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Banking

Western Union Money Transfer Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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

Review of Mvelopes Budgeting App

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The Mvelopes app helps you make a budget and stick to it. The app mimics the envelope budgeting system — where you place actual cash in physical envelopes — on your mobile device. Placing cash in paper envelopes every month is a budget strategy that’s been around for a long time, and Mvelopes virtualizes this tried-and-true method. If you like the idea of budgeting via envelopes but find it a hassle to use actual physical envelopes and cold, hard cash, Mvelopes may be a budgeting solution for you.

What is the Mvelopes app?

With Mvelopes, you trade the physical cash and paper envelopes of the envelope budgeting system for a website and a mobile app. You synch up bank accounts with Mvelopes, which lets you create virtual envelopes and then assign different amounts to place in each envelope. Mvelopes offers a 30-day free trial, after which you’ll need to decide how many features you’d like to pay for.

Mvelopes has three levels of service: Basic for $6 a month, Plus for $19 a month, and Complete for $59 a month. Choosing to pay annually gives you a discount equal to two months of fees. At the Complete level, Mvelopes gives you a 60-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked.

Features of Mvelopes

The Mvelopes Basic account offers the following features:

  • Digital envelope budgeting
  • Automatic importing/syncing of transactions
  • Monitoring of account balances
  • Interactive reporting
  • Live chat support
  • Weekly webinar

After you open your Mvelopes account, you’ll see a dashboard with six broad budget categories (bills, everyday, giving, goals, periodic, system), each populated with budgeting envelopes. You can add or remove envelopes from these budget categories at any time.

Under each category, Mvelopes provides envelopes for items like auto maintenance, home maintenance, gifts, auto insurance, electricity, phone and so on. You’re free to change these envelopes at any time to match up with your own personal budget categories.

Add financial account to sync transactions

After opening your account, you’ll be asked to sync one or more financial accounts to Mvelopes, like a checking or savings account, or a credit card account. Mvelopes will automatically import your transactions from each account. Imported transactions are automatically assigned to your Mvelopes inbox. From there, you are responsible for categorizing your deposits and purchases into the correct envelope.

The Mvelopes dashboard and reporting features allow you to see at a glance all of the information regarding your funding and spending transactions, along with your budgets and the amounts remaining in each envelope.

Interactive reporting

You can generate three types of interactive reports that help you understand your spending and plan your budget: envelope reports, account reports or spending plan reports. Within these broad categories, you can track envelope transactions and balances, create summary reports and show details of accounts and envelopes.

Live chat support & weekly webinars

Live chat is available at all tier levels Monday to Friday from 9 AM MST to 7 PM MST, but not on Saturday or Sunday.
Mvelopes likes to stress the educational component of its services, and in addition to extensive educational information you can find online, Mvelopes hosts weekly webinars on various financial topics.

Mvelopes Plus features

At the Plus level, you get the features above plus:

  • Quarterly checkup from an Mvelopes Personal Finance Trainer
  • Debt reduction tools
  • Access to educational resources
  • 1-on-1 assistance with setting up your account
  • Priority support

The big advantage of the Plus tier is a quarterly check-in with a personal finance trainer, who helps guides you and provide feedback on your budgeting process. In addition, Mvelopes will custom-design a rapid debt reduction plan that is personally tailored to your financial needs. You can discuss your progress on this plan every three months with your personal finance trainer session.

Mvelopes also offers an interactive learning center to help Plus-tier customers understand the keys to financial success across a broad range of topics.

The Plus tier also entitles you to one-on-one startup support to help you establish your account and set up your envelope budgeting program. It also gives you priority when it comes to support issues.

Mvelopes Complete features

Complete is Mvelopes’ top tier of service, giving customers the following additional benefits:

  • Monthly sessions with a personal finance trainer
  • A customized Mvelopes budget plan
  • Financial education guided by a trainer
  • Accountability and motivation tools

Top-tier Mvelopes clients get monthly access to a personal finance trainer to help keep them motivated and on track toward their budgeting goals. Working in conjunction with their trainer, Complete-tier customers create a customized financial plan tailored to their personal situation.

In addition to the Plus-tier educational resources, Complete-tier customers can learn additional financial planning techniques and strategies, including financial goal tracking, via trainer-guided education.

