Western Union, the largest US provider of money transfers began in 1850 as a telegram exchange firm. With headquarters in Colorado, the company has evolved its once innovative telegram service that pioneered early computer networking into the financial services it provides today.
In the early 1980’s Western Union expanded its global agent locations when deregulations in the industry coincided with significant growth opportunity in the newly created marketplace. The company then re-invented itself as ‘the fastest way to send money world-wide’.
In January 2011, Western Union acquired 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.
Western Union has several divisions offering financial products such as person-to-person money transfer, money orders, business payments and commercial services.
Transfer fees vary by location- according to transfers in branch location or online
The most cost-effective way to pay is online or via the mobile app as the fees for most variations are $4 – $7. 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 Western Union at an exchange rate of 1.11 euros to dollars- below the mid-market rate of 1.40. Adding the 4.90 euro fee, Western Union charges over $290 to transfer 1,000 euro from Europe to the US.
Comparing the top two largest global transfer companies: Western Union and MoneyGram
Both companies have very similar systems based on the use of agencies as their central means of making transfers. Western Union has more locations at 515,000 than MoneyGram at about 320,000 locations, and is operating in more countries than MoneyGram. Western Union also offers more conveniences than MoneyGram, although the latter is trying hard to improve. Telephone transfers are available with Western Union, not with MoneyGram.
TRUSTPILOT rates Western Union at 8.1 with 552 reviews. The sheer volume of global agencies is beyond Western Union’s ability to organize or effectively provide customer service for. Travelling to an agency in a remote region find agencies shut and have very few options except to call customer service representatives who are often unable to track the transfers. Telephoning Western Union, in many cases was impossible for those non-English speakers. For those with English skills, an ability to resolve issues proved no easier.
Yelp has 39 reviews giving Western Union 1.5 out of 5 stars. Many 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. One reviewer was oddly optimistic, noting that Western Union’s customers who make domestic transfers are paying the poorest transfer rates, but usually can be satisfied that their transfers will ‘likely’ be completed. He felt that sending money globally was processed effectively once out of every three attempts.
Western Union’s omnipresence convinces customers that the industry’s dinosaur is the industry’s gold standard. It seems traditional to go to an agency with cash or credit in order to send money, as if internet banking hadn’t yet been invented. Western Union’s long trusted brand name simply doesn’t live up to its former promise. Western Union and MoneyGram dominate the global transfer industry, setting transfer fees higher than they have to be and as new competition keeps coming, these firms will have to become more competitive if they are to survive. 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.