/ / Ria vs MoneyGram vs Western Union

Ria vs MoneyGram vs Western Union

Best and Most Trustworthy and Why

Money transfer giants Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria are leaders in international transfers.

Each has their strengths, but which one is the best for you will ultimately depend on what your needs are.

So how do they rate against each other in important currency transfer categories: availability, cost, service scope, transfer speed, and customer service?

But that is not the best bit.

Here we pull back the curtain based on real user reviews and uncover what really happens to show you when each service is right for you (and when they aren’t).

We also share suitable alternatives that can help you save big on your next transfer.

Let’s dive in!

Contents

Three BIG Differences

  1. Who Can Get One?
  2. Costs and Fees (+ Hidden Fees?)
  3. Currencies
  4. Ways to Send Money
  5. Payout Methods
  6. Transfer Speed
  7. Reviews (inc. Negative Ones)
  8. Customer Service and Support

Verdict and Alternatives

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.


Quick Comparison

Winner
AvailabilityWU
Costs & FeesTie
Available CurrenciesWU
Ways to SendTie
Payout MethodsTie
Transfer SpeedWU
ReviewsRia
Customer Service and SupportWU

Three BIG Differences

Ria, MoneyGram, and Western Union are some of the biggest money transfer companies in the world. On average, they support transfers to over 100 countries in 50+ currencies.

In some cases, their services and processes are pretty similar, which makes it hard to understand which is the best option for you.

But we did find some big differences that you should consider first in terms of:

  1. Availability
  2. Personal or Business transfers
  3. Limit on sending money
  1. Availability: Western Union and MoneyGram are available pretty much anywhere and support both local and international transfers from these countries. However, Ria’s availability is somewhat limited (see “Who can get one” below) compared to the other two.

    Want to send cash from a location near you?

    Start on Google Maps here and change “near me” to your location for the best results.

  2. Personal or business transfers: All three offer personal transfers. However, Western Union and MoneyGram offer dedicated accounts for both small and large businesses.

    For Business: If you are intending on transferring money for business reasons this can be important for better integration with your financial apps (like Xero), support batch payments, and help you save big on your long-term transfers for paying overseas employees.

  3. Limits on sending money: Both Western Union and Ria have a maximum limit of $2500 USD for their online transfers (can vary by specific services), while MoneyGram lets you send larger amounts online (up to $10,000 USD).

    However, typically all three services are set up to handle smaller amounts of money (below $7000 USD, due to their fee structure and regulations the operate within).

See our page on “What is Remittance?” to understand exactly what remittance is.

Ria Pros

  • Great presence in North America (integrated with 7-Eleven  in the US) you can only sign up for Ria in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Spain
  • Licensed and registered (US)
  • A local presence in more than 140 countries and over 350,000 locations
  • Supports cash pick ups
  • Can set up a transfer at a physical location or online
  • Offers multiple transfer speeds (depends on payment method) – see transfer speed below
  • Transfer online, agent location, or via app

MoneyGram Pros

  • Licensed and registered service (all 50 US states, UK, EEA)
  • 350,000 agent locations across over 200 countries and territories
  • Great presence in North America
  • Supports cash, mobile wallet, bank transfers
  • Supports business payments
  • Higher limit on online transfers compared to WU and RIA
  • Transfer online, agent location, or via app

Western Union Pros

  • Licensed and registered service
  • Great presence in North America
  • Supports cash picks, mobile wallet transfers, and bank transfers
  • Can set up a transfer at a physical location or via a phone call
  • Offers different transfer speeds – including instant transfers (See “Transfer Speed” below)
  • Offers a prepaid debit card powered by MasterCard or Visa (depending on the country)
  • Offers dedicated business accounts
  • Transfer online, agent location, or via app

Ria Cons

  • Not always the cheapest option
  • Limits on transfers (not great for large transfers)
  • Doesn’t offer a dedicated business account
  • No multicurrency wallet

MoneyGram Cons

  • Not always the cheapest (fee structure not transparent)
  • No multicurrency wallet

Western Union Cons

  • Limits on transfers
  • Doesn’t offer a multicurrency wallet

1) Who Can Get One?

Ria

  • RIA is only available in the US, Australia, Canada, UK, and Spain.
  • But they have a wide base of receiving countries – 160 countries and over 350,000 agent locations in the sending and receiving countries

MoneyGram

  • MoneyGram supports registrations from most countries around the world.
  • They also have over 300,000 agent locations in the supported countries, making transfers easy and efficient.

Western Union

  • Western Union also supports registrations from pretty much anywhere in the world (currently 100+ countries)
  • Wondering whether they’re available in your country? Go to their website, scroll down to the footer, and search for it in the drop down list.
  • However, their prepaid card is limited to the US, some countries in Europe, and a few others in South America.

