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How to send money to someone in jail

Don't let legal hurdles get in the way of sending money to loved ones.

Inmates often depend on deposits to their commissary accounts from family and friends. You may be able to transfer money to an inmate using your bank account, a money transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram or a 3rd party provider like Synergy Inmate phone.

What are my options?

Inmates are not allowed to have cash, which is considered contraband. Instead, they use an inmate account for all transactions.

Depending on the inmate’s facility, you may be able to deposit money directly into the inmate’s account online or by phone. With some jails and prisons, you’ll be required to use a proprietary system for commissary deposits. However, most also accept payments through MoneyGram or Western Union.

Using MoneyGram or Western Union to send money to an inmate

If you don’t have a credit card, you might find it difficult to load money onto your an inmate’s account. You can, however, send a money transfer directly to some prisons or to companies like Synergy Inmate Phone. Most inmate accounts won’t allow you to load more than $750 per year in funds.

    To send money with a service like Western Union or MoneyGram, you’ll typically need to know:

    • The four-digit Receive Code that corresponds to the specific facility you’re sending money to.
    • The inmate’s ID number — typically eight digits followed by the inmate’s last name.

    Fees vary by facility.

    Name Product Offer Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
    Western Union
    Within minutes
    From $0
    Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
    Finder Award
    Within minutes
    From $4.99
    For a limited time, get $0 fees on your first money transfer from Canada. Conditions apply.
    MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.

    Options that require a credit card

    When a loved one is incarcerated, it’s not always easy to know how to help. By sending money directly to their commissary account, you can rest assured that they’ll have the means to get by more comfortably while there. If you have a credit card, it may be easier to top up your loved ones account using a kiosk in the lobby of the prison.

    You can also use a service like Synergy Inmate Phone for web and phone top-ups to most prisons in Canada. This method might require identity verification, so make sure to have your driver’s license or passport on hand.

    Frequently asked questions

    Adrienne Fuller's headshot
    Head of publishing and editorial

    Adrienne Fuller is the former head of publishing at Finder US. With a decade of experience creating guides in finance and education, she aimed to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wished she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. Adrienne has a BA from Colorado College and loves to hike with her two Catahoula dogs. See full bio

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