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.
I first used Western Union in Costa Rica and I remember seeing the difference between the “buy” and “sell” and thinking I was paying a lot for convenience and confidence. But pay I did. That was years ago, and some things don’t change but since then Western Union has significantly expanded what it can do and they have some great competition too.
- Western Union is highly trusted. Their transfer speed and fees vary depending on the type of service you use, the amount you send, payment method, payout method, exchange rate margin, and other fees.
- But their fees and exchange rates are not always the best.
- We think Western Union might be a good choice for sending money to countries that have less common currencies or if you prefer in-person transactions.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links (not for Western Union) where you might be able to save money. For more information, see our disclosures here.
On Trustpilot, Western Union gets 3.9/5 with over 51k reviews, while on the App Store and Play Store, it scores 4.8/5 and 4.6/5 with over 200k reviews. People love Western Union for its speed, convenience, and security.
|💻 Availability||200+ countries, 500,000+ agent locations worldwide, 100,000+ ATMs and kiosks – The UK, The US, Canada, Australia, Europe, etc.|
|🔒 Trust||High. Easy to use. Regulated. Secure. Transfer Guarantee|
|💁🏼♂️ Clients||Personal and Business users|
|💱 Exchange currencies||130 currencies (including several exotic currencies)|
|💰 Fees||Varies and can be high – depends on funding method, amount, currency, and payout method.|
|⚖️ Regulation||Regulated in the US, UK, Australia, and Europe|
|⭐ Reviews||Rated 4.0/5 on Trustpilot with over 56,000 reviews (as of September 2023)|
Rated 4.8/5 on App Store with over 643,000 reviews (as of September 2023)
Rated 4.6/5 on Play Store with over 280,000 reviews (as of September 2023)
|🌐 Official Website||WesternUnion.com|
2. When Western Union Works
You can sign up for Western Union from anywhere in the world – currently, they offer digital services in 70+ countries and transfers to 200+ countries in 130+ currencies. Plus, they have over 500,000 physical agent locations around the world.
Western Union has an exceptional presence in the US, where transfer kiosks and agent counters are integrated into convenience stores, check-cashing stores, etc.
Flexible payout methods
Western Union offers a lot of payout methods to make money transfers easy for you and your recipient.
They support bank transfers, cash payouts, bill payments, and mobile wallet transfers (may vary by location).
So if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, you can always opt for alternative methods of payment.
Also see: PayPal to Western Union
Both personal and business transfers
Western Union offers dedicated accounts for both personal and business transfers. In fact, Western Union provides industry-specific payment platforms for businesses as well as risk management consulting to save money on transfers in the long term.
Essentially, you can rely on Western Union to pay your family, friends, and overseas employees as well as support your favourite non-profits.
3. When Western Union Doesn’t Work
Saving big on your transfers
Western Union’s fees vary based on a lot of variables – from the currency and amount to the payment and receiving methods.
Western Union also charges a margin on the exchange rate (not the real exchange rate or the interbank rate) but higher than average.
This drives up the cost of transfer with them.
Sending large transfers
Western Union’s transfer limits vary by location and payout method, they’re typically in the range of $500 to $3000 (or equivalent).
For example, in the US, unverified users can send $3000 USD per transfer (cash or online bank transfer) and $500 for card transfers.
Verified users can send up to $50,000 USD per transfer (bank-to-bank transfer) – but this can end up being very expensive.
Want to send large amounts? We share some alternatives below.
4. Western Union Costs and Fees
Western Union’s total fees are a combination of
- The amount
- The payment method (debit or credit card, bank transfer, cash)
- Payout method (cash, bank payment, card payment, mobile wallet transfer)
- The transfer speed (In minutes, Same Day, or Standard)
Other factors to consider:
- Western Union’s margin on the exchange rate (can be 2-5% of the amount)
Here’s what Western Union mentions on their 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.”
This can be significant as currencies can move in either direction on a minute-to-minute basis. Many other money transfer companies guarantee the exchange rate at the time of transacting. When currency pairs can move 1% or 2% a day sometimes this can be very valuable.
As a rule of thumb, transfers funded by a credit or debit card (for instant transfers) are more expensive than those funded by bank transfers or where you pay in-store.
You can also use the Price Estimator which shows the exchange rate offered and adds up the other fees.
To figure out the exact fees you are paying you need to calculate the difference between the interbank rate and the rate offered.
To calculate the fees that are part of the exchange rate, use their Price Estimator and they also have a Currency Converter which gives you the interbank rate.
There may be some other fees that increase the cost of transfers.
Many of these are outside the control of Western Union, but you should know about them.
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 the 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 the Receiver for receiving the funds into an Account
- Card Fees
Western Union Card Fees
Western Union may issue a MasterCard or Visa prepaid debit card, depending on the location.
While not directly related to money transfers, a prepaid debit card can be very useful so it is great to know the fees involved.
