MTN Rwanda and MFS Africa today announced the launch of an online money transfer service that enables MTN Mobile Money customers to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones.
MTN is a global communications company and cellular provider, focused on the Africa and the Middle East.
MFS Africa (Mobile Financial Services Africa) connects money transfer operators, remittance hubs and banks to mobile wallet schemes across Africa. They also run web-based money transfer services on a white label basis.
The website for the new online money transfer service is MTNMMO.COM.
Rwanda has large populations living overseas. Millions are in other African nations, and many more are in Europe and the United States. In fact, the Rwandan government even has a ministry (the Diaspora General Directorate) dedicated to serving the needs of the Rwandan diaspora.
Naturally, these millions of Rwandan emigrants need an easy way to send money home to their families in Rwanda.
With this new service, senders from outside Rwanda can now register on the website MTNMMO.COM and send funds from their debit card or bank transfer via the internet to Rwanda by simply entering a beneficiary’s mobile phone number. Funds are delivered immediately to the beneficiary’s Mobile Money account in Rwanda.
Mobile Money has already been offering this money transfer service within Rwanda itself. Now the service has been extended to senders overseas.
“Making the connection to MTNMMO.COM to enable international remittances together with MFS Africa was high priority for us to better serve our customers, understanding their need to use their Mobile Money accounts to receive money from abroad,” said Albert Kinuma, head of MTN Business. “We will continue to add new services to MTN Mobile Money, and grow our agent network, now standing at over 700 agents across Rwanda. With MFS Africa as a partner, we look forward to introducing additional products to Mobile Money in the near future.”
Auke Algera, the General Manager East Africa at MFS Africa said MTNMMO.COM is the first product being launched in Rwanda by the company. “The service extends the benefits of Mobile Money to the Rwandan Diaspora,” he explained. “We established ourselves in Rwanda because we are committed to deploying a range of innovative financial products for mobile money providers in the region.”
A money transfer company called Trans-Fast, founded in 1988 and headquartered in New York City, is inaugurating their new service to the Philippines by giving away an iPad 2 every week for a limited time. Customers can win by simply making a money transfer to the Philippines using a coupon code available on the TransFast.com website. All remittances online are automatically entered into the weekly drawing.
In a press release, Therese Gamboa, Director of Business Development, said, “We are unbelievably excited to offer the Filipino community the ability to send money online to their friends and family back home. The combination of our value, service, and convenience makes our service the most economical way to send money to the Philippines.”
Trans-Fasts’s new remittance service allows customers to send money online directly to any bank account in the Philippines and to over 10,000 cash pick up locations throughout the country. Trans-Fast also provides home cash delivery within 24 hours to selected cities, as well as a cash card that can be credited in real time.
Trans-Fast says that their money transfer service stands out by providing Filipinos with the best exchange rate for online money transfers to the Philippines, and a dedicated 24×7 customer support line. Trans-Fast’s mission is to be the most secure, fast, affordable and convenient way of sending money to the Philippines, anytime of the day or night.
Trans-Fast representatives states that they would soon be providing their customers the ability to send money online to many more countries.
I received a news update today from Xoom.com, a money transfer service that I have used in the past and have been happy with. Xoom is now offering a special rate of only $4.99 to send up to $2,999 to Guatemala, provided that you fund the transfer from your bank account. The entire transaction can be done online.
For cash pickups, Xoom has 1,548 cash pickup locations in Guatemala, including GyT Continental, BanRural, Banco Industrial, Citi (formerly Banco Cuscatlan and Banco Uno), BAC-Credomatic and Banco de Antigua; or Elektra, Gallo Mas Gallo, Hiper Paiz, Maxi Bodega and Paiz stores.
If you want to transfer the money directly to your recipient’s bank account, Xoom offers bank deposits to the following major banks: Banrural, Banco Industrial, and Citi (formerly Banco Cuscatlan and Banco Uno).
If I needed to send money to Guatemala I’d definitely use Xoom.
I recently found myself needing to send $750 to a friend named Adam in El Valle de Anton, which is a small town in Panama. I went to my bank (Bank of America) and inquired about sending a money transfer. They told me I had to come back early the next morning and it would cost $45.
Instead, I went home and logged on to Xoom.com, an online money transfer service based in San Francisco.
Checking the rates, I found that it would be $27.99 to send $750 to Panama using a debit card or credit card; and only $9.99 if I funded the transaction from my bank account!
