Western Union

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Western Union

legal form Corporation
ISIN US9598021098
founding 1851
Seat Meridian , Colorado , United States
United StatesUnited States 
management Hikmet Ersek (CEO)
Number of employees 12,000 (2018)
sales 5,573,000,000 US dollars (2018)
Branch Financial services
Website www.westernunion.com
As of December 31, 2018

Western Union counter at Munich Central Station

Western Union is a US provider of global cash transfers. Among other things, it offers the possibility to quickly transfer money around the globe, pay bills and purchase money orders. This transfer is often used by migrant workers to send money to relatives in their countries of origin. Western Union is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the S&P 500 Index .


Western Union was founded in Rochester in 1851 by Hiram Sibley (1807-1888) as The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company .

In 1856 it changed its name to Western Union Telegraph Company (after taking over some of its competitors) to clarify the coast-to-coast connection of telegraph lines .

Western Union completed the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861. In 1865 she founded the Russian American Telegraph in an attempt to connect America and Europe via Alaska and Siberia to Moscow .

In 1869 it introduced the first stock exchange telex and in 1870 a standardized time service. In 1871, Western Union introduced their money transfer service based on their extensive telegraph network. When the telephone replaced the telegraph, the wire transfer business became the company's primary purpose.

When in 1884 the stock market index Dow Jones Transportation Average for the New York Stock Exchange was launched, Western Union was one of the original eleven participating companies.

In 1914, Western Union issued the first consumer credit card; In 1920 they introduced teleprinters to connect their offices. Sung telegrams followed in 1933 , fax traffic between cities in 1935, and commercial radio links between cities in 1943. In 1958 they began offering telex to their customers . In 1964, Western Union introduced the use of transcontinental radio links.

Western Union became America's first telecommunications company in 1974 with its own communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit . These satellites ( Westar 1 to 6 and Westar 6S) transported the data for telegrams and e-mails between the nationwide Western Union branches. They also handled the traffic for their Telex and TWX ( Telex II ) services. The Westar satellite transponders have also been leased to other companies to route video , voice , data and fax transmissions.

In the early 1980s, Western Union began a slow retreat from telecommunications-based assets due to declining profits and rising debt. In view of the deregulation at the time , Western Union began to expand its money transfer business to areas outside the US and redefined itself as "The fastest way to send money worldwide".

In 1994 Western Union was bought by First Financial Management Corporation , which merged with First Data Corporation a year later . On January 26, 2006, First Data Corporation announced the spin-off of Western Union as an independent, publicly traded company.

President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company has been Hikmet Ersek since September 1, 2010; before that it was Christina Gold since September 2006. Gold received payments totaling $ 8.1 million in 2009. In 2009 - the year of a global economic and banking crisis - she earned more than three times as much as in 2007.

In fiscal 2018, Western Union had 12,000 employees and sales of $ 5.573 billion.

Money transfer

The transfer of funds from private to private individuals is the most widely used service from Western Union today. In Germany it is mainly used by Germans with a migration background or migrant workers to send money to their families in their home countries. In 2004, these remittances from Germany amounted to 10 billion US dollars. In an international comparison, Germany is one of the largest remittance markets.

Procedure for Germany

The sender does not need a bank account or credit card for the transaction, but cash in euros. In principle, the sender can send an amount of any amount (in Germany a maximum of 6200 euros). In order to comply with the legal requirements, the sender must present a valid official identification document, i.e. a transfer is only possible with a valid EU identity card or passport (no driver's license, residence permit or identity card from non-EU countries). The sender fills out a submission form at a Western Union location, drops it off at the counter with the money, and shows their ID. Fees vary depending on the destination and the amount sent. With the transfer, the sender receives a so-called Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN), which can be used to track the transaction. When transferring money to some countries, a test question must also be agreed, which the recipient has to answer when he receives the money. To prevent misuse of the service, a separate security check is carried out for certain transfers, depending on the amount and the country of destination. A few seconds later, the money is available to the recipient worldwide for payment. To pay out, the recipient must also provide a valid proof of identity, the name of the sender, the country from which the transmission was made and the amount of the amount, and the amount will then be paid out immediately. It is also important that the recipient's name is absolutely correct and written in Latin letters - but without umlauts - otherwise no payment will be made.


Western Union has been criticized for two main things:

  • Processing fees too high: Western Union (WU) charges processing fees for cash transfers. Its level has been publicly criticized for years - even by the heads of government of the G8 countries. The online campaign platform Avaaz appealed to WU in January 2011 to reduce the fees to a fair level and to take a maximum of 5% of the transferred amount as a fee. The World Bank provided a page on the Internet that criticized this and it allows anyone to find a better supplier because of the high fees. At the G8 summit in L'Aquila in 2009 , the goal was set to reduce processing costs.
  • Exchange rates that deviate from the middle rate or from the usual market exchange rates (the deviation is called spread or exchange rate margin ) - in favor of Western Union and thus to the disadvantage of the customer: Due to the unfavorable exchange rates, he indirectly pays a further fee.

