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Western Union Online Review: Rates, Safety, Alternatives, and Monito's Verdict

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com
Apr 30, 2021

Western Union Online is a very good option to send money overseas (7.5/10), endorsed by Monito's experts. With over 150 million customers and moving tens of billions of dollars annually, Western Union is an extremely trustworthy service (7.5/10), although not very transparent about its pricing. Using high-quality and easy-to-use web and mobile platforms (8.0/10), which attract all-around positive feedback (7.6/10), Western Union Online customers can take advantage of reasonably good fees and exchange rates (7.0/10), especially for deposits to bank accounts.

What Monito Likes About Western Union

  • By far the largest money transfer company on the globe;
  • A variety of pay-in options are available (including cash, credit card, bank transfer, etc.);
  • An enormous network of cash pickup locations globally;
  • Western Union exchange rates are reasonably competitive for online transfers;
  • Numerous payment channels are available (including agent locations, website, mobile app, telephone).

What Monito Dislikes About Western Union

  • Around 90% of fees are hidden away in nontransparent margins;
  • Seldom the cheapest service for online bank transfers;
  • Options for finding help on the website are somewhat limited.
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Monito's Recommendation

Western Union is a solid choice for transferring money internationally. However, while it's often a competitive service for transfers to bank accounts, Western Union Online is seldom the cheapest service for bank and cash pickup transfers alike. As a result, if you're somebody looking to save when sending abroad, we recommend you run a search on Monito's comparison engine instead to find the cheapest transfer service in real-time.

Who Is Western Union For?

Western Union Online is especially fitting for existing customers who are already happy with the service and don't mind using a platform that's only sometimes the cheapest out there. After all, Western Union's exchange rates and transfer fees are reasonably priced for both bank deposits and cash pickups, and while it's an all-around competitive service, Western Union Online is especially competitive for the transfers we analyzed from the UK to India, the US, Romania, and Pakistan.

How Monito Reviewed Western Union's Services

As with all services reviewed by Monito, Western Union underwent a rigorous evaluation to assess the quality of its service. To begin with, our experts opened a Western Union Online account to test out its functionalities, including the ease of registration and speed of transferring money, which provided a well-rounded overview of the platform's strengths and limitations. Next, we weighed this score against several other key criteria, including customer reviews, percentage of fees constituted by exchange rate margins, pay-in options, access to customer service, as well as business and legal metrics such as volume transferred, appropriate authorization, and company size. Finally, we analyzed more than 50 thousand searches on Monito's comparison engine to determine how often Western Union Online was the cheapest service and how often it was competitive against its rivals over the past three months, giving a reliable overview of the service's pricing in relation to the market. As with all Monito Scores, Western Union's score was peer-reviewed by at least one Monito expert.

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Western Union at a Glance

Criteria

Monito's Score

Review Highlight

Trust & Credibility

7.5/10

The largest money transfer company in the world.

Service Quality

8.0/10

An almost unmatched scope of pay-in and pay-out methods.

Fees & Exchange Rates

7.0/10

Fairly competitive fees and exchange rates.

Customer Satisfaction

7.6/10

A poor 2.6/5 star rating on Trustpilot, although a large number of good reviews.

Last updated: 23/06/2021

Trust & Credibility

7.5

Background check

Western Union is a publicly-traded company, licensed and authorized by the New York State Department of Financial Services in the US and in every region in which it operates globally.

Security & reliability

Western Union's platforms are fully secured and use top-notch security protocols, including segregated user accounts and HTTPS.

Company size

Founded back in 1851, Western Union is arguably the biggest name in the international money transfer world. In 2020, the company boasted over 11 thousand employees, 150 million customers, and over US$96 billion transferred in principal.

Transparent pricing

Western Union is not transparent about its pricing, with some 90% of total fees being buried away in hidden exchange rate margins.

Can I Trust Western Union?

With more than US$96 billion transferred across the globe in 2020 and around 150 million customers, Western Union is at the top of its game when it comes to credibility.

The Western Union Company, better known under its brand name Western Union, is the largest money transfer provider in the world. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado in the United States, Western Union has a global presence with over 11'000 employees across offices in 50 countries.

