Commentary

Companies Offer International Social Cash Transfers

International cash transfers via social media platforms -- and sometimes across different social platforms -- is now a thing, with several companies unveiling new services for remittances, payments, and what are sometimes still quaintly called “wire transfers.”

This week the Wall Street Journal profiled a new company based in Singapore called Fastacash, which partnered with another outfit specializing in cash transfers call Xpress Money Services, to create a system for international payments across different social networks. Fastacash’s system alerts customers that they have received a payment on multiple social networks and messaging apps, including for example Facebook, WhatsApp, and Chinese messaging service WeChat.

Fastacash chairman and CEO Vince Tallent tells the WSJ that the cross-platform capability is just as important as the cross-border aspect: “People don’t use one communication channel; on average, they use five. Our advantage is that we are agnostic.” Users can also request payments from their social contacts via Fastacash.

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Also this week, Western Union launched ConnectSM, a platform that integrated international cash payments with consumer messaging and social media platforms. According to WU, customers can send cash using a debit card, credit card, or bank account, and send the payment to WU retail agents, mobile wallets, or bank accounts, with automatic foreign exchange conversions.

International remittances are a big business, with expatriate workers on course to send around $586 billion to friends, family, or other recipients in their home countries this year, according to figures from the World Bank, with most of this going to low-income countries; in 2014, remittance payments to developing countries alone amounted to $436 billion, up from $334 billion in 2010.

Some of the main international remittance pathways include U.S. to Latin America, Western Europe to Africa and the Middle East, the Persian Gulf to South Asia, and Russia to Central Asia. According to the World Bank, in 2009 remittances from abroad provided a large share of GDP in many poor and middle-income countries including Tajikistan (35.1%), Lebanon (22.4%), Honduras (19.3%), El Salvador (15.7%), Jordan (15.6%), Haiti (15.4%) and Jamaica (13.8%).

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