I want to start a new series that takes a look at several options for moving money to the Pacific Islands. Today, we will start it with Western Union comparing it to the online company known as World Remit.
I have used both of them and they each have their place. When sending just a small amount of money, Western Union is actually better but World Remit is better when sending over $50 normally.
One thing that is important to note is World Remit is only in Fiji and Tonga currently of the Pacific Islands. It is not practical yet for most of the Pacific nations. In that case, using Western Union or Money Gram are your only option.
For the sake of this article, we will assume that we want to spend $300 to Fiji to compare the prices equally.
World Remit : New kid on the block
According to the website, it would cost $9.99 to send $300 and you could pick it up in 10 minutes. They also offer Airtime topup and mobile money. Sending to a mobile money account cost the same fee and gives you the same rate as well.
One of the downsides would that you can only get the money in Suva, Nadi and in Lautoka. This is very limiting as most backpackers do not plan to stay in the cities of the Fijian Islands.
However, if you are passing through a major town, it might be worth picking up some money using World Remit at UAE Exchange.
Western Union : King of the Hill
The easiest way to normally send money to yourself in Fiji (and about every country in the Pacific) is Western Union. They are even in the smallest of towns.
I have got money at the post office in the middle of nowhere before in Kadavu. Speaking of the post office, every postal station is also a Western Union agent. That is handy when traveling.
The downside is that they are cheap to send money. When you send that $300, you get a lower exchange rate and you pay more for the transaction fee.
Money Gram : Easy as Wal-Mart!
Money Gram is good because if you are sending money from the States before coming, a trip to CVS or Wal-Mart will do it. That is something handy for most people.
The good side is, like Western Union, you can find Money Gram agents in about every town. The largest grocery store, MH Supermarket, is one of their partners. Westpac Bank is another one.
The bad side is you can not send money to yourself. You have to have someone else send it to you or send it to a friend in Fiji. The other thing is their online system does not seem to work right most of the time.
ATM : Fees to death
There is also the option to just pull money out of your account using an ATM. I do not know the current fees but I would guess it would about $20 to receive $300 given all the different fees that you would have to pay.
The good news is that they are always on (or at least most of the time) so you do not have to worry about what time they close. Sometimes, going in the middle of the night with no lines or heat is just what the doctor ordered!
The downside is the fees can be really over the top. This is also considering if your bank even likes Fiji. I had a bank that actually did not want me to use my ATM card in Fiji due to crime.
So who is best for sending money to Fiji?
It depends where you are in the country to be honest. If you are close to Suva or Nadi; using World Remit is the best to use. If you are in the middle of Kadavu, Western Union is your only option.
In the end, you just have to find what works for you and do it.