Wise vs Western Union

About Author: Hi, I’m Quinn Askeland. In 2014, I started Transumo after experiencing expensive, slow, and frustrating international money transfers and payments through banks. Once I discovered how to manage my own international currencies much better, I became driven to help others improve their transfers and payments. Fortunately, today, there are many excellent options. 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.

Happy man and woman in office with a text that says Wise vs Western Union - 6 must knows

In short:

  • 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.

WiseWestern Union
TrustHigh – Excellent Trustpilot reviews and regulated serviceHigh – Good Trustpilot rating, regulated service, oldest money transfer company
FeesTransparent Fees – Low percentage fee, no markup on the exchange rateLots of hard to find fees – service fees, margins on the exchange rate, and third-party service fees
Type of transferCard-to-bank, bank-to-bank
Mobile wallet to bank/card
Cash, bank, and wallet transfers
Multi-currency accountYesNo
Trustpilot ratingGreat – 4.2/5 with over 203, 000 reviews (as of January 2024)Great – 4/5 on Trustpilot with over 65,000 reviews (as of January 2024)
Full reviewWise (review)Western Union(review)
Official websiteWise.comWesternUnion.com

Winner: Tie

Founded in 1851, Western Union is the oldest money transfer company in the world and is top of mind for many people who want to send money abroad. 

Western Union is available in almost all countries, supports 130 global currencies, and has a wide presence in the US  (more than  500,000 agent locations worldwide). They support many types of transfers – but they can be expensive. 

Wise on the other hand specializes in affordable bank-to-bank and card-to-bank transfers in 40+ currencies and also offers a multi-currency account and card.

2. Pros and Cons



  • No exchange rate markup 
  • Low and transparent fees
  • Send money to over 160 countries
  • 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

Western Union


  • 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

Winner: Tie

Wise brings the best of both worlds – an efficient and affordable money transfer service and a robust multi-currency account for personal and business (with a debit card!), making it ideal for expats, travellers, freelancers, and growing global businesses. 

But they don’t support cash transfers. 

Western Union does all things money transfer – supporting popular and exotic currencies and many payout methods: cash, bank transfer, and mobile wallet transfers. 

They both have areas where they shine – so which service is right for you depends on your needs.

However, neither is ideal for large transfers above $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU.

Western Union has limits on how much you can send and while Wise can do large transfers they are not designed from them. For example, their customer service is online based which can be a deal breaker if their are issues.

For these, we recommend services like OFX (review), TorFX (review), and CurrenciesDirect (review)  – affordable rates for large transfers and excellent customer service.

3. What Others Say – Third-Party Reviews


Trustpilot Score

Great – 4.2/5 with over 203,000 reviews (as of January 2024)


Positives (91%)

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.

Negatives (7%)

Extensive verification

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. 

Frozen accounts

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

Western Union

Trustpilot Score

Great – 4/5 on Trustpilot with over 65,000 reviews (as of January 2024)


Positives (75%)

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.

Negatives (20%)

Transfer delays

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. 

Customer service

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

Winner: Wise

We think in this instance the numbers reflect reality and Wise score better.

Both are reliable services that have a base of loyal customers. Sometimes problems may pop up – but these are rare and don’t reflect the experience of the majority. 

Typically, reading the fine print and choosing the right service for the right purpose can help you avoid these issues altogether.

4. Fees


  • 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.

Other Fees

  • 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

Western Union

Fees depend on

  • Currency Pair
  • Amount
  • 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.

Winner: Wise

With transfers at the mid-market rate, no markups on the exchange rate, and minimising or eliminating sending and receiving fees with local bank accounts in their supported countries, Wise makes it very affordable to send money abroad (bank transfers). 

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

Western Union

  • 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

Winner: Western Union

Both offer competitive transfer speed for international transfers – but Western Union wins this round because they let you choose how fast your recipient gets the money, which can be very useful.

6. Safety


  • 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

Western Union

  • Regulated by FCA in the UK
  • Regulated by AUSTRAC in Australia
  • Mandatory KYC
  • Advanced online encryption methods
  • Requires Govt-issued ID for cash pick up

Winner: Tie

You can trust both services with your local and international money transfers – they’re regulated and are dedicated to keeping your data and money safe. 

Previously, Western Union made headlines for being a platform used by scammers – here are some ways you can protect yourself from scams and fraud while using Western Union.

And avoid sending large sums with Wise or holding large amounts in their multi-currency account.

Sending large amounts gets your accounts flagged (causing transfer delays) and often frozen remember that Wise is not a real bank – so the money you hold in your multi-currency account is not protected by any government policies.

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.

Happy Transfers!

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