Circle is an app that allows you to send and receive money around the world, completely free of charge. Gone are the days of awkwardly chasing friends and family for money they owe you, as now you can request it alongside a cool or funny GIF.

Here, we explain how to use Circle to send and receive money around the world. If you're more interested in using PayPal, we can show you how to use PayPal too. 

What is Circle?

Before we delve into how to use the app, we’d better explain exactly what Circle is, and what it offers. Circle was founded back in 2013, and is essentially an app available for both iOS and Android that allows you to store and transfer money. Granted, there are many apps that can do that, so what makes Circle different?

First up, all transfers to- and from Circle are completely free with no hidden charges, meaning you can request and transfer money to friends and family around the world with no worry of being caught out by transfer or conversion fees. The conversion rate (if required) is also extremely competitive, and often beat rates you’d find at the Post Office.

It also tries to make sending and receiving money from friends and family a little less awkward by allowing users to add a message, picture or even a funny GIF to transfers. It’s much easier to ask for that £15 from drinks last week if accompanied by a funny GIF, after all.

Circle can also work as a savings app, as it’s easy enough to withdraw money from your linked bank account and leave it in Circle until it’s needed.

Oh, and don’t worry about security either, as Circle is protected not only by PIN but Touch ID (for iPhone users) and two-factor authentication that requires you to know your email and password, as well as provide a verification code from a second device.

How to use Circle to send and receive money

It’s incredibly easy to use the Circle app due to its simplistic design, but it can still be a little confusing for new users. Here’s how to perform various tasks using the Circle app for iOS and Android.

Link a card to your Circle account

While you’ll be prompted to add bank account details when you initially set up your account, it isn’t mandatory. But once you want to start sending and receiving money, it’ll require a linked bank account – so how do you link a bank account or card to Circle? Well…

  1. Open the Circle app and tap Settings > Cards and Banks.
  2. Select your account type – Debit or Credit Card, or Bank Account.
  3. Enter the required details on-screen, or tap the Camera icon to scan your debit or credit card, then tap next.
  4. Enter your billing address information and tap next.

Your card/account will then be verified and added to your account.  

Transfer money to a friend

Once your account has been verified, you’ll be free to transfer money to friends and family. You don’t have to wait for them to request it though, you can send it whenever you’re ready:

  1. Open the Circle app and tap ‘Send’ in the top-left of the app.
  2. Input the amount you’d like to send. If you’d like to send the money in a different currency, tap the GBP icon and select your preferred currency (exchange rates will be displayed beneath each currency). GBP, EUR and USD are available at the time of writing.
  3. Tap Continue, and browse for your recipient.
  4. Enter a message to the sender, and if you want, tap the GIF icon to include a GIF or tap the camera icon to send a photo or video. Once you’re happy with the amount and message, tap Continue.
  5. You’ll see a summary of the transfer, including the recipients details and the included message. To confirm and send the money, tap ‘Send £X.XX’.

The recipient will then have a few days to accept the money. From the chat menu (opened by selecting the transaction on the main menu), you can remind the recipient, or send follow up messages.

Request funds

What if you don’t want to wait for your friends to send you the money? You can also actively request money that’s owed to you.

  1. Open the Circle app and tap ‘Request’ in the top-right of the app.
  2. Input the amount you’d like to request, and change the currency (if necessary) by tapping the drop-down menu and selecting either GBP, EUR of USD.
  3. Tap continue and select the person you’d like to request money from.
  4. From here, you can enter a message (politely requesting money, of course!) along with a GIF or photo, much like when sending money via the app. Input all details and tap Continue.
  5. You’ll then see a summary of the request, including the recipient’s details, your message and the amount requested. To request the money, simply tap request.

Send and withdraw money from your bank account

What happens once you’ve received the money? You can keep it in Circle, or transfer it to your bank account. To withdraw your money:

  1. Open the Circle app and tap the Bank icon in the Messages menu.
  2. Select ‘Cash out to your bank’.
  3. Enter the amount you’d like to withdraw, select the bank account you’d like to transfer it to and tap ‘Continue’.
  4. You’ll then be taken to a summary page, displaying any fees (which there shouldn’t be!) and a rough estimate of when the funds will be available in your account. To confirm the withdrawal, tap ‘Cash out £X.XX’.

You can also use Circle as a savings app, as you can easily add funds via your bank account:

  1. Open the Circle app and tap the Bank icon in the Messages menu.
  2. Input the amount you’d like to transfer to Circle (maximum £300 per week), select the account and tap ‘Continue’.
  3. You’ll be taken to a summary page, displaying any fees and when the cash should be available. To confirm the transfer, tap ‘Add £X.XX’.

Send money via iMessage

Apple is introducing the ability to send and receive money via Apple Pay using the Messages app in iOS 11. The issue is that the functionality won’t be available to those of us in the UK – not initially, at least.

But while Apple is being cautious and testing it in the US only, UK users can send money via the Messages app using the Circle app extension.

  1. In the Messages app, tap the App Store icon and select the four-button icon in the bottom-left corner.
  2. Browse for the Circle app – if it isn’t already there, tap Store, search for the Circle app and enable it. Once you’ve found it, tap on it.
  3. Input the amount of money you’d like to send and select the correct currency.
  4. To send the money, tap ‘Send £X.XX’.

Add extra security

We mentioned extra security features at the beginning of the article, but these aren’t enabled by default. Don’t worry – it’s simple to set up.

  1. In the Circle app, tap Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the Security sub-menu and toggle on the option(s) you’d like to enable. It’s worth noting that you can choose between Touch ID and Two-factor Authentication on iOS, you can’t have both. Follow the on-screen prompts and it’ll be instantly enabled.

Circle isn't the only company to offer this functionality - popular bank Monzo also offers a similar system.