The Ultimate Guide to
Western Union History
While money transfers are a large part of Western Union’s business, the American company also provides financial and communications services for businesses and was previously the biggest telegram exchange in the U.S.A. before discontinuing that service in 2006.
In the late 1970’s Western Union was losing money in their largely communications based business and took advantage of new regulations to re-invent itself as a money transfer company and quickly established itself as the major player in this new field of commerce by offering “person to person” money transfers and money orders.
Transferring Money With Western Union
Whether it is just a small sum to a friend on vacation or paying off a large bill, using Western Union to transfer the funds is a quick and simple solution. There are several ways to transfer money and for it to be collected by the recipient and each has its own advantages or drawbacks.
- Person to Person. Call into one of Western Union’s 500,000 worldwide locations and opt for either the “Money in Minutes” or “Next Day” service. Your name, address and identification (usually a passport or driving license) will be required as well as the recipient’s details and the Western Union branch to which the funds will be sent. Pay the required amount to cover the transfer and fees incurred. You will receive a Money Transfer Control Number (or MTCN) which should be forwarded to the recipient. Usually the recipient will be paid in cash after providing ID and the MTCN but it can be a cheque for larger amounts.
- Bank Transfer. Money can also be transferred into a bank account but you will need all of the recipient’s banking details (BIC and IBAN) and possibly further information for some countries.
- Mobile Phone. Money can be transferred via Western Union’s mobile app but you must register first to access this service as you will need an e-wallet, as will the recipient.
- Western Union Website. If you have a Western Union account (registration is free) you can send money via the web by clicking on the “Send Money” link. Payment is through your debit/credit card or bank account and the money can be collected in cash or lodged to a bank account.
Receiving Money With Western Union
As is the case with Western Union money transfers there are also a few methods for receiving payment.
- In Person. Present the MTCN and photo ID at the designated Western Union branch for payment in cash or cheque.
- Bank Deposit. This should be pre-arranged with the sender who should be provided with the necessary banking details to transfer directly into your account. This facility is not available in certain countries.
- Mobile Phone. Not available everywhere but some countries now allow funds to be transferred directly via mobile phone. A Western Union account is required to set up a mobile or e-wallet.
- Prepaid Card. Funds received can be transferred onto a Western Union prepaid card. Input the MTCN on your online account and the money can be switched onto the card which can then be used like a debit card. This can also be done by phone.
Western Union Advantages
- Fast. Transferred funds can be collected within minutes of being sent if required.
- Accessible. Available in 200 countries and over 130 currencies.
- Convenient. Money can be sent or collected in person, via a bank account or mobile phone.
Western Union Disadvantages
- Fees. Commission is charged on all transactions and can mount up depending on how and where you are transferring the money
- Availability. Not every town has a Western Union branch and opening hours are dependent upon the business hours of the premises in which they are located.
- Low Transfer Limit. Although the maximum transfer limit is usually up to US$2,500 it can be as low as $300 which can be inconvenient.
Although Western Union transfers are secure for the most part, the company itself warns clients not to use the service for internet purchases. Western Union has had problems in the past with internet fraud which have now been largely resolved although eBay still refuse payments through Western Union. That one issue aside, Western Union is otherwise a safe and secure way for sending small amounts of money that need to be processed quickly.
Top Western Union Alternatives
Popular alternatives to Western Union include: