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All you need to know before sending money with Western Union

How can you use Western Union to send money abroad? Is their service reliable? Can you trust Western Union with your money? How good are their fees and exchange rates?

    Our independent review of Western Union

    Last updatedAugust 2018
    Written byLaurent Oberholzer

    Western Union is the world’s leading money transfer provider, being both the largest and oldest company in the industry. Western Union’s service allows people to send and receive money at 500,000 agent locations in over 200 countries and territories around the world, as well as send money digitally through the Western Union website and mobile app in dozens of countries.

    With Western Union, money can be received in 130 currencies and in several ways: in cash at an agent location or through an ATM; on a bank account; on a mobile wallet; or on a prepaid card. The money is often available within minutes after being sent, and you can pay for your money transfer by using cash, a debit or credit card, or your bank account.

    Western Union’s slogan is “Moving money for better”, and indeed, the company’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, and offers bill payment services in certain countries.

    Western Union

    What we like about Western Union

    • Largest network of agent locations, allowing money to be sent and received in nearly every country in the world

    • Money can be sent both through several channels, including at Western Union agent locations, on its website, mobile app, or over the phone, whichever is most convenient

    • You can pay for your transfer and receive money in several different ways

    • Wide variety of services available for consumers and businesses

    What we dislike about Western Union

    • Sending to certain countries or sending cash at an agent location can be expensive

    • Not all channels are available in every country

    • With the standard consumer service, you can only transfer relatively small amounts (less than $5000)


    Alternatives to Western Union


    Fees & Exchange Rates

    Fees & Exchange Rates 6.6/10

    Average

    Western Union is very often the cheapest option

    This indicator is based on the percentage of searches on Monito for which Western Union is the cheapest provider

    3.4/5

    Western Union fees and exchange rates are often competitive

    This indicator is based on the percentage of comparisons on Monito in which Western Union offers a competitive pricing (taking into account the pay-in and pay-out options as well as the amount).

    3.2/5

    Western Union doesn't offer special promotions to Monito users

    0/1

    Monito cannot access real-time pricing information from Western Union

    0/1

    The points above are added to calculate the "Fees & Exchange Rates" score of Western Union, who scores 6.6 points on a maximum of 10 points.

    Transfer fees

    Western Union fees depend on the amount sent, the send and receive countries, as well as the pay-in and pay-out methods. Paying for your transfer with a credit or debit card and receiving the money in cash is generally the most expensive combination. Also note that fees at an agent location are generally higher than when sending online.

    Exchange rate

    Like most money transfer providers, Western Union makes part of their profit by taking a margin between the exchange rate they offer their customers, and the exchange rate at which they can acquire the currency. In fact, Western Union makes 25% of its profit through this exchange rate margin on average. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the exchange rate when evaluating a money transfer service.

    Western Union sometimes offers better exchange rates if you send larger amounts of money, so it’s worth considering if this is possible, in which case you might be better off bundling a few of your transfers into a single one if you can.

    Country from
    United Kingdom
    Country to
    Select a country
    You send
    To

    Ease of Use

    Ease of Use 5.8/10

    Poor

    Very few Monito users going to Western Union end up making a transfer with them

    /3

    Western Union's homepage is clear and very easy to understand

    1.8/2

    It's very easy to open an account with Western Union

    1.8/2

    Setting up your transfer is relatively straightforward

    1.3/2

    It's easy to sign up and make a transfer both on mobile and desktop

    1/1

    The points above are added to calculate the "Ease of Use" score of Western Union, who scores 5.8 points on a maximum of 10 points.

    Credibility & Security

    Credibility & Security 8.5/10

    Great

    Western Union is fully licensed and authorized

    2/2

    Western Union has many positive customer reviews

    1.5/2

    A very large number of customers already trust Western Union

    2/2

    Western Union employs a very large number of employees

    1/1

    Western Union has already transferred at least 5 billion USD for their customers

    1/1

    Western Union has been mentioned in countless recognized media outlets

    1/1

    Western Union is part of Monito's network of trusted partners

    1/1

    Western Union is a long-established company

    0.5/0.5

    Western Union reported a minor data breach in the past year (-0.5)

    Western Union had insignificant legal issues in the past year (-0.5)

    The points above are added to calculate the "Credibility & Security" score of Western Union, who scores 8.5 points on a maximum of 10 points.

    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 10'000 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 $10 billion.

    Western Union's brand is recognized worldwide, and represents speed, reliability, trust and convenience for their 150 million customers. In 2015, Western Union's customers - both consumers and businesses - transferred over $150 billion, with an average of about 31 transactions per second!

    In most countries, Western Union’s online service is offered by Western Union International Bank GmbH, which is licensed by the Financial Market Authority in Austria (Österreichische Finanzmarktaufsicht), and with Western Union International Limited. Western Union is regulated in many countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Ireland.

    Western Union has a 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, definitely. 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 hundred of millions of customers and are very reliable.

    Authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) 
    Firm Reference : 502592

     

    Western Union and Fraud/Scams

    Money laundering, scams and fraud have sometimes been associated with Western Union. As the largest money transfer provider in the world, Western Union is unfortunately 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 how to avoid becoming the victim of frauds and scams, and how to prevent from 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 & Coverage

    Service & Coverage 9.5/10

    Excellent

    Western Union allows you to send money from a lot of different countries

    2/2

    Western Union allows you to send money to a lot of different countries

    2/2

    Western Union is available in many different languages

    1/1

    It is possible to pay for your transfer by local bank transfer

    0.5/0.5

    It is possible to pay for your transfer by credit/debit card

    0.5/0.5

    Western Union offers additional pay-in options

    0.5/0.5

    It is possible to send the money to your recipient's bank account

    0.5/0.5

    The money can be delivered to a cash pick-up location

    0.5/0.5

    The money can be sent to a mobile phone (airtime top-up or mobile wallet)

    0.5/0.5

    Western Union has a bill payment service

    0.5/0.5

    Western Union doesn't offer additional banking features

    0/0.5

    Western Union doesn’t offer a multi-currency debit card

    0/0.5

    Western Union offers guaranteed exchange rates

    0.5/0.5

    It is not possible to set up repeating transfers / standing orders

    0/0.5

    There is no minimum amount (or very low)

    0.5/0.5

    There is a maximum amount

    0/0.5

    The points above are added to calculate the "Service & Coverage" score of Western Union, who scores 9.5 points on a maximum of 10 points.

    Additional services offered by Western Union

    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 around the world, 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.

    The Western Union Online FX platform of Western Union Business Solutions can also be used for personal transfers of over $5000, where Western Union’s traditional consumer service is unavailable. This allows consumers to make use of a professional platform for making high-value international payments.

    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 with cash at a Western Union agent location. This service is currently only available in the United States under the Speedpay brand name, in Argentina under the Pago Fácil brand name, and in Peru and Panama under the regular Western Union brand name. A few other consumer-to-business and business-to-consumer services are available in both the United States and Canada, known as Western Union Payments (which includes the Quick Collect, Quick Pay, Quick Cash and Convenience Pay services).

    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.

    Customer satisfaction

    Customer satisfaction 7.6/10

    Good

    Western Union has a very high percentage of excellent customer reviews

    3.4/5

    Western Union has a very low percentage of negative customer reviews

    2.2/2.5

    Western Union has a very high number of positive customer reviews

    2/2.5

    The points above are added to calculate the "Customer satisfaction" score of Western Union, who scores 7.6 points on a maximum of 10 points.

    Western Union has great reviews written by over 4'000 customers on Trustpilot. Here's a summary of what Western Union customers have to say:

    Positive

    • It's extremely easy to send money to 200+ countries
    • Western Union is reliable and trustworthy
    • "In minutes" transfers are very fast
    • The website and mobile app are convenient, easy to use and straightforward

    Negative

    • The service is expensive for some of Western Union’s customers
    • 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, receivers had problem with cashing out a transfer at agent locations that were closed, wouldn't give the money because the identity wouldn't match (e.g. missing middle names) or didn’t have enough cash

    Customer support

    Customer support 6.5/10

    Average

    The FAQ and help center of Western Union are easy to understand

    1.5/2

    Western Union doesn't has any live chat

    0/2

    Western Union offers email support (even to noncustomers)

    2/2

    Western Union offers phone support (even to noncustomers)

    1.5/2

    It's relatively easy to get in contact with Western Union

    0.5/1

    The FAQ and help center are translated in all languages

    1/1

    Monito cannot contact Western Union on behalf of our users

    0/1

    The points above are added to calculate the "Customer support" score of Western Union, who scores 6.5 points on a maximum of 10 points.

    Transparency

    Transparency 5/10

    Poor

    The exchange rate margin makes up most of the total cost of your transfer

    0.5/3

    It's very easy to understand the fees of Western Union

    1.5/2

    Western Union clearly indicates that they make money on the exchange rate

    0.8/2

    A real-time quote can be obtained without registering

    1/1

    Western Union applies the same fees and exchange rates to all customers

    1/1

    It's very difficult for Monito to access the pricing information of Western Union

    0.3/1

    The points above are added to calculate the "Transparency" score of Western Union, who scores 5 points on a maximum of 10 points.


    • Mobile apps

      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.

      All you need is a credit or debit card which you can scan within the app by using your camera. 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.


    How Western Union works

    How to send money with Western Union online

    1. Register an account or, if you already have one, log into your account.
    2. Choose the country you would like to send money to, as well as the transfer amount and the pay-out method (e.g. cash pick-up, bank transfer, etc.).
    3. Enter your recipient’s name and other information such as their bank account details (if you are sending to their bank account) and telephone number (if you are sending to their mobile wallet). If you’ve already sent money to them before, you can simply select an existing receiver.
    4. Pay with your debit or credit card. In some countries, you can also pay with your bank account