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Author Archives: SaveOnSend

Banks And Money Transfer: Sleeping Giants?

Caravan as a symbol of banks for remittances

“The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

– Arab Proverb

The premise of money transfer startups’ PR pitch revolves around a relatively intuitive notion when it comes to the role of banks: they are sleeping giants with bureaucratic culture, awful customer service and backward digital capabilities, so it is just a matter of few years before banks will be disrupted out of cross-border money transfers, also known as “remittances.” Paradoxically, this premise is not wrong. Moreover, most banks don’t view money transfers as strategic business or care which flavor-of-the-month startup is bragging about their imminent disruption. However, while some of those remittance startups would disappear in few years, the leading role of banks in this space will remain forever. How could that be?

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Welcome to the SaveOnSend Blog

— Posted by SaveOnSend to Welcome   |   15 Comments

Blog Cover Page with 2016 data

What is the cheapest way to send money to India? What is the difference between Xoom and TransferWise’s models? How to transfer money online to Mexico? Do startups like Remitly or WorldRemit have a chance to gain a sizable market share? What is the fastest provider to send money to Philippines? What are the different ways money transfer providers mislead consumers? Why does MoneyGram valuation is much lower than other players? Why should migrants transfer money legally and not via hawala when sending money to China? Will Bitcoin/blockchain destroy Western Union? Why some nationalities use cash agents while others prefer online? Is banks‘ remittance business really being disrupted? What are the differences in operating models across x-border money transfer businesses?…

If these and other such questions seem interesting to you, you have come to the right place. Thank you for visiting our blog! First, let’s clarify who this blog is for, then why we started it, and what to expect.

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Money Transfer Startups: race against time?

Money transfer startups - Race against time

“High fees, large incumbents, and a $400B+ market are under attack by a slew of remittance startups.”

– CB Insights, February 26, 2015

The best feature of being a startup during a bubble is TIME. Investors, usually impatient folks, are doing much better and encouraging startups to focus on growth rather than boring corporate stuff like “revenues” or, even worse, “profits.” Why bother with positive cash flows when investors are stuffed with money and more are available with a quick WhatsApp message? This is especially true when considering such seemingly easy and huge market as international remittances: $0.6T in size, ruled by one, hopefully, incompetent, colossus:

Money Transfer Providers X-border Volume Comparison for Previous 12 Months 2017 Q3

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TransferWise: Rebel, What is Your Cause?

TransferWise Money Transfer: billboard

Tale of Two TransferWises

“Revolution is a tough business. You can‘t make it wearing white gloves and with clean hands”

– Lenin

TransferWise’s origins are usually described like this. Entrepreneur from Estonia, who was the first Skype employee, got tired of paying huge fees to banks for transferring money from UK to Estonia. So he came up with a brilliant idea of matching remittance senders and receivers in the same country. TransferWise was launched with an office sauna and employees who don’t mind getting undressed to take on banks, evil entities with no value for consumers. The startup got funding from crème de la crème of investors like Peter Thiel, Richard Branson, Ben Horowitz, becoming the only “unicorn” in consumer cross-border transfers with $1.6B valuation:

Remittance providers - Latest Market Cap or Valuation, Dec 24 2017

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International Money Transfer Services: Lean and Hungry

International Money Transfer Services

Do remittance startups have fundamentally different cost structure vs. incumbents? What are the primary customer acquisition channels for money transmitters? What can explain massively higher relative valuations of remittance startups vs. established providers? If you are interested in such questions, this article is for YOU.

We will cover the following topics:

  • Customers

  • Operating models

  • Acquisition channels

  • Valuations

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MoneyGram: whack-a-mole of money transfers?


“…to date MoneyGram has refused to open a meaningful dialogue with us, leaving us no choice but to make this proposal public…”

– Euronet CEO’s letter to employees, December 13, 2007

MoneyGram and Western Union are usually mentioned in the same breath as “monopolies” of international money transfers. But when considering MoneyGram’s valuation in late 2016, it was not only tiny in comparison to Western Union’s but with a revenue multiple far below of any competitor:

Remittance providers - Latest Market Cap or Valuation, Dec 24 2017

At that point, MoneyGram was valued at less than six months of its revenue. Rather than a fluke, since IPO in 2004, MoneyGram had a four-year streak of being nearly worthless and dropping again in value to $350 million by October 2016:


There was a clear disconnect between MoneyGram’s image as a slightly smaller Western Union sibling and a recurring hopeless view from investors. Was that the curse of “silver medal”?

