Friday, October 14, 2016

When Should We Use Western Union For Payments

Need to send (or get) money from somebody? Banks and apps aren’t the only options. Payment services like Western Union help you accomplish things that are impossible with your bank. But there are other options, and sending money with Western Union can be risky, so you’ll want to be sure you always use the right tool for the job.

Western Union is a powerful tool for payments. The main highlight of Western Union is the network of physical locations available for sending and receiving funds: you can more or less instantly send or receive using a Western Union agent and cash.

Customers can drop off or pick up cash at Western Union outlets, often located in grocery stores, convenience stores, and check cashing stores (in any small US town, you’re likely to have several options – and Western Union also has numerous outlets around the world).

Where Western Union Shines
Western Union is best for quickly sending money to people you know and trust.

One-off transactions: if you need to send funds to somebody and you don’t want to mess with bank transfers (or wait 2-3 days for funds to move through the banking system), Western Union can get the job done quickly. If your child is stranded in another city and needs cash to get out, a trip to the grocery store might do the trick (there’s often a Western Union representative at the customer service desk). Your bank could also move money for you, but that would require a series of forms and phone calls. Plus, your bank might not have branches located near the recipient.

Emergencies don’t always happen during “banking hours,” so it might be worth paying transfer fees to get things done quickly.

If you need to send money to the same person regularly, it’s worth investigating the alternatives (see below).

Money orders: when you need to pay with a money order, Western Union is a good option.

Money orders generally cost around one dollar (you won’t save much by shopping around), and there are plenty of locations to choose from.

Selling online: getting cash from a Western Union money transfer is a safe way to sell online (because it’s virtually impossible to reverse the transaction after you walk away with the money). You don’t have to worry about buyer protection features on PayPal or the possibility of credit card chargebacks. However, most buyers realize this puts them at a disadvantage, and they’ll insist on a safer (for them) form of payment unless they’re certain you’ll deliver.

Specialized services: Western Union is one of several options for money transfers and money orders. But in some situations, you don’t have many options. For example, Western Union makes it fairly easy to send funds to inmates in certain correctional facilities (MoneyGram and US Mail are other options).

How exactly do you send money? You can bring cash to a Western Union representative, enter bank or credit card information online, or handle everything by phone.

Western Union Scams

If you’re sending money for any reason, be aware that Western Union is a favorite tool of scammers. Once you send, the money is basically gone for good. The recipient can pick up cash in-person and more or less disappear. It’s often difficult to track down who exactly picked up the money, especially if the money goes overseas.

Learn more about how thieves use Western Union and what to watch out for.


How much does it cost to send with Western Union, and how much can you send? It depends on how you do it. Online, Western Union generally limits you to $2,999, but there are ways to go above that limit.

Costs and speed depend on how you send the money, how the recipient will get it, and where you’re sending. Assuming you want to send $250 within the US and you’ll drop the money off in person:

It costs $18 to send funds to somebody else’s bank account
It costs $24 if your recipient wants to pick up cash immediately
It costs $18 if your recipient will pick up cash after 2-3 business days
If you send $250 online:

It costs $5 to send from your bank account to the recipient’s bank account (7 business days)
It costs $25 to send from your credit card to the recipient’s bank account (3 business days)
It costs $25-27 if your recipient will pick up cash instantly
If you send using the Western Union app or by calling customer service, the fees are similar to online fees. Sending between other countries can be more or less expensive.

You might also have to pay fees to your bank or card issuer. If you use a credit card, the transaction will be treated as a “cash advance,” which means you’ll pay a fee (and you’ll pay interest at a higher rate – without any grace period). If you use a debit card, you’ll avoid those costs.

Other Ways to Send Money

Western Union is great, but it’s not always your best option. There are numerous ways to send money to somebody else, and you might save money or make things easier for everybody by using a different service.

Several online services and apps allow you to send money for free. The funds typically take 2-3 business days to transfer, but if you’re not in a hurry you can save a trip to the Western Union desk. A wire transfer allows you make instant transfers of any size from your bank account to somebody else’s bank account (although you’ll need the recipient’s routing and account information to complete the wire).

To see more details, along with popular apps for sending money, see Best Ways to Send Money Online.

 Where do those services fall short compared to Western Union? Again, most transfers are not instant, the recipient can’t pick up cash, everybody needs to sign up for an account, and overseas transfers might not be as easy.

If you’re using Western Union because of its global presence, that’s great. But it’s not a substitute for a bank account. For example, you can pay utility bills and other expenses through Western Union, but there are usually better ways to manage your finances. You’ll eventually want to open an account to save money (and more importantly, to save time). There are plenty of free checking accounts out there. Read more about Why you Need a Bank Account.

How To Make Payments With A Money Order?

Have to make a payment with a money order? Rest assured -- the process is easy. If you don’t know how to use a money order you’ll be an expert in just a few minutes.

Where to Go

First, you need to decide where to get your money order. Your bank or credit union is a good place to start. Ask if they offer money orders and what the fees are. Note that money orders may come in increments smaller than you need (for example, $1,000 maximum per money order), so you may have to purchase multiple money orders.

If your bank doesn’t do money orders, they probably do cashier’s checks -- and whoever you’re paying may not care which you use.

Money Order Basics


Money Orders vs Cashier’s Checks
You can also get money orders at US Postal Service branches, convenience stores, grocery stores, and money transfer outlets.

Pay, Pay, Pay

To get a money order, you’ll have to pay with cash or something like it. Cash is almost always accepted, but you may be able to use debit cards, travelers checks, and occasionally even credit cards. If using a credit card, there is a strong possibility that the transaction will be processed as a "cash advance," which means you'll pay fees and a higher interest rate for that money.

Fill it Out

When you get a money order you’ll have to fill it out. Provide information about the person or organization you wish to pay. Write their name on the line that says something like "Pay to the order of." The process is similar to writing a check.

How to Write a Check

Be sure to use pen and write in ALL CAPS so it’s difficult to alter your writing. Sign the money order if there’s a place for your signature, and fill out any other details. Sometimes there’s room for your address, your payee’s address, and more. Keep your receipt and any documents you get with the money order -- you may need them later.

Whatever you do, don’t leave payee information blank. If the money order is not payable to anybody, in particular, it’s as good as cash. If it’s lost or stolen, anybody can use the money order.

Finally, be sure to keep a copy of your receipt. This document contains important information you'll need if the money order gets lost or stolen, or if you simply change your mind and you want to cancel the money order. If you don't have that receipt, it may be impossible to do anything after you send the money order.

Away it Goes

Send the money order just like you’d send a check. Depending where you get the money order, you may be able to track the money order’s progress. This helps you verify if and when the payment arrived, and who deposited or cashed the item. Especially when something is lost or stolen, this information is helpful for getting your money back. Ask your money order issuer (your bank or the convenience store that sold the money order) what your options are and if there’s any cost.

Consider Alternatives

Money orders can be useful, and sometimes they're the only option (if you're required to use one). But they do have drawbacks. In most cases it's better to make regular payments by check - you'll often save time and money if you can find a free checking account.