Banks in Greece remain closed for the second week in a row — a measure that could extend into early next week — but Western Union is back in business.
But with restrictions.
Western Union announced today (July 7) that it has reactivated its Direct to Bank service to Greece to allow funds to be sent from those outside of Greece, but customers will still be restricted to the €60 per transaction (about $65) per customer per day withdrawal limits. Regardless of the restrictions, Western Union transfers "will be credited based on the agreed send value into the bank accounts of customers," the company said.
Western Union plans to branch out its in-bound payout locations in Greece and said it hopes to restore full service in the country as soon as possible.
“This is a tremendous breakthrough, paving the way for family and loved ones across the globe to send money to their home community, particularly during more difficult financial circumstances,” Giovanni Angelini, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Europe at Western Union, said in press release.
Countries that can send funds via Western Union's online service include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K, and the U.S.
And the countries that allow consumers to send funds using an agent retail location include: Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.
While Western Union has flipped the switch on its services, PayPal has reportedly been shut down due to the bank restrictions. An unnamed PayPal spokesperson was quoted late last week (July 3) as saying: “recent decisions of the Greek authorities on capital controls, funding of PayPal wallet from Greek bank accounts, as well as cross-border transactions, funded by any cards or bank accounts are currently not available. We aim to continue serving our valued customers in Greece in full, as we have for over a decade.”
The bank measures come as the government ordered banks to enforce capital control when the European Central Bank (ECB) froze the level of emergency aid being made available to Greek banks. A huge surge in ATM withdrawals reportedly dried up over 500 of the 7,000 ATMS in the country last week, which forced ECB to freeze the pipeline feeding Greek banks with cash.
It's been speculated that banks might very soon further lower the withdrawal limit further, as banks fear a dry spell in coming weeks. The decree to keep the banks shut is set to expire on Monday next week, and the government is expected to issue a new one to replace it. For now, the Greek government is continuing to allow electronic payments and ATM withdrawals using international bank cards, as long as there’s cash available in ATMs across the country.
“With the amount of remaining cash in the system, it is not certain that we can go until the end of the weekend at the daily limit of €60,” a banker told Reuters on Monday (July 6).