How Does MoneyGram Work? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Sending Money with MoneyGram

Sometimes you need to send money in a pinch. Other times, it’s you who needs saving and who’s calling your mom or dad for a quick cash infusion so you can stay on Spring Break! When these times come around, it’s money transfer services like MoneyGram that let you get the cash you need without having to jump through all the hoops at a regular bank.

What Even Is MoneyGram?

In a nutshell, MoneyGram is a money transfer service roughly similar to PayPal, although it’s much older and it has physical locations while PayPal only lets you transfer money via the Internet. Monogram actually started with a different name: Travelers Express Co. This company was a huge player in the world of electronic payment processing and money orders.

Since 2004, MoneyGram has been an independent company and offered online and in-person money transfer services. As the Internet has progressed and grown, so has MoneyGram, so now they offer mobile phone payments and money orders, and even allow the loading of cash onto prepaid cards. They’re versatile and a big name in the money transfer market.

MoneyGram is different from a regular bank because they let people transfer money or make bill payments without having a bank account. For this reason, it’s a popular service for those who receive most of their payment by cash and who may not want to deposit that cash into a bank account after every payday.

MoneyGram doesn’t have physical stores for its own company but they do have a physical presence in many pharmacies and other stores, like supermarkets. All in all, there are around 350,000 locations around the world in which you can use MoneyGram to send or receive money.

Why Use MoneyGram?

A money transfer service like MoneyGram is around whenever you need to send quick cash or receive a quick payment from somebody. For instance, if you’re ever stranded in an unfamiliar city and have your wallet stolen you can use MoneyGram to have a family member wire you some quick cash so you can purchase a plane ticket home.

You can also do the reverse and use MoneyGram to send cash to those who need it quickly. MoneyGram and similar transfer services are useful because they normally get funds into the required account very quickly rather than waiting for several business days as most bank transfers do.

Additionally, MoneyGram allows you to send and receive money without a bank account. This is great if you’re an immigrant and want to send money to your family back home or vice versa. Because you don’t need a bank account or credit or debit card, you can send and receive cash without having to go through these bureaucratic hurdles.

In essence, think of MoneyGram as a cash transfer service that lets you send or take out cold hard dollars whenever you need it.

How Does MoneyGram Work?

MoneyGram is pretty easy to use, which is part of its appeal. You can either download the MoneyGram app or go to, or you can visit a physical MoneyGram location; these are called “MoneyGram agents”. You can even use the online agent locator to see if there’s a physical location near your home or workplace. This is important because you pay slightly different fees depending on how you send the money.

Next, you’ll need to prepare for the visit. This means you need to bring your ID, as well as the full name of your recipient so long as that name matches their ID and their receiving location. Then you need to decide how much money you want to send and calculate any required fees. It would be a bad idea to show up with the amount of money you want to send, but not have a couple of dollars extra needed to actually send it!

At a physical MoneyGram location, you’ll talk to the agent and they will ask where you want to send your money and tell you how much it’ll cost. If you decide to do this online or through the mobile app, you fill out the information yourself.

Keep in mind that you need the bank account information of your recipient if you want to wire the money directly to that account.

After filling in the information, the MoneyGram agent or the online app handles the actual transaction. Once you process the transaction, you’ll get a receipt with an eight-digit reference number. This is the number you should give to your recipient, as they’ll need it to retrieve the money at the receiving MoneyGram location. This number prevents people from just walking up and claiming that they have the identity of your recipient.

Is MoneyGram Safe?

All in all, MoneyGram is a pretty safe bet when it comes to sending funds overseas. The design of their eight-digit reference number system means that only people who know the number can retrieve the money from a given transaction. While it is possible that someone could steal the money you send it to someone else, they would have to get the reference number beforehand, which is unlikely.

However, it’s not as secure as a traditional bank set up because you don’t need as many forms of identification to retrieve the money, nor do you need a full bank account in the first place.

When it comes to online safety, MoneyGram is secure and your cash isn’t in danger of being hacked. MoneyGram is also a licensed and regulated company, both in all 50 United States and in many foreign countries. While this doesn’t affect day-to-day security, it does let you know that they take security seriously and work with local authorities in the event of security breaches.

How Much Money Can I Send Through MoneyGram?

MoneyGram lets you transfer quite a big chunk of change, but there are some limitations depending on the receiving company and the fees. You can use the MoneyGram estimator tool to let you know how much money you can send and how much it’ll cost in general.

A good rule of thumb is you can send less than $1000 in a single transaction and a maximum of about $5000-$10,000 within a single 30 day period. This is sometimes lower than several other money transfer service limits, like PayPal, which lets you send up to $10,000 per month.

How Fast Does MoneyGram Send Money?

MoneyGram is a popular money transfer service precisely because they tend to be fast. Most transfers can only take a few minutes to a few hours if you are transferring money within the same country. It may take a few days to transfer money between countries, particularly if they are overseas or have drastically different financial laws.

In most cases, someone can pick up money from a MoneyGram agent at a physical location within a few minutes of the money being sent. In general, bank account transfers take longer than cash transfers because of extra layers of security bureaucracy.

How Much Does MoneyGram Cost?

Like with the amount limit, you can determine how much your MoneyGram transfer will cost with their estimator tool. But here are a few generalizations:

  • it’s cheaper to send money to a bank account than it is to send cash
  • online fees are usually a little more expensive than in-person fees
  • however, it’s cheaper to send money online if you are sending money for cash pickup when paying by bank transfer

When it comes to exchange rate, MoneyGram takes a small bite out of your transaction whenever you switch currencies. You will usually pay between 2% and 5% of your total transaction cost if you need to exchange currencies during the transaction.

So how much does MoneyGram really cost? While it depends on the sending and receiving location, you can usually expect to pay about $6 at minimum for your MoneyGram transfer. This rate can rise to about $12 as you send more money up to $500. With MoneyGram, the transfer fee can actually drop to about 2% of the total if you send more than $500 in a single transaction.

MoneyGram vs. Other Services

MoneyGram does have some competition, particularly from Western Union: its main rival. Between the two, Western Union is a little larger and is much more well-known because it was the original king of the telegraph industry.

These days, no one sends telegraphs but plenty of people wire money across the globe. Compared to MoneyGram, Western Union has around 500,000 locations across 200 countries. It has a similar process as MoneyGram with the addition of phone-based money transfers in addition to in-person and online transfers.

Western Union is a little more expensive than MoneyGram in general, with a flat beginning cost around $10 as opposed to $6. Their online fee is usually closer to $12 regardless of the amount. However, Western Union has a low bank to a bank transfer fee of just $.99.

All in all, Western Union is a great choice for sending money inside the United States thanks to its extra locations. But MoneyGram is also valuable because of its high international presence, with over 25,000 locations in Africa: far more than what Western Union offers.


MoneyGram is a lesser-known but still worthwhile money transfer service that more people should take advantage of. It’s oftentimes cheaper than using something like Western Union and it doesn’t require you to have a bank account to send money or receive money when you need it most.

Have you ever used MoneyGram before? Let us know in the comments and tell us your experiences with this company!

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