Sometimes you need to send/receive money when you are abroad; using USA to Taiwan Western Union money orders are the best way to go. And not by some negligible amount. Even if your bank charges you very little for the international wire transfer to a Taiwanese bank account, you’re still probably better off going with Taiwan Western Union. If you’re looking to send money from other countries internationally, you could potentially be better of using a money transfer service that allows different countries to transfer, while benefitting from the best rates available at the time.
If you haven’t read about my last endeavor with transferring money in Taiwan, you can read the two-part story here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). To sum up: it was a colossal pain in the ass. Bank of America is extremely secure when it comes to online transfers, but that means more work to send a transfer: not only that, but after it took days to get to Taiwan, I had to sign-off on the transfer at my bank to get the money released from the middle-man bank. All-in-all, it took me a week to get my money!
Taiwanese banks – and Taiwanese systems, in general – dislike doing anything that is out-of-the-ordinary. And basically, if you’re a foreigner doing anything, it’s out-of-the-ordinary. Veteran expats of Taiwan will tell you: don’t buck the system. I have a corollary to that: find a way around it. In a place like Taiwan, where bureaucracy is king, there’s always a way around a problem. With the right plan, you can move mountains.
So, I needed to get a thousand American dollars from the USA to Taiwan. I tried to talk to Taiwanese banks about their ATM charges last Friday, August 2 – I got the run-around from multiple banks who kept trying to tell me their bank charges nothing, and it’s all dependent on my bank. This is obviously not correct: Taiwanese banks charge when any card that is not from their bank gets inserted into their ATM, let alone a foreign card withdrawing lots of money. When they were pressed to check and confirm what they said about not charging, every single one came back with some form of, “Actually, we’re not sure how it works.” Three banks, no answers.
I certainly didn’t want to do a transfer from my American account to my account. Bank of America charges a flat rate of US$35 per transfer, which means a 3.5% increase on my US$1000 transfer, before my Taiwanese bank uses their conversion rate to profit on the exchange of my money into New Taiwan Dollars. Not to even mention how it takes a week and a couple pains in the ass for it to get done.
So I looked into using Taiwan Western Union
Western Union is awesome, internationally. I can pay from my bank account online, the same as how you pay any bill (cell phone, electric company, etc.), making it extremely convenient and incurring no charges. By doing that payment method, Western Union also charges nothing for the transfer. You make it easy on them by giving them funds electronically, so they give you a break and charge you nothing to send your money where you want it.
Western Union is in the currency game: they buy and sell currency, depending on exchange rates. They can trade my American dollars into any currency they want to, in order to profit from it – to me, my money is changed from USD to NTD, but it might not really be that way, for Western Union. They certainly have Taiwanese dollars from people who have sent money out of Taiwan using Western Union, so I could have been paid with someone else’s Taiwanese dollars and, conversely, my American dollars went to pay for someone else who is sending money to the USA. The way Western Union profits is off the exchange rates they claim.
That’s where it gets crazy. The USD:NTD rate today was 1:29.693 – that means that, had I had a stack of US$1000, the bank would have given me TW$29,693. But Taiwan Western Union doesn’t use the bank’s rate. They use their own, adjusted every ten minutes. They really play the game. That being said, Taiwan Western Union was set at a rate of 1:29.728. That means my US$1000 bought me TW$29,728. Sending my American dollars to Taiwan Western Union meant I profited TW$35 (just over an American dollar – small potatoes), which means nothing to me. What matters is that my transfer cost me no money. I sent money from the USA to Taiwan and it cost me nothing – in fact, I technically made money!
So this is yet another guide for those Westerners in Taiwan, consider using Taiwan Western Union.
July 2, 2014 EDIT:
Having created a Western Union account a year ago, and still having Western Union’s Bill Pay information in my bank account, I transferred $1500 from the USA to Taiwan, for a fee of $15. It was available for pick-up a couple of hours after the bill was paid.
Google claims that $1500US should become $44810NT; I received $44438NT, which is about right (banks never pay you “true rate”).
So, while nowhere near as awesome as it was a year ago, when it offered no fees and a great exchange rate, using Western Union to send money to Taiwan a very functional way to send money from the USA to Taiwan, using USA and Taiwan Western Union. I have heard that it’s also possible now to use Western Union to trade cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Customers can use exchange sites to convert Bitcoin to paypal or Western Union, so we’re not just restricted to converting mainstream currencies.
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