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  • Kayla Cooley

Using Western Union - Money Transfers

A few weeks ago, I had the unfortunate experience of discovering that my debit card had been virtually “stolen.”

Our semester PECLA group traveled to Salta, Jujuy, and Tucuman together, and during the last few days of the trip, my card was repeatedly declined. I had an online banking app, so I knew for sure that I had enough money for my purchases. So what was up?

Unfortunately my bank is only open Monday-Friday, and this happened on a Saturday. It was also unfortunate timing with a national holiday in the US, so the bank wouldn’t be available to tell me what happened until Tuesday evening.

When I was finally able to call, I had to do many things to verify my identity because I was in a different country for so long. When I finally accessed my account with the banker, she told me that there were overdraft attempts from Spain, of more than $2,000. I only keep about $200 in my checking account at a time, so luckily this was flagged by the bank.

After a lot of discussion, they revealed that my card would remain permanently locked, and that I’d have to receive a new debit card…

One problem: I’m more than 6,500 miles away from my bank.

The distance between me and my bank

In Argentina, I wouldn’t be able to make a bank account because the transfer process between pesos and dollars is really difficult with this specific situation. I still had about 2 months left in my exchange, and only had about $30 (in USD so I couldn’t even use it without exchanging it).

I called my dad and asked him to please pick up my new debit card. At first I thought that maybe he could send it in the mail (even though the mail track record isn’t so good here), but many Argentine people talked me out of it. I then decided that I either had to borrow from my friend until the end of the stay and keep transferring money to her using Venmo (which would suck because she could only take out 2,000 pesos at a time and the bank fee for converting is 600 pesos), transfer money to the school and have them give it to me in cash, or transfer money to my host mom’s bank account and have her give it to me. Not super pleased with any of these options, I asked my friends what they would do and one of them had a solution that was much better. She recommended that I try Western Union- an old timey version of Venmo. I did some research and called my dad asking him if he had heard of it and if there was any place to do this near home. The next day, we planned on using it and picking up my money.

Step 1:

Find a Western Union Location in the US

In Tillamook, where my dad lives, there’s a Western Union in the Safeway, which is really convenient because Tillamook doesn’t usually have anything. He walked in, they made an account for him, he gave them the money, and voila. He claimed it only took him a total of 5 minutes for the entire process, and that with the verification code, I could pick it up in Argentina.

Step 2:

Send the Code to the receiver

Step 3:

Find a location of Western Union in your current city

This was THE WORST part of this entire thing (maybe). I was bopped around all kinds of places trying to find a functioning western union in Cordoba.

#1: No money

#2: Permanently closed

#3: Didn’t have enough money

#4: Had enough money, but had a difficulty… I’ll explain myself below...

The first three locations required SO much walking. It was 90 degrees outside and the sun was very hot. I hadn’t eaten at all that day, and I had already had an archery tournament for 3 hours. I was starving, hot, tired, and I had someplace to be (I was trying to go to the Renaissance fair after I picked up my money). After about 3 hours, I had walked to and tried each of the locations. At the third, the woman at the counter offered more help than the other two locations. She called other locations and asked if they would have enough money for me. Finally she found one, and told me to either bring a copy of my passport, or my passport with me to pick it up. So, I went home to grab my passport and ended up taking a cold shower to prevent heat stroke. From there, being crunched on time and exhausted, I took a taxi to the fourth location, as it would’ve been a 40 minute walk. When I arrived, the man at the counter was extremely rude and unhelpful. He told me also that I had to have BOTH a copy of my passport AND my passport. This was extremely frustrating to me because I already had a copy of my passport at my house, which I had just gone to. If I had known, I could’ve grabbed it. Instead, the man told me he couldn’t make a copy of the passport and that I’d have to walk to the Bus terminal (10 minutes each way) and buy a copy of my passport. So….

Step 4:

Make sure you have your passport and a copy of your passport before you go to the location you’ve found

I walked to the bus station and got my copy. I returned to the Western Union about 30 minutes later, and finally got in line again. After looking at my papers, my code, and my passport, he decided to say “you have two first names (my first and middle name) and only one of them (my actual first name) is listed on the money transfer. I can’t distribute the money without the passport and transfer matching. Extremely hungry (and unable to eat because I had no money), tired, sweaty, and frustrated, I began to cry. I tried to explain to him that I understand that culturally, first and middle names don’t have the same distinction here, but that it wasn’t my first name. He finally agreed to give me the money, but said if I ever wanted to do it again, that both would have to be listed.

After this whole fiasco, I sat down, bought myself two large orders of French Fries, chowed them down, and then got on a bus to the Ren fair.

So now, knowing what I know, I shall re-organize the list:
  1. Find a western union in the US (or country of Origin)

  2. Have somebody transfer money to you using your full name

  3. Have them send you the code

  4. Have your passport and a copy of your passport ready (and the code)

  5. Call the branches of Western Union near you and ask if they are open/have enough money. If you’re in Cordoba, I recommend the one near the Bus station (terminal de omnibus)

  6. Go to the Western Union and present your things (passport, copy, code)

  7. Receive money and eat French fries

Another tip: make sure you have a bag to put the money in. I had a backpack, as well as a small zipped bag. I put the money in the zipped bag and then put the zipped bag in my backpack. I really don’t recommend walking around with it either. Get it to a secure place ASAP.

Hopefully you have better luck with this than I did.

Good luck to everyone. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.


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