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Sending Money: MoneyGram vs. Western Union (MGI, WU)

In this world of ubiquitous ATMs, tap-to-pay checkout and automated bank deposits, there are still times when it’s necessary to hand over, or collect, hard cash. That’s why money-transfer services MoneyGram and Western Union have tens of thousands of agents in cities and towns around the world. 

Money-sending services can be a lifesaver. You may feel it’s unlikely you’ll ever be broke and stranded in a bus station in Bengaluru, needing your spouse to send cash, but stranger things have happened – and not just when you’re traveling abroad. How about when your child who’s studying at a Canadian university needs you to send the rent deposit – pronto? More routinely, money-transfer companies provide banking services like money transfers, money orders and bill payment to people who don’t have bank accounts. In the United States and Canada, many customers are new immigrants who send money regularly to family members in their home countries. Outside the U.S., it’s even easier to find a nearby agent for MoneyGram (MGI) or Western Union (WU) or both. Cash is still king in many countries, and, in developing nations, many people don’t have bank accounts.

So which is better, MoneyGram or Western Union?

The Big Three

In the U.S., MoneyGram and Western Union services are available in many pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as small local businesses, bus stations and check-cashing outlets. For most of these agents, handling money transfers is a side business. Walmart offers its service in its stores, online or via an app.

A Few Drawbacks

One drawback to sending cash through these services is that they open or close with the stores’ usual hours. You may have to cool your heels at the bus station until the next morning before your family can send you that emergency cash.

The biggest drawback of any money-transfer service is the vulnerability of its customers to fraud. A request f...

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