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Western Union Money Transfer Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Western Union has been a consistent leader in the money transfer business. The company has come a long way from its founding in 1851, when it was begun as a telegram service. The first Western Union money transfer wasn’t introduced until twenty years later in 1871. In 2000, the company entered the digital age, offering online money transfers to its customers. It added on its Mobile Money Transfer Service seven years later, further expanding into the digital payments space.

Today, Western Union operates in over 200 countries and territories. In 2018, it moved more than $300 billion in principal globally, handling transactions in 130 currencies.

Although you can’t send a Western Union telegram anymore — the last one was sent back in 2006 — you can take advantage of its wide range of financial services. Let’s take a look at the ways you can send and receive money through Western Union.

Western Union key features

  • Flexible transfer limits: Your transfer limits depend on factors that include your location, the recipient’s location and payment method. Limits are variable based on the service you choose and agent location.
  • Multiple payment options: When sending money online, you can choose to make your payment through a debit card, credit card, bank account or wire transfer. You can also indicate whether your recipient wants to receive cash or a bank account transfer. If your recipient wants to receive cash, you can also initiate a transaction online and visit your nearest Western Union location to make the payment.
  • Widespread global access: If you need to visit a physical location, there are over 550,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories.
  • Track your transfers: Whether you’re the sender or the recipient, you can track your transfer both on the website and WU app.
  • Online bill pay: Western Union allows you to pay thousands of billers so you can easily make payments for your mortgage, utilities, credit cards and more, in one place. This service is available online, in the app, over the phone and at WU locations.
  • Western Union app: Available on both Android and Apple products, the WU app allows you to send money and keep track of your transfers anywhere and at any time.
  • Western Union membership program: My WU® is a membership rewards program that earns points on the fees you pay to send money. You can redeem the points for service discounts and other rewards.

Sending a money transfer with Western Union

Anyone can send and receive money with Western Union, as long as you’re at least 18 years old. You must also have your recipient’s information ready to make a transfer, including their name as it appears on their government-issued ID, street address and, if applicable, bank account information.

  • How long does a transfer take? Some transfers take only a few minutes. This includes Mobile Money Transfer and the Money in Minutes service for pickup at a location. Other transfer methods like Next Day service, Direct to Bank and Bill Payment can take one to five business days.
  • Where can you send money? You can send money to recipients in over 200 countries and territories.
  • How much can you send? Your transfer limit depends on a few factors, namely your recipient’s location and method of transfer. For example, if you’re in the U.S. and want to send money to someone in the U.S., you’re allowed up to $5,000 USD per online or app transaction. If you want to send money to someone in the Philippines, your limit increases to $19,000 USD.

Send money online with Western Union

To send money online or with the WU app, you’ll need to have a Western Union account. You can easily create one when you make your first transfer, with your name, date of birth, email and residential address. Creating an account allows you to save payment methods and recipients for further ease in the future.

Once you’re ready to send money online, you can select the destination and enter the amount and currency of your transfer. Then you choose whether your recipient will get the money through a cash pickup, bank transfer or a Mobile Money Transfer. Next, select how you would like to pay, whether by credit or debit card, bank account or with cash at a WU location. Note that you cannot pay in store if you’re sending money to a recipient’s bank account.

Send money in person at a Western Union location

You can visit a Western Union office to send money with cash or a debit card, where accepted. Western Union also allows you to start a money transfer online or on your app, then pay in cash at a location.

Send money over the phone with Western Union

If you’re sending money from the U.S. to a recipient in the U.S., you also have the option of making a transfer by calling the Telephone Money Transfer hotline at 1-800-CALL-CASH.

Western Union fees and fine print

Your fees will vary according to your payment selections, like whether you’re sending money with cash or through a bank account, or whether your recipient is collecting cash or getting a bank transfer. The amount transferred will also determine the fees charged; generally, the higher the amount, the higher the fees. Western Union has a price estimator to help you figure out the cost of your money transfer before you commit.

Let’s take a look at the different fees you could pay if you were sending $400 from the U.S. to a recipient in the U.S., depending on how your recipient is receiving the money — cash pickup or bank account transfer — and your method of payment — debit card, credit card or bank account.

