Overview: Western Union


Many Americans are familiar with the name Western Union—and with good reason, as the U.S. based company has been around since 1851. But many people still ask themselves the question: “What is Western Union?” and don’t know much about Western Union as a company.

Or, even if you recognize it as the nation’s largest money transfer company, you may want to know how to send money through Western Union — or if it’s the best choice. We’ve evaluated multiple Western Union reviews to determine if Western Union is the company you should use.

western union app

Image Source: Western Union



American Heritage

Born out of the competition of the telegram industry in the 1850s, Western Union was started by wealthy New-Yorkers with the hope of creating one system with unified and efficient operations. Today, Western Union looks quite a bit different, but their history is still evident in their operation as a company.

Western Union specializes in financial services and communications, and they are one of the world’s most widely used companies for national and global money transfers. Many Western Union reviews note the vastness of such a network. Due to Western Union’s longstanding history, it makes sense that their sales and marketing teams have led to their widespread name recognition and multiple physical locations run by independent agents all across the United States.

Here are some key numbers and facts about Western Union’s reach:

  • Over 500,000 agent locations, 100,000 ATMs and kiosks globally
  • WU.com websites in 35 countries
  • Reaching more than one billion bank accounts
  • International payment solutions to serve businesses and NGOs
  • Relationships with mobile network operators in 11 countries
  • Ground-breaking relationships with social media and messaging platforms like Viber and WeChat

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What Does Western Union Endorse?

But what is Western Union, behind all the prestige of the name? Western Union works under the motto “Moving money for better.” They understand that when money moves, better things can happen. Since many people use services of Western Union in the case of an emergency, it’s great that the company recognizes the impact they can have. Moving money across the country and across the world can lead to better value reached for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole.

Some of the goals included in Western Union’s vision include:

  • Increasing diverse methods of money movement around the world
  • Continuing to build their global physical and digital network to enable quick and reliable movement of funds
  • Investing in accessible, trustworthy technology for their customers
  • Building partner relationships with digital and social media organizations

Beyond those more corporate goals, Western Union also desires to help less fortunate people through some life-changing initiatives and programs. Multiple news outlets from Financial Times magazine to Huffington Post and Forbes have specifically noted in a Western Union review the influential success of such philanthropic campaigns.

The Western Union Foundation, a separate §501(c)(3) recognized United States charity, works to implement the program Education for Better, which supports education around the world. Western Union’s “Chain of Betters” helps support initiatives of individuals to make the world a better place. Some of these stories include helping a South African woman reach her goal of being a pilot, and even revitalizing a fishing village in the Philippines. These would not be possible without Western Union money transfer online.

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What Services Does Western Union Offer?

Money Transfers

Predominantly, Western Union relies on its services in money transfers. There are two different ways this works: money transfers can be made to connect people to each other or to connect businesses to each other.  

You may be wondering how to send money through Western Union. In the not-so-distant past, you had to go to a physical location and work with an agent in person to get your money transferred.

Nowadays, Western Union still has in-person agents available but is much more widely used online and on their app due to the rise in technology and security of online transactions.

So, how do you send money through Western Union in today’s age of technology? First, you could look at Western Union’s website; alternately, you could download the Western Union app to your phone or tablet.

Western Union’s website allows customers to find physical locations of agencies, send money, receive money, and even pay bills.

In addition, their website is where you will find information on how to get a Western Union prepaid card, track your money transfer, and estimate the price of a transfer if you’re not sure what the fees will be.

Western Union’s website is also where you can contact their customer care by phone, email, or chat if you have a problem not located in their top FAQs.

In many Western Union reviews, however, this is where the most complaints have arisen as many customers complain about the wait time to get to a human response. Another common problem is that Western Union’s customer service is largely based overseas and is not well-trained.

Some Western Union reviews have criticized the Western Union website for not being very user-friendly, and tech support for the site is not always helpful.

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Perhaps the most recently popular and preferred method for money transfers is through the Western Union app. Currently, Western Union has a mobile app for both the Android and iPhone, both free of charge to download and boasting almost a million users. The sending and receiving of funds through money transfer is made easy with the Western Union app, where customers can login with an existing account or create a new one using a bank account, credit card, or debit card.



Transfer Fees and Exchange Rates

An important subject to touch on is what are transfer fees, and what will they cost you?

Transfer fees are incurred when you transfer money between different individuals or companies. Western Union transfer fees are $5 USD for a money transfer of up to $50, but a transfer of $900 could cost $76. There are a number of price points in between, dependent on the amount of money to transfer.

In comparison, Walmart created a money transfer program in 2014 that allows customers to send money form one Walmart in the U.S. to another where it can then be picked up. The transfer takes less than 10 minutes, and the fee is $4.50 USD to transfer up to $50 and $9.50 to send up to $900 — a dramatically smaller wait time and lower transfer cost in comparison to Western Union transfer fees.

