The growing debt crisis in Greece has created a worsening humanitarian crisis. Stories of cash-strapped pensioners waiting on long lines in the heat to withdraw the 60 euros allotted to them per day so they can support their entire clan. Elderly rummaging through left-over produce from discarded waste from the “laiki” or open air community markets. Others who have no means of paying for needed life maintaining medications. The stories abound. The situation has created the need to wire money quickly and efficiently perhaps for the first time ever for Diaspora Greeks.
Many Hellenes abroad, naturally concerned about family and friends and the entire cash-strapped nation as a whole, have resorted to using several different methods for bringing cash to the hands of relatives. A Consumer Reports article cited that close to 6 million households in the U.S. send billions of dollars abroad. While Latinos have been the ones who predominantly comprise the majority of transactions, making the practice a part of their weekly routine, Greek Americans and Hellenes abroad have resorted to sending money back to their relatives for the first time in their lives.
“For the first time in 50 years, my family is asking for help,” said Alexander, 62, a Greek immigrant who manages Athena Restaurant in Chicago’s Greek Town neighborhood. “They were saying, ‘We’re stuck. We can’t pay our bills.” (usatoday.com)
For those who are undergoing the experience for the first time, here is a list of the most common cash transfer services to get cash into the hands of those back in the motherland:
- Cash to cash. Walk-in money-transfer centers, such as those operated by Western Union, MoneyGram, and Ria, handle most transfers from the U.S., typically on a cash-to-cash basis. You hand over cash, which is converted to the currency of the destination country and picked up by the recipient, or in some countries delivered to him or her.
- Bank accounts. Some services let you take money from your bank account and deliver it to your recipient’s bank. You often can arrange these transfers online or by phone by providing the account and routing numbers for both the sending and receiving banks. If only one of you has an account, you can use it for part of the transaction, whether it’s to fund the transfer or receive the money. However, if a third-party sender needs to access your account to send money, it could slow down the process.
You also can use a bank wire transfer to move money from one account to another, but this method often has high fees. Bank of America charges $45, and there can be additional fees from the receiving bank. So wire transfers are best used to send large amounts that exceed the daily or monthly limits imposed by other types of money-transfer services; such limits are typically around $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the service and where the money is going.
- Credit and debit cards. For some services, such as Western Union and MoneyGram, using a debit or credit card can speed up the time it takes to send the money, compared with using a bank. But using either may cost you more than paying with cash or a bank account, and you may face an extra credit-card fee from your issuer, depending on whether the transaction is processed as a purchase or cash advance. Some services, including MoneyGram, let you send money to a recipient’s credit card.
- Prepaid debit cards. Some services send funds via a prepaid debit card that your recipient can use for cash withdrawals and, in some cases, purchases. The benefit is that you can replenish the card in the U.S., using cash, a checking account, debit or credit card, or direct deposit—and the money can be available within minutes. But fees can make this an expensive option.
- Cell phones. You can use your smart phone’s browser to access a money-transfer service’s website, in the same way you would use an Internet-enabled computer. Beyond that, there are several new technologies. One is a free PayPal downloadable app for the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. It lets you text money from your PayPal account using a recipient’s phone number or e-mail address. Recipients need a free PayPal account to access the money.
Another is Western Union’s mobile money-transfer program that lets you transfer money directly to the mobile-phone wallets of cell-phone users. The mobile wallets can be used to make purchases, pay bills, and get cash, turning the mobile phone into an electronic debit card.
- Most recently, as of today July 2nd, Facebook has instigated a “Send Money” feature. This is from an article on NakedSecurity.com:As of Tuesday, Facebook has switched on person-to-person (P2P) payments for users in the US to instantly message money to friends.
David Marcus, former president of PayPal and currently Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products, said on his Facebook page that it’s easy and safe:
We're happy to announce that Messenger person-to-person payments are now available to everyone in the U.S.! Add your Debit Card and pay anyone on Messenger in a few taps. Money goes straight from your checking account to the recipient's checking account. Easy and safe. As always, give it a try and let us know how we can make even better for you!
Here’s how it works:
- Start a message with a friend
- Tap the $ icon and enter the amount you want to send
- Tap Pay in the top right and add your debit card to send money
To receive money:
- Open the conversation from your friend
- Tap Add Card in the message and add your debit card to accept money for the first time
As Facebook said when it first announced in March, using the service requires adding a Visa or MasterCard debit card issued by a US bank to your Messenger account when you first send or receive money.
Facebook has reportedly said that it’s opted to avoid making the new service compatible with credit cards, so as to reduce fraud and avoid the exorbitant fees that might turn off users from using the service.
P2P payment service Venmo, for example, charges a 3% fee per payment for credit cards and non-major debit cards, to cover processing costs.
After you’ve added a debit card to your Messenger account, you can also create for additional security the next time you send money.
Funds may take one to three business days to become available after they’re sent, depending on the bank involved, just as it does with other deposits.
Messenger P2P payments are available on Android, iOS, and desktop operating systems.
Facebook promises that it’s lovingly swaddled our payments and card details in secure systems with encrypted connections between users and itself with “layers of software and hardware protection that meet the highest industry standards.”
The company says that its payment systems are kept in a secure environment, separate from other parts of the Facebook network, and monitored by a team of anti-fraud specialists keeping an eye out for suspicious purchase activity.
“Trust us!” Facebook says, pointing out that it’s been processing transactions for game players and advertisers since 2007 and at this point is processing over 1 million transactions daily.
- Try some of the other internet-enabled cash services such as Xoom (but not for long as it too has been bought up by PayPal,) Google Wallet, Square Cash, Currency Fair (for those in Australia).
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