So that’s what I did. I used my bank account to send the money. Until recently money sent to Panama via Xoom could only be picked up at a few selected banks in the capital city, which is 90 minutes away from El Valle. But now Xoom has partnered with the Super99 grocery store chain as well, so money transfers can be picked up at any Super99. And there are Super99 stores everywhere, including in Coronado, only 30 minutes away from El Valle.
The money transfer was completed quickly – within an hour or so. My friend Adam told me that it was easy to pick up the money. He said he didn’t know that money could be sent from the USA to Panama so cheaply, and that he would recommend Xoom to others as well.
Overall it was a quick and easy transaction, and inexpensive. If you need to send money to Latin America, I highly recommend Xoom.com.
In parts 1 and 2 I reviewed some of the major money-transfer services. I’m specifically looking at the ability to send money using a credit card. Now I’ll continue with some of the lesser-known services.
Recommendation: worth looking into. Possibly a good alternative to Paypal for those needing to pay by credit card; however, there are a lot of fees.
MoneyBookers, founded in 2002 and based in London, is a specifically internet-based payments and money-sending service. They also perform payment processing for websites, online auction sites, and other corporate users. So it’s a lot like Paypal. Over 100,000 merchants are registered with MoneyBookers.
As of 2012, MoneyBookers is in the process of changing their name to Skrill. Why, I don’t know. “MoneyBookers” sounds vaguely shady, but “Skrill” sounds like some kind of tiny sea-creature. MoneyBookers’ PR machine says, “Skrill is going to better represent what we are and what we will become, as well as differentiate ourselves in a crowded marketplace. Skrill was an informal term for money. But we – and you – are going to make it more than that. In the same way you ‘google’ something or ‘skype’ your friends, people will soon ‘Skrill’ money.”
Okay… grandiose wishes aside, the company’s payment systems have not changed. You can send money to over 200 countries. I have not used the service, but what I understand from the MoneyBookers website is that it works a lot like Paypal. You sign up for a MoneyBookers account, and you can send money to anyone who also has an account. The sender pays a transaction fee of 1%, and the receiver pays no fee. However, when the receiver wants to withdraw the funds from his MoneyBookers account he will pay a small withdrawal fee. The amount depends on the country, and the method of withdrawal. To withdraw by bank transfer may be free, but to withdraw by check could cost between $1.80 and $3.50.
There’s also this caveat at the bottom of MoneyBookers’ rates page:
“For transactions involving currency conversion Skrill (Moneybookers) adds 1.99% to our wholesale exchange rates for foreign currency. This charge serves as a protection against the volatility and risk associated with FX markets. The Skrill (Moneybookers) exchange rates are updated on a regular basis throughout the day.”
You CAN upload funds to your MoneyBookers account by credit card. All major credit cards are accepted: AMEX, Visa, MasterCard, JCB, and Diners Club. So that’s a big advantage over most other money-sending services. However there is a 1.90% charge to upload money by credit card.
This means there could be as many as four separate fees: one to upload money with your credit card, another to send money, a currency exchange fee if your recipient is in a foreign country, then your recipient will have to pay a withdrawal fees.
That’s a lot of fees, man. Still, MoneyBookers may present an alternative to Paypal for those needing to fund a money trnasfer with their credit card.
If any readers have experience with MoneyBookers, please chime in and let us know how it went. Was it easy to transfer money? Were the fees reasonable?
7. Amazon Payments
Recommendation: recommended. Easy to use. Works just like Paypal.
Amazon payments lets you use the payment information saved in your Amazon.com account to send money to friends and family. You can send money to their email address or to to their U.S. mobile number. You can do this from your computer or your mobile phone.
Here’s how it works:
1. You go to the Amazon payments home page and sign in using your Amazon.com email and password (If you don’t have an Amazon.com account, you can create one).
2. The next page will ask you to confirm your contact info, and to enter your mobile number. You’ll also have to verify your identity using the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number or the month and date of your birthday. Then you set a security question, and continue.
3. Amazon Payments will send a confirmation code to your phone. It will be some weird phrase like “starry water”. Enter that code on the next page.
4. You’ll be asked to choose a 4-digit pin to authorize your mobile transactions. Pick something you’ll remember, or write it down somewhere.
5. At this point you’ll be asked to activate your account by either sending money online, or using your mobile. If you choose online for example, you will have to verify your email address and add a credit card if you have not done so already. Verifying your email just means that Amazon Payments sends you a confirmation link by email, and you click on it).