 

Debit card

Credit card

Bank account

Pay in store

Cash pickup

$54.99

$66.99

$11

$5

Bank account

$15

$17

$0.99

N/A

Note that while you can use a credit card to send money, your credit card issuer will consider this a cash advance. Cash advances typically trigger an extra fee on your credit card and a higher interest rate. They also tend to begin accruing interest immediately, rather than waiting for the next pay period.

Is Western Union a good money transfer service to use?

Pros:

Cons:

  • Widespread access: Western Union has over 550,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories.
  • Flexible payment options: You can send money in the most convenient way for you from bank transfers to in-person cash payments.
  • Flexible delivery options: You can also receive money in a few different ways with Western Union, whether you want to pick up cash or receive a mobile wallet transfer.
  • Variety of products and services: Western Union isn’t only good for money transfers. You can also use it for money orders and bill payment services, and they offer a prepaid debit card.
  • Potentially high fees: Sending money to wealthier nations will cost more in fees.
  • Lacking customer service: Many reviews of Western Union have indicated some room for improvement in its customer service.
  • Hectic website: If you just need to send money, pay a bill, track a transfer or pick up cash, you can easily find buttons for those functions at the top of the site. However, if you’re looking for further information, you’ll find it a bit more difficult to navigate.

Western Union money orders and other services

In addition to its vast money transfer capabilities, Western Union also offers some other handy financial services.

  • Money orders:Money orders are alternatives to checks or cold cash. You can get a money order at any Western Union location in Canada or the U.S.
  • Prepaid debit card: The Western Union® Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard® allows you to store and spend your money without needing a checking account. There’s no credit check either, so you can open a card even with bad credit or banking history. You can access the card online and on the WU app to make transfers, deposit checks and pay your bills. The card even earns cash back and offers the chance to get your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit.When you open the card, it’s automatically enrolled in the Pay-As-You-Go Plan, which charges $1 per signature purchase and $2 per PIN purchase in lieu of a static monthly fee. You can switch to either a Monthly Plan or Reduced Monthly Plan, however, which cost $9.95 and $5 per month, respectively, instead of per transaction.
  • Bill payments: Western Union allows you to pay your bills, including mortgage, auto, credit card, insurance, utility and government payments, as long as the biller is a participating entity. You can pay your bills on WU.com, on the WU app, in person and over the phone with Telephone Money Transfer. No matter how you pay, you’ll need the biller’s name, account number and amount.Paying your bills through Western Union will cost a fee, depending on how much you send and the company to which you’re sending.

Alternative money transfer options

MoneyGram and TransferWise are international money transfer companies providing similar services to Western Union.

TransferWise

TransferWise commits to keeping fees and exchange rates low, charging only what it costs to send the transfer itself. It’s also transparent about the fees it does charge when you enter your payment amount, recipient country and origin country in its pricing calculator. On the whole, the more money you send, the higher the fees will be, since TransferWise charges a percentage of the amount you’re sending, unless you send a small amount of money, which will cost a small set fee.

  • How long does a transfer take? Transfers can take as long as a few minutes to a few days. It will depend on your method of payment, the country you’re sending to and from and other factors. TransferWise’s tool can also give you an estimation of when your payment should arrive.
  • Where can you send money? You can send money between Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Note that TransferWise is entirely digital; you cannot visit a location to send money with cash or checks.
  • How much can you send? You can send a maximum of $50,000 per day and $250,000 per year.

MoneyGram

If you still need access to a physical location, MoneyGram can be a good alternative. It has thousands of locations and reaches just about as many as countries and territories as Western Union so you can send or pick up money just about anywhere. The exact fees for sending money via MoneyGram depend on how much you’re sending and the method of sending. You can use MoneyGram’s Estimate Fees tool so you can determine the true cost of sending money before you make the transaction.

