Remitly and Western Union may seem pretty similar on the surface.
After all, they both let you send cash overseas. And it can arrive within minutes.
However we found a number of big differences between them.
In the next five minutes or so you’ll learn everything you need to know about Remitly and Western Union, including fees of each service and some important limitations.
This will help you decide which service is right for you.
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
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
Remitly is likely cheaper (if you can use them) because they’re online-focused (no agent fees) and waive service fees for some currencies and amounts, and they’re great if you’re comfortable doing everything online.
But less expensive doesn’t mean they’re always better.
Western Union’s fees are complex and premium because of their guarantee for near-instant cash transfers (Money in Minutes service), wide coverage, and support at the agent kiosks (For example: They are integrated at almost every Walmart in the US).
So which service is right for you will ultimately depend on your specific needs.
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
Cash transfer operators are the target of scammers and fraudsters.
That said, Remitly and Western Union seem to work hard towards safe and trustworthy services.
Both services ensure secure transfer of money online with industry-leading security technology as well as easy and safe receiving with necessary checks at the cash-pick up locations.
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
Remitly’s online-focused service helps you save on agent fees, which keeps transfer costs low.
However, Western Union’s offline support can be useful if you’re new to overseas cash transfers and need a bit more help setting up or troubleshooting for a transfer.
At the end of the day, both services have pros and cons when it comes to ease of use – so it’s ultimately up to you which mode of operation feels more comfortable.
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).
Ever though Western Union scores lower the fact that you can walk into an agent location to get help for your transfer can be attractive for many users.
Remitly’s makes it easy for itself through an online-focused service with great online support.
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
Both services are equally fast for cash and bank transfers worldwide. However, Western Union may have an edge over Remitly for their wide coverage and time guarantee for their In Minutes service.
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)
Western Union has long been offline-focused and offers customer support excellent at their agent offices and kiosks. While they support online transfers on their website and app now, their online customer service needs to improve, according to user reviews.
Remitly is a new age remittance service, and to make sure users feel comfortable with their online-only service, they’ve found ways to make customer service responsive and accessible with 24×7 multilingual support.
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.
Western Union is ideal for your 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.