Circle Review: Send and Receive Payments from Peers for Free

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Updated on Monday, November 14, 2016


Circle is a peer-to-peer payment service you can use to send and receive payments virtually through iMessage, Contacts, text, email, NFC & Bluetooth, or Bitcoin. The purpose of a peer-to-peer payment system like Circle is to eliminate the hassle of exchanging money between roommates, family, and friends.

For instance, if you sign up for Circle, there’s no need to chase down your roommates for their share of rent and utilities each month. Instead, you can simply send payment requests through the app, and they can forward cash using their credit card, debit card, or bank account. This payment scenario can be convenient for both the sender and receiver of funds.

Circle integrates with banks and cards in the U.S., the U.K., and a few other European countries. However, they support Bitcoin worldwide. In this post, we’ll dig into:

  • How Circle works
  • How much Circle costs
  • The pros and cons

How Circle Works

Signing up for Circle is easy and free. You can sign up on your desktop computer or through the Circle app using your mobile device. The app is available for iOS and Android. You can link a debit card or bank account to Circle to send out payments to others.

Sending money

To send money with Circle, you input the email address, phone number, or Bitcoin address of the recipient.

Using a debit card is the easiest way to send payments. Circle supports a number of U.S., U.K., and some European issued Visa and MasterCard debit cards, and you have the option to make payments directly from these cards. There’s no need to add money from your debit card to your Circle account balance first before sending a payment.

If you add funds from your U.S. bank issued debit card, money will be available in your Circle account immediately to send to the recipient. However, adding money from your bank account to Circle can take 1 to 4 business days to complete.


Although Circle doesn’t allow you to link new credit cards, cards that were linked in the past can still be used.

Receiving money

Receiving money is just as easy as sending money. You can receive payments through iMessage, Contacts, text, email, NFC & Bluetooth, or Bitcoin. Once money is received in your Circle account, you can cash out to your debit card or bank account. The cash withdrawal process can take 1 to 4 business days to go through.


As mentioned, Circle is offered globally, but on a limited basis. Currently, Circle supports U.S. dollars, British pounds, euros, and Bitcoin for transactions. Circle is used primarily in the U.S., the U.K., and a few other European countries.

You can find out more about the international capabilities of Circle here. But, generally speaking, this payment service is one that will probably not be as useful if you need to exchange payments outside of the U.S. and Europe.

The bank accounts and debit cards that you can link to Circle are limited to ones issued in the U.S. and Europe. So, if you send a Circle payment to someone who lives outside of the supported areas, they may have trouble linking an account to cash out the funds.

Circle does plan to expand internationally and may even be adding more currencies to the service. There are other money transfer services available if you want to exchange money between countries beyond what Circle supports. We’ll cover an international money transfer service below.

Circle Peer-to-Peer Payment Fees

Circle does not charge any fees to process the payments you send and receive. However, there are third-party fees you may need to watch out for when sending money. Your credit card company may charge a cash advance fee if you transfer money from your credit card to make a payment.

Check with your credit card company first before doing a Circle transaction. You will want to avoid paying a costly cash advance fee for this service.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Circle offers peer-to-peer payments for free. There are no fees to send or receive payments.

Con: Credit card cash advance fees. The third-party credit card cash advance fees aren’t charged by Circle, but they’re still costs you need to think about. You’re better off connecting your bank account or debit card to Circle to avoid third-party fees entirely since these methods of sending payments are free.

Pro: You can send payments directly from your debit card. There’s no need to transfer money from your debit card to your Circle account balance before sending a Circle payment. You can pay someone directly from your debit card quickly. Again, sending payments through your debit card also has no third-party fees.

Con: Global support with Circle is limited. International support for Circle is restricted at this time, although the product may be expanding to support other countries and currencies in the future.

Other Ways to Send and Receive Payments

Venmo is another popular peer-to-peer payment service that’s quite similar to Circle. You can send money to friends and family using a phone number or email. Sending money with your debit card or bank account is free. However, there is a 3% fee if you send money with a credit card. Receiving money from others through Venmo is always free. The Venmo app is available for iOS and Android.

TransferWise is an international money transfer service. If your goal is to send money globally, this is a service that may give you more flexibility. TransferWise does charge a transfer fee to perform transactions that varies by country, which is something to keep in mind.

For a quick example, if you were to transfer $1,000 USD using TransferWise into the British pound, as of the writing this post, the recipient would get £802, and the transfer fee would be $9.90 USD. One area where TransferWise shines is the transparency in fees and exchange rates. TransferWise has an exchange rate and fee calculator on its main home page you can use to find out how much an international transfer will cost before you do the transaction.

Who Will Benefit the Most from Circle?

If you’re looking for a simple way to send and receive payments to peers stateside or within Europe, Circle is a service you may want to consider using because it’s free.

The most convenient way to go about sending money with Circle is through a debit card. Using a debit card, you can quickly send money to recipients without having to first add cash to your Circle account balance. Using a debit card will also help you avoid any of the fine print fees that may be involved with credit card transactions.