As money is sometimes transferred from an international account, Western Union converts this figure into your own currency using their set of exchange rates. Other sites like MoneyGram offer much more competitive exchange rates compared to Western Union. However, the usefulness of the Western Union app is far ahead of the competition in terms of ease and speed in sending and receiving money, despite having to pay a bit more in transfer fees.



Concerns and Complaints

In looking at Western Union reviews from customers across the country, common problems arose in the process of money transfers. Overall, Western Union receives mixed feedback for its services: on Consumer Affairs, Western Union had an overall satisfaction rating of 1/5 stars based on 148 ratings; on Trust Pilot, Western Union earned 4/5 stars based on 801 reviews. What is the reason for such a discrepancy?

The majority of domestic cases of Americans sending money to family members or between businesses seemed to work fine. But the worst bumps in the road seemed to happen when customers tried to send money out of the country.

Many customers have reported in Western Union reviews that attempts at transferring money out of the country was unsuccessful due to a lack of clear communication between Western Union and their banks. On top of problems like getting money stuck in processing for 5-8 business days, many employees seemed unhelpful or gave unclear instructions. Trying to straighten out mistakes in the system takes time and energy, just as any transferring of money will do, whether from a bank or a company like Western Union.

Sometimes, people have also encountered problems when changing from use of Western Union at some of their physical kiosks to their website, or vice versa.

Small business owner Julian W. put it this way in his Western Union review: “If you use Western Union in a very specific way, it’s great: easy and cheap. Use the Western Union kiosks available at a large number of locations (such as the Walgreen’s chain).  You can pay with cash or with a debit card…If you’re feeling masochistic, use their website and set up a ‘bill payment’ through your bank.  It was a major fiasco.”

It’s important to note that if you created an account on the Western Union website, it may not work at the kiosks, forcing you to create a new account at the kiosk.

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Hurting Who Should Be Helped

Even though money transfer fees may not be a huge burden to some of Western Union’s customers, these high fees greatly affect people of lower income. Immigrants that are sending money out of the country lose the chance to help their relatives as much as possible. These charges have lined the pockets of Western Union at the expense of the less fortunate.

One immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, named Patricia Gonzalez, spoke to The New York Times on the exorbitant fees in a Western Union review: “Even though it might not seem like a lot, in Mexico, that money goes farther.”



Scam Industry

Another reason to be wary of using Western Union (as well as other money transfer services) is the prevalence of scammers who utilize aspects of the process to swindle you of your money. Scammers may pose as real people or businesses online and request money from you — which, once it’s gone, you will never see again. Some people who know about Western Union do so because of the con artists who manipulated them out of money.

Thankfully, Western Union does a good job of warning customers about possible frauds by using their Facebook and Twitter feeds with the hashtag “#BeFraudSmart.”



Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

A money transfer company like Western Union also provides criminals with easier ways to launder money and for money to be spread to the wrong kind of people. Western Union has implemented many security measures to negate this misuse of their services.

There have been allegations that Western Union provides the United States military with personal information from the customers as part of their agreement to take part in the War on Terror. However, it is uncertain at this time how valid the accusations are.

It is true that Western Union regularly blocks transactions on suspicion of terrorist connections. An occasional error reported by customers in Western Union reviews is that a transaction “does not meet our requirements.” Sometimes when this occurs, an option is given to override the error by telephone confirmation of the sender’s identity. Some customers reported in their Western Union reviews that an operator would ask them security questions based off of public records that aren’t always accurate.

The New York Times wrote an article regarding possible racial profiling by Western Union in an attempt to limit money laundering and terrorist financing. Arab-Americans with names like “Muhammed” encountered difficulties using Western Union services without meeting the same error that a transaction “does not meet our requirements.” No other reason was given for this blocked attempt to customers like Qadir Khan, a Pakistani who wished to wire money to his brother Muhammed for a cataract surgery. His Western Union review was very angry and upset, as when it came down to needing the services of Western Union most, he was met with a lack of access to them.

Despite the fact that Western Union desires to grow in international success, these issues seem to have created more problems for customers than the people they are meant to work against.


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Conclusion

Despite bumps in the road you may encounter, Western Union is still one of the best in the business at what they do. They are far-reaching and have developed a global network for money transfers, even if there are a few kinks to work out of the system at the present time.

Hopefully over the next few years, Western Union international money transfers will have as smooth a process as their domestic ones. This would give their customers the ability to help family overseas or businesses the ability to grow with other businesses across the world. Money transfers can help make the world a better place by re-allocating finances when needed, and Western Union is a part of that.

Now that we’ve told you about Western Union, hopefully you can decide if the risks are worth the reward.



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