Wells Fargo & Co. has teamed up with Mexico's largest bank to offer fast, simplified money transfers to Mexico.
The account, called InterCuenta Express, will accept cash transfers of up to $1,000 per day for a flat fee of $10 per transfer to linked accounts at Banco Nacional de Mexico.
That compares favorably with a similar service launched by BankAmerica Corp. in conjunction with Bancomer, Mexico's second-largest bank. This service, which was known as Dinero Seguro, charged $25 to $35 per transfer but was recently dropped, a BankAmerica spokesman said, after proving not to be "cost effective" for either bank or customers. An alternative service is being considered, he said.
The Wells account will compete with agencies like Western Union and with so-called "remesas," or small-sum transfer agencies, that have until now handled most cash transfers to Mexico. Banks also offer standard wire transfers, which can cost as much as $40 and require from two days to two weeks for funds to clear.
"Two weeks is simply not reasonable," said Rebecca Eyre, product manager for InterCuenta at Wells Fargo in San Francisco.
More than 17 million Mexican-Americans live in the United States, and estimates have put the total of small sums transferred to Mexico at $5 billion a year.
Ms. Eyre said Wells' move is part of an effort to build banking relationships with the Mexican-American community. The company also believes the volume of cash transfers is likely to grow.
InterCuenta dramatically simplifies what can often be a cumbersome and time-consuming process, she added. Anyone wishing to transfer funds regularly can open a special account either in person or by calling an 800 number. That person then deposits funds into the account and transmits a reference number to a beneficiary in Mexico.
The Mexican beneficiary takes the reference number and proof of identity to any branch of Banco Nacional de Mexico and opens a receiving account. Funds can be deposited at a Wells automated teller machine, branch, or supermarket office or can be transferred from another account. The funds can be withdrawn in Mexico the next day.
Wells has similar systems in place for the Philippines and Armenia through a strategic alliance with HSBC Holdings PLC, a London-based international bank. In both countries, beneficiaries of cash transfers can gain access to linked accounts with an ATM card at local banking units of HSBC.