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Does Bitcoin/Blockchain make sense for international money transfers?

Bitcoin money transfer: competing with fast elephant


“I think we will know when bitcoin has reached prime time when it is transferring more value each day than Western Union or Money Gram…”

Roger Ver, November 2013

Bitcoin money transfer is usually discussed in either sensational or downright misleading way. There is a significant category of Bitcoin or, currently more popular, blockchain stakeholders and observers who seem to be completely vested in this innovative product’s awesome potential and are unable to entertain a deviating opinion. This very smart and capable, but, unfortunately, close-minded group believes that Bitcoin cancels a need for regulation and would soon destroy Visa, Western Union and “banks.” Articles written for and by such audience are easy to find, and we will not link to them to avoid enabling such either outrageously ignorant or deceptive opinions.

Rational view of Bitcoin/Blockchain for sending money

In this context, we are always grateful to find discussion about Bitcoin/Blockchain for remittances which attempts to be more objective. Here are some examples: Bootstrappers guide to bitcoin remittances, Tackling bitcoin price swings OR

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TRANSFAST, Worldwide Money Transfer Company Background & Industry View

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

– Warren Buffett

Transfast presents a particularly interesting case among providers of international persontoperson remittances. While we often read about startups or bitcoin taking on the industry’s largest players, Western Union and MoneyGram, Transfast is unique in being an independent, private equitybacked company that is inbetween those extremes. Transfast straddles both offline and online worlds across the globe, while being nimble enough to maintain an entrepreneurial / startup culture. Since 2008, Transfast has grown ten times, expanding from a narrow focus of sending money between the U.S. and Latin American corridors to a truly global provider. Their story and insights on the industry are quite unique and informative.

This blog is specific to Transfast – if you are looking for more general knowledge on the best ways to transfer money, check other SaveOnSend blog posts.

We will cover questions like:

  • Should I use Transfast to transfer money from the U.S. to India, Philippines, Mexico or China?

  • How do Transfast’s fees and exchange rates compare with other money transfer companies?

  • How is Transfast different vs. other online remittance providers?

We will structure this post as follows:

1. Transfast’s history in money transfer

2. Transfast’s pricing: fees + FX markup (exchange rate)

3. Whether or not you should use Transfast for money transfer

4. Transfast CEO’s views on the money transfer industry and current trends

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Send Money to Mexico: Cheap and Fast, Review and Tips

— Posted by SaveOnSend to Money transfer from USA to Mexico   |   3 Comments

Mexico money transfer from USA: #1 global corridor

Are you Mexican-Chicano sending money from USA to Mexico? Want to get the most pesos for your dollars? Not sure how to send money online and which provider is the best, cheapest or fastest? YOU came to the right place! We will cover all most important topics:

  1. Sending money to Mexico: key trends

  2. Pesos to dollar exchange rates and timing

  3. Top providers for sending money to Mexico

  4. The best way to send money to Mexico for you

Please note this post is specific to Mexico. If you are looking for general knowledge of how to best send money, please review this other SaveOnSend blog post first. And if you only have 30 seconds, just find the best provider with SaveOnSend app.

Before we get started… Great news if you are a consumer sending money from USA to Mexico: it is currently one of the most competitive corridors from USA, attracting more providers and larger investments than many other destinations. Continue Reading

Western Union: permanent leader of international money transfer?

Western Union gorilla

“… long, sorry decline has left the 140-year-old company a shell of its former self. Today, it is fighting for its very survival. Western Union fell victim to technological advances…”

Associated Press, 1991

Reading current reporting about Western Union’s role in international remittances could make us think that the company has been a successful monopoly of this space forever, but, now, with the arrival of some disruptive innovation (“P2P”, “Bitcoin-blockchain”, “Social”, “Mobile”…), there is a real danger of its imminent demise. In reality, Western Union’s subsidiary, Western Union Financial Services Inc., began providing international money transfers in mid 80s when deregulation allowed a previously domestic service to expand internationally. By mid 90s, Western Union’s coverage included major remittance destinations like China. In those first ten years of its money transfer business, Western Union’s parent (renamed into New Valley in 1991) had plenty of upheavals going near or into a bankruptcy. After changing hands few times, the money transfer subsidiary was resurrected as an independent entity in 2006. Western Union’s stock performance has been highly volatile ever since with 20% decline in price since IPO, dwarfed by the overall market:

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