  • How long does a transfer take? If you’re sending money to be picked up as cash, the funds can usually be picked up within minutes, subject to location hours, destination country and availability. If you’re sending money to a bank account, it can take as little as an hour to the next day, depending on a few factors, including the country you’re sending to.
  • Where can you send money? MoneyGram maintains over 350,000 locations in over 200 countries and territories. There are over 30,000 locations in the U.S. and you can often send money at convenient locations like CVS Pharmacy or Walmart. You can also send money online and through the MoneyGram app.
  • How much can you send? You can typically send up to $10,000 per online transfer and up to $10,000 every 30 calendar days.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

Lauren Perez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lauren here

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Banking

What Are Liquid Assets?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

You’ve heard it countless times: Build your assets and invest for the future. It’s sound advice, but if you needed money right now, how easily could you turn your assets and investments into cash?

All of your assets have value, but liquid assets are the ones you can quickly turn into cash without incurring any significant fees or penalties. Non-liquid assets either take time to sell or may lose value if you need to quickly turn them into cash.

The money you have in your checking and savings accounts, accessible on demand with a debit card? That’s a highly liquid asset. The RV parked in your driveway? It takes time and expense to sell, making it a non-liquid asset.

All of your assets and investments can be liquidated, if necessary. But before you sell anything, financial planners say you need to take stock of your asset portfolio and understand the liquidity of your holdings.

What to know about liquid assets

Simply put, liquidity is your ability to convert assets into cash. A liquid asset is often defined as cash or an investment with a maturity of 12 months or less, according to Marty Reid, president of Reid Financial Consulting and a certified financial planner. Holding liquid assets is important in case you need cash for emergencies, unexpected expenses or to make big purchases on short notice.

When explaining liquidity to clients, some financial advisors illustrate a pyramid of assets, with cash on hand or money in a savings or checking account at the top as the most liquid, and items or properties that take more time, effort and expense to sell, such as a house or a boat, towards the bottom.

Some assets that can fall into a gray area between liquid and non-liquid are stocks, mutual funds and longer term government securities. You can liquidate these investments for cash, but it could take up to a few days to get your money. You could also face penalties or costs, including brokerage fees, changes in market value, forfeiting interest gains or possible tax implications.

With stocks in particular, when you go to sell, you’re at the whim of the markets and it can take up to three or four days to get your funds. “What if the market is down the day you need money? If the market is down or volatile and you need money, you could be forced to sell and lose money,” said Kaya Ladejobi, a CFP and founder of New York-based Earn Into Wealth Strategies.

Examples of liquid assets:

  • Cash: Hard cash you physically have on hand to pay for expenses.
  • Checking or savings account: Money on deposit with a bank or credit union that you can access immediately.
  • Money market account: A money market, or MMA, is a high-interest savings account that can have check-writing privileges. MMAs may have more restrictions than a typical savings account, including higher minimum balances and limited number of withdrawals.
  • Certificate of deposit: Also known as a CD, this can have a duration that ranges from a few months to several years and offers higher interest rates than savings accounts. If you cash in your CD before the term expires, you could face a penalty on your accrued interest.
  • Treasury bills, notes and bonds: Government-issued securities with maturities ranging from a few weeks to 30 years. Shorter term securities are more liquid than long-term holdings. Interest rates are higher on longer securities. If you sell before maturity, you could lose value and possibly pay broker fees.

What to know about non-liquid assets

Non-liquid assets can be very valuable and marketable. These fixed assets should not be considered as a source of funds for your daily lifestyle or basic needs, but rather as tools to build long-term financial success, said Reid. If you try to sell a long-term asset on short notice, you might not receive the full benefit of their value and you could incur excessive fees associated with a hurried sale. Most of all, the sales process can be slow, which is the very reason they are not liquid assets.

That’s not to say there isn’t a market for these non-liquid assets. On the contrary, when you sell real estate or personal effects like jewelry or collectibles, you can realize considerable financial gains. Likewise, the long-term investment accounts, including IRAs and 401ks, can appreciate over time, but you’d lose value if you sold early, including potentially steep tax penalties.

“Any time you have to pay transaction costs, like using a broker, to sell something, it might be more costly. In addition to that, when you have to find a buyer and the pool of buyers is limited to turn an asset into cash, that makes it challenging,” Ladejobi said.

