As a GP trader, I’m often asked about the eccentricities of Western Union. This guide is meant to assist people regarding how to use Western Union.
Sending money in person is easy and traditionally cheaper than sending money using Western Union’s online service. The first step to sending money in person is to obtain cash currency. Go to a bank or ATM. Some agent locations take debit cards, but cash will always be accepted. It’s worth noting most debit cards have limits of $550 or less with Western Union transactions.
Go to Western Union’s website and click on “find an agent location”. You want to go to an agent with the “money transfer” service. Western Unions are commonly located in drug or grocery stores at the customer service desk.
Once you’re at the agent location/customer service desk, grab the yellow “send money” form. You’ll need to fill out your basic information including address, phone number, and first/last name. In addition, you will need the first/last name of the person you’re sending to along with the city/state/country the receiver is picking up the cash in. Some agent locations require a photo ID for sending money with others do not care. If you’re stopped because you’re underage, try another agent location.
Depending on your country, the yellow form has a few different options for sending money. “Money in minutes” means that once you get your receipt, the receiver can pick up the money in a few minutes leading to a successful trade. “next business day” is exactly what is says and provides cheaper pricing. Pricing for transfers can be found by clicking here. Next day transfers are more likely to be flagged/put on hold via Western Union. Avoid them if possible.
Once the agent finishes processing your transaction, you’ll receive a receipt. The receipt has a 10 digit MTCN (money transfer control number) usually in the top right hand corner. In order for your receiver to pick up the money, you’ll need to give them the MTCN, your first/last name, the city/state/country you sent the money from, and the amount of money sent. It’s also suggested going to Western Union’s website and filling out the “track a transfer” on the right. If it says “available for pickup” you’re golden; however, if it’s on hold see the FAQ section below.
Sending money online via Western Union is more difficult than traditional money transfer services like Paypal. Western Union matches your name and phone number with public records to help verify your identity. The scarcity or lack of detail of public records in some countries leads the majority of online transfers to be denied.
To try sending money online, go to Western Union’s website and register. Click on send money and the steps are fairly straightforward. You’ll be asked for the receiver’s first/last name, city/state/country again. Once you get to the payment page, if it’s successful, you’ll be transferred to a page with the MTCN(money transfer control number). Or, you’ll get the “transaction cannot be processed message”. There’s a few possible reasons for getting this message:
1. Your identity couldn’t be verified in the public records. Unless WU is willing to send you a post card verification code or call you(you’ll see those options if they’re available to you), you’re out of luck. You won’t be able to use Western Union’s online service.
2. You reached your card’s cash advance limit. Western Union transactions are charged as cash advances, and most cards have a default limit of $550. Call your bank to see if you can temporarily increase it.
If the transfer goes through, again check the status on Western Union’s main website to make sure it’s “available for pickup”. Give the receiver the MTCN, your first/last name, the city/state/country of your billing address, and the amount sent.
Receiving money via Western Union is a lot easier. First, you’ll need the MTCN, first/last name of the sender, and the city/state/country the receiver sent the money from. Again go to www.westernunion.com and click on “find an agent location”. Be sure to bring a form of ID with you. Depending on your country and state, you may need two forms of ID. Common types of IDs include passports, drivers/residence licenses, and school or military IDs.
My transaction was put on hold. What can I do?
If there’s a number provided with the hold message, try calling it. These are the most common situations:
- Extra verification. Western Union wants to make sure you authorized the transaction and that you know the seller. The bureaucratic nature of Western Union makes it so they don’t understand people use the service for business to send to people you don’t necessarily know. You’ll need to tell Western Union that you know the sender in real life to get it approved. Often times they’ll call you soon if a phone number isn’t directly provided.
- Payment verification. Western Union wants to make sure the payment source has the actual funding. This verification typically results in the transaction being in limbo for a few days with you being unable to cancel or have it approved. Patience is key
Do I have to be 18 to use Western Union’s service?
Officially, yes. Western Union’s website states all users need to be 18. However, an ID is not required for sending money, only receiving in most countries. There’s also the fact there are hundreds of thousands of Western Union agent locations. These locations get paid for every transfer they process, so most don’t know or even care about the age requirements. If one stops you, it’s not illegal to try and go to another one.
How much time does it take to do a transfer?
For either sending or receiving money, expect to be at a Western Union location for 15-20 minutes. Add on any driving time to find out how much time to allocate.
Is Western Union’s service safe?
All Western Union transactions are final. Once the money has been picked up, they cannot and will not be refunded. It’s safe in the fact that you’ll receive your money as a receiver, but for senders make sure you know who you’re sending to.
How can I contact Western Union?
There primary customer service number for the United States is 1-800-325-6000. Users outside the US need to visit their respective Western Union site and view the contact us page.
What if I have another question not listed here?
Having sent and received hundreds of thousands of dollars using Western Union, we’ve ran into every type of problem and issue. Contact live chat or click on the “contact us” link on the homepage.