Advantages of Mvelopes

  • Automatically imports all of your financial transactions
  • Multiple levels of service to meet varying customer needs
  • 60-day money-back guarantee at Complete, its top-tier level
  • Options for unlimited envelopes and personal financial coaching

Downsides of Mvelopes

  • Not completely automated: You still have to categorize your imported transactions
  • Interface is not entirely intuitive or easy-to-use
  • After the 30-day introductory trial, there is no free option available
  • No 24/7 live chat

Mvelopes vs. other budget apps

Mvelopes is uniquely focused on making the envelope-budgeting system easy to use in an online or mobile format. If you’re already familiar with this type of budgeting, the app may be a perfect fit for you. However, there are other options worth examining.

Mvelopes vs. Goodbudget

Goodbudget is one of the few competitor apps to Mvelopes that focuses on the same envelope budgeting system. The apps are very similar, with the main difference in their interfaces and pricing.

Unlike Mvelopes, Goodbudget offers a free option. However, users are only allowed to link a single account. Goodbudget’s paid account costs $6 per month — the same cost as Mvelopes’ Basic account — and offers broadly similar functionality at that level. However, Mvelopes’ premium service tiers give you quarterly or monthly access (for higher fees) to personal financial specialists, something Goodbudget doesn’t offer at any price level.

Mvelopes vs. EveryDollar

EveryDollar is a budgeting app without the envelopes. As the name implies, EveryDollar allows you to track every dollar that comes into or goes out of your linked financial accounts. Like Mvelopes, you’ll start by setting up your budget categories, such as groceries, restaurants, clothing and health care, and assigning your transactions to each segment. Although the categories are not specifically called “envelopes,” they serve the same purpose as with Mvelopes.

EveryDollar has a free version and a paid version that costs $129.99 per year. The free version includes a personal budget planner and an expense tracker. Access to service and savings experts, such as insurance, real estate and tax professionals, comes with the paid version.

Is Mvelopes right for you?

If you’re already familiar with the envelope system of budgeting, Mvelopes might be your go-to budgeting app. However, even at the Basic level, you’ll be paying $6 per month just to digitize your envelopes. Meanwhile, the top tier costs a very steep $59 per month to add monthly financial coaching. The Mvelopes requires you to regularly allocate your funds to individual envelopes, which could be helpful for some users, but cumbersome for others. Whether you stick with Mvelopes depends on your comfort with frequently interacting with your envelopes.

Fees mentioned in the article are accurate as of the date of publishing.

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.

John Csiszar
John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here

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Banking

How to Pay for Uber and Lyft Rides with Commuter Benefits

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

You may have more options than you think when it comes to getting your employer to foot the bill for your commute. Some commuter benefits packages include ride-share options, and both Lyft and Uber have hopped on board the trend.

Lyft and Uber commuter benefits can be used when riders select a shared Lyft ride or uberPOOL, the apps’ carpooling options. If you’re curious about this benefit and whether or not it’s worth linking your Uber or Lyft account to your commuter benefit account, we’ve got you covered.

What are commuter benefits?

Commuter benefits are an employer-provided benefits program that lets you set aside pre-tax dollars in an account to be used for your commute costs. Employees can use these benefits to pay for public transportation — trains, subways, buses, even parking passes — used on their daily commute with pre-tax dollars. The amount of money you set aside to pay for your commute doesn’t count as income, so you’re not taxed on it.

Which benefits programs are included for Uber and Lyft?

Each ride-hailing service has partnered with select benefits programs; there is significant overlap, though Lyft has a slightly more robust list of partners.

For example, if your company’s benefits package is with Zenefits, Wageworks, Igoe or Pension Dynamics, you can use your commuter benefits with Lyft as well as with Uber. On the other hand, if you use the Benny Prepaid Benefits Card, the Discovery Benefits Visa Prepaid Debit Card or the EBPA Benefits Debit MasterCard, you can only use Lyft.

You can see a full list of the supported commuter benefits programs for Lyft here and for Uber here.

How do I sign up for commuter benefits?

Workers have to sign up for commuter benefits in order to receive them. When you sign up, you will be asked to select how much money you want to set aside from your paycheck each month to cover your transportation costs.

Once you’re enrolled, you may receive a benefits card (it can be used like a regular debit or credit card) to make transportation purchases. Otherwise, you may be able to cover transportation expenses using your regular credit or debit card and then submit a claim to be reimbursed through your benefit provider.

Reach out to your employer’s human resources department to find out how to take advantage of your commuter benefits program.

How much can I really save?