Examples of non-liquid assets

  • Real estate: Homes and land hold considerable value, but would take time and expense to sell, making real estate one of the most non-liquid assets.
  • Cars, RVs and boats: Recreational vehicles can also have strong monetary value, but take time and resources to sell.
  • Jewelry: Individual pieces and collections can fetch large sums, but you’ll need to find a buyer or possibly a broker to handle the transaction.
  • Furniture and collectibles: Like jewelry, these personal effects can appreciate strongly and may have enthusiastic buyers, but you’ll need to handle marketing and transactions, or work with a broker.
  • Retirement accounts (401ks, IRAs and investment accounts): These long-term investments will grow over time, eventually funding your retirement. If you cash out early (usually before you’re 59 1/2 years old), you could face steep penalties and tax implications. If you take money out of an IRA early, it could be included in your taxable income and incur a 10% additional tax penalty (there are some exceptions).

Why is asset liquidity important?

You never know what hardships or adventures life might throw your way. That’s why it’s important to have liquid assets at your disposal. Many investment advisors often urge clients to keep between three to six months of cash on-hand to pay living expenses, including housing, food and utilities.

Amit Chopra, a CFP and managing partner of Ramsey, N.J.-based Forefront Wealth Planning and Asset Management, often adjusts his advice based on a client’s age and expectations. Younger clients, he said, may want to keep six to 12 months of living expenses on hand in cash in case they decide to pursue a less stable job, such as at a startup, or a personal adventure. “Having a little more cash gives them the flexibility to do that,” he said. With older clients, who may be more established in their careers and personal lives, Chopra recommends setting aside enough cash for six to nine months of expenses.

As you prioritize how much liquidity you need in your financial portfolio, there are some additional considerations, including your tolerance for risk with investments and your long-term financial goals. To determine what’s right for you and how much liquidity you might need, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recommends investors take stock of their personal financial needs and determine the right mix of liquid and non-liquid assets. While cash and cash-equivalents are the safest investments — and the most liquid — they also yield the smallest returns.

Liquidity is a balancing act. Having cash on-hand is important for emergency car repairs or medical bills, and to fund lifestyle expenses, such as home improvements or a wedding, Reid noted. He encourages clients to mix liquidity with long-term investments.

“In real estate, they say, location, location, location. With investing, it’s diversification, diversification, diversification. How you diversify depends on your financial position, your risk tolerance level, and your long term and short term objectives,” said Reid.

The final word on liquid assets

When it comes to financial flexibility, cash is king. From there, your personal liquidity plan is a very personal choice, based on how much cash you think you need to be secure and comfortable. There’s no single right answer.

However, when it comes to realizing the value of your assets, not all investments are created equal. If you need funds quickly, with minimal headache and minor expense, cash and cash-equivalents are the easiest and fastest way. If you have more time to put into selling an asset or a longer timeline for needing money, non-liquid assets can be transformed into liquid ones, but it takes both planning and an active market to realize their fullest value. One thing is certain: The cash in your wallet and your checking and savings accounts are the ultimate liquid asset.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alli Romano
Alli Romano |

Alli Romano is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alli here

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Banking

Review of BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

The BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card provides the convenience of paying for purchases with plastic for people who might not be able to qualify for a traditional checking account. In addition, the BBVA ClearSpend card offers handy budgeting features that can help you keep your finances on track.

This prepaid debit option is an excellent choice for users looking to avoid fees for loading funds onto the card. BBVA charges no fees for most funding options, although it’s worth noting that you cannot deposit regular checks onto this card, only paychecks via direct deposit. Before you rush to apply, read on to learn more about using this alternative financial product.

BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card features

The BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card is simple to use. You load money onto the card via one of the following five methods:

  • From a BBVA debit card, no fee
  • At a BBVA bank branch, no fee
  • At a Visa ReadyLink location, $4.50 fee (can vary by location)
  • Via direct deposit, no fee
  • Via a transfer service, such as Paypal, Popmoney, or Venmo, no fee

Once the money is loaded onto the card, you can spend it anywhere Visa is accepted. You can use the card to make purchases, pay bills or get cash out of an ATM. However, you can only spend up to a limit of $3,500 in transactions per day or $600 cash withdrawals from an ATM per day. If you try to make a charge that would overdraw your account, BBVA simply rejects the transaction.

