International money transfers hurt

I have contacts and business associates located literally all over the globe. Some of them occasionally pay me money. Receiving money from abroad is not easy. How can this still be the case in the year 2008 when soon every living soul have mobile phones and we have global mobile broadband just around the corner?

One dollar billThe citizens of US, often called Americans, are too fond of their silly checks and while they often can be squeezed to wire money they tend to not do it. I believe SWIFT/IBAN is a European invention so I suspect the US banks resist only because of that – and of course because the use of checks seems so deeply rooted in the American soil. Cashing in a 4000USD check cost me well over 200USD not very many moons ago. And then I had to go through many hoops at the bank, standing in lines, filling out forms, waiting for clerks not understanding at all what to do but explaining to me that they don’t have to cash it at all so I should better be grateful they do and yes please sign here that you’ll be forced to pay back in case we’ll find out in a hundred years that the check bounces. In Sweden, checks died out in the 80s and I’ve never owned a checkbook and have never used as payment.

From Russia I hear the SWIFT/IBAN thing is also expensive and one of my contacts then prefer to use Western Union instead. Now that’s another sorry and messy approach. I then have to show up at an “agent’s” place and stand in lines, fill in forms, stand waiting for the personal to try to understand how the heck they should proceed with this, answer lots of irrelevant questions and then in the end get the money in cash in my hand. (A fun side-note: Western Union’s SSL certificate has the wrong Common Name field in it. Certainly not the best way to give a good and trusty impression.)

To and from Africa we get to hear about “westernunion-like” businesses that tend to end up being blamed for sponsoring terror organizations. Perhaps we can somehow forgive parts of Africa where poverty is wide-spread and the internet/technological penetration is not so dense.

Within Sweden – I actually got an actual physical “100 kronor” bill mailed to me in an envelope the other day as a donation for curl. Of course I appreciate it, but I find it sad that sending an actual physical letter is the easiest and cheapest way!

Paypal is every so often just the most sensible and easiest solution out there. I’m just always so surprised that there are so few actual and serious competitors to Paypal – I mean that tries to function internationally. We have a handful Swedish or European-only style versions, but hey within Sweden and Europe SWIFT/IBAN rocks anyway so there’s little use for such a limited Paypal-clone.

I would guess that anyone who would seriously try to answer my questions would bring up legislations (and especially economy laws in various countries with money-laundry preventions and what not) and the conservatism of the banks that make big money by carving off a large amount or percentage on every transfer – not to mention the interest on the money during the insane periods when the money is in limbo somewhere between banks.

I would still rather like to see more companies and banks seriously trying to compete with Paypal about doing smooth payments from wherever to wherever. We’re in the 21st century darnit!