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.
Wise and Western Union are both reputable companies with millions of customers worldwide. However, they have significant differences in fees, speed, and benefits.
- Wise is focused on affordability and confidence for bank-to-bank or card-to-bank
- Western Union boasts a vast network of agent locations for seamless cash transfers.
So, which money transfer service is right for you?
In this Wise vs Western Union breakdown, we will compare them in different criteria, such as fees, exchange rates, speed, and customer reviews.
Let’s get into it!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and savings on transfers if you use some of the links! For more information, see our disclosures here.
1. Quick Comparison
Wise (was Transferwise) and Western Union are both reliable and trustworthy companies. Western Union is “Great” with 75% positive reviews on Trustpilot while Wise is considered “Excellent” at 4.3/5 with 91% positive reviews. However, Wise is the better option if you want to save money on fees.
|Trust||High – Excellent Trustpilot reviews and regulated service||High – Good Trustpilot rating, regulated service, oldest money transfer company|
|Fees||Transparent Fees – Low percentage fee, no markup on the exchange rate||Lots of hard to find fees – service fees, margins on the exchange rate, and third-party service fees|
|Type of transfer||Card-to-bank, bank-to-bank|
Mobile wallet to bank/card
|Cash, bank, and wallet transfers|
|Trustpilot rating||Excellent – 4.3/5 with over 193, 000 reviews (as of August 2023)||Great – 3.9/5 on Trustpilot with over 51,000 reviews (as of August 2023)|
|Full review||Wise (review)||Western Union(review)|
2. Pros and Cons
- No exchange rate markup
- Low and transparent fees
- Send money to over 160 countries
- Has multi-currency account – lets you hold, manage, and convert 40+ currencies
- Has a debit card that can be used globally
- Available for personal and business
- Licensed and regulated service
- No cash transfers
- Set up for small transfers (not ideal for larger amounts)
- Supports fewer currencies
- Send money to over 200 countries in 130+ global currencies
- 500,000+ agent locations worldwide
- Home delivery of cash (in some countries)
- Transfer speed options (in minutes, 24 hrs, etc.)
- Set up transfers online or offline
- Available for personal and business
- Licensed and regulated
- High markup on the exchange rate
- Can be expensive due to third-party service fees and other fees
- Limits on transfer amounts
3. What Others Say – Third-Party Reviews
Excellent – 4.3/5 with over 193,000 reviews (as of August 2023)
Their positive reviews focus on Wise’s competitive rates, efficient service, and ease of handling your money while travelling abroad.
People also love that Wise offers many payment methods to fund their transfers.
Many reviewers were disappointed with Wise’s extensive verification (and re-verification process). Wise asks for your ID documents when you sign up to use their platform and they ask for additional documents like bank statements, proof of employment etc. intermittently for certain transfers to prevent unlawful usage of their platform.
Many reviewers were also concerned that Wise had unexpectedly locked them out and frozen their accounts.
This can happen for a number of reasons like sending money to a new sender or sending or receiving to a personal account for business.
What They Say
“Wise is an excellent solution. It has helped me a lot overcome a lot of obstacles when going abroad and travelling to other countries it is one of the most beautiful and amazing services that I rely on. They are functional, their rates are fair, they are honest and transparent -> exactly an example for all Fintechs to learn from.”– Alan Radi on Trustpilot
Excellent – 3.9/5 on Trustpilot with over 51,000 reviews (as of August 2023)
Many reviewers said that Western Union is a consistently reliable service (many have been using the platform for 10+ years).
They also mentioned that money arrives fast with Western Union and the platform is easy to use.
A major cause for dissatisfaction among the reviewers is transfer delays and claims that Western Union is holding their money longer than expected.
In many cases, Western Union may audit transfers to check that the recipient on the other end is reliable – that’s why they only recommend sending money to people you know.
Transfer delays can also take place as a result of mismatched expectations. Western Union offers many transfer speeds and choosing the right option can solve this issue.
