MasterCard and Western Union have launched an international payments service that allows small to medium sized U.S. businesses to execute cross border transactions.

Western Union Business Solutions, Western Union's business payments unit, will provide the direct foreign exchange capability to companies that use the MasterCard Business Network, which offers technology to small and medium sized businesses.

"These are payments that smaller businesses typically don't think a lot about and don't have a lot of experience with," says Raj Agrawal, president of Western Union Business Services.

U.S.-based companies will access a dedicated online foreign payments portal, which will allow users to send international payments in more than 135 currencies directly from their bank account to the foreign recipient's bank account from a computer, tablet or mobile phone. The service will also provide real-time quotes and foreign exchange pricing.

Western Union may extend the service to businesses based in other countries. "Western Union has operations in more than 200 countries and the Business Solutions [division] has operations in more than 30 countries. We will look for opportunities to expand where it makes sense," Agrawal says.

The service is designed for all businesses, but there should be a particular need among U.S. companies that ship products to other countries and receive payments online, Agrawal says.

The partnership will add further services and technology, Agrawal says. "Over time I would see it expanding to merchants with special payment needs. Many [merchants] have a need to do risk management, for example," he says.

MasterCard and Western Union have also partnered to provide prepaid services and remittance programs, with a focus on emerging markets. The new cross-border payment service is a separate product, with the partnership focused on Western Union Business Services, Agrawal says.

Visa is also focusing on mobile money services to grow share in developing economies.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the nature of MasterCard Business Network's offering. It's a free service.

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