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Website helps immigrants compare fees to send money home

February 3, 2012 | 12:46 pm

Remittances
REPORTING FROM SAN SALVADOR—Immigrants from Central America and the Dominican Republic can go online to compare the cost of sending money from the United States to relatives back home.

Enviacentroamerica.org is a new service that shows how much different transfer services cost in five remittance-sending hubs in the United States: California, Florida, New York, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts. Fees are calculated based on transfer amounts of $200 and $500.

The main sponsor of the initiative is the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies, a grouping of regional banks, along with support from the World Bank and Multilalateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, or IDB.

"This initiative will help the Hispanic community to better understand the costs and options available before deciding how and with whom to send the money," Paloma Monroy, a remittance specialist from the center, said in a statement this week. She said the tool "will create more transparency in this market, contributing to reduced costs."

The development bank estimates that a 1% reduction in the cost of sending remittances will save migrants and their families an additional $150 million a year. It calculates that immigrants from Central America and the Dominican Republic paid an average of $12 for every $200 sent.

The cost of sending $200 from the United States is most expensive for the Dominican Republic (7.3%) and Costa Rica (6.8%). The cheapest destination is El Salvador (4.7%).

"Remittances are a vital source of income for millions of working families in Central America and the Dominican Republic," said Massimo Cirasino, who heads the World Bank's financial infrastructure division. "In that sense, the sponsors of this site seek to provide useful information that will benefit the most in need."

In the last quarter of 2011, immigrants from Central America and the Dominican Republic spent at least $200 million to send remittances to their families, according to the World Bank.

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Photo: California is one of the remittance-sending hubs in the United States. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times  

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