Originally founded as a telegram company in 1851, The Western Union Company launched its wire transfer service in 1871, which allowed people to send money throughout its telegraph network. It has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:WU) since September 1865 and is currently valued at approximately $9 billion.

Western Union's brand is recognized worldwide and represents speed, reliability, trust and convenience for their 150 million customers. In 2017, Western Union's customers, both consumers and businesses, transferred over US$300 billion, with an average of about 32 transactions per second!

Is Western Union Safe?

In most countries, Western Union Online is offered by Western Union International Bank GmbH, which is licensed by the Financial Market Authority in Austria (Österreichische Finanzmarktaufsicht), as is the case with Western Union International Limited. Western Union is duly authorized and regulated in all countries in which it does business, including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Ireland.

Western Union has state of the art regulatory, compliance and anti-money laundering infrastructure, into which it invests as much as into its marketing activities. The company relies on proprietary and cutting-edge data analysis to always remain compliant with the regulations of all the jurisdictions it operates in.

So, is Western Union safe to use? Yes, most certainly. Western Union is the most experienced company in the money transfer industry, the largest, and probably the most trustworthy. They have an impressive track record of serving hundreds of millions of customers and are very reliable.

Money laundering, scams and fraud have sometimes been associated with Western Union. As the largest money transfer provider globally, Western Union is sometimes exposed to a small group of people trying to game the system to their own advantage for illegal activities. Western Union has a dedicated page for fraud and scam prevention, educating its customers on avoiding becoming the victim of frauds and scams and preventing using Western Union to transfer money to fraudsters and scammers. Western Union has to follow strict rules to prevent fraud, money laundering, and terrorism financing and has a dedicated team and infrastructure for regulatory compliance.

Service & Quality

8.0

Opening an account

Opening an account with Western Union Online is reasonably easy thanks to a simple, well-designed website and mobile app.

Making a transfer

Transferring money with Western Union Online is a speedy and straightforward process for first-time and returning users alike.

Contacting support

Western Union Online provides a FAQ that's detailed (albeit tricky to navigate) and offers phone support features accessible via the mobile app.

Western Union's Service Quality

Registering for a new account and transferring money with Western Union Online is quite simple, with an impressive variety of payment methods and channels to choose from.

What Is Western Union?

Western Union is one of the world’s oldest, largest, and leading money transfer providers in the industry. Their service allows people to send and receive money at over 550,000 agent locations in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Customers can also send money online via the Western Union website and mobile app to bank accounts, agent locations, mobile wallets.

With Western Union, money can be received in over 125 currencies. In several ways (sending and receiving options vary by country): in cash at an agent location or through an ATM, in a bank account, or on a mobile wallet. The money is often available within minutes after being sent. You can pay for your money transfer using cash, debit or credit card or your bank account. There are also bill payment services for some countries. Money transfer limits vary depending on what service you choose and your transfer history, and the sender and recipient's location, payment, and payout methods.

Western Union is currently embarking on a massive digital expansion to expand the number of countries that enable digital money transfer services such as sending money from or to a bank account, to a mobile wallet or via the Western Union app. They are also expanding the countries in which you can use their mobile app. Digital options are already extensive across the US, Canada, most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Still, they are rapidly extending their digital reach in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. They've recently expanded their digital reach in several countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, and Panama in Latin American and the Caribbean; Singapore and Malaysia in Asia; and Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman in the Middle East.

Western Union’s service enables millions of people to send money to family members for basic living expenses, education, healthcare, or starting a business. Western Union also caters to businesses through its Western Union Business Solutions division.

Western Union's Mobile App

Western Union has an outstanding mobile app available on both Apple iOS and Google Android. The Western Union mobile app allows you to send money to 500,000 agent locations or 1 billion bank accounts worldwide, wherever you are and at any time. Western Union offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. The app provides a good user experience and is very convenient. It’s rated 4.3 / 5 in the Google Play Store and 4.5 / 5 in the Apple App Store.

You can use a credit or debit card to scan within the app by using your camera. You can also set up your money transfer on the app but follow up and complete it by paying for it in cash at any agent location. With the Western Union mobile app, you can also track the progress of a past transfer, or estimate the fees or find a nearby agent location for a future transfer. The app offers one-touch fingerprint logins that enable fast transfers and excellent security.

