If you need to send money overseas to loved ones who don't have a bank account, look for a money transfer specialist that offers cash pickups. These types of transfers are secure and fast, with pickups available worldwide in minutes. But watch for higher fees and weaker exchange rates than deposit transfers.
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A cash pickup allows your recipient to pick up their money in cash from a physical location, instead of through a digital deposit into a bank account. The process varies by company but typically requires four steps:
Place your order. You submit your recipient's contact information, the amount you're looking to send and other details at a money transfer company's storefront or through its site. Some specialists require you to choose a specific location for pickup. Take care entering your recipient's name as shown on their ID to avoid issues with pickup.
Wait for processing. Turnaround varies by company, but most expedite cash pickups. You receive a transfer reference number once processed that your recipient can use for pickup — and that you can use to track the progress of your transfer.
Pickup cash. Armed with your transfer reference number and an ID, your recipient picks up their cash at the location you've specified or at a convenient location in the company's network.
Get confirmation. After your recipient picks up the money transfer, you may receive a text or email confirming the time and location of the pickup. Or track the transfer with the transfer reference number your company provided with your order.
Cash pickup providers
The best-known providers of cash pickups are Western Union and MoneyGram. Western Union allows you to send money online or in person at more than 500,000 locations in over 200 countries. MoneyGram also offers online and in-person transfers to more than 200 countries, with some 350,000 agent locations around the globe.
Some providers allow you to process a money transfer without a bank account. This is especially useful for the unbanked and underbanked, because you can take cash into a physical location for sending around the world.
Other digital providers like WorldRemit offers cash pickups at select bank branches in countries worldwide.
Weighing the pros and cons of a cash pickup against your recipient's needs:
Exchange rates. Nearly all providers skew exchange rates for a profit. Compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate — the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves — and look for the smallest margin between them.
Fees. Does the provider charge a flat fee or a percentage of your transfer? Do the fees vary by method of payment? If you’re sending a large amount, will you qualify for a fee-free transfer?
Pickup locations. How many agent locations are in the area you're planning to send money to? Make sure the location and operating hours are convenient for your recipient.
Transfer speed. How long will it take for the money you send to be available for your recipient to collect? If you need to send an emergency transfer, can the cash be ready for pickup within minutes?
Payment methods. Can you pay with cash, credit or debit card or a bank account transfer?
Transfer methods. Can you initiate the transfer online, by phone or with an agent? Does the provider offer an online app?
Customer support. Most companies offer help through live chat, by phone, in person or through email. Make sure help is available if you need it.
What are the pros and cons of picking up cash?
Fast turnaround. Cash pickups offer an incredibly quick way to send money overseas — some for pick up within minutes.
Plenty of choice. Several trusted companies operate in the money transfer industry, giving you the freedom to shop around for a better deal.
Safe and secure. Providers like Western Union and MoneyGram offer safe, reliable international transfers.
Convenient. Picking up cash from a transfer agent makes it simple and convenient for your recipient to access the funds you send.
Transfer fees. You'll often pay more for a cash pickup over a transfer deposited into your recipient's bank account. Confirm the fees you face before handing over your cash.
Weak exchange rates. Exchange rates on cash transfers can be weaker than those you'd receive from an online money transfer specialist — and even a small difference in rates can mean a lot less money received by friends and family. Compare the exchange rate you're offered against the mid-market rate before making your decision.
Untrustworthy providers. Compare reputable providers to avoid issues with order and delivery.
Risk of theft. In some parts of the world, carrying cash requires precautions to minimise risk of theft.
Tips for picking up money in person
No matter where you are in the world, picking up cash from a transfer agent can be dangerous. Stay on your toes with five easy tips:
Avoid unsafe areas. Find a location that's safe and convenient.
Call ahead. Confirm an agent’s location and business hours before visiting.
Bring a friend. Carrying money alone can be dangerous. Ask a friend to come along.
Deposit your money immediately. The likelihood of losing your money grows the longer you have it with you, so head straight to the bank after pickup.
Keep your cash hidden. Openly carrying cash could make you a target. Put your money in a purse or wallet before leaving the office.
Marc Terrano is a lead publisher and growth marketer at Finder. He has previously worked at Finder as a publisher for frequent flyer points and home loans, and as a writer, podcast host and content marketer. Marc has a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) from the University of Technology Sydney. He’s passionate about creating honest and simple reviews and comparisons to help everyone get value for money.
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