Depending on your current tax bracket, you could save as much as 37% on your commute by using commuter benefits. For example, if you’re in the 35% tax bracket and contribute $200 each month to your commuter benefits account, you’re getting an extra $70 to spend on your commute each month. That’s an extra $840 per year.

But here’s the catch: Commuter benefits contributions are capped at $270 per month. So if you are already relying on your benefits to finance your monthly subway pass or parking garage expenses, you may not have much left over for Uber or Lyft commuter benefits.

What are Lyft’s shared rides and uberPOOL?

To use commuter benefits to pay for Lyft or Uber rides, you have to select the apps’ carpooling options — either Lyft’s shared rides or uberPOOL.

Carpool vehicles seat six or more passengers, whether you’re using Lyft or Uber. Both Uber and Lyft use algorithms to place riders going toward the same area in the car together. Because you’re carpooling, however, you may or may not have a longer commute, depending on traffic in your city and how many other riders get picked up or dropped off during your trip.

Where are these benefits available?

Whether Lyft or Uber commuter benefits are available in your location depends on which rideshare option you want to use.

If you prefer Lyft, you’re in luck: As long as the company offers shared rides in your area, you can use your commuter benefits to fund your rides, assuming, of course, your company uses a partner benefits program. Here is a full list of cities where Lyft offers shared rides.

Uber users, on the other hand, can use the commuter benefits everywhere that uberPOOL is available, with the exception of Nashville, Tenn. and Portland, Ore.

How to use commuter benefits on Lyft

If you’re interested in using commuter benefits on Lyft, here’s how to set it up:

  1. First, you need to add your commuter benefits card to your profile. When you open the Lyft app, tap “Payment” in the left-hand side menu to see your payment options.
  2. Select “Add card,” enter your commuter benefits card information and press save.
  3. Next, set the card as your default payment method. There are two ways to do this:
    • Select the card as your default payment method for your personal profile under the “payment defaults” section in the “Payment” menu.
    • When you open the app, set your location and destination. You’ll then see the last four digits of the card that’s being used to pay for the trip. Tap the numbers to change your payment method to your commuter benefits card. You should see a rectangular icon with a diamond in its center when using your benefits card.
  4. To use your commuter benefits on a ride, select “Shared.” You can only use your benefits to pay for carpools under the “Shared” ride option, located under the “Economy” tab.

How to use commuter benefits on Uber

Prefer to use Uber? Here’s how you can set up Uber commuter benefits:

  1. Add your commuter benefits card to your profile by going to the left-hand menu and adding your commuter benefits card under “Payment” (it may also be listed as “Wallet.”) You can also add the card after setting your location and destination under uberPOOL, shown below.
  2. Tap on your card information to set or add your commuter card as a payment option.
  3. Your benefits can only be used to pay for carpools under uberPOOL. Select the pooling option to be matched with a car with six or more seats, and you’ll be good to go.

Pros of using Uber and Lyft commuter benefits

  • Use pre-tax dollars to save: The most obvious perk of using your commuter benefit is that you’re using pre-tax dollars, so your dollar can go up to 37% further. If you’re already paying out of pocket for your commute, this could be a huge benefit, freeing you up to use that cash on something else.
  • Cut back on driving: According to the latest available five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute takes about 27 minutes — though if you live outside of a larger, more congested city, it could be significantly longer. If it’s more affordable for you to use a ride-sharing app, you can use that time to read, catch up on work or take a nap while you ride, instead of letting the stress of navigating from point A to point B get the best of you.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint: Since these benefits are restricted to carpooling with at least six or more passengers, taking advantage of it means contributing to a smaller carbon footprint, and that’s especially true if you usually drive to work solo. Using a ride-sharing app takes the hassle out of organizing a carpool.

Cons of using Uber and Lyft commuter benefits

  • Only shared rides are eligible: You may want to put your pre-tax dollars elsewhere if you’re not into making new friends each morning. You’ll be placed in a vehicle that seats six or more people when you use your benefits card, and other riders may have various personality types that may not mesh so well with yours, if, for example, you tend to be in zombie-mode before your coffee kicks in and prefer to sit in silence.
  • Contributions are limited: Your contribution is limited to $270 a month, which may or may not be a month’s worth of commuting, depending on how much your commute costs. For example, an analysis by LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, found the average monthly cost of commuting with Uber’s non-pool service UberX in New York City is more than $700. Still, $270 pre-tax will help cut down on your monthly spending for the trip to work.

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.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]