Wire transfer services are quite popular in poorer countries where many people don’t have a bank account and expats send money home to their families. You can send money from pretty much anywhere in the world to pretty much anywhere else. However, there are a few things to consider when using wire transfer services.
- The two largest providers are Western Union and MoneyGram. As a rule of thumb: if you find one you’ll find the other nearby.
- Money is always paid out in the local currency.
- Wire transfer is done either by cash (money is paid in in one location) or credit card (this can be done online).
- Some banks offer a transfer service straight from the account (Postbank in Germany is offering a Western Union service). Make sure you activate it before you go on your trip as it might require identification at the bank.
- The money usually becomes available at the pick-up location within minutes. All you need is a passport and the transfer number.
- Countries like Sudan have Western Unions offices. However, due to the international sanctions on the country sending money to Sudan requires the sender to pay in the money in person at a Western Union office. So if your system is sending yourself money via credit card or from your bank account you’re out of luck.
- Wire transfer is comparatively expensive. The minimum charge is 4% of the transfer value (payable by the sender). My strategy is to send myself enough money to get down to the minimum fee. That actually makes wire transfer cheaper than many credit cards.
- One big advantage of wire transfers is that you can never lose more money than the cash you have with you. However, if you’re following my strategy, you might find yourself with a lot of cash which is not always sensible.