.)
  • How much can you send? The maximum amount you can send can vary based upon several factors. These include your Western Union transaction history, the country where your recipient is based, your country and state, and the service selected. Based upon these factors, limits may range from $300 per money transfer to $10,000 per transaction.
  • Fee to send money: Despite the convenience it offers, Western Union may not be the most affordable way to send money internationally. Compared with competitors, exchange rate fees may sometimes be higher and you may be faced with transfer fees as well (though it really depends upon where you’re sending money and how you’re sending it). You can estimate the cost of sending money using Western Union’s online fee calculator — your best bet is always to estimate fees from a few competitors to see who will give you the best price.

Western Union stands out for its convenience and speed. With over 500,000 agent locations worldwide, it may be easier to find a place to send or receive money with Western Union versus another provider.

Is MoneyGram a good money transfer service to use?

Although MoneyGram can sometimes be a bit pricey, it is still a decent money transfer option. The conveniently large number of locations and the potential for fast, same-day transactions can be helpful if you need to send or receive money in a hurry. MoneyGram also shines for people who need to send or receive cash without using a bank account or debit/credit card as part of the process.

If you’re not in a rush, however, an alternative option might be available at a lower cost. Because money transfer fees vary so widely based upon where you’re sending money and how you’re sending it, your best bet is to estimate and compare fees first. You can estimate fees with MoneyGram plus one or more competitors to see who will offer you the best deal for your specific situation.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Michelle Black
Michelle Black |

Michelle Black is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Michelle here

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Banking

What Are Liquid Assets?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

You’ve heard it countless times: Build your assets and invest for the future. It’s sound advice, but if you needed money right now, how easily could you turn your assets and investments into cash?

All of your assets have value, but liquid assets are the ones you can quickly turn into cash without incurring any significant fees or penalties. Non-liquid assets either take time to sell or may lose value if you need to quickly turn them into cash.

The money you have in your checking and savings accounts, accessible on demand with a debit card? That’s a highly liquid asset. The RV parked in your driveway? It takes time and expense to sell, making it a non-liquid asset.

All of your assets and investments can be liquidated, if necessary. But before you sell anything, financial planners say you need to take stock of your asset portfolio and understand the liquidity of your holdings.

What to know about liquid assets

Simply put, liquidity is your ability to convert assets into cash. A liquid asset is often defined as cash or an investment with a maturity of 12 months or less, according to Marty Reid, president of Reid Financial Consulting and a certified financial planner. Holding liquid assets is important in case you need cash for emergencies, unexpected expenses or to make big purchases on short notice.

When explaining liquidity to clients, some financial advisors illustrate a pyramid of assets, with cash on hand or money in a savings or checking account at the top as the most liquid, and items or properties that take more time, effort and expense to sell, such as a house or a boat, towards the bottom.

Some assets that can fall into a gray area between liquid and non-liquid are stocks, mutual funds and longer term government securities. You can liquidate these investments for cash, but it could take up to a few days to get your money. You could also face penalties or costs, including brokerage fees, changes in market value, forfeiting interest gains or possible tax implications.

With stocks in particular, when you go to sell, you’re at the whim of the markets and it can take up to three or four days to get your funds. “What if the market is down the day you need money? If the market is down or volatile and you need money, you could be forced to sell and lose money,” said Kaya Ladejobi, a CFP and founder of New York-based Earn Into Wealth Strategies.

Examples of liquid assets:

  • Cash: Hard cash you physically have on hand to pay for expenses.
  • Checking or savings account: Money on deposit with a bank or credit union that you can access immediately.
  • Money market account: A money market, or MMA, is a high-interest savings account that can have check-writing privileges. MMAs may have more restrictions than a typical savings account, including higher minimum balances and limited number of withdrawals.
  • Certificate of deposit: Also known as a CD, this can have a duration that ranges from a few months to several years and offers higher interest rates than savings accounts. If you cash in your CD before the term expires, you could face a penalty on your accrued interest.
  • Treasury bills, notes and bonds: Government-issued securities with maturities ranging from a few weeks to 30 years. Shorter term securities are more liquid than long-term holdings. Interest rates are higher on longer securities. If you sell before maturity, you could lose value and possibly pay broker fees.

What to know about non-liquid assets

Non-liquid assets can be very valuable and marketable. These fixed assets should not be considered as a source of funds for your daily lifestyle or basic needs, but rather as tools to build long-term financial success, said Reid. If you try to sell a long-term asset on short notice, you might not receive the full benefit of their value and you could incur excessive fees associated with a hurried sale. Most of all, the sales process can be slow, which is the very reason they are not liquid assets.