Winner: Western Union

Western Union has a wide base of both sending and receiving countries and over 500,000 agent offices in the supported locations. They’re also integrated into grocery stores, cashing stations, and gas stations in the US.

2) Costs and Fees (+ Hidden Fees?)

Ria

Ria’s fees depend on:

  • The amount
  • The currency corridor
  • How you fund the transfer

Typically, bank-to-bank transfers are more affordable but slower, while card-to-bank (or card-to-cash payouts) are faster but more expensive.

Ria also charges a margin on the exchange rate (between 1.5% to 2.5%), and their fees increase as the amount goes up.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram’s fees depend on

  • The funding method
  • The payout method
  • The currency corridor
  • The amount

Like most currency transfer companies, MoneyGram also adds a margin to the mid-market exchange rate. However, sometimes this can go well over 5% of the transfer amount, driving up the total cost of your transfer.

Typically, you can save on your transfer with MoneyGram if your transfer from a bank account and sending to your recipient’s bank account.

Cash payouts as well as funding your transfer with cash at an agent location will lead to additional fees.

Western Union

Western Union’s fees also depend on

  •  The amount
  • Currency corridor
  • Funding method
  • Chosen transfer speed

It’s difficult to estimate the exchange rate offered by Western Union, and here’s what they mention on the website:

“…the exchange rates shown on the website are estimates” and the actual exchange rate will be pulled during the time of the transfer.

Western Union will calculate its exchange rates on the basis of the interbank rates available in the market, plus a margin.”

Western Union also charges a margin on the exchange rate (up to 6% of the transfer amount) as well as fees based on other variables mentioned above.

Check out the fee table for their “In Minutes” service here.

Winner: Tie

Hidden Fees

Ria, MoneyGram, and Western Union aren’t exactly the most affordable currency transfer options out there. For one, it’s really difficult to estimate their exchange rate and the margin charged by them is well over the industry average (typically, 1%-2%).

Other unexpected fees included convenience fees charged by credit card companies, banks at either end, as well as agent fees.

For sending cash or receiving cash they still might be you best option, but if you can use bank accounts, there are many services and few we recommend partly because they can generally send money much cheaper. See Verdict and Alternatives below.

4) Currencies

Ria

Ria supports transfers to 149 countries in 60+ currencies.

You can check supported currencies for your country when you get an exchange rate estimate on their website.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram supports transfers to 200+ countries in 40+ currencies.

You can view their currency options when you use the cost estimator tool on their website.

Western Union

Western Union supports transfers to 200+ countries in 130+ currencies (varies by country).

Your location-specific website should be able to tell you whether your sending country supports transfers in a specific currency via Western Union.

Winner: Western Union

Western Union wins this round hands down as the largest currency transfer service provider with a staggering number of supported currencies.

5) Ways to Send Money

Ria

RIA’s services can be accessed both online and offline (website, app, and agent location).

You can fund your transfer with

  • Bank transfer
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Cash (agent location)

MoneyGram

You can fund your MoneyGram transfer with

  • Cash (agent location/kiosk)
  • Bank transfer (online and mobile app)
  • Debit card (online and mobile app)
  • Credit card (online and mobile app)

Western Union

WesternUnion’s funding methods vary based on the sender currency and the currency corridor.

Typically, you can fund your transfer with

  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Bank account
  • Cash (in-store)
  • Wire transfer

You can set up your transfer with Western Union both online (web app and mobile app) as well as offline (agent location/kiosk)

Winner: Tie

Ria, MoneyGram, and Western Union support a wide variety of funding methods and cover all bases with excellent online service as well as offline accessibility.

6) Payout Methods

Ria

Ria supports:

  • Cash
  • Bank
  • Mobile wallet transfers
  • Home delivery (Vietnam, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, and Peru)

MoneyGram

MoneyGram supports:

  • Cash (agent location)
  • Home delivery – depends on the country
  • Bank transfers
  • Mobile Wallet transfer
  • Prepaid phone top-ups (350 global carriers)

Western Union

Western Union supports:

  • Bank transfers
  • Cash pick ups
  • Bill payments
  • Mobile Wallet transfers
  • Prepaid card top ups
  • Home delivery (only Vietnam)

Winner: Tie

All three services support all possible payout methods, with slight variations. For example, Ria supports home delivery in more locations, while Western Union lets you pay utility bills for your friends and family abroad.

Quick heads up: If you’re sending cash, your recipient needs to carry a valid government ID and a reference number for the transfer as proof at the agent location.

7) Transfer Speed

Ria

Ria doesn’t offer specific service tiers based on transfer speed – at least explicitly.

