COLUMBUS, Ohio – Responding to needs of the growing immigrant population here, three credit unions will offer wire services so that members can send money back home to relatives and friends in Mexico, El Salvador and other countries. Western Credit Union Inc., OhioHealth Credit Union and Big Bear/Members First Credit Union have joined the International Remittance Network or IRnet, a program started in 1999 by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). IRnet allows members to transfer money to nonbank outlets in 41 nations. Since the network began, 50 credit unions have joined IRnet. Through WOCCU's partner, Vigo Remittance Corp., IRnet provides services in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe. People can also receive money at over 1,500 locations in 29 states. In June, more than 5,000 cities and towns in India had access to the wire network for Indian people living in America. IRnet does not charge foreign recipients any fee for accepting transfers and exchange rates are consistently better than the competition, according to WOCCU. Senders are guaranteed the rate of exchange and informed of the amount of foreign currency to be picked up by the recipient at the time they make the transfer. In El Salvador, international money transfers equate to 12% of the country's gross domestic product, while between five and seven billion dollars cross the border into Mexico each year, according to WOCCU. While the service is a more inexpensive and safe alternative for foreign credit union members, having access to the network is good business all around, said Juan Hernandez, a member of Mexico President Vicente Fox' Cabinet, in charge of the Office on Mexicans Living Abroad in a Feb. 28 opinion letter to Credit Union Times. "By tapping into this underused market, credit unions will increase their membership and their fee income," Hernandez said.

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