This card also comes with handy app-based automatic budgeting tools. Use the card normally for 30 days. After this period, the BBVA ClearSpend app automatically generates a budget for you, complete with spending limits and an automatic spending tracker. If you have a secondary cardholder on your account, the budgeting tool will track spending for each user, letting you monitor each other’s spending patterns.

BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card fees

BBVA has few fees, most of which are relatively easy to avoid. If you plan your card usage strategy in advance, it’s entirely possible to use the BBVA ClearSpend card and not pay any fees at all.

One of the downsides of using the BBVA card is that there are certain loading limits in place. You can load up to a maximum balance of $6,500 onto the card. Each time you load it up with money, you’ll have to load at least $25 onto the card, up to a maximum amount of $2,500 per day. If you’re using the Visa ReadyLink service to load funds onto the card, you’re even more restricted: you can only load $600 per day onto the card via this route.

BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card Fees

Activation Fee

$0

Reload Fee

$0 if you load cash from a BBVA bank branch, from a BBVA debit card, or from a transfer service such as Paypal or Venmo. A fee of $4.50 if you load cash from a Visa ReadyLink location, although this fee may vary by location.

Direct Deposit Fee

$0

Check Deposit Fee

There is no way to deposit checks written out to you.

ATM Fees

$0 when using a BBVA ATM. $2 for each out-of-network domestic ATM withdrawal and $3 for each out-of-network foreign ATM withdrawal, although your first withdrawal of the month is free. Out-of-network ATMs may also charge their own fees in addition to BBVA fees.

Card Replacement Fee

$0. However, you are only allowed three replacement cards.

Monthly Service Charge

$4, unless you load at least $400 per month onto the card.

Foreign Transaction Fee

3% of the purchase amount

ATM Balance Inquiry Fee

$0 at any domestic ATM. $1 at any foreign ATM. You might also be charged a separate fee by the ATM’s owner for using an out-of-network ATM.

Express Delivery Fee

$20 per card

Paper Check Fee

$15 if you want a paper check for the remaining balance mailed to you when you close your account.

Using the BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card mobile app

Most of the day-to-day management for your account can be completed through the BBVA ClearSpend app. You can even download it first and apply for the card through the app. Downloading the app also allows you to do certain things:

  • Lock your card if you lose it or want to stop spending on it
  • Load money onto your card with a transfer service such as Paypal, PopMoney, or Venmo, or with a BBVA debit card
  • Get spending alerts from secondary account holders
  • Use the automatic budgeting and spending tracker feature

The mobile app lets you to manage your card from your account, but it gets rather mixed reviews on the iTunes store — 2.5 out of 5.0 stars — and the Google Play app store — 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Opening a BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card account

Getting a BBVA ClearSpend card is as simple as it is to use. There are three ways you can get one of these cards:

  • Through the app
  • Online through the BBVA website
  • In person at a local BBVA branch

BBVA does not run a credit check or use ChexSystems when deciding whether to approve you for a card. Even if you’ve had trouble being approved for a checking account in the past, you will still qualify for a BBVA ClearSpend card as long as you pass fraud security measures. This involves identity theft and fraud alert checks through the Visa Prepaid Clearinghouse Service.
Your card will be mailed to you 7-10 days after you apply online, or you’ll be issued it immediately at a BBVA bank branch if you apply in person.

Overall review of BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card

Two things make this option particularly useful for prepaid debit card users. First, this card provides handy budgeting and spending tracking tools that can help you manage your money. Second, it’s relatively easy to avoid fees by doing the following things:

  • Load at least $400 per month onto the card
  • Only use BBVA ATMs to make cash withdrawals, or limit yourself to one cash withdrawal per month at a non-BBVA ATM.
  • Avoid using Visa ReadyLink locations to load cash onto your card

Follow these rules, and the BBVA ClearSpend card is a great prepaid debit card and an excellent alternative to a checking account.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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