That’s not to say there isn’t a market for these non-liquid assets. On the contrary, when you sell real estate or personal effects like jewelry or collectibles, you can realize considerable financial gains. Likewise, the long-term investment accounts, including IRAs and 401ks, can appreciate over time, but you’d lose value if you sold early, including potentially steep tax penalties.

“Any time you have to pay transaction costs, like using a broker, to sell something, it might be more costly. In addition to that, when you have to find a buyer and the pool of buyers is limited to turn an asset into cash, that makes it challenging,” Ladejobi said.

Examples of non-liquid assets

  • Real estate: Homes and land hold considerable value, but would take time and expense to sell, making real estate one of the most non-liquid assets.
  • Cars, RVs and boats: Recreational vehicles can also have strong monetary value, but take time and resources to sell.
  • Jewelry: Individual pieces and collections can fetch large sums, but you’ll need to find a buyer or possibly a broker to handle the transaction.
  • Furniture and collectibles: Like jewelry, these personal effects can appreciate strongly and may have enthusiastic buyers, but you’ll need to handle marketing and transactions, or work with a broker.
  • Retirement accounts (401ks, IRAs and investment accounts): These long-term investments will grow over time, eventually funding your retirement. If you cash out early (usually before you’re 59 1/2 years old), you could face steep penalties and tax implications. If you take money out of an IRA early, it could be included in your taxable income and incur a 10% additional tax penalty (there are some exceptions).

Why is asset liquidity important?

You never know what hardships or adventures life might throw your way. That’s why it’s important to have liquid assets at your disposal. Many investment advisors often urge clients to keep between three to six months of cash on-hand to pay living expenses, including housing, food and utilities.

Amit Chopra, a CFP and managing partner of Ramsey, N.J.-based Forefront Wealth Planning and Asset Management, often adjusts his advice based on a client’s age and expectations. Younger clients, he said, may want to keep six to 12 months of living expenses on hand in cash in case they decide to pursue a less stable job, such as at a startup, or a personal adventure. “Having a little more cash gives them the flexibility to do that,” he said. With older clients, who may be more established in their careers and personal lives, Chopra recommends setting aside enough cash for six to nine months of expenses.

As you prioritize how much liquidity you need in your financial portfolio, there are some additional considerations, including your tolerance for risk with investments and your long-term financial goals. To determine what’s right for you and how much liquidity you might need, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recommends investors take stock of their personal financial needs and determine the right mix of liquid and non-liquid assets. While cash and cash-equivalents are the safest investments — and the most liquid — they also yield the smallest returns.

Liquidity is a balancing act. Having cash on-hand is important for emergency car repairs or medical bills, and to fund lifestyle expenses, such as home improvements or a wedding, Reid noted. He encourages clients to mix liquidity with long-term investments.

“In real estate, they say, location, location, location. With investing, it’s diversification, diversification, diversification. How you diversify depends on your financial position, your risk tolerance level, and your long term and short term objectives,” said Reid.

The final word on liquid assets

When it comes to financial flexibility, cash is king. From there, your personal liquidity plan is a very personal choice, based on how much cash you think you need to be secure and comfortable. There’s no single right answer.

However, when it comes to realizing the value of your assets, not all investments are created equal. If you need funds quickly, with minimal headache and minor expense, cash and cash-equivalents are the easiest and fastest way. If you have more time to put into selling an asset or a longer timeline for needing money, non-liquid assets can be transformed into liquid ones, but it takes both planning and an active market to realize their fullest value. One thing is certain: The cash in your wallet and your checking and savings accounts are the ultimate liquid asset.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alli Romano
Alli Romano |

Alli Romano is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alli here

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Banking

Review of BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

The BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card provides the convenience of paying for purchases with plastic for people who might not be able to qualify for a traditional checking account. In addition, the BBVA ClearSpend card offers handy budgeting features that can help you keep your finances on track.

This prepaid debit option is an excellent choice for users looking to avoid fees for loading funds onto the card. BBVA charges no fees for most funding options, although it’s worth noting that you cannot deposit regular checks onto this card, only paychecks via direct deposit. Before you rush to apply, read on to learn more about using this alternative financial product.

BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card features

The BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card is simple to use. You load money onto the card via one of the following five methods:

  • From a BBVA debit card, no fee
  • At a BBVA bank branch, no fee
  • At a Visa ReadyLink location, $4.50 fee (can vary by location)
  • Via direct deposit, no fee
  • Via a transfer service, such as Paypal, Popmoney, or Venmo, no fee

Once the money is loaded onto the card, you can spend it anywhere Visa is accepted. You can use the card to make purchases, pay bills or get cash out of an ATM. However, you can only spend up to a limit of $3,500 in transactions per day or $600 cash withdrawals from an ATM per day. If you try to make a charge that would overdraw your account, BBVA simply rejects the transaction.

This card also comes with handy app-based automatic budgeting tools. Use the card normally for 30 days. After this period, the BBVA ClearSpend app automatically generates a budget for you, complete with spending limits and an automatic spending tracker. If you have a secondary cardholder on your account, the budgeting tool will track spending for each user, letting you monitor each other’s spending patterns.

BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card fees

BBVA has few fees, most of which are relatively easy to avoid. If you plan your card usage strategy in advance, it’s entirely possible to use the BBVA ClearSpend card and not pay any fees at all.

One of the downsides of using the BBVA card is that there are certain loading limits in place. You can load up to a maximum balance of $6,500 onto the card. Each time you load it up with money, you’ll have to load at least $25 onto the card, up to a maximum amount of $2,500 per day. If you’re using the Visa ReadyLink service to load funds onto the card, you’re even more restricted: you can only load $600 per day onto the card via this route.

BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card Fees

Activation Fee

$0

Reload Fee

$0 if you load cash from a BBVA bank branch, from a BBVA debit card, or from a transfer service such as Paypal or Venmo. A fee of $4.50 if you load cash from a Visa ReadyLink location, although this fee may vary by location.

Direct Deposit Fee

$0

Check Deposit Fee

There is no way to deposit checks written out to you.

ATM Fees

$0 when using a BBVA ATM. $2 for each out-of-network domestic ATM withdrawal and $3 for each out-of-network foreign ATM withdrawal, although your first withdrawal of the month is free. Out-of-network ATMs may also charge their own fees in addition to BBVA fees.

Card Replacement Fee

$0. However, you are only allowed three replacement cards.

Monthly Service Charge

$4, unless you load at least $400 per month onto the card.

Foreign Transaction Fee

3% of the purchase amount

ATM Balance Inquiry Fee

$0 at any domestic ATM. $1 at any foreign ATM. You might also be charged a separate fee by the ATM’s owner for using an out-of-network ATM.

Express Delivery Fee

$20 per card

Paper Check Fee

$15 if you want a paper check for the remaining balance mailed to you when you close your account.

Using the BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card mobile app

Most of the day-to-day management for your account can be completed through the BBVA ClearSpend app. You can even download it first and apply for the card through the app. Downloading the app also allows you to do certain things:

  • Lock your card if you lose it or want to stop spending on it
  • Load money onto your card with a transfer service such as Paypal, PopMoney, or Venmo, or with a BBVA debit card
  • Get spending alerts from secondary account holders
  • Use the automatic budgeting and spending tracker feature

The mobile app lets you to manage your card from your account, but it gets rather mixed reviews on the iTunes store — 2.5 out of 5.0 stars — and the Google Play app store — 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Opening a BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card account

Getting a BBVA ClearSpend card is as simple as it is to use. There are three ways you can get one of these cards:

  • Through the app
  • Online through the BBVA website
  • In person at a local BBVA branch

BBVA does not run a credit check or use ChexSystems when deciding whether to approve you for a card. Even if you’ve had trouble being approved for a checking account in the past, you will still qualify for a BBVA ClearSpend card as long as you pass fraud security measures. This involves identity theft and fraud alert checks through the Visa Prepaid Clearinghouse Service.
Your card will be mailed to you 7-10 days after you apply online, or you’ll be issued it immediately at a BBVA bank branch if you apply in person.

Overall review of BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card

Two things make this option particularly useful for prepaid debit card users. First, this card provides handy budgeting and spending tracking tools that can help you manage your money. Second, it’s relatively easy to avoid fees by doing the following things:

  • Load at least $400 per month onto the card
  • Only use BBVA ATMs to make cash withdrawals, or limit yourself to one cash withdrawal per month at a non-BBVA ATM.
  • Avoid using Visa ReadyLink locations to load cash onto your card

Follow these rules, and the BBVA ClearSpend card is a great prepaid debit card and an excellent alternative to a checking account.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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