The U.K.'s new MoneyGram Plus card seems at first like a standard loyalty card, but to MoneyGram it is a way to streamline the long and repetitive task of initiating a transfer through an agent.
In the U.K., the ninth market for the MoneyGram Plus program, customers can register for the plastic card at an agent site or online.The MoneyGram Plus card will allow those who use the service on a recurring basis to present the card instead of inputting the same sender and receiver data for each new transfer.
The Plus program also provides access to the user's transaction history, eliminating the need to visit an agent to get a record of past transfers.
"Many customers will come in to an agent and ask if they sent money to a sister the week before because they can't remember," said Tate Hackney, director of global loyalty programs for MoneyGram. "This allows them to look that up, so it's a really fantastic service."
The customer must also provide a government-issued photo ID as part of the verification process. Agents in some markets operate the program through a plastic card, others use a customer PIN.
The card also provides access to a loyalty program. Depending on the market, MoneyGram Plus users qualify for enhanced text messaging or can reach certain transaction volume levels to qualify for gift cards or other prizes.
It's all part of a process for MoneyGram to introduce more consumer-facing features as well as help its busy agents move customers through lines, said Hal Gronfein, vice president of marketing for MoneyGram.
"The program is designed so we can layer in attributes as necessary by market conditions," Gronfein said. "Our loyalty program has matured to the point where a customer can opt in for advanced communications about recent currency valuations or other political situations that would affect when or how they are sending money."
MoneyGram announced its MoneyGram Plus card launch March 1 as part of a celebration in the U.K. with Post Office Limited, via which the 11,500 Post Office branches in the U.K. have operated as MoneyGram agents since 1996. Collectively, the Post Office branches represent MoneyGram's largest network in Western Europe.
By streamlining the process for its users, MoneyGram adds to the incremental steps it has taken to improve transaction speeds. Late last year, MoneyGram initiated the first near real-time money transfers from Europe into Nigeria.
Two months before the Nigerian expansion, MoneyGram introduced its service in China to allow money transfers into customers' Bank of China accounts at any time.
Through all of these efforts, MoneyGram is cautious not to compromise its security for the sake of convenience, Gronfein said.
"Our company is on a general initiative to make sure that we protect the customers' information and the integrity of the transaction," Gronfein said. "We want to make it as easy and seamless as we possibly can within the confines of local laws or regulations to send money. We never take a shortcut."
The U.K. is an ideal location for MoneyGram to launch the new card, as it is home to nearly 8 million immigrants, according to the World Bank.
The biggest diaspora groups moved to the country from India, Poland, Pakistan and the Republic of Ireland. The World Bank data states that in 2014, an estimated $2.5 billion was sent from the UK and $1.8 billion flowed into the country.