Reviewers also mentioned that Western Union’s customer service can be difficult to get hold of and can take days or weeks to resolve their issues.
What They Say
“Western Union is a quick, easy and trustworthy way to send money abroad. The money is there within minutes and the recipient is able to pick up with recommended identification within minutes. It is probably the easiest way to send money to someone not just abroad but also within the UK”– Anastasia on Trustpilot
- 0% markup on the exchange rate
- Low percentage service fee (0.66% of the amount on average)
- A small, fixed charge and a percentage of the converted amount will apply when you send money using a credit card.
- Wise Card fees
- Free – for 2 or less withdrawals below 100 USD, 200 GBP/EUR or $350 AUD/NZD/SGD per month
- 1.75% + 0.50 GBP- ATM fees withdrawal for over 200 GBP per month
- 2% – account funding transactions
- Getting Wise debit card $9 USD / £7 GBP/ €7 EUR/ $8.5 SGD/ $14 NZD /$10 AUD/ $0 CAD
- From 0.43% (fee varies by currency) – for converting money
- Holding Money in your account
- Free – holding 40+ currencies
- 0.55% (annual fee) – investing with Wise
- Receiving money
- Free – Getting account details in 10 currencies
- Free – receiving money in 10 currencies (non-wire)
- 4.14 USD – Receiving USD wire payments
- 10 CAD – receiving CAD SWIFT payments
Fees depend on
- Currency Pair
- Funding method
- Payout method
- Service (One-day transfers, Money in Minutes, etc.)
Western Union can charges almost a 6% margin on the exchange rate as well as other fees including agent fees and a service fee (which depends on the variables above).
This makes transferring cash with them quite expensive – but perhaps worth it if you’re in a rush and want more flexibility and options for your transfer.
However, Western Union supports many currencies (popular and exotic) and they let you send cash in minutes. The cost of Western Union transfers can be higher – but if you need to send money urgently or to an exotic place, paying their premium fees may be worth it.
Want cheaper cash transfers?
Try WorldRemit (review) and Remitly (review).
5. Transfer Speeds
- Transfers funded by a debit or credit card: from a few hours to a day
- Transfer funded by Google Pay or Apple Pay: from a few hours to a day (Available only in GBP and EUR)
- Bank-to-bank transfers: 2-5 days
- Cash with Money in Minutes service: generally delivered within minutes
- Mobile wallet: generally within minutes
- Next-Day Service: generally 24 hours
- Direct to bank: 3-5 business days
- FCA-registered and regulated in Australia, Belgium and the EEA, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, UK, US, UAE
- Dedicated fraud team
- Industry-leading encryption on app and website
- Two-factor authentication
- Mandatory KYC and regular verifications for using their platform
Wise vs Western Union: Verdict
Western Union vs. Wise – Which should you choose?
With 2 wins for Wise, 1 for Western Union, and 3 ties, it can be difficult to say which is better in relation to your needs and preferences.
Wise offers low fees and fair exchange rates that match the mid-market rate, giving you more value for your money. You can also use Wise to hold and manage multiple currencies in one account, which is handy if you often make or receive international money transfers. The level of transparency and fair pricing sets Wise apart from many traditional financial services providers, including Western Union.
The best bit? You can see the exact amount your receiver will get right now on the Wise calculator here — no sign-up required!
On the other hand, Western Union’s biggest strength lies in its extensive global network and widespread presence. With thousands of agent locations, recipients can easily access their funds in cash, which can be advantageous in regions where electronic banking services may be limited.
Ultimately, the choice between Wise and Western Union depends on individual needs and preferences. If you don’t need to send cash and prioritize fair exchange rates and low fees, Wise may be the better option. Take a closer look at their features (above), fees (above), speed (above) and safety (above). You can also read their customer reviews (above) and ratings to get an idea of their service quality and reliability.