My mum’s currently visiting in Taiwan and as she is now low on funds, had asked me to send her money. No problem, I would just wire the money to her using my bank. I logged on to my bank’s website and saw that they only have a limited number of countries where I could wire money to. Unfortunately, Taiwan isn’t in the list! Undaunted, I visited a local branch and was told that the bank does not offer the service for Taiwan. The teller I talked to even pointed me to one of the money exchange shops around the corner.
Researching online, I came across Western Union. The site claims that using this service is fast, easy and efficient. Another plus is both sender and receiver do not have to open an account to transfer money. Government issued IDs and a reference number are the only things involved. However unlike doing it in the bank where the fee would have been a fixed amount of $20 (online) or $30 (over the counter), this service charges a certain percentage of the amount. Thus, the fee increases proportionately with the amount of money sent.
With my mum growing desperate, I tried to send money online using Western Union’s website. I could have gone to Australia Post to get it done there but I just don’t want to spend my lunch hour waiting around in a long queue. Anyway, I went the process of filling out all the forms online and having to put in my credit card details only to be told at the end that my transaction was rejected. No other information was displayed other than the date. I called up their customer service line and was asked about the error. The operator was a bit puzzled at first when I told him that I didn’t receive any error codes from the website, just the cryptic transaction rejected message. He asked for my transaction details and he pulled up the record from their database. He asked if it was the only transaction I’ve done in the past 30 days. I said yes, and if there were other transactions there in my name, it wasn’t from me. He assured me that there is only one record (makes one wonder why he asked in the first place if he could see only one transaction anyway).
After several typing sounds from the other end of the line, he informed me that my bank (meaning the credit card issuer) has not responded to the verification process for my transaction and that was why my transaction was rejected. He suggested that I call up my bank to ask why the transaction didn’t go through. He also assured me that my credit card has not been charged since the transaction has been cancelled.
After hanging up, I googled for the transaction rejected error message. I ended up in this site about how one online sender’s credit card was charged when his transaction got rejected and the headaches he encountered to get the charge reversed. Although the original blog post was written in July 2006, there were numerous comments from people who went through a similar ordeal. The latest one had mid-Oct. 2007 in its date! Uh oh, certainly not a good sign. I quickly called up my credit card issuer to ask if there were any charges recently. The operator said no recent activity on my card.
After clearing that up, I was still no closer to sending money to my mum. I found an English forum about Taiwan and someone mentioned Moneygram as an alternative money transfer service provider. The service is similar to Western Union’s (Moneygram is actually a competitor) but instead of charging a percentage of the amount, the fee is fixed at $35. I was planning to send $300 and I would have paid $35 as well if I used Western Union. Comparing their exchange rate online, it looked like Western Union had the higher rate.
Knowing I might have to send money to mum again later, I opted to go with Moneygram. I know I would have to send a bigger amount next time and I wanted to test their service now even if they have a slightly lower exchange rate. Besides, the fiasco with the Western Union website does not fill me with confidence and I would like there to be just one transaction record in their system in case I would have to dispute the cancelled transaction later.
I used Moneygram’s website to locate an agent in the city and went there today. The transaction was relatively painless at my end. I called up my mum and told her I have sent the money and that she could claim it at an agent there. She was on her way to meet someone though and she won’t be able to get the money until Monday. Shame, as I would love to know now how easy it is to complete the transaction at her end. I guess I’d just have to wait till next week.
If you could suggest a fast, easy, safe and cheaper alternative, I’m all ears!