6. This will bring you to your account page which shows your balance, and you can add a bank account if you wish, view your past transactions, or add or withdraw funds.
7. If you click on the Send Money tab at the top, you have the option of adding money to your account to send money, or using your credit card. I tested out the credit card option so I could review it here. I chose a friend with an Amazon account, and sent $1. I had no money in my Amazon account, so I was prompted to select or add a credit card, which I did.
By the way, you are offered the option of sending the money either as payment for goods and services, or as a cash advance. There’s a warning for the cash advance option that says,
“Select this option if you are not sending money for the purchase of goods or services. You may be charged a cash advance or other fees by your credit or debit card issuer. Amazon Payments is not responsible for these fees. Contact your issuer for more information.”
8. I made my payment and was given a transaction ID and reference ID. The whole process was quite simple and painless, and mirrored my experience with Paypal almost exactly.
I subsequently logged into my online bank account and I learned that aside from the $1 I sent, Amazon Payments charged me a $1 processing fee. So that’s not bad at all. When I sent the money I selected the “goods and services” option and my bank does not appear to have charged anything at all. I don’t know if the fees go up with the amount of the payment. Perhaps I’ll test further in the future.
Based in San Francisco, Xoom.com does not have their own dedicated stores, rather they partner with various financial institutions who act as their agents (this is common of course; Western Union and MoneyGram do it too). For example in Panama, Xoom partners with Citi and the Super99 grocery store chain, among others. They have 42 pickup locations in Panama, which is pretty good.
Xoom seems to specialize in money transfers to Latin America and Europe, though they do have a scattering of agents in Asia and other places. As of this writing they have agents in 30 countries. That may be a far cry from Western Union’s 200+ countries, but Xoom still provides a good service.
The fees are reasonable and you can pay with a U.S.- based credit card or debit card, or with a U.S. bank account. To take the example I used previously of sending $500 to Panama, if you paid by U.S. bank account the fee would be $7.99. If you paid with a credit card or debit card it would be $19.99. They accept Visa, MasterCard or Discover.
I have used Xoom‘s services in the past and found them to be reliable.
If you haven’t read Part 1, here’s my standard warning about funding a money transfer with your credit card:
Be aware that in addition to the normal fees that the money transfer company charges, your credit card company may impose an extra fee. They might see a money transfer transaction as a cash advance, and charge you the cash advance APR (interest rate), which can be considerably higher than your card’s default APR. It’s best to check with your bank first and find out if there are any extra charges for funding a money transfer with your credit card.
5. iKobo.com by Credit Card
I used to use iKobo.com all the time to send money to a web development contractor overseas. Their fee to send $500 to Panama is $21.25 (I use Panama as my example because I used to live there); if you fund the transaction from your bank account you can send up to $1,000 anywhere for only $8, which is a great deal.
However, when I visited the website just now I saw the following notice on their home page:
Important Notice: iKobo money transfer is temporarily suspended while we update our services. Money transfer services will soon be restored.
If you want to use a credit card to send money online from the convenience of your home, there are several options:
1. Western Union by Credit Card
Western Union is one of the world’s leading money transfer companies, with almost 400,000 agents in over 200 countries around the world. If you walk into a Western Union office to send money you must pay in cash, or use a debit card. However, if you do it by phone or through their WesternUnion.com website, you can use a credit card. It must be a Visa or MasterCard, issued by a U.S. bank.
It’s safe to say that Western Union has long been the leading company offering this service of sending money online by credit card.
The money you send will be available to the receiver literally in minutes. You can also transfer the funds directly to the receiver’s bank account. Alternatively, you can have the funds delivered to the receiver’s home or workplace by FedEx the next day.
The sender must pay a fee to send money by Western Union. The fee will vary depending on the amount, and the countries that you send money from and to.
Be aware that in addition to the normal fees that Western Union charges, your credit card company may impose an extra fee. They might see a Western Union transaction as a cash advance, and charge you the cash advance APR (interest rate), which can be considerably higher than your card’s default APR. It’s best to check with your bank first and find out if there are any extra charges for funding a Western Union transfer or other online money transfer.
2. MoneyGram by Credit Card
MoneyGram also allows you to send money online with a credit card. Go to their website at MoneyGram.com, and right on the home page you can choose the country you want to send money to, choose the receive option (for most countries there’s only one option – pick up at agent, local currency payout), enter the amount, and click “Get Started”.
