How do online payments/transactions through "Western Union" work?

How does that work, exactly? Is it safe to use? And how do you receive money through it?

Used to be you’d call WU and make arrangements, usually on a credit card. Then you’d give transaction information to the recipient, including a code to claim the money. Then he’d go to a Western Union location (some are in supermarkets and drug stores, not just stand alones). He’d have to provide ID and the number of the transaction.

It’s safe enough as long as the transaction information is secure. Probably best to phone or text it instead of sending email.

I use to deal with a company in China. Bank account to bank account.

virtually all banks/credit unions allow you to send money and pay bills for free. You can send to anyone with a bank/CU account and email address.


Moved from CS to GQ.

Western Union is 100% safe, trust me.

However, why do you want to send $?

(just in case you’re being scammed)

One of the import points about WU money transfer is that it is irrevocable. You send your money: when it is picked up, it is gone.

It’s not like a credit card, where if money is stolen it may be covered by your bank, or like a cheque, which you may be able to stop.

We used it to send a gratuity to our guide in Egypt after we got back.
We got his actual name on his government ID card.
We paid the money to WU, provided the payee name and they gave us a transaction number.
We emailed the transaction number to him. (you want to keep this number private)
He could go to any WU in Egypt, present his government issued identity card to prove his name and provide the transaction number and collect his cash.
The only concern we had was that he would then be wandering around Cairo with a substantial amount of cash for that location…
But it worked just fine.

Just -as Melbourne indicates - once the money is handed over, there’s no reversing the transaction.
Plus, we could use cash or debit for the transaction, but not our credit card - WU did not want to deal with credit card fraud etc.

Not sure what other countries’ requirements for proving ID are…

Western Union is uber reliable. We used it alot when Son-of-a-wrek was in the Marines. Never had a problem. I don’t think I have ever used it as a bill pay method.
Wal-Mart has something called Money-gram. Never used it.

No, and yes.
No - Most banks and credit unions now charge wire transfer fees to wire money.
Yes - Yes you can pay your bills online for free, providing your bank/credit union already have a business relationship with the biller.

I’ve noted that people above a certain socio-economic level tend to view Western Union with suspicion, but that’s largely due to being unfamiliar with it.

It’s just another option - like having a choice to pay by cash, check, debit card, or credit. All of those have upsides and downsides, and all are affected by fraud to some degree (counterfeiting, forgery, theft of cards and ID information, etc.). Western Union is as safe as any of the others.

I think some folks forget a LOT of people don’t have bank accounts. A lot of people here legitimately send legitimate money to people in other countries. People in other countries send money to people here. It’s one of the easier and least troublesome ways to send money across international borders.

Here’s the wiki bit on sending and receiving funds.

It’s not exactly cheap. If I recall, the fee for Western Union was around 10% of the amount.

When we were in Egypt, we were passed on the highway by a convoy of moderately used cars. (IIRC, 2012 was before Ghaddafi got the …boot) Apparently they were second hand cars being sold from Jordan to Libya. They too the ferry from Aqaba to Sinai and drove from there. It was cheaper to pay Egyptian drivers than to ship by boat. This brought us to a discussion with our guide and driver about income and banking and such. Most Egyptians except for the well off do not have bank accounts, do not work with banks. They don’t have savings to speak of and they can’t afford bank fees. I got the impression they don’t trust institutions like banks. It was mostly a cash economy. In a situation like this, Western Union - which hands out money - will thrive.

When you’re poor and have to deal with a bank that wants you to maintain a minimum balance and has a whole raft of fees if you don’t… it may still be the better option for some.

banks /CUs don’t just use wire transfer system to send money to other people. They can use the ACH system and that’s why it’s free. I’ve done it around 50 times to people from my CU and each time it was free. I can send up to $500 a day with this system and the person gets the money in their account next day. My CU uses a system called pop money. Other places use other systems. BTW Pop money is not what I use to pay bills , they have a different system for that .

Also a lot of CUs have free accounts with a minimum balance of just $25 and they don’t have all the fees banks have.

I used to help out my brother by sending him money via WU. He has a criminal past and banks generally don’t want his business anymore. One thing about WU (at least back when I would send him money) there was a flat minimum fee. As md2000 said, it wasn’t cheap. My brother would ask me to send him just $10 to help him out, but sending him $10 cost $15 if I remember correctly. It was annoying and I’d always refuse to send him small amounts, just on principle.

I checked out their web site and clearly they’ve improved things. If I were to send $10 now, and the receiver picked it up in-person as cash, and I used my credit or debit card to pay, it would cost me $1. $400 would cost $40. So it’s 10% just as md2000 stated. Expensive, yes, but they don’t have that flat minimum fee they used to have which used to really irritate me.

Western Union has many locations, worldwide. If you want to send someone money, you go to your local location, cash in hand, or even to their website, fill out all of the necessary paperwork, give them the money. They in turn give you a pickup code. Give that code to your recipient & they go in to pick up the funds (or have them deposited in their bank account).

Western Union is doing all of the AML (anti-money laundering) & other compliance checks & ‘fronting’ your money to be picked up at another location almost immediately. Sure, they have your cash where you dropped it off, but it hasn’t had time to make it to where it’s being picked up yet, be it another state or country, which means, like a bank, they need cash to dispense at a moments notice. If it’s going to a foreign country, they’re also handling the ForEx (currency exchange) for you, as well as dealing with the payments legalities in the ‘to’ country. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes they need additional data to send it to Country X, sometimes the two countries are incompatible in their respective laws.

ACH isn’t free for the bank. Granted it’s a minimal cost, like pennies per txn, but it’s not free. Because it’s only a minimal cost & significantly less processing costs than other forms of deposits (checks & cash) they usually don’t charge for it.

The work is in sending a payment; the amount of that payment (up to certain gov’t imposed amounts is immaterial to how much is being sent. According to what you said, they’re actually gouging you on a $4000 payment vs. a $10 one.

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