/ / Wise vs Western Union

Wise vs Western Union

Wise and Western Union may seem pretty similar on the surface. After all, both services let you send money overseas to a wide variety of destination countries.

But here’s the deal: They are not the same.

We uncover some important differences that will affect which is better for you.

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll not only learn how to avoid hidden fees on your overseas transfers but also which service is most likely to provide a smooth transfer experience.

Here is the good, the bad and even the ugly, so that you can decide.

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

Old Vs New – Western Union (review) was founded in 1851 and Wise (review) in 2010.

Wise is certainly the new kid on the block, but it has quickly become one of the most important money transfer services in the world. Wise is known for their transparent and affordable fees for international bank-to-bank transfers backed up by excellent customer service.

Meanwhile Western Union has been working hard to stay relevant and for some people they are still a better option (like if you need to send cash). Western Union can send money to an incredible number of countries and has fast cash transfers overseas (as well as other kinds of transfers).

Meanwhile we believe Wise is the best for inexpensive smaller (below $7000 USD) bank to bank transfers where fast and efficient online transfers are easily done.Check the latest rates and fees through the Wise calculator (opens new tab).

For larger transfers, over $7000 USD we recommend money transfer services designed for larger amounts.

Wise

Wise Likes:

  • Our top choice for transfers below $7000 USD
  • Affordable fees
  • Super transparent fee structure
  • Easy to use online platform and app
  • Rates guarantee (2-72 hours)
  • Available for personal and business
  • Extra features (e.g. multi-currency account)

Wise Dislikes:

  • Bank-to-bank and card-to-bank transfers only (no cash)

Western Union

Western Union Likes:

  • Our top choice for fast cash transfers
  • Wide coverage
  • Online and offline (cash) transfers
  • Available for personal and business

Western Union Dislikes:

  • Expensive – fees not transparent
  • Customer service is hard to reach

1. Real Fees & Hidden Costs

Wise

  • Transparent fee structure
  • Transfers at the mid-market or interbank rate
  • No margin on the exchange rate
  • Fixed fee usually between 0.5-1.5% of the amount, which is very low
  • Eliminates sending and receiving bank charges with local bank accounts
  • Transfers funded by credit or debit cards can be expensive

Western Union

  • Fees depend on transfer service, speed, currency pair, funding method, payout method
  • Fee structure is not as transparent
  • The markup on the exchange rate is on the higher side (often around 6%)
  • Offline cash transfers and card-funded transfers are more expensive

Use theWise calculator and the Western Union price estimator to compare directly! Remember that some of the fee you pay is built into the exchange rate offered.

2. Which is Safer? – Equally Safe in Most Cases

Wise

  • Customer funds are held separately from operating funds in banks like JP Morgan or Barclays (depending on your location)
  • They use industry-leading tech like SSL certificates and two-factor authentication to keep your money and personal information safe

WesternUnion

  • One of the oldest money transfer services in the world and they have a physical presence (500,000+ agent locations worldwide)
  • They safeguard your information and money with TLS (Transport Layer Security) on their website as well as strong anti-fraud and anti-phishing policies

You might like: 7 Common Money Transfer Scams

3. Ease of Use – Both are Easy to Use

Wise

  • Everything is online with Wise – from checking rates to setting up transfers
  • Very transparent fee structure
  • Extensive FAQs section
  • Helpful customer service (email, phone, and chat)

WesternUnion

  • Both online and offline services (agent kiosks)
  • Fee structure is complicated
  • Country-specific FAQs section
  • Country-specific phone support

Note: Although both can handle larger transfers, if you need to transfer amounts greater than $7000 USD we recommend money transfer services specifically designed for larger amounts.

4. Reviews (inc. Negative Ones) — What Others Are Saying

Wise

Wise is rated 4.6/5 on Trustpilot with over 130,000 reviews, which is considered “Excellent.”

Positive

  • Transparent and affordable fees
  • Fast transfers
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • Great customer service

“Always excellent service. . . best rates and so fast”

– Jack on Trustpilot

“Best prices, fastest, friendliest – I transfer currency regularly to various countries (euros, pln, usd etc) and have found these to be the absolute best prices, with the fastest processing speeds and ease of use of the whole interface. Win, win, win.”

– Richard on Trustpilot

“Still offer a phone number for a human available to help resolve issues! A rarity. Thank you.”

– Micah on Trustpilot

Negative

  • Frozen accounts

Some users were worried when their accounts and funds were unexpectedly held up.

The good news is Wise’s customer service stepped in to resolve these issues fast.

As a licensed money transfer service, Wise is legally bound to audit their transfers to prevent theft and fraud. And unexpected holds up can happen when:

  • You send a personal transfer from a business account (or vice versa)
  • Fund your transfer from a bank account (or card) you don’t own
  • Go over country-specific transfer limits
  • Send money to a bank account that has been previously been flagged by authorities for being fraudulent

Western Union

Western Union is rated 3.3/5 on Trustpilot with over 20,000 reviews, which is considered “Average.”

Positive

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Good customer service

“Great service and portal is easy to use.”

– Juan Quema on Trustpilot

“The associates provide excellent customer service. They go beyond meeting customers’ basic needs. They understand that it involves much more than providing support in a timely and pleasant manner.”

– Martin Olmos on Trustpilot

Negative

  • Too much paperwork

Some users were dissatisfied WesternUnion’s requirements for additional verifications to process a transfer.

Over the years, Western Union has tightened their security and audit processes to prevent misuse of their service (such as theft and money laundering).

That’s why, as a licensed service provider, they frequently audit transfers and ask for additional documentation.

Note: Ria (review) is another great option for cash and has better customer service.

5. Transfer Speeds – Equally Fast in Most Cases

Wise

  • Transfers with popular currencies (like USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, NZD, SGD) are completed in 1-2 days.
  • Exotic currencies take longer (3-4 days)
  • Transfers funded with a credit or debit card can be near-instant (but more expensive)

Western Union

  • Guaranteed cash transfer in minutes with their Money in Minutes service (most expensive)
  • “Next Day” and “Three Day” (most affordable) transfer speeds are also available

6. Customer Service and Support – Both Are Excellent But in Different Ways

Wise

  • Everything is online but you can speak to a real-human on the phone to troubleshoot
  • Customer service can also be reached via email or live chat

Western Union

  • Both online and offline transfer options
  • Customer service can be reached via country-specific phone number or at a near by agent kiosk.

Verdict

With two wins for Wise, one for Western Union, and 3 ties, it was a close call.

However, Wise is usually the better option for transfers below $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AUD if you can use a bank account at both ends.

That said, it is a good idea to check the latest rates and fees through the Wise calculator (new tab) and then compare these with Western Union (new tab).

With Wises’s low rates, great customer service, easy to use interface, and fast transfer speeds you can understand why they are growing so fast. They also offer awesome extras like a Multi Currency Account (review) which enables you to hold and exchange different currencies easily and a handy MasterCard debit card (review) which makes payments easy (available for both individuals and businesses).

Western Union with its large base of sender and receiver countries, super flexible funding and payout methods may make them the right choice for you. If you’re OK with paying a premium for that, Western Union is a trusted choice.

Ultimately, the best service for you comes down to your needs.

Happy Transfers!

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