For example, their Western Union® Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard® (which is only available in the US) has cool perks like:
- Funding international and local transfers
- Receiving government benefits
- Receiving your salary
- Direct debit features for recurring bill payments
However, this card comes with many fees according to the plan you choose
- A pay-as-you-go plan (free),
- Regular monthly plan ($9.95 USD),
- Reduced monthly plan ($5 if you deposit at least $500 per month)
- ATM balance inquiry fees – $0.50 USD for domestic withdrawals
- Inactivity fee – $5.95 for both plans (after 90 days with no transactions)
- Foreign transaction fee – 4%
5. Western Union Transfer Speed
One great thing about Western Union is that they offer a lot of flexibility in terms of transfer speed.
Cash with Money in Minutes service: generally delivered within minutes
Cash with Next Day service – 24 hours
Direct to Bank – 2-5 days
Mobile wallet: Available within minutes
Usually, direct to bank is the cheapest and cash or card transfers are faster but also more expensive.
Western Union’s transfer speed also depends on the following:
Payment method: How you transfer funds can impact the time it takes for the money to reach its destination. So, choose your method wisely!
Time zone: If you’re sending money to someone in a different time zone, it’s a good idea to initiate the transfer during their business hours. This can help ensure a smoother and quicker process.
Target currency: Keep in mind that currency conversion can cause delays in processing your money transfer. Be prepared for possible additional processing time if you’re sending money in a different currency.
Weekends and public holidays: Holidays can also affect the timing of money transfers, as different countries have different holidays. Make sure to check if the recipient’s country is observing a holiday and plan accordingly when initiating the transfer.
6. What Do Customers Say (including Negative Reviews)
Western Union is rated 4.0/5 on Trustpilot with over 56,000 reviews (as of September 2023) – which is considered “Great).
Of these 75% are positive (4- and 5-star reviews) but about 20% are negative – which is concerning.
We were curious to find out what was going on and trawled hundreds of reviews – positive and negative – to share a summary in the following table.
- Easy to use
“Using the online system to send money is very convenient and easy to navigate, making for a great experience. I also like the checks put in place to ensure that a sender is not being scammed by someone to send money by the questions asked to ascertain you know who you’re sending money to.”– Andrew Kamara on Trustpilot
- Can be expensive
- Website/app slow/tech error
- Flagged/cancelled transfers (security reasons, going over transfer limit)
- Unable to redeem rewards (regular users)
“I hate your website but was forced to use it to send money. Always an issue. I add my card details and it sits there for minutes until it times out. I typically try three or four times before it works. Sometimes I need to try different search engines before it will work. Another issue is trying to use my rewards…NEVER works.”– Neil McHugh on Trustpilot
One thing Western Union doesn’t compromise is speed and that makes up for the expensive fees they charge most of the time – they’re still your best bet if you want to send cash fast anywhere.
7. Is Western Union Safe?
Yes – but you need to follow some safety measures.
Overall, Western Union does a lot to be a safe and secure service.
They’re regulated by the different regulating bodies of all 48 US states and other US territories. Western Union is also regulated in the UK by the FCA, ASIC in Australia, and other financial institutions in other countries.
Western Union also uses state-of-the-art encryption on its website and app, flags any unusual account activity, and has made it mandatory for recipients of cash transfers to carry a government-issued ID.
However, the biggest issue with Western Union is online scams – typically fraudsters posing as family members in distress, a charity, or a business to extract money.
This is how you can keep yourself safe:
- Never send money to someone you don’t know via Western Union
- Avoid sending money to businesses you don’t know or trust in person
- Verify with a family member if you get any request to send money for an emergency
- Avoid sharing your personal information if anyone from Western Union calls or emails you
8. Western Union Alternatives
It is no secret Western Union can be expensive. Here are some of the best alternatives.
For affordable cash transfers
Both WorldRemit (review) and Remitly (review) let you send money to many countries around the world (more than 130 countries respectively) and keep their costs low by letting you set up your transfer online.
Remitly’s Express service is especially great if you want to cash fast – in minutes – without paying high fees.
For affordable bank transfers
Wise offers bank transfers at the mid-market rate, while Instarem adds a small margin, the exchange rate is still competitive. They also have a user-friendly app that makes sending money with them very easy.
Wise minimizes any sending and receiving fees by having local bank accounts in the countries they service. What makes it awesome is you’ll always see the fees upfront, and only pay for what you use. You can try using the Wise Calculator (opens a new tab) to see the fees and the exact amount your recipient will get, no sign-up is required.
Western Union has been in the money transfer game for a while and is a popular choice, offering speedy, convenient, and secure transfers (above) to over 200 countries. They’ve got a wide network and they support various ways to pay and get your money.
But seeing their costs and fees (above) might not always stack up as favorably as some other providers.
For dealing with exotic currencies, Western Union might be a good choice. However, if your recipient can receive money in their bank account, Wise may be better for you. They offer low fees, convenient and secure money transfers. But there are other options (above) for all kinds of needs.
Want to find the best money transfer service for you? Check out the money transfer comparison, where we compare different types of services and how they fit your needs.
Is Western Union safe for transactions?
Yes, Western Union is safe and dependable for sending money abroad. The company is legally authorized in the countries it serves. However, Western Union has some pros and cons that you should consider before using it.
Is it better to send money through Western Union?
It depends on your specific needs and preferences. You can trust Western Union with your money transfers but it is important to know its advantages and disadvantages, fees, and transfer speed.