Are you travelling or living in Vietnam and you need money transferred from your home country to Vietnam?
Well, I am. I’m living in Vietnam and I needed to wire money from my home country, Korea to Vietnam, so I was looking at some options and doing research on which method may be the best for me.
Standard international money transfer from a Korean bank to Vietnamese bank was an obvious option, so I looked up to see what the receiving fee is. I went to a local bank to get some information after not having much success retrieving needed information online. I found out that information on bank’s official websites is not always up-to-date or reliable. So beware!
Dealing with banks in Vietnam is almost always time-consuming and not the most efficient especially for people who cannot speak Vietnamese, so it was quite a hassle to find out what the fee and procedure are to receive an international transfer. I found out that Vietcombank is free of charge for receiving international money transfer if withdrawing in Vietnamese currency and VIB bank charges 0.22% of total amount for a fee, which seem reasonable.
In the meantime, a friend of mine who works in the Old Quarter told me about Western Union, which is often used by foreign travellers who are in need of cash urgently. As I had not heard of it before, I did some research to find out how it works and it turned out that Western Union can be an excellent means to do international transfer.
So I’ll share my findings about WU to help you decide whether it’ll be beneficial for you when you want to send to and receive money in Vietnam.
What is Western Union?
Western Union is an American financial services company providing international money transfer and is known for simple and instantaneous transfer worldwide. Fees to send vary depending on the sender’s country, amount, and method. General rule is the faster you want the transfer, the higher the fee. There are fee free options, which are practically equal to a normal bank transfer. Western Union seems to be known for high fees in exchange for the convenient and speedy cash pick up, which is great for travellers who do not have a local bank account.
The procedure is pretty unanimous throughout the world, but for more specific information on fees and procedures, you can go to the site, click on ‘settings’ under the hamburger menu on top right corner and choose the location of sending country.
You can search Western Union agents in a country to find out where you or your friend / family can receive the transfer. There are plenty of agents in most of cities in Vietnam and you can receive money at any of the WU agents most conveniently located to you or the receiver.
Some countries page on WU site has the above calculator for sending money and some others only provide a simple fee table by send amount. The above screenshot is for sending money to Vietnam from the US, as an example. You can enter send amount to see the exchange rate and receive amount and the fee will depend on the methods of sending and receiving.
The exchange rate nowadays for USD to VND is over 23,000VND if you exchange your dollars at banks or exchange shops. So as you can see, the exchange rates offered by WU is much lower as they make profit from exchange rates too. That means if you’re sending and receiving a big sum of money, it may not be so beneficial to you.
However, an amazing feature about this service is that you can choose to receive in USD or VND at a local agent in Vietnam if you do cash pick up. I have checked with several different agents (different banks) in Hanoi and they all offer to pay you in USD or local currency. So a little tip would be to receive in USD and exchange at places with the highest rates. You can go check out the list of top exchange shops in Hanoi here.
Receiving money with a bank account in Vietnam is cheaper and the exchange rate is slightly better than cash pick up, but can take up to 6 business days. And for cash pick up at a WU agent with ‘in minutes’ options, the fees are higher, but allows the receiver to get the cash almost immediately after the payment is made without needing a local bank account.
Cash pick up is a great option and may be the only resort for those who do not own a bank account in Vietnam. And if you’re in need of money urgently, it may be worth paying the high fees as you can receive instantly. This is why WU is used by many travellers who have lost their cards or cash while in Vietnam. All fees are paid by the sender, so the receiver is not charged any fee for receiving.
One more thing to note is that the fees seem much higher to send from the US than from some other countries. 48USD as transfer fee seems unreasonably high, but if you’re sending from other countries, it might be much lower than that.
The procedure is very simple and straightforward.
1. Sender needs to fill in the sender’s details (name and sending country), receiver’s details (name, receiving country) and payment details (amount, sending and receiving methods).
***Make sure the sender fills in the details correctly – especially the name of the receiver (exactly as written on passport / valid ID).***
2. Once the payment is made, the sender will receive a tracking number called MTCN, with which both the sender and receiver can track the current stage of the transfer.
3. Track your MTCN code to check if it’s ready for pick up. (Track transfer here)
4. When it’s available for pick up, you can go to any WU agent (find an agent here) nearby.
5. For cash pick up, you need to bring your ID or passport and tracking code (MTCN). The WU agent bank will give a form to fill. The information you need to complete the form is – tracking code (MTCN), sender’s and receiver’s names, sending and receiving countries, transfer amount, your home address, your current address in Vietnam and passport details.
6. After filling and handing in the form to the banker, you can receive your money.
In summary, here are the pros and cons of Western Union cash pick up:
+ Instant pick up
+ No need for a local bank account to receive money
+ Choice between receiving in USD or local currency
+ Wide availability of WU agents worldwide
– High fees for sending
– Low exchange rate
I hope this article helped you understand how Western Union works. I hope you do the calculation and research to compare with other alternatives yourself before you decide to send or receive money via WU in Vietnam.
I will be uploading another article about my experience using the service in the near future.