Western Union on March 20 launched a new top-up program and technology to improve the ease of use of its stored-value services.

"We're working with local partners to basically identify and solve specific customer needs in segments that fall under the segment of 2 billion underserved customers around the world," says Mike Hafer, senior vice president for stored value at Western Union. 

Western Union will make an application programming interface (API) available to partner companies to enable access Western Union's core platform.

"It's an integration layer, but it's also a business model where we take complementary assets from both organizations and combine them," says Hafer.

Western Union is launching Global Share with six initial companies. Access Prepaid Worldwide, a MasterCard subsidiary, will introduce Western Union-branded multicurrency travel cards in multiple countries. With these accounts, travelers can load funds at certain Western Union agent locations. The agreement is part of Western Union's global partnership with MasterCard to make electronic payments and financial services more efficient and accessible for consumers.

Jade Payments, a United Arab Emirates-based payments company, will launch the "WU WALLET," a multi-purpose, multi-currency card account for daily use in the UAE and as a multi-currency card when traveling abroad. Accountholders can use the card for ATM transactions, to send money with Western Union and add funds to the card at certain Western Union Agent locations in the UAE.

In Central America, Western Union and AirPak have introduced co-branded reloadable remittance card accounts that allow receivers of Western Union Money Transfer transactions in Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador to direct part or all of those funds onto a reloadable prepaid card. In Chile, Western Union is partnering with Credencial, a Latin American stored-value processing company based in Buenos Aires, to build a stored-value wallet tied to a prepaid card that will allow users to send and receive money domestically within Chile.

At Advent Financial, the partnership can be used to expand Advent's services, which include tax disbursements to prepaid cards.  The integration layer will allow Advent to offer quicker and easier access to refunds than paper checks. The partnership could also allow Advent to expand the services it offers beyond tax season, Hafer says.

"Western Union has a unique advantage in the marketplace because of their agent force globally and their long-standing money transfer business," says Madeline Aufseeser, a senior analyst at Aite Group. "They have the infrastructure to be able to do it. There are probably few other companies that have that kind of capability, and none of them are as experienced as Western Union."

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