Recently, I had to send some money from Korea to Vietnam and I did some research to find out the best solutions for me. After comparing the fees, duration and procedures of standard international bank transfers and Western Union, Wester Union seemed to be undoubtedly the better option. I wrote a separate article about all the findings of how it works, so for details of the procedures, fees etc, check out this article.
With all the advantages and ease of using the service, I decided to try Western Union for the first time.
The reasons why I decided on Western Union are:
1. The procedure was very simple.
2. I do not need a bank account in Vietnam to receive money.
3. I could receive money instantly with ‘cash pick up in minutes’ option.
4. Sending fee was 6USD for my case (using WU app) and there’s no receiving fee, which is cheaper than bank transfer.
5. I could pick up my transfer at any WU agent in Vietnam and there are many scattered around Hanoi.
When I checked for the fee to send money from a Korean bank account and receive immediate cash pick up, it was only about 6USD, which would be much less than paying all the fees for a standard bank transfer and plus the huge advantage of instant transfer. Fees are much cheaper when using the WU app for my case and I believe it might be for other countries too. So it’d be best if you do your research to find out how you can save the most.
Before deciding to send money via Western Union, I went to several agents (local banks partnered with WU) in Hanoi to ask few questions and check that the information on the website is correct as I personally experienced and learned that it’s always best to double, triple check in Vietnam.
All the bank websites of WU agents in Vietnam state that receiver can choose to receive the transfer in USD or VND. My main concern was whether or not I can really receive money in USD because I wanted to take USD and exchange at other places with greater rates. All the banks I visited confirmed that it is possible to receive in USD without need of any further documents or requirements.
But only BIDV bank said that it is required to provide a registered Vietnamese phone number under the name of the receiver in order to receive in USD. This is something most travellers do not have, so you can go to other banks where you’re not asked for this.
Also, a branch of SeA Bank registered as WU agent was not offering WU service even though it was found on the WU agent locator and there was a WU sign in front of the bank. So it’d be best to call up in advance to check.
Once I knew exactly which agents are actually offering the service and can pay me in USD, I made the payment on WU app. In a few minutes after the payment was made successfully, I could track my transfer with my MTCN code and it was available for pick up.
Off I went to pick up. At the bank, I had to fill in a receiving form with information like tracking code (MTCN), sender’s and receiver’s names, sending and receiving countries, transfer amount, my home address, my current address in Vietnam and passport details. Once I completed the form and handed it back to the staff, she was filling in some forms on her computer to process the payment.
Getting some things done at a bank in Vietnam can take much longer than you expect. So I waited for almost 2 hours for the staff to complete the job until payment. Then finally when I was about to receive my money, the staff said receiving country is not Vietnam, but Korea on the system. It did not make any sense because the payment confirmation clearly states that receiving country is Vietnam and I couldn’t understand how it is possible that they did not find out about this for the entire 2 hours devoted to processing the payment.
Then when the staff refreshed the page on her computer, the transfer was gone and withdrawn due to an error. No clear explanation of reason for the error was given as she also had no idea why nor did she offer any support on finding out what went wrong.
So I had to call the WU service centre in Korea to find out that it was due to receiving amount limit and they do not have the information about the specific limit, so I was advised to call WU customer service in Vietnam. And I was told that the amount limit cannot be provided due to some security or confidentiality reason!
Both the WU agent bank and WU Korean page state that the send limit is 7,000USD and I was sending just over 2,000USD, so it did not make any sense. And the transaction was cancelled automatically without any given explanation nor an option to resend it.
I was happy to find a simple and quick solution for international money transfer until all this happened and I was extremely frustrated with the result and the way it was handled by both the local bank and WU customer service agents.
Although the payment and pick up were instantly available, I was informed that the refund process can take up to 1 week, which obviously did not sound good. It was refunded back after 3 business days (including a weekend in between). Eventually I had to resort to standard bank transfer (not using WU), which took 5 business days, but the money did come through.
I know that my dissatisfied and unsuccessful experience with Western Union can be exceptional and rare and I am hoping with all my heart that such incident does not happen to others especially for those who are in need of money urgently.