Western Union expands money transfer services from the U.S. to Cuba
The restrictive measure in force since November 2020 has been lifted in parts.
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Western Union recently announced the expansion of its pilot program that provides money transfer services to Cuba.
The initial testing phase of the service, announced on Jan. 4, included shipping from a select group of U.S. retailers in the Miami metropolitan area.
In addition to making its services available through WesternUnion.com digital delivery and the Western Union mobile app, the pilot program is currently available in more than 4,400 retail stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
The list of current U.S. retail locations participating in the pilot program can be found here.
A strategic alliance
Currently, people who need it can send money from the U.S. to recipients who have bank and debit card accounts at the following banks in Cuba: Banco Popular de Ahorro, Banco Metropolitano S.A., and Bank of Credit and Commerce (Bandec).
To process transactions to Cuba, Western Union signed an agreement with Orbit S.A., a government company created last year that received authorization from the Central Bank of Cuba in February 2022 to act as a non-bank financial institution and serve as a processor of transactions between Western Union and the island banks.
The Cuban firm, which managed remittances to the country from Europe and Canada in 2022, will expand its remittance operations to Cuba from the U.S. — a service that had been suspended since 2020 following a decision by the Trump Administration. The argument at the time was that the existing operators at that time were under the control of the Cuban army.
How will it work?
- Funds can only be received on bank accounts and debit cards
- Initial service is limited to consumer money transfers only
- U.S. customers can send up to $2,000 per transaction by presenting a valid government-issued ID
- Money will be available for same-day receipt if sent before 12:00 PM ET. Remittances sent after 12:00 PM ET will be available the next business day.
- The service is available to recipients with an Identity Card ID
- Clients cannot send funds to their own MLC bank accounts/debit cards in Cuba
- Deposits are only available in U.S. dollars, which has the same equivalence as the Cuban Freely Convertible Currency (MLC).
Orbit S.A. became the first non-military company to be authorized by the island's government to take over the remittance operation, a decision that the Biden government indicated as necessary.
The announcement by Western Union, which plans to expand the program even further this year, is excellent news for Cuban families who benefit from remittances from relatives living in the U.S.
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