Brexit – wow, what a mess! As an American looking across the pond, it seems as if the British public has made a huge mistake. But, then again, who are we to judge anyone?! Let’s not get into geopolitics right now because most of us probably can’t take the strain. Still, one thing which has come out of developments in recent times is traveling. Of course, US citizens want to know if their rights will be impacted, as well as their vacations. However, it isn’t this that has made me ponder roaming the world: it’s the term “Union.”
The “European Union” is a block of countries, whereas the “Western Union” is a financial company. And, as the British have done with the EU, more and more people are beginning to wonder whether the WU is useful. To look at it, it’s easy to assume it has some purpose because there are dozens of them in, seemingly, every town and city in the world. As well as Starbucks and McDonald’s, you can be certain a Western Union will be on the horizon.
I can honestly say I’ve never used one and don’t know friends or fellow travelers who have either. So, is it time for the nomadic community to leave the WU behind? Here are a few musings.
Money Pick Up Vs Wire Transfer
Probably the biggest benefit of using Western Union is the fast pick up service. With an identity card, a traveler in need can pop into their nearest branch and collect their emergency funds. As we know, there are times when debit and credit cards don’t work and we’re floating down a particular creek with no paddles. WU aims to provide a helping hand by allowing someone – parents, friends, etc. – to use their services to provide a backup. Pretty cool, right? The thing is that this already exists in a quicker and easier form. It’s called online banking. Almost everyone in the western hemisphere has access to their finances via the internet, and the benefits are far greater. Consider you don’t even have access to a card so can’t draw the money out. Well, there is a simple fix which is to use another person’s bank account. Everyone has friends who are willing to help in a time of need.
Reliability Vs Scams
Another big bonus is the company’s reliability. The reason they are global is that they have become the leading authority on safe financial transactions. Whether it’s the US, India or China, the authorities trust in their reputation. So, nothing should go wrong while using the service, right? In theory, this should be the case but it doesn’t work out that way 100% of the time. In fact, the site Schneier has a list of reasons why the firm may not be as trustworthy as it seems. Quite simply, WU has been subject to scams for a while and hasn’t done anything to solve the situation until recently. During this time, Canada has reported that a $113’s worth of scams has taken place via Western Union. And, it’s exacerbated by the fact that the money in non-returnable once the transaction is sanctioned.
Ease Vs Rewards
Consider you know there are no scams and you’re using WU for its benefits. The fact that it’s safe and quick should be enough to convince you to use the company in the future. Plus, there are zero charges like the ones you find when using a credit card abroad. There is a problem, however, and it’s called reward points. In short, you don’t get any for using WU for financial transactions such as purchases. A card, on the other hand, racks them up like there is no tomorrow. And, it doesn’t have to be for travel purposes; some are liable for air miles for dining too. Anyone who thinks that credit card rewards aren’t worth the hassle is wrong. People such as Mr Alex Miller used several to cut the cost of flights from $50,000 to $1,000. You can do the same but have to be willing to add to the balance on your piece of plastic.
Disclaimer Vs Insurance
Read the WU terms and conditions carefully and you’ll find the disclaimer. In it, the company outlines why it is not liable for any losses or failure of goods to reach its users. The organization points out that it isn’t the fault of the business and you will have to take your chances. Because scammers are using the platform to swindle people out of money, this is slightly concerning. And, when you compare it with other money services, it downright doesn’t make sense. Let’s look at a credit card again but without talking about air miles and reward points. Imagine something goes wrong and the card is lost, stolen, or subject to fraud. The company doesn’t say “well, that was your fault and there is nothing we can do.” Instead, they use an insurance policy to refund the customer and give them back their money. What’s great about this feature is that it’s included in every transaction. So, you don’t have to buy it separately.
Cable Vs Interest
The obvious disadvantage of using a credit card or wiring money is the fee. Credit companies charge interest while banks take a cut by incorporating handling and service fees. Seen as WU is fee-less, this is a clear win for the Union. It may look that way, yet Western Union does charge cable fees. The Philippines is one country where the US dollar seems to lose out quite badly. Therefore, anyone sending money to this nation is bound to be in a sticky spot. Not only are there zero guarantees, but, if the money does arrive, it could cost a fortune. Interest expenses and bank fees are by no means extortionate while being much more reliable.
In conclusion, it’s easy to see why people with no access to the internet or online banking need WU. It’s the main reason they exist in emerging countries. For westerners, however, Western Union is seemingly old and obsolete. Like the Brits across the Atlantic, it’s time for travelers to vote with our feet.