But, if you fund your international transfer with a credit or debit card, your recipients can access the funds in as little as 15 minutes.

Bank transfers take about 4-5 days, where the first 3 days are spent on transfer verification for first-time users.

MoneyGram

Like Ria, MoneyGram’s transfer speed depends on how you fund your transfer.

Card-to-bank and card-to-cash are near instant (within 10 minutes and more expensive), while bank-to-bank transfers are slower (3-5 days) and more affordable.

Note: bank transfer speed can also vary by country. Check out a detailed break down here.

Western Union

Western Union offers 3 clear service tiers based on transfer speed

  • In Minutes
  • Next Day transfers
  • Three-Day transfers

Typically, “In Minutes” transfers are more expensive and need to be funded by a credit or debit card.

There are also transfer limits for each service:

  • In Minutes & Three Day – $2,500
  • Next Day – $500

Winner: Western Union

While all three services provide both instant and slower transfers, Western Union’s service tiers based on transfer speed set a clearer expectation up front.

8) Customer Service and Support

Ria

You can reach Ria’s customer service via email and on the phone.

However, the general consensus is that (based on real reviews) their customer service team is quite slow to respond.

If you do need any info quickly, their FAQs section is quite comprehensive.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram’s customer service can be reached at agent locations, via email, and on the phone.

Response times to customer queries typically vary – some users have had a great experience, while others were left wanting.

They also have a helpful FAQs section on their website.

Western Union

You can reach Western Union via email, on the phone, or at a local agent office.

This is great for folks who are not comfortable handling all aspects of money transfer online.

Western Union has also launched country-specific digital locations (in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Oman) to help users set up transfers from home with phone and video call assistance.

Winner: Western Union

Western Union’s customer service is easier to reach offline (with over 500,000 agent locations worldwide) and their country-specific digital location seems promising for users who need a bit more assistance for their transfers.

9) Reviews (inc. Negative Ones)

Ria

Ria is rated 4.4/5 on TrustPilot, with over 73% of users reporting a positive experience with the company.

They love how fast and efficient Ria tends to be for micro and small amounts.

However, 11% reviewers had a negative experience, and we were keen to know why. Here are the top concerns we uncovered:

  • Transfer delays
  • Higher-than-average fees
  • Poor customer service

Ria isn’t the most affordable player in the market, but they do have a wide reach. As for transfer delays, you can avoid these by funding your remittance with a credit or debit card.

However, their customer service definitely needs to be a bit more proactive.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram is rated 4.1/5 on Trustpilot with over 3,000 reviews.

53% of reviewers said they had an “Excellent” experience with MoneyGram. They especially loved the easy-to-use app and fast service.

However, an alarming percentage of reviewers (24%) complained about MoneyGram’s service.

The top causes of dissatisfaction were:

  • Unexpected account blocks
  • Poor customer service

As a licensed currency transfer company, MoneyGram is required to audit user transfers to prevent fraud and other financial crimes.

However, their customer service is also quite difficult to reach and slow to respond.

Western Union

WesternUnion is rated 3.3/5 on Trustpilot with over 17,000 reviews.

63% of their users had an “Excellent” experience and loved their quick service.

However, 11% of the reviewers had a “bad” experience, and the top 3 causes of dissatisfaction were

  • Transfer delays
  • Transfers on hold
  • High fees
  • Poor customer service

Now, transfer delays can be avoided by choosing the right transfer speed when you set it up.

Some transfers were put on hold because Western Union regularly audits transfers to financial crimes as a licensed service provider. The good news is the funds were promptly released after the investigation.

Winner: Ria

With a wide base of receiving countries and currencies (both major and exotic), Ria, Western Union, and MoneyGram command higher rates than usual. In general, their users love the convenience of multiple funding and pay out methods, but all three currency transfer companies need more proactive customer service.

10) Verdict and Alternatives

With 4 wins for Western Union and 3 ties overall, it’s safe to say that Western Union is a solid choice.

However, if you’re looking to save big on your transfers and avoid the issues that came up in the negative reviews, they may not be best for you.

For smaller transfers with cash payouts and instant transfer options, WorldRemit and Remitly are better picks in our opinion. To help get you started WorldRemit (review) offers the first three transfers free. Both Remitly and WorldRemit also have confidence inspiring reviews.

For your smaller bank-to-bank transfers TransferWise and CurrencyFair are known for their fair exchange rates, transparent fee structures, fast service (usually completed in 2 days), and great customer support.

If you’re planning to transfer larger amounts ($7000 USD and above), check out OFX (from US, UK, Canada and Australia), XE, or TorFX (from Europe, Asia, Australia).

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Happy Transfers!

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