Additional Services Offered by Western Union

In addition to international money transfers aimed at everyday customers, Western Union also offers the following services:

Western Union Business Solutions

Western Union also caters to businesses under the Western Union Business Solutions brand name. This service, which the company launched in 2010 following its purchase of Canadian foreign exchange firm Custom House, allows businesses to use Western Union’s global business payment network and cross-border platform. Use cases include paying suppliers, employees, and partners worldwide, accepting payments from foreign customers, and sending mass payments globally.

In 2016, Western Union Business Solutions launched WU EDGE, an innovative online platform for SMEs to make and receive international payments, hold foreign currency, track their payables and receivables, and manage their cash flow and foreign exchange risk.

Consumer to Business

Western Union’s consumer to business service is a fast and convenient way for consumers to pay bills from utility companies, auto finance companies, mortgage servicers, financial service providers, government agencies and other businesses. Bills can be paid using a debit or credit card, bank transfer, or cash at a Western Union agent location. This service is currently only available in the United States under the Speedpay brand name, Argentina under the Pago Fácil brand name, and Peru and Panama under the regular Western Union brand name.

Prepaid Card

The Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard allows consumers in the United States to hold value on a prepaid card and use their card to make and receive Western Union money transfers. The Western Union prepaid card can be used to shop online, buy groceries, pay bills, or collect cash at an ATM. You can get a direct deposit of your paycheck and receive government benefits directly on your Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard, which gives you a quicker and more convenient way to get and use your money.

Fees & Exchange Rates

7.0

Transfers to a bank account

Western Union Online was the best deal on less than 4% of available Monito searches for bank transfers over the first three months of 2021.

Transfers to cash pick-up

Western Union Online was the best deal on nearly a quarter (23%) of available Monito searches for cash pickup transfers over the first three months of 2021.

Western Union's Fees & Exchange Rates

Western Union Online sometimes ranks as one of the cheapest services available for cash pickups, although extremely seldom for bank transfers. This is despite the service still very often being competitive on bank transfers, meaning Western Union offers comparatively cheap fees for these transfers.

Western Union's Fees

Western Union's fixed transaction fees vary significantly depending on where you are in the world, the country you're sending to, as well as your desired pay-in and pay-out methods. Generally, Western Union doesn't charge a fixed fee for bank-to-bank transfers (although there are sometimes exceptions) and fees are more likely on cash transfers.

If you live in the US, you can see an overview of what fees you can expect to pay using Western Union's price estimator tool. If you're sending money from Europe using Money In Minutes, you can find an overview of the relevant fees here.

Western Union's Exchange Rates

One of the primary ways Western Union makes money on its currency conversion services is via exchange rate margins. These are the difference between the Western Union exchange rate and the mid-market exchange rate (i.e. the one you see on Google.) For most transfers, Western Union's exchange rate margins are between 0.4% and 1% of the transfer amount, making them a reasonably-priced service, all things considered.

However, it's worth bearing in mind that Western Union's exchange rates vary significantly depending on the currency combination involved. Take a look at the chart below to get a sense of how Western Union's exchange rates are applied from corridor to corridor:

Western Union Exchange Rates

Destination

Currency

Western Union Exchange Rate

Mid-Market Exchange Rate

Exchange Rate Margin (%)

Margin Cost on US$2,500.00 Transfer (USD)

India

Indian rupee

72.098

72.789

0.95%

US$23.73

Canada

Canadian dollar

1.1769

1.2109995

2.82%

US$70.4

Mexico

Mexico

19.5174

19.875534

1.8%

US$45.05

Colombia

Colombian peso

3611.74

3747.04

3.61%

US$90.27

Philippines

Philippine peso

47.3987

48.12145

1.5%

US$37.55

Quoted: 26/05/2021 at 17:00 GMT +01:00

Western Union Fee Calculator

To get a better picture of Western Union's exchange rates and transfer fees in advance of paying for your money transfer, be sure to look at Western Union's OnlineFX web app to see the real-time exchange rates for available currency pairs. If you live in the US, you can simulate your transfer on Western Union's price estimator tool to get an even fuller overview of the total fees and exchange rates you can expect to pay. It's also worth keeping in mind that you'll be provided with a comprehensive overview of Western Union's exchange rates and transfer fees before you send money on the Western Union website or the mobile app itself.

