Wiring Money 101

All About the Low Tech Way to Send Funds

Wiring Money 101
July 14, 2015

Need to send money to someone quickly? Many high-tech options are available that did not exist just a few years ago. Electronic transfers are not just for banks anymore, and money can now even be sent through social media using mobile apps. Given all these options, does anyone still use, or even remember, the old-school method of wiring money? It can still come in handy on occasion.

Wiring money is nothing more than a form of rapid transfer of funds outside of the traditional banks. Most people associate wiring money with Western Union, who has been transferring money through their offices since the telegraph was America's primary communication method. However, Wal-Mart recently introduced a similar, lower-priced money wiring service.

If you are the receiver of funds, wiring money is simple. All you have to do is show up at the appropriate nearby office with a suitable form of ID and receive your cash. (The hard part is convincing someone to send you the cash.) The incarcerated can even receive money through Western Union.

To send the funds, you can either show up in person at the sending office or use the corresponding website (westernunion.com or moneygram.com for Wal-Mart.). Wal-Mart offers a cheaper store-to-store service within the US and Puerto Rico. You'll need to register to send money online, although registration is free. Corresponding paper forms are available at the offices.

For any vendor, select your method of receipt and of payment. In general, you will pay more for instant availability and larger amounts. You can pay via a bank account, debit/credit cards, and cash. Use of a credit card is not available with all services, and it may invoke a cash advance fee from your card issuer along with the wire service fees.

The Wal-Mart in-store service starts at $4.50, while the MoneyGram service starts at $4.75 for up to $50 transfers. Transfers up to $900 cost $11.50 while larger totals can be sent for 2% of the sending amount. Western Union is similar for lower transfer amounts ($5 for up to $50) but the price points scale up rapidly. Both Western Union and Wal-Mart allow you to estimate the fees on their website.

If you are wiring money internationally, check the currency rates. You will be paying more for the convenience, and if you're wiring money, you probably don’t have a choice but to accept the rate. Even so, you should verify the rate and decide whether the immediate need is worth the cost.

Wiring money is a reasonable choice if you don’t have any of the new methods of electronic transfer at your disposal or don't have an active bank account to receive the funds. You also need to be near the office to receive your cash in hand — but unless you are in the desert or a national park, what are the odds you aren't near a Wal-Mart?

If you need money in cash and you need it immediately (we won't ask why), and you have somebody willing to send you that cash, wiring funds may be exactly what you need. In some countries, that still may be one of the most efficient methods of immediately transferring funds.

However, for most people's needs, there are better, less expensive electronic options. You can also stay low-tech and write a check (remember those)? If you want to go really low-tech, you can keep some of those funny green rectangles with numbers on them and exchange them for goods and services. Most places still accept them.


Photo ©iStock.com/ bc173

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