Every year, billions of dollars are transferred to various countries – particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – using remittance services. According to the United Nations, over 231 million people lived outside the country of their birth in 2013, and the World Bank reported that migrants from developing countries sent home $414 billion during the same year. This amount is expected to rise to $540 billion by 2016.
For many years, foreign workers that wanted to send funds back to their families had little choice but to resort to going to banks, post offices, or a limited number of remittance service providers located in physical office buildings. Today, there are numerous options available to anyone who wants to send money anywhere in the world, in person or online.
What are the world’s top money transfer service providers? Here are 12 of the most popular and up-and-coming online payment services, in no particular order:
PayPal – mainly associated with providing payments for its parent company, eBay – was originally founded in 1998 as a provider of fund transfers for Palm Pilot users. Therefore, it seems logical that the company has branched out into the world of online remittance. PayPal makes it very easy to send money to someone using either the recipient’s email address or mobile phone number. It offers the ability to transfer funds to almost anyone in the world with competitive service fees.
What originally began in 1851 as a telegraph company has become perhaps one of the best-known name brand names for money transfer. In addition to offering services over traditional service counters, Western Union also lets customers transfer funds by telephone, mobile phone, online banking, or through their website. Their mobile phone option allows transfers to mobile wallets to emerging markets, including Kenya’s M-Pesa.
Amazon, a well-known eCommerce company that started as an online bookstore, offers Amazon Payments to leverage its already large customer base and offer online and mobile payment services for online retailers. Its solution bears a strong resemblance to PayPal, as Amazon Payments also allows users to pay without having to re-enter payment and shipping information already stored by Amazon. Currently, Amazon Payments is only available in the US, the UK, India, and Germany.
Google’s mobile payment solution, Google Wallet, allows users to send or request money via Gmail. Any money received and stored in the Google Wallet can be spent immediately or withdrawn from an ATM using the Google Wallet card. The funds can also be spent by using an Android phone to tap and pay at a participating store, spent online, transferred to the owner’s bank account or to someone else.
MoneyGram International’s history dates back to 1940, when it began with money order processing and electronic payments. MoneyGram is now the world’s second-largest money transfer company with over 347,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries. In Canada, MoneyGram has partnered with Canada Post to provide money transfer and bill payment services from Canadian postal outlets.
Beginning operation in 2000, Hyperwallet is a Canadian online global money transfer service company based in Vancouver. It offers international money transfers from Canada to 28 countries and email money transfers to Canadian and US recipients as well as foreign exchange, mass business payments, and mobile airtime transfer. Hyperwallet is also a trusted payment provider to over 200 credit unions since 2000, providing members with easy access to money transfer services through their credit union accounts.
WorldRemit was created in 2010 in the UK when its founder sought to shake up the remittance industry by improving service to customers by providing more convenient options for money transfer along with lower fees. It is an online money transfer service available to senders in 50 countries and offers transfers to over 110 destinations across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.
Xoom, founded in 2001, is an online international money transfer service based in San Francisco that allows users to send money to friends and family in 30 countries from the US using their computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Recipients can receive funds by traditional bank transfer, electronically, or through select money transfer partners. The company began being traded publicly in early 2013.
Venmo began in 2009 as a startup created by two students at the University of Pennsylvania to build PayPal alternative that would be more appealing to the younger market. They were bought by Braintree in 2012, which was then acquired by eBay last year. Venmo combines a basic social media platform along with an easy-to-use interface. Currently, this service is only available in the US.
TransferWise, another UK-based online remittance company, was founded in 2011 by two Estonian ex-patriates living and working in the UK. It is vying to be a major disruptive force in the British remittance industry by charging considerably lower fees than most major remittance companies. TransferWise’s service is currently available in Western Europe, the US, and India.
S-Money, a new money transfer service from French banking group Group BPCE, was launched on Twitter in mid-October that allows French Twitter users to send money to each other using tweets. Some have expressed concerns about the public nature of transactions, since they are done using normal tweets. However, no sensitive information is ever disclosed through Twitter, so the concern would lie more with the public being able to read the transactions that have occurred. Since this is relatively similar to Venmo, this may not be a problem for those who choose to use this service.
Rumors have been circulating on the Internet since early October that a new person-to-person money transfer feature will be added to Facebook Messenger. However, Canadian bank RBC Royal Bank has already rolled out a service using Facebook. Rather than using Facebook directly, RBC Royal Bank integrates with the social media platform using its own apps, allowing users to send funds to Facebook friends, who will then be notified by Messenger.
UPDATE: On March 17, 2015, Facebook announced that is indeed launching a payment service using its Messenger app, starting with the U.S.
In a blog post written earlier this year by World Bank economist Nikola Spatafora, foreign workers transferred more than $410 billion in 2013 to their home countries, more than three times the amount of official development assistance sent to those same nations. Suffice it to say that the remittance industry plays a vital role in the global economy, as the funds sent to families in emerging markets is then spent in those local economies, supporting local merchants and businesses. Thanks to the ingenuity of innovative entrepreneurs and developers, there are now more affordable and efficient options for moving money around the world than ever before.
Competition in this space continues to grow with new and existing companies looking to gain greater market share. As a result, the need for anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) compliance, required by law for all remittance companies, will also increase. GlobalGateway, Trulioo’s online identity verification service, can help remittance companies keep up with the ever-evolving regulatory requirements of the industry.
What do you think the next innovation in remittance will be?