At this point the window will change to show you a cost estimate. For example to send $500 to Panama, the fee is $31 for same-day service, in which the money will be available to the receiver in 10 minutes, or $15 for economy service, where the money will be available in 3 business days. For some reason economy service can only be funded from your bank account, but same-day service can be paid for by credit card.
The window will also give you a link to their MoneyGram location finder, which allows you to search and find a list of MoneyGram agents in any country and city. I found it rather annoying that when I clicked this link, instead of showing me the info in a pop-up page the website took me to a new page, and did not save any of the info I had just entered. So I navigated back to the home page and started over, re-entering the country and amount. Anyway, once you input the info and click “Get Started”, you’ll be asked to register and confirm your email address, then you’ll be able to send money online with your credit card, using the same-day service option.
The same warning applies that I mentioned above. Your credit card company might view this transaction as a cash advance, and charge you a higher APR. Make sure you check with your bank first and find out if there are any extra charges for funding an online money transfer with your credit card.
3. Paypal by Credit Card
Paypal is another very popular service that allows you to send money to anyone who also has a Paypal account. However, Paypal no longer seems to allow the option to add funds to your account by credit card – at least my account does not. Instead, I see only two options: add funds from a U.S. bank account, or add funds from a Green Dot MoneyPak. The MoneyPak is essentially a prepaid card that you can buy at Walmart or many other locations. There’s a service fee to load money onto the card, and you can then use it to pay for various transactions.
So theoretically you could use your credit card to buy a MoneyPak, then use the MoneyPak to fund your Paypal account, then send money by Paypal. However, you’d be paying two and possible three separate service charges, so I do not recommend this option
There are other, smaller services that may allow you to send money online with your credit card. I will look into them in the coming weeks. However, the major ones are Western Union and MoneyGram. These companies are international, well-established and trustworthy. So I would stick with them.
Xoom Corporation has issued a press release detailing a new high-speed money wiring service that will allow customers to send money to bank accounts in the UK.
According to the release, funds will be available in the recipient’s account in less than an hour. Transfer fees are only $4.99 US when sending up to $2,999 and funded from US banks, which is really quite extraordinary for a bank transfer.
“With the launch of our new service to the UK, our customers now have an even faster way to wire money to the UK—any time from the convenience of their desktops,” said Julian King, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Xoom.com. “We look forward to providing this service to our loyal customer base who have come to trust our brand as the most cost-effective and convenient money transfer service in the industry.”
There are 17 UK banks participating in the service, which together account for 95% of UK banking. Among them are Santander (formerly Abbey and Alliance & Leicester), Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Clydesdale, Co-Operative Bank, Coutts, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Natwest Bank, Northern Bank, Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland, Smile, Ulster Bank and Yorkshire Bank.
The sender can also schedule a time for a future transfer, and can set up recurring transfers. This will be helpful to UK expats who need to make regular transfers into their UK accounts, for example to pay bills.
If you’ve used Xoom, let us know how well it worked for you, and how satisfied you were with it. Personally I have used their service to send money to Latin America, and have been quite happy with it.
Following up on my previous outline of the SBI money transfer process, if you want to send money to India through SBI (The State Bank of India), and you want to do it as quickly and easily as possible, there are a few options that are faster than going down to your local bank and filling out a wire transfer form.
1. SBI Express Remit. SBI offers online money transfers to India through their online Global Link Service – http://www.onlinesbi.com/glsus/
This is an express remittance service that is done totally online, so you don’t even need to visit your bank. You can do the whole transfer quickly and easily on your home computer, assuming you have internet service. You can transfer money from your account with any U.S. bank. The exchange rate is competitive, and this online transfer method has the lowest service charges of any SBI transfer. The money will take three to five business days to appear in the Indian bank account.
2. SBI Instant Transfer. SBI’s Instant Transfer service is a real time rupee transfer facility offered by the State Bank of India. You must visit your nearest SBI foreign branch office to do the Instant Transfer. Remittances to India takes place instantly and the money is available in the Indian account within few minutes. This is obviously the fastest money transfer option, if you have an SBI branch office in your area and don’t mind taking the time to go there.
Bankrate.com published an article by Diana McLaren in which she discussed safe ways to transfer cash or send money. She talked about Western Union at length, but also explored other safe cash transfer options, including Canada Post and Paypal.
Here’s the story:
Safe ways to send cash
There are lots of reasons to send cash these days: online and mail-order shopping, bill payments or bail-out loans to kids at college. And along with the ever-increasing reasons to send money, there is a growing number of ways to do so.
