Western Union, Amazon expand reach with payment partnership

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Western Union and Amazon are collaborating to bring the e-commerce giant's services to consumers who may not currently have access to online shopping or those who prefer not to make digital payments.

Amazon customers can pay for products in person at Western Union locations with their local currency or through a payment option on the Amazon checkout page.

The companies, announcing the partnership on the same day as Western Union's third-quarter earnings report, have not indicated exactly when the service will start or in which countries it will initially be available.

Persons using the system will obtain a code and instructions on how to pay for items; the service can also be used for refunds and returns.

"Amazon engaged us because they know we have built a platform in which we are moving transactions in 132 currencies globally, and we do about 32 transactions every second through a network of about 550,000 locations," Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek said in an interview with CNBC.

The partnership helps Western Union because it potentially opens the door to new customers and some white-label service opportunities in the future, Ersek added. "This is exciting for us, in serving our customers with these branded transactions, and allowing Amazon to use our platform to serve their customers."

Ersek estimates that Amazon's reach globally will expand by the "tens of millions" through the Western Union arrangement.

Western Union now has digital capabilities in 50 countries, and traditional money transfer services in more than 200 countries.

Because of Zelle, Venmo and other P2P money transfer options available in the U.S., Western Union saw a slowdown in its domestic business.

"Certain customers like to pick up cash immediately and can do that on their mobile app with Western Union, but the competitors are picking up some of that market," Ersek said. "It's only a small part of our business, at 7 percent of our revenue, and we are more focused on global cross-border, which has been going very well."

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