The new Western Union Digital Banking service seems to need some fine-tuning. And it may be of interest mainly to customers already using Western Union money transfers
Western Union has just announced the availability on the Polish market, as one of the first in the world (after Romania, Germany and Italy), of bank accounts with a mobile application and a Visa payment card. The account can be opened remotely by verifying one's identity through the app by either taking a photo of an identity card or making a video call to an advisor. However, if anyone is hoping that another formidable competitor has just sprouted up for the Polish players, then with Western Union's current offering, there is probably no chance of that happening. Only Western Union's existing customers sending money abroad are likely to be interested in it. But one step at a time.
As far as the process of activating the app and setting up an account is concerned, it does not seem to have been perfected yet. Firstly, not all elements of the process have been polonised. For example, the email or SMS messages with which the verification codes for confirming the email address and phone number are received remain in English. Secondly, some of the instructions displayed during the activation of the app may be incomprehensible to Poles, such as the 'street number suffix' (this refers to the letter added to the building number when there are several of them on one lot).
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Finally, the process seems overly complicated to me. First of all, the customer is required to scan his or her ID card, and in my case, the system read most of the data from the document incorrectly, so I had to amend it. The app then asked the customer to bring the ID close to the smartphone in order to download all this data again via an NFC connection. In the end, I was not able to open an account, even though I already had an electronic proof. The app displayed a message that it had failed to download the data and I should try again later. And so on and so forth. The press office of the WU in Poland reported that the company is aware of these shortcomings and is working on eliminating them. Currently, it recommends using the second form of service activation, i.e. via video-verification.
However, as far as the price list is concerned, only the November 2021 document is available on the website and not all the information in it is in line with WU's declarations on the homepage of the new service. According to the price list, WU offers two plans - a free Standard account and a Premium one costing PLN 9.99 per month. Within each of these plans, the customer receives a main account in zlotys and an additional account in euros (the homepage only mentions one account). Premium plan holders can also choose five additional currency accounts.
Savings accounts can be linked to the main account, one in the Standard plan and four in the Premium plan. According to the price list, the money in these accounts bears an interest rate of 1.5 per cent (Standard) or 3 per cent (Premium). However, on the homepage, WU declares that the promotional interest rate is 2 per cent on the Standard account up to a limit of PLN 15,000 and 6 per cent on the Premium account up to an amount of PLN 37,500 respectively, but only until the end of March this year, so barely a few weeks.
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A Visa debit card, virtual and plastic, can be linked to the account. Issuing the latter costs PLN 15 in the case of the standard plan. Premium plan users order the card free of charge. Use of the card is free, but only as a promotion. It is not known how long it will last and how much you will have to pay for using the card after it ends.
ATM withdrawals are only free of charge in the euro and within the euro area. In other cases, e.g. in Poland, such a transaction costs PLN 3. In the standard plan, one withdrawal per month, and in the case of Premium, two withdrawals can be made free of charge. The currency spread for card transactions is between 1 and 2 per cent, depending on the tariff plan held.
The pricing of other services is interesting. For example, among the methods of topping up the account, a transaction from another bank's payment card is listed first. Each such Western Union top-up is charged at PLN 9.49 (standard account) or PLN 4.49 (Premium). An incoming SEPA transfer is free of charge. Elixir transfers are not mentioned in the price list because Western Union Digital Banking does not have Polish IBAN numbers.
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Western Union e-banking holders also have access to the most important service Western Union has been known for to date, namely money transfers. Standard account holders can make 10 remittances free of charge to other WU e-banking users and 10 to others. Premium account holders have 20 remittances included in the price. Outside the package, they cost PLN 2 per remittance.
As for other fees, it is still worth noting the one on inactivity. If the customer does not make any transactions for a year, Western Union will charge PLN 5 for each consecutive month of inactivity. Provided, of course, that there are funds in any of the accounts. WU, on the Western Union Digital Banking service page, does not write about the possibility of adding cards to digital wallets. On the other hand, the bank's cards are listed on Google's website as being compatible with Google Pay. There is no analogous information on the Apple Pay page.
The Western Union Digital Banking service is offered by WU International Bank, headquartered in Vienna and under the supervision of the Austrian authorities.