Global Money Transfers with Western Union

WesternUnion office

In this ever more global economy, the mere transfer of goods, services and funds to far-flung locations is becoming an ever more important aspect of the international marketplace. From massive cargo ships carrying consumer products across the vast oceans to talented professionals travelling the world to use their skills for paying customers, thousands of businesses are in the business of making sure the essentials of the global economy go where they’re needed most. One particular form of transfer that ordinary people rely on more than all others is money transfer. Having evolved greatly from the days when people telephoned friends and family to wire money to fix a damaged car in the middle of nowhere, the business of transferring funds is a global game now, from people sending birthday gifts of cash within the same state to immigrants sending their funds to their families on another continent. One major leader in this industry is the United States based Western Union.

Western Union has been around for some time now and has locations across the world where people can send and receive funds, be it of a credit card or a direct cash payment. Western Union’s online transfer options are threefold.

  1. The first option is that consumers can make a payment to Western Union on their credit or debit cards and transfer that amount of money to their cash’s recipient. This does come with a transfer fee, usually around 5-10 percent (including fees) of the money you’re transferring, adjusting for local currencies. Theoretically, the money will arrive in minutes, but the store front’s operating hours, local regulations of currency transfers and time zone issues may all cause your money to take upwards of twenty-four hours to arrive where it needs to be.
  2. It is also possible to pay through your bank account directly, for roughly the same amount of money. This transfer option is also theoretically possible in a matter of minutes, but the same factors of operating hours, regulations and time zone differences will probably ensure that your payment takes far longer than Western Union’s touted handful of minutes.
  3. A third option is to pay from your bank account through a service called WU Pay. While this service can take around three business days, it is far, far cheaper, usually costing a mere one percent of the money you’re sending. Western Union will also transfer funds to different nations where they have offices, but in most cases, the company will also make money from currency exchange, charging you more money based on local exchange rates between currencies.

Western Union alternatives

solution and options sketched on whiteboard

However, there are other, newer options available. If you’re sending money from within the United Kingdom, the FairFX service offers absolutely free money transfers, making its profits out of currency exchange charges rather than money transfer charges. There may also be delivery fees and card payment fees unrelated to the FairFX service. While FairFX is a cheap way to transfer money between currencies, it doesn’t reach everywhere. The company’s services focus mostly on Europe and countries with close ties to Europe, such as Australia, South Africa, India and the United States. Their selection of currencies is limited, though they do deal in the euro, which sees much use across the European continent. TransferWise is another service, wherein the customer puts money in the company’s bank account in their area and pays a fee of roughly 0.5% percent; then, the recipient of the money gets money from TransferWise’s bank account in their area. They offer more options than FairFX, though they, however, they use mid-market exchange rate and has no hidden fees. Finally, there’s Western Union, a mobile app that operates as a peer to peer program. This service costs about the same as TransferWise, depending on whether the money will arrive in one to three business days or within 24 hours. Their international services are extensive, but like all the other services, don’t reach everywhere.

Which option to choose in the end?

Naturally, it can save you money to compare rates on multiple services to see which one is the best deal on sending money to where you need it to get. With technology allowing more and more competitors to get into the business, your options are only increasing, so weigh them carefully.

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