Hi, I’m Quinn Askeland. In 2016, I started Transumo after experiencing expensive, slow, and frustrating international transfers and payments through banks. My mission is simple: to help others simplify and reduce the cost of transfers and payments. Fortunately, today, there are excellent alternatives for international money transfers and payments. See My Full Bio.
At first glance, Remitly and Western Union appear to offer similar international cash transfer services with the promise of speedy transactions often completed within minutes. However, upon closer look, they have some key differences.
- Remitly has lower fees and more transparent costs than Western Union. Remitly sometimes waives its service fees for certain currency pairs and amounts. Remitly serves 17 developed countries and allows affordable transfers to 50 developing countries.
- Western Union has more flexibility and wider coverage than Remitly. Western Union lets you send money to 200+ countries, whether it’s for personal reasons or business. Plus, it offers transfer speeds like “In Minutes,” “Three Day,” and “Next Day,” to suit different needs.
In the next few minutes, we’ll provide you with a clear understanding of Remitly vs Western Union, outlining their fees, safety measures, user experience, reviews, transfer speeds, and customer support. This information is important for making an informed decision about which service aligns better with your circumstances and needs.
Let’s dive in.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and savings on transfers if you use some of the links! For more information, see my disclosures here.
Quick Comparison: The Lowdown on Differences
Remitly and Western Union are both reliable companies. On Trustpilot, Remitly has 4.1/5 with 86% positive reviews, while Western Union has 4/5 with 74% positive reviews. Both services offer fast international money transfers, but Western Union takes the lead in coverage.
In a nutshell, over many decades Western Union has evolved to pretty much do everything and serve everyone. Meanwhile Remitly focuses providing only essential services and keeping costs low.
For example, while Western Union is serving almost everyone (200+ countries), Remitly services just 17 developed countries (UK, US, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Singapore and Sweden) to send money home affordably to 50 developing countries.
Meanwhile Western Union is known for their wide coverage for international transfers (personal and business transfers to 200+ countries) including fast cash transfers.
- Fast cash transfers
- Potential savings with online-focused service
- Bank transfers and mobile wallet transfers also supported
- Satisfaction guarantee
- Personal remittance transfers only
- Transfers not supported between the 17 sender countries
Western Union Likes:
- Wide coverage (send money to 200+ countries)
- Very popular Money in Minutes service for near-instant cash transfers
- Bank and mobile wallet transfers also available
- Online and offline transfers
- Available for personal and business
Western Union Dislikes:
- Can be expensive
- Online customer service is not always responsive
1. Real Fees & Hidden Costs – Is One Cheaper Than The Other?
- Fixed service fees ($2.99-$3.99 USD) for transfers below $1,000 USD
- Sometimes service fees are waived for certain currency pairs and amounts
- Margin on the exchange rate applicable (varies by currency pair, often between 0.5% to 3.5% of the amount)
- You can see what you will pay
- 3% credit card fee applicable for Express transfers (charged by your bank)
- Economy transfers (bank-to-bank transfers) are more affordable
- You can use the Price Estimator which shows the exchange rate offered and adds up the other fees.
- Margin on the exchange rate higher than competitors
- OTHER fees: Additional fees can be found in their Terms and Conditions (US) for the country you are sending from:
- Receivers who choose to receive funds through a payout method other than cash or in a currency other than the one You selected may incur additional fees to access funds.
- Certain countries and/or jurisdictions may impose a tax, fee and/or tariff on Receiver’s receipt of, or access to, transferred funds.
- Messaging and notification services may be included for additional fees.
- Transactions to Accounts: The Account provider may impose additional fees on Receiver for receiving the funds into an Account
- Card Fees
2. Which is Safer? – Equally Safe in Most Cases
- Remitly is registered with the U.S. Dept. of Treasury as a Money Services Business and licensed in several U.S. states as a money transmitter. They’re also regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (UK), the Central Bank of Ireland (Europe), and in Australia by 
- Industry-leading security like 256 bit SSL and two-factor authentication on their website and mobile app for safe transfers and personal data protection (such as your social security number, card number, etc)
- Automated and manual audits to flag suspicious activities
- Recipients need to carry ID to receive cash
- WesternUnion is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (UK), Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (USA) Financial Market Authority (Europe). They’re also regulated in many other countries they operate in.