Abuse due to deficiencies in establishing identity

All money transfer services, not just Western Union, enable criminals to get illegally obtained money out of a country quickly - for example to a recipient country where corruption or anomie prevails and in which it is impossible or impossible to find the recipient of the transferred money to identify or recover the transferred money.

Criminals often use money transfer services in their criminal activities, such as online fraud . For example, take criminals from developing countries in a targeted manner with partner seekers in Internet dating sites in contact and build a rain through mail traffic trust on. Then they inform the potential victims that they have got into a difficult situation abroad (illness, account blocked or the like) and ask them to lend them money and send it there via a money transfer service. This so-called advance fraud is called love scam in English , literally "love fraud "; there is no German word for it yet.

Western Union works with regulatory, law enforcement and prevention agencies to address the misuse of money transfer services. In Germany there has been a cooperation with the police crime prevention of the federal states and the federal government (ProPK) since 2005 . In addition, Western Union supports the “electronic suspicious transaction report” pilot project of the federal government's e-government 2.0 initiative. The aim of the initiative is to make administrative processes in German offices less bureaucratic and to report suspicious transactions to the authorities more quickly.

Money laundering and consumer fraud

In January 2017 it became known that the company confessed to American authorities that it had deliberately operated an ineffective anti-money laundering system and aided and abetted “fraud using communications equipment” (wire fraud) . It reached a settlement with the authorities involved, which, among other things, provides for the provision of 586 million US dollars to compensate consumers cheated by Western Union.

In this context, the Lower Saxony LKA pointed out that compensation is not limited to US victims.


In addition to the classic money transfer service, you can also use Western Union to send money abroad online, via the Western Union website, with a Visa or Mastercard credit card. To do this, the sender must register online with Western Union. After the second online transaction, you have to have your ID card checked using the Postident process before you can use the online service. Since 2007, Postbank customers have also been able to send money with Western Union via Postbank online banking from their current account .

In May 2017, the Western Union network for online transactions was already available in 40 countries.

Sales locations

In July 2011, Western Union could be found at 455,000 sales locations worldwide. In December 2018 there were over 500,000. In Germany, the branches of the Reisebank and the Postbank (replaced the former minute service of the Post ) offer their customers the Western Union money transfer with cash payment. Online use ( Western Union direct ) is also possible.

Western Union International Bank was founded in October 2004 and operates in Austria, Germany and Norway. As a sales partner of Western Union, it offers the money transfer service of Western Union in its 44 branches (29 of them in Germany).

Internet precursor

AUTODIN of the US Air Force, 1989

Western Union was involved in the Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN). AUTODIN was used for communication by the American military and was developed in the 1960s. The Defense Message System (DMS) replaced AUTODIN 2000.

One invention that emerged from AUTODIN was Western Union's computer-based service EasyLink . Developed for use in business, it was one of the first systems that non-governmental participants could use to send electronic messages. It also made it possible to send the same message to different recipients as e-mail, fax, mailgram and telex. It also made it possible to receive these formats. The service also allowed users to do their own research using the InfoLink application. EasyLink Services is now a separate company.


Since August 2017, Western Union has been cooperating as a sponsor with the English Premier League club Liverpool FC . Western Union pays £ 5m annually for the company logo on the sleeves of Liverpool players . The sponsorship contract was concluded with a term of 5 years.

Alternative offers

Web links

Commons : Western Union  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Leadership
  2. a b c The Western Union Company Key Figures Over Time. In: finanzen.net. Retrieved April 3, 2019 .
  3. Michelle Chapman: Western Union CEO's Pay More Than Triples in 2009. New York, March 30, 2010, on sandiegouniontribune.com , Source: AP ( Associated Press )
  4. World Bank Report “Global Economic Prospects 2007”
  5. ^ Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com): Half for Western Union | DW | 05/12/2007. Accessed March 8, 2020 (German).
  6. a b Remittance Prices worldwide - making markets more transparent. (German for example: money transfer prices worldwide - we make markets more manageable )
  7. Take part - demand fair fees from Western Union! Retrieved March 8, 2020 .
  8. National and Regional Databases Certified by the World Bank : G8 heads of government and states endorsed the objective of reducing the cost of remittance services by five percentage points in five years at the July 2009 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. The objective was strongly supported by the Global Remittances Working Group created by the World Bank. (accessed January 2011)
  9. International Remittances Conference in Rome on November 9, 2009 ( Memento from August 2, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  10. ^ Western Union Admits Anti-Money Laundering and Consumer Fraud Violations, Forfeits $ 586 Million in Settlement with Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission . U.S. Department of Justice. January 19, 2017 (English).
  11. Western Union compensates victims of fraud . Police of Lower Saxony. 19th January 2018.
  12. Western Union online service now available in 40 countries - onvista. Retrieved December 11, 2017 .
  13. ^ Western Union Reports First Quarter Results 2011 . Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  14. Reach your loved ones around the world. Cash withdrawal. Western Union, December 31, 2018, accessed August 16, 2019 .
  15. Liam Prenderville: Liverpool announce first ever sleeve sponsor deal . In: mirror . August 9, 2017 ( mirror.co.uk [accessed December 11, 2017]).