Easiest way to transfer money without a bank account
February 21, 2020 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I need to make regular money transfers to a person who does not have a bank account. What is the best way to accomplish this?

I regularly send money to someone who does not have a bank account. Up until recently, I was sending the money to her significant other's PayPal account and she would get it from him. However, that relationship has recently broken up and we need to look at another option.

She has had a checking/debit card account in the past. However, she suffers from depression and ADHD with a significant impulsivity component and poor executive function. What this means for a bank account is that she overdraws it on a regular basis, with the fees resulting in large negative balances that generally fall upon me to correct.

So whatever solution we go with, it needs to not require her to have a checking/debit card account.

Years ago we used Wells Fargo and MoneyGram, and they were both pretty terrible to use. The websites were awful, and going to an agent was a pain in the ass.

Are there any other options out there these days?
posted by Serene Empress Dork to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Use your bank’s bill-pay system to mail a physical check that she can cash at a bank where she lives?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:34 AM on February 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

Can she get a savings account with an ATM-only card? They will not let you take out more than the amount in the account. I recently left a credit union who stopped giving out ATM cards and my new one gave me a debit card with my savings account, so it may take some searching to find a bank or credit union that will let you do ATM only card access.
posted by soelo at 9:40 AM on February 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Many banks also now offer different kinds of overdraft protection. We have a debit card linked to a checking account which will simply decline a transaction when we've reached our limit with no fees or overdrafts. Another account that we use for bigger purchases will pull funds from our savings to cover an overdraw (if those savings are available) and there is no fee for this.

We have looked into pre-paid debit cards for my MIL who has some terrible spending habits but we ended up going another route (for now) to handle her accounts. This could be an option for you - https://www.thesimpledollar.com/credit-cards/best-prepaid-debit-cards/.

Otherwise, a simple check that can be cashed at a bank is an "easy" option. Keeping in mind that if she loses or neglects to cash the check in a timely manner, that could cause headaches for you.
posted by amanda at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Would a checking account that declines rather than overdrafts for debit card & ATM transactions (for example, Capitol One 360 has this service* among other overdraft options, if you're in the US) be suitable?

*It declines most but not all transactions - per the fine print - "Under this option, we'll generally decline all transactions that would take your account into overdraft. A Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) fee (see Fees section above) would still be applicable for returned checks only. Pre-authorized transactions, like gas station purchases, may still overdraw your account, but we won't charge a fee when that happens."
posted by mosst at 9:45 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

More to the point: how would you like her to have access to this money? As cash for daily spending? As a card for online/digital transactions? For paying set expenses? Different tools may be suitable for each of those.
posted by mosst at 9:47 AM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Would a pre-paid debit card work?
posted by zeikka at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

Seconding a pre-paid card that’s reloadable online for maximum convenience.

There are a variety of these; I’ve had good experiences with Movo. Keep an eye out for fees when choosing a card.
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 10:03 AM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

How does she generally use the money? Does she need a debit-like card or is she operating on cash?

My suggestion would be the prepaid card as well, but cash in the mail is...I mean, not a great idea but there's plenty of ways to do it that will confound most opportunistic thieves. But if that's a risk that she might not retrieve it or lose it, a card might be better even if it's not the greatest on fees.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:19 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

If she can get to a Walmart and has picture ID, Walmart money services (which I believe is based on the MoneyGram network) is easy to use. I've used it a few times when I needed to withdraw larger amounts of cash than the ATM would allow (on a holiday when no banks were open). You can send the money online so you don't need to actually go to a Walmart to send, only she would need to go, to pick up the cash.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:30 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: More to the point: how would you like her to have access to this money? As cash for daily spending? As a card for online/digital transactions? For paying set expenses? Different tools may be suitable for each of those.

It's mostly for daily spending, she doesn't really shop online much. I think a reloadable, pre-paid debit card might be a good option. I will be looking at some of those linked above later.

I appreciate all the ideas, many I would not have thought of!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:09 AM on February 21, 2020

If you are near her and can visit periodically, just handing her cash would be best. That makes it impossible to have problems caused by impulsively buying things online, spending it requires getting out and being around others, there are no fees or other weirdness, and dealing in just cash might help her keep track of what she's spending and what she has left in the most straightforward way.

The abstractions and fees (and scams) in modern banking can be tricky to navigate, even for folks without the difficulties you say your friend has.
posted by fritley at 2:17 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that some prepaid debit card have transaction fees, and some take out fees monthly if there is a balance. I can't identify a good one, or a poor one for that matter, but I remember experiencing this when I found an old debit card I'd forgotten about that I'd received as a gift. There was nothing left on the card due to monthly automatic debits taken by the issuer. I believe the card I received was a Visa, but that's as much as I remember.
posted by citygirl at 2:20 PM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I second Walmart. My dad - 1,800 miles away - has sent me money with their "Walmart 2 Walmart" system and as long as I bring my driver's license and the transaction number, I have no problems.

It costs him a few bucks to do it, but it avoids sending anything through the mail and works instantly.
posted by tacodave at 4:19 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

There do exist prepaid debit cards that are as close to no fee as basically any financial service in the US gets these days, but all that I've seen require an at least monthly direct deposit (ACH transaction to the associated "checking" account that drives these things) in some amount. If your online banking allows you to send that sort of transaction and you are funding this person at $x00 a month anyway, that could be a decent option.

If it is still possible to get a physical card for a Google Pay account, that wouldn't be a bad option. A balance can be held in the account and transactions made against it with the app (on a compatible phone). You can do the same thing with Cash App (with the "cash card" to use in stores), but I believe it would require your friend to have a checking account.
posted by wierdo at 4:33 AM on February 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Depending on where this person is, you might be able to set her up with a credit union checking account that meets her needs by talking to the folks there and describing what you need to happen. Overdraft options can be super confusing to parse out, but when you describe them with scenarios they’re much easier to understand.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:59 AM on February 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do read the fine print on those prepaid debit cards; some are fine, but some of them are just terrible. Like, really steep transaction fees every time it's used. Had a coworker get burned by one recently.
posted by xedrik at 7:43 AM on February 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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