Business / Industries

Western Union gains ground with Chinese students

By Amy He in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-28 07:13

Chinese students, who account for the largest chunk of international students in US colleges, are increasingly using Western Union solutions for tuition fees and money remittances from home, a top

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company official said.

The United States-based global payments solution provider has teamed up with Chinese online and mobile payment company ChinaPay and China CITIC Bank to provide these services. Western Union saw a 20 percent growth in the number of renminbi transactions by Chinese students in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year, said company officials.

The Colorado-based financial services company announced a partnership with ChinaPay at the end of 2012 to allow Chinese international students to make tuition and education-related payments more easily. It partnered with Beijing-based China CITIC Bank last June as the number of Chinese students studying overseas continued to grow.

Jens Buckler, head of client management at Western Union Business Solutions, which handles cross-border payments, said: "Chinese students are the No 1 population of foreign students attending US universities, so they're a very important group. Up until fairly recently, it was really difficult for them to make tuition payments.

"(Their acceptance) letters say, 'Congratulations, you've been accepted to this university you applied to, now here's a bill you have to go to your local bank and try to pay in a foreign currency', which can be an obstacle for those who only have access to smaller local banks."

Typically, Chinese students who have to make tuition payments to US colleges have to try to make an international transaction at a local bank, where the paperwork can be cumbersome and the currency exchange rates are not the most competitive, Buckler said.

"Individual students are going to walk up to the teller and say they need to pay $10,000, $20,000, $30,000. They're not going to get a really great rate," he said.

The rate that would be offered by Western Union "is going to be the university's rate, rather than the individual's rate, so (the students) have a lot more buying power" and "they're going to achieve a lot more competitive exchange rate there", he said.

Local banks have to partner with large multinational banks for the transaction to go through, and payment details can get lost along the way, making it hard for schools to track payments back to particular students, Buckler said. Multiple fees may often be charged as well, he said.

Western Union has partnered with China CITIC Bank because the bank is popular within Guangdong province, where the company saw "a certain density in need", Buckler said, and students can go into a CITIC Bank location and perform their transactions. For ChinaPay, students can pay online or via mobile apps.

The company works with colleges across the US and is featured as a payment option among those offered to students when they are accepted, Buckler said.

"We're a 125-year-old public company and so when (students are) possibly making the largest transaction they've made yet in their lifetime, they can have a good feeling that the transaction is going to go through efficiently," he said.

"We're solving two issues here: one is with the student, who is on their own, making a large transaction, and the other is with the school, that benefits from foreign student attendance in a number of ways. We're trying to do right by both," he said.

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