How Does MoneyGram Work?

How Does MoneyGram Work?
••• OleksiiK/iStock/GettyImages

MoneyGram is a money transfer company based in the U.S. that operates in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, with a global network of around 350,000 agent offices. MoneyGram is the second-largest provider of money transfers in the world, its biggest competitor being Western Union. In addition to money transfers, MoneyGram is a good option to use when you want to send money orders. You can purchase and send MoneyGram orders from several different convenient locations, such as grocery stores, mega outlets like Walmart, convenience stores and brick-and-mortar MoneyGram locations. MoneyGram provides a number of different options of how to send money, including sending to debit cards or to bank accounts.

How to Use MoneyGram Services

You can access MoneyGram money transfer services online by creating an account at MoneyGram.com. It isn't necessary to have a bank account in order to create a MoneyGram account. In addition to using MoneyGram online, MoneyGram has a mobile app available for download on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Another option is to visit a MoneyGram branch, which can provide better customer support. MoneyGram branches also have electronic kiosks, similar to ATMs at banks, which provide a number of money transfer options. You'll need to have certain information on hand, including a valid government-issued ID and information on your recipient's bank account or mobile wallet, whichever you're sending to.

If you need to send a money order, MoneyGram has several agent partners in the U.S. that sell MoneyGram money orders in their stores, including Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven, Kwik Trip, Royal Farms and Vons. Outside of the U.S., it's even easier to find a nearby agent location, because many people in other countries still predominantly use cash over bank accounts.

MoneyGram Pros and Cons

While MoneyGram offers several convenient options to send or receive money, there are also some disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown of what’s great and what’s not so great:

Pros:

  • You can send money to over 200 countries and territories, often almost instantly
  • You can send funds directly to a bank account or mobile wallet
  • Money transfers for pickup are usually ready within minutes
  • MoneyGram has an optional MoneyGram Plus Rewards Program that offers faster transactions, personalized exclusive offers and money pickup notifications

Cons:

  • There’s a $10,000 maximum for online transfers, every 30 days
  • Most in-person transfers require cash
  • Fees vary wildly depending on location, amount, payment method and other factors
  • MoneyGram is more expensive to use, on average, than specialized online providers
  • Outside of the U.S. and Canada, you can only pay with a debit or credit card, or cash at an agent location
  • Payout in specific currencies are only available at certain locations

MoneyGram Fees at a Glance

While you don’t need to have a bank account to use MoneyGram, having one can be a huge advantage because MoneyGram fees can be highly variable, and will almost for certain be higher without one. As of March 2020, MoneyGram charges around $5.99 for domestic transfers paying with an online bank account, but a whopping $14.99 if you’re paying with a credit or debit card, and that’s just for amounts between $50 and $900. Sending amounts over $900 will cost even more.

Money orders won’t cost as much as money transfers will, however. As of 2020, you can expect to pay between $0.89 and $1.50 per money order purchased at agent locations like CVS Pharmacy or Walmart. However, if you need to send amounts over $500, you’ll need to purchase multiple money orders to cover the full amount.

An extensive review of MoneyGram provided by Monito.com awarded MoneyGram only 3.3 out of 10 for “Fees and Exchange Rates,” noting that MoneyGram “is rarely the cheapest option.” Monito suggests that when sending money online with MoneyGram, it’s best to pay using a bank account transfer.

The Monito.com review also notes that if you’re sending money to a bank account, it’s generally cheaper to do this at a branch or agent location than online, regardless of the method of payment. However, if you’re sending money for cash pickup, the online service will probably be cheaper than sending money at an agent location, but again, only if you’re paying by bank transfer.

What You Need to Send Money

For both online and in-person MoneyGram transactions, you’ll need the following materials and information:

What You Need to Receive Money

When you’re receiving money in person, you’ll need the following information:

  • A valid form of ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • The reference number associated with your transfer, which you must get from the sender
  • A completed receiver form, available at the pickup location

Is MoneyGram Safe to Use?

MoneyGram is the second-largest money transfer company in the world, with its history tracing back to 1940. The company also went public in 2004, so it’s definitely built an established reputation. More recently, MoneyGram has undertaken extra security measures to prevent fraudulent transactions, after the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice determined in 2018 that MoneyGram wasn’t doing enough to prevent fraud.

Since then, in compliance with the Department of Justice, MoneyGram has agreed to block identified fraudsters from using MoneyTransfer services within two days of receiving a complaint. Government-issued identification is also now required to both send and receive money transfers. Additionally, agent locations that are connected to a high number of fraudulent transactions will be disciplined, restricted and even terminated.

MoneyGram is compliant with laws and regulations of countries throughout the world, licensed in all 50 U.S. states and other territories, and licensed as an Authorized Payment Institution under the European Union in the U.K. MoneyGram invests around $50 million a year into regulatory compliance, so it does take security and fraud prevention seriously. While MoneyGram may not be the cheapest option in your area, you don’t have much more reason for concern over security as you would with any other major money transfer company.