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Author Archives: SaveOnSend

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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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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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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Money Transfer: 5 Hacks to Nudge Consumers

Money Transfer LifeHacks

“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”

― Leon Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours

So you built a mobile app for international money transfer, got seed funding, engaged few hundred early adopters, and are now ready to go after those outdated-bureaucratic-price-gouging incumbents. How hard could it be? But a year goes by and your cumulative revenue has barely scratched $100K. The dream of new office digs and sharing success story with schoolmates is getting delayed while investors are starting to be more inquisitive about the timing of “hockey stick”… and it is all because those strange migrants keep clinging to their existing providers.

Well, don’t fret, we have gathered 5 “best practices” for nudging those close-minded consumers to embrace your service. Most of cool FinTech kids are doing this and even some incumbents and banks sample them at times, so it must be perfectly legal and not too immoral… at any rate, it is for consumers’ own good, right?

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Money Transfer to Philippines: Review and Tips

— Posted by SaveOnSend to Money transfer from USA to Philippines, Western Union, Xoom   |   54 Comments

Are you sending money from USA to Philippines? Want to get the most pesos for your dollars or receive most dollars in Philippines? Not sure which provider is the best, cheapest or fastest? Should your funds be received in pesos or dollars? YOU came to the right place! We will cover all most important topics:

  1. Money Transfer to Philippines: current state and key trends

  2. Pesos to dollar exchange rates and timing

  3. Top money transfer providers

  4. Receiving money transfer in pesos or dollars

  5. Sending larger money transfer amounts

  6. Choosing the best receiving method

  7. Finding the best way to send money

Please note this post is specific to Philippines. If you are looking for general knowledge of how to best send money, please review this other SaveOnSend blog post first.

Before we get started… Great news if you are a consumer sending money from USA to Philippines: it is currently one of the most competitive corridors from USA, attracting more providers and larger investments than many other destinations. You are in luck with variety of choices and lavish promotions which don’t exist for some other destinations. Continue Reading

Money Transfer to China: Review and Tips

— Posted by SaveOnSend to Money transfer from USA to China   |   8 Comments

Are you sending money from USA to China? Want to get the most yuan for your dollars or receive most dollars in China? Not sure which provider is the best, cheapest or fastest? Should your funds be received in renminbi or dollars? YOU came to the right place! We will cover all most important topics:

  1. Current state and key trends for sending money from USA to China

  2. Yuan to dollar exchange rates and timing

  3. Top money transfer providers

  4. Receiving in renminbi or dollars

  5. Finding fastest and cheapest vs. better and best money transmitters

Please note this post is specific to China. If you are looking for general knowledge of how to best send money, please review this SaveOnSend blog post first.

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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, Nov 2017

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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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Xoom Money Transfer: The Disruptor That Wasn’t

Xoom…. think Western Union without the excessive fees…

TechCrunch, Sep 28, 2007

Xoom’s 15-year history is full of missed opportunities and second chances. The child of so-called “PayPal Mafia” and protege of Sequoia Capital, Xoom was founded in 2001 to disrupt cross-border remittances. At that point, Western Union already had a website where customers could initiate and track money transfers, but it seemed clunky and wasn’t attracting much usage. The shift of remittances online was expected imminently, so creating an online-only provider with a better user experience was a no-brainer.

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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, Nov 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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