- Manual confirmation and follow up on the phone for unexpected account activity
- State of the art encryption (TLS – Transport Layer Security) on their website and app as well as strong anti-fraud and anti-theft policies keep your money and data safe
- Mandatory ID check for cash recipients
3. Ease of Use – Quite Different
- Good user experience and efficient online transfers on Remitly’s website or their mobile app (available for both Android and iOs)
- Both online and offline transfers
- Online transfers on Western Union’s mobile app (available for both Android and iOs) and country-specific website
- Offline transfers are processed at agent offices and kiosks (over 500,000+ locations world). Agent kiosks are integrated at pretty much every Walmart in the US
4. Reviews (inc. Negative Ones) — What Others Are Saying
Remitly is rated 4.2/5 on Trustpilot with over 34,000 reviews, which is considered “Great.”
- Fast and efficient transfers
- Safe and secure
- Competitive rates – See what you pay
- Good customer service
“A very quick and easy service. It takes just a minute to register and send money and it’s arrived to the receiver in a few minutes. And it was a small country in Asia. Impressive!”– Vit on Trustpilot
“As promised the money was delivered and the exchange rates very reasonable.”– Pavitra Ramanujan on Trustpilot
“First-class customer service reps: don’t have to wait a long time to talk to a live person for help, friendly, competent, unrushed, and gracious. No complications- Transfers are fast and easy. I will never go back to my former provider.”– Joel Afman on Trustpilot
- Unexpected account closures
Some users were dissatisfied when then they unexpectedly lost access to their account. On digging deeper, we found it was either because they did not comply to Remitly’s terms of service (personal remittance transfers only) or because Remitly needed to audit a transfer for safety and compliance.
The good news is Remitly’s customer service is available 24×7 to troubleshoot if you have any questions about your account or transfer.
- Transfer delay
Some users were annoyed when their money arrived later than anticipated. Usually, this can be avoided by choosing the right service (Express or Economy) and making sure all your recipient details are entered correctly. Delays can also occur if Remitly pauses your transfer to audit it for your safety. The goal of these audits is to identify and stop activities that may seem inconsistent with your past usage.
WesternUnion is rated 3.4/5 on Trustpilot with over 21,000 reviews, which is considered “Average.”
- Consistently good service online and offline
- Fast and secure transfers
“I use WesternUnion at least once a month, sometimes more. It’s convenient and very secure. On larger transfers (500-1000) I normally get called by western union representatives checking to see if it’s really me sending the money. Again, normally the money is received within 12 hours. I trust them.”– Stephen Tuohy on Trustpilot
“I have been making my transfers online and so far everything has been smooth and easy.– Nickske on Trustpilot
The process of sending money has been simplified but also more secure for the receivers part where full identification is required.”
“The service I receive is excellent at the place where I usually go to. The Agents are welcoming and fast. The 2nd place – Walgreens – is self-service, but when I need any kind of help, they help very clearly and fast. Also, my recipient/s have never had any problems at the destinations. I have NO reason not to use Western Union. Thank you.”– Martha Kimani on Trustpilot
- Online customer service
Western Union’s customer service is difficult to reach via phone or email, according to user reviews on Trustpilot. And when they respond, the issues are not resolved fully.
However, people have mentioned that their offline customer service is much better, which is reassuring (their kiosks and agent offices are easy to locate worldwide).
5. Transfer Speeds – Equally Fast in Most Cases
- Cash transfers with the Express service (more expensive and funded by a debit or credit card) can be processed within a few minutes (popular currencies) to a few hours
- Bank transfers with the Economy service (more affordable) are processed in 3-5 days.
- WesternUnion offers three services that determine the transfer speed
- -In Minutes
- -Three Day
- -Next Day
- Cash transfers to 200+ countries with the In Minutes service are expensive but near-instant (funded by credit card only)
Bank transfers are processed in 3-7 days depending on the currency and amount
6. Customer Service and Support — Both Are Good but in Different Ways
- Extensive multi-lingual FAQs (14 languages)
- 24×7 phone and live chat support
- Country-specific FAQs and phone support
- Live chat and email also available (slow response)
- Offline support at agent locations (500,000+ locations worldwide)
With ties in all seven categories, it can be difficult to say which service is better for cash transfers overseas and small bank-to-bank transfers.
Remitly is a great option if you live in one of the 17 developed countries they’re available in, are comfortable doing everything online, and want to send money home affordably to support your family.
You can see what you will pay with Remitly.
Western Union is ideal for you if you need a bit more support with your transfers, want to send money to a wide variety of locations, or need to send money overseas to pay for business expenses.
Ultimately, it comes down to your specific needs.