WesternUnion, the largest US provider of money transfers was founded in 1850 as a telegram exchange firm. Headquartered in Colorado, the company has traded the once innovative telegram service that pioneered early computer networking for financial services.
Since the early 1980’s WesternUnion re-invented itself as ‘the fastest way to send money world-wide’, expanding its global agent locations when deregulations in the industry coincided with significant growth opportunity in what was then a new marketplace.
In January 2011, WesternUnion acquired 100% of Angelo Costa, a group active in money transfer and services to immigrants. Angelo Costa has a network of 7,500 points of sale in various European countries.
WesternUnion has several divisions, with products such as person-to-person money transfer, money orders, business payments and commercial services.
Online and app users can send or receive funds, pay bills and purchase gift cards
Sending and receiving funds via Agencies
To send funds, a sender goes to a WesternUnion office and presents funds for either ‘Next Day’ or ‘Money in Minutes’ services.
Transfer fees vary by location- according to transfers in branch location or online
Fees are $4.50 for transfers up to $50/ $9.50 for transfers up to $900 at Walmart locations for domestic transfers.
Sending $500 to Mexico costs a $6.65 fee
Sending $500 to Ireland costs a $29.45 fee
Sending $500 to China costs a $23.75 fee
Delivery fees: $28 for 3-day service, $40 for immediate delivery. $5 if it is a bank-to-bank transfer or $25 if credit or debit card is used to pay money into a bank account.
The most cost-effective way to pay is online or via the mobile app fees for most variations are only $4 – $7. But using the mobile app, paying with a credit or debit card, if the money is collected in cash, the fee for a $500 transfer is $45.
Very Poor Exchange Rates:
A transfer of 1,000 euro to dollars was calculated by WesternUnion at an exchange rate of 1.11 euros to dollars- below the mid-market rate of 1.40. Adding the 4.90 euro fee, WesternUnion charges over $290 to transfer 1,000 euro from Europe to the US.
Comparisons between WesternUnion and MoneyGram
Both companies follow similar procedures regarding using agencies as a primary means of making transfers. WesternUnion has more than 515,000 WesternUnion locations, operating in more countries than MoneyGram with about 320,000 locations. WesternUnion also offers more conveniences than MoneyGram, although the latter is trying hard to improve. Telephone transfers are available with WesternUnion, not with MoneyGram.
TRUSTPILOT rating of 8.1 with 552 reviews. The process of going to a specific agency to receive funds creates multiple problems as agencies simply shut without WesternUnion making note of the changes. Clients report travelling distances to collect remittance only to report to WesternUnion of a closed agency. Invariably this led to long delays after frequent calls to customer service representatives unable to process remedial approaches. Telephoning WesternUnion to notify of a change of residential address proved an issue with many clients who reported customer service ‘overwhelmed and incapable’ of this transaction, alone.
Yelp lists 39 reviews that award WesternUnion with 1.5 out of 5 stars. One reviewer summarized that WesternUnion’s customers who make domestic transfers are paying the worst transfer rates, but generally can be satisfied that their transfers will ‘likely’ be completed. Sending money globally, he observed was processed effectively only 1 in 3 times. Many times complaints came from clients attempting to use convenient local agencies to make international transfers. These shops had no customer support, so when issues arose, clients were left with ineffective consumer support by telephone.
Clients are lulled into thinking the company is the industry standard and that presenting cash or credit at an agency is the only way to transfer money. WesternUnion and MoneyGram have a large share of transfer business simply because a competitive transfer company hasn’t appeared. WesternUnion’s long trusted brand name simply doesn’t live up to expectations anymore.
1 out of 5 stars.
Convenient locations and a trusted brand name make Western Union appealing to global consumers.
The rates are not transparent. Ignoring mid-market rates, Western Union profits by offering sizable mark ups on currency exchange and then adds a service fee and fees for delivery. Website is oversimplified, lacking currency calculator. It targets uninformed consumers seeking reliable spot transfers and offers very little support service when transfers fail to be processed correctly.
Meta- The McDonald’s of currency transfers, Western Union is a global giant grown fat upon its brand recognition while its rates and customer service offer slim pickings.