How to wire money

Getting bailed out of trouble on the road in 10 minutes flat (with the help of a friend with deep pockets)

There are Western Union offices throughout Europe—sometimes doubleing as tobacconists, as this one in Italy.
There are Western Union offices throughout Europe—sometimes doubling as tobacconists, as this one in Italy.

Wiring cash is a last-ditch, need-bail-money sort of thing because for every dollar your understanding uncle wires you, he flushes 10 to 35 cents down the toilet.

That's right. These famed money wiring services—Western Union and MoneyGram—charge rates that would make your local low-level Mafia loan shark proud. Even the usurious rates of a credit card cash advance are better than this.

Still, for when you need a big chunk of change in a big hurry—say you got mugged (rare in Europe) and your moneybelt was stolen with all your cash, traveler's checks, and credit cards—wiring money can save the day.

Just find the nearest local office (usually a representative, could be a travel agent, change bureau, or even the corner bar) for whichever service your benefactor is going to use, bring a photo ID, and wait for the cash to come rolling in.

Also, a little birdie told me that it’s the only way to send money to the offshore travel agents who can book you tickets and buy visas to visit Cuba, but we'll save that for another time and another Web site.

Resources for wiring money

Western Union ( - The old standby of Western Union is a bit costlier than using MoneyGram (below), but the sender can do Western Union over the phone (800-CALL-CASH, which is 800-225-5227) or on-line (, bailing you out from the comfort of his own home and sending the quick cash to offices in any of 190 countries. If the person sending the money uses the phone or internet service, he or she can pay by Visa, MasterCard, or debit card; if he or she goes in person to a Western Union agency to send the money, payment is by cash or debit card only. Western Union fees to send up to $100: from an agent location $15; Internet $20; phone $25. Fees to send $101–$999: agent location: $22–$68, Internet $25–$81, phone $33–$85.

Travelers Express/MoneyGram ( - Money zips over the wires to offices in 155 countries worldwide in about ten minutes, for the privilege of which the sender, standing at his local MoneyGram branch office, gets to pay a fee of $11–$40 (depending on the amount sent). You may send up to $10,000 at a time in person, $899.99 if you use the Internet. You can pay in cash, Visa, or MasterCard only; if you send online you can do an ACH debit of your bank account as well. Plus the sender gets to include for free a 10-word message that arrives along with the funds, perhaps something along the lines of "When you get home I'm gonna tear you a new..." ( - A newer entrant the the money-transfer game, all online. You can send up to $2,999 at a time for instant pickup at tens of thousands of locations around the globe (though note that cash pickup is available only in some countries; for others, you may only wire funds into an existing bank account).

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in November 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.