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Western Union's smartphone app creates more problems than it solves

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Western Union has millions of users globally and, until now, the main way to send money or make payments was to go to their physicial outlets and fill out paper forms to enable the transactions. During recent visits to send or receive money using Western Union, the service personnel kept urging me to try the app. "It is faster," they said and "you'll save money using the app."

So I installed the WU Mobile app, excited to be able to send and receive money on my terms, without having to line up in a Western Union Agent location.

Setting up the app on my Samsung smartphone was straightforward and quick. I entered basic information, attached a Credit Card to make payments and put a list of payees. I liked the interface and also being able to see the currency conversion on the fly by country plus knowing exactly what I had to pay. My experience went downhill from there.

A One Way App

While you can use the WU Mobile app to send money, you cannot use it to receive or accept payments. The app also only accepts credit cards and not debit cards or PayPal, which limits flexibility (since, being an app, it obviously cannot accept cash).

What seems absurd is that you can set up a payment on the app but still have to go to a Western Union Agent Location in order to make the payment.

Western Union plays this up as a convenience, 'stage your payment, lock in your transfer fee and finalize your payment at a Western Union Agent Location.'

Granted, this cuts down on filling up forms at the WU location, it still feels extremely half-baked and poorly conceived. Not to mention redundant, since once you're at the Western Union Agent, the still need to dig around the details before they can help you.

Glaring and systemic inneficiencies

The worst thing about the WU Mobile app is that it seems to be existing on its own plane which Western Union agents on the phone and in their shops can't seem to access or change information.

I needed to change a payee's name on a transaction I made through the app. The app does not allow you to cancel or alter a completed transaction, so I went to my nearest Western Union store to get the issue fixed.

It seems that Wester Union locations cannot change or alter any transaction that wasn't done at their location, which makes sense. I called support to see if they could either alter the transaction to add the name or, failing that, cancel the transaction and they couldn't do it.

The best option they were able to offer me was a cancellation and refund for the payment made but they kept the surcharge and said it would take seven days to get the funds charged back to my credit card. Sorry, nothing the agent could do about it.

Apps are supposed to make things more efficient and save user's time and money. What I learned using the WU Mobile app is that is it a useful tool if you want to send money using your credit card, which very few people will opt to do.

For any other purpose, the app is a gross distraction and waste of time. It does not expedite payments, it can't handle receiving money and makes it impossible to alter information on receivers making the cancellation of transactions the only way to remedy typos or errors.

Personally, I am uninstalling the WU Mobile App and will just rely on the traditional way of receiving and sending money through their agent locations.

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