Western Union safe money transfer
One of the oldest ways to send money — 100 years old, in fact — is Western Union. Today, the company offers a variety ways to send cash: in person at a Western Union agent’s location, by telephone and over the Internet. Figuring out the finer points of each can be a bit confusing, especially since stated Western Union policies sometimes seem to conflict with information given by individual agents. These agents, located worldwide, operate as both sending and receiving depots and are found in such places as variety stores, supermarkets and money service operations.
Western Union lets you send funds using cash, debit or Visa, but this depends on what the individual agent offers. At some, it’s strictly cash-only, while at other locations debit and credit cards are accepted, though one Toronto agent quoted an additional nine per cent fee to send via Visa. On the other end, the recipient will get cash, a Western Union cheque or some combination of the two. Just how much of each depends, since it’s not cast in stone. Again, it’s pretty much up to the discretion of the agent on the receiving end.
Both senders and receivers fill out forms, and identification can be required of both. Just what type of ID is acceptable is the agent’s call, although most require government-issued photo ID. One Toronto agent erroneously stated that provincial health cards are “no longer accepted, it’s the law,” but Western Union’s stated policy says recipients can “answer a test question” in lieu of having proper photo ID.
The cost of sending money
The cost to send cash with Western Union varies with the method used for cash transfer. Using $150 sent within Canada for comparison purposes, the cost would be $18 if sent through an agent and $35 if using the online or telephone systems. The quote for telephone service “may vary according to sender location and is subject to change without notice,” according to Western Union’s info line.
Money sent in foreign currencies will carry an exchange rate set by Western Union. Again using our $150 example on a specific date, the rate for U.S. currency quoted by the Bank of Canada was 0.8951 while Western Union charged 0.86. The difference is “how we make our profit,” according to one Western Union customer service representative.
At Western Union’s currency rate on that date, it would take $174.60 to send $150 to the U.S., plus a $27 transfer fee ($8 cheaper than sending within Canada), for a grand total of $201.60.
There are no limits to how much money can be sent using the agent method (although increased security measures apply on higher amounts). Online transfer limits are $500 within Canada and the U.S. and $999.99 internationally.
On the recipient’s end, the money is available within minutes. However, accessibility for pickup will depend on the receiving agent’s hours of operation. You should call and check this out with the agent in question since actual hours don’t always match those stated on Western Union agent listings.
Not the only game in town – Canada Post
Western Union isn’t the only money transfer system that’s been around for a good long time. Canada Post still does a pretty good job of delivering the mail, and cheques or money orders sent that way are an economical way to go. Postal money orders cost $3.95 within Canada and $4.95 to the U.S. If you are going to register your letter, this will add to the cost, but it will offer peace of mind. And while sending cash isn’t illegal, it isn’t advisable, since there’s no paper trail should things fall into the wrong hands.
Banks also offer money orders (for between $6 and $7) and wire transfers. Better yet, if the recipient banks at the same institution as the sender, there are Interac e-mail money transfers. These cost only the network fee of $1.50 to send. There’s a security Q&A to ensure the person on the receiving is the one intended, and stop payments can be made for $3.50.
To send, the sender and recipient both need an e-mail address and a personal Canadian dollar bank account. The participating financial institutions are Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust, Royal Bank and CIBC except for President’s Choice Financial.
For sending to someone outside of Canada, banks offer wire services for about $30. The cost depends on the amount sent and where it’s going. Wires can be used within Canada but are a somewhat costly choice so they aren’t the method of choice.
“Interac is associated with the established banking system, so there’s a level of trust built into it,” says Peter Hope-Tindall, a security expert in Toronto. “Personally, I’d be very worried to use one of the money transfer services offered on the Internet that isn’t connected to Interac.”
Paypal for cash transfers
Hope-Tindall says the one service he has used with success to transfer money to vendors is PayPal, although he hasn’t used it to transfer cash to a person. PayPal now offers free online money transfers to individuals. Both parties need a PayPal account and the money can be sent from a bank account, credit card or PayPal balance.
While PayPal is a widely used service for online purchasing, and is now owned by eBay, there have been problems in the past concerning withholding of funds or freezing of accounts.
A further option to send funds, especially appropriate for frequent transfers to the same person, is to set them up as one of the prelisted payees in your telephone or online banking portfolio. In fact, that’s how Hope-Tindall transfers his five children’s monthly allowances to them.
Diana McLaren is a writer in Toronto.
— Posted: Sept. 27, 2006