On the other hand, if you'd like to compare Western Union's exchange rates and fees to those of other top competitors, be sure to run a search on Monito's real-time comparison engine below (which includes a built-in fee calculator function for detailed comparisons):

Compare Western Union's Exchange Rates and Transfer Fees

Customer Satisfaction

7.6

Customer review score

Western Union Online has garnered very mediocre feedback in general, receiving only 2.6 out of 5 stars from over 18 thousand reviews on Trustpilot.

Number of positive reviews

With more than 14 thousand reviewers on Trustpilot awarding four- or five-star to Western Union Online, the service is undoubtedly reliable in the eyes of many customers.

Customer Reviews of Western Union

While Western Union Online has received generally mixed feedback from customers worldwide, many users still rank the service highly. Among the hundreds of reviews we surveyed, the following key themes emerged from Western Union customers:

Positive

  • It's extremely easy to send money to 200+ countries
  • Western Union is reliable and trustworthy
  • Extremely fast money transfers
  • Quick and efficient service

Negative

  • Some customers were unhappy with the exchange rate offered by Western Union
  • A few customers experienced delays in their transfers
  • Some were annoyed by the verification process they needed to go through and the answers they needed to provide (by law)
  • On some occasions, when a transfer did not go through, customers had a problem obtaining refunds in a timely fashion

How Western Union Works

  • Step 01

    Check Western Union's Rates

    Use Monito's comparison engine to see how Western Union’s fees and exchange rates weigh up against the rest and make sure they are indeed the cheapest option for your international money transfer. There, you'll be able to discover both the cheapest ways to fund your transfer and have the money received.

  • Step 02

    Create a Western Union Account

    You can sign up for Western Union Online on the web or with the mobile app using your email address. To create an account, you’ll also need to provide Western Union with your full name, residential address, mobile phone number, country of birth, and date of birth.

  • Step 03

    Verify Your Identity

    If you’d like to transfer over a threshold limit (e.g. €1,000 or £800), you’ll be required to verify your identity regardless of your payment method. To do this, click 'Start verification' when prompted, and then follow the instructions to scan and submit a photo ID along with your signature and the date. Be mindful that you may also be asked a few questions about the source of your funds, the purpose of your transaction, and your relation to your beneficiary.

  • Step 04

    Set Up Your Money Transfer

    Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to enter how much you’d like to send, your destination country and currency, and your delivery method. At Western Union Online, you'll generally have several pay-in and pay-out options to choose from, including bank transfer, cash pickup, bank deposit, and credit or card payments.

  • Step 05

    Add Your Beneficiary

    Enter your recipient’s details, including their full name, email address, mobile phone number, and bank information. If you’re sending money within the Eurozone, you'll only need your recipient's IBAN (the first two letters of which must match the receiving country originally specified.) You may also be asked questions about the purpose of your transaction and the source of your funds.

  • Final step

    Review and Pay

    On the final page, you’ll be asked to review your transfer details. These include the amounts sent and to be received, the exchange rate, the delivery time, and your beneficiary's details. If everything's in order, click the checkbox to agree to the terms, click 'Accept,' and then make your payment according to the pay-in method you originally selected.

    Try Western Union

Frequently Asked Questions About Western Union

The Story Behind Western Union

The Western Union Telegraph Company was born in 1851 after the "New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company" merged with the "New York & Western Union Telegraph Company".

While the company initially operated a telegraph service, Western Union started to offer a way to transfer money (the “wire transfer”) over its telegraph network throughout the United States in 1871. When the telephone started to replace the telegraph, money transfers became Western Union’s primary line of business.

After divesting from its telecommunication activities in the 80s, Western Union started sending money outside the US and positioned itself as "The fastest way to send money worldwide". In 2000, Western Union launched WU.com to offer digital money transfer services and later launched its mobile money transfer service in 2007. In 2009, Western Union acquired foreign exchange company Custom House for $370 million to start offering payment solutions to businesses under Western Union Business Solutions.

In 2015, the company launched WU Connect to allow social media users to send money through Western Union’s platform. The first integrations were made with WeChat and then Viber, and the company intends on continuing to grow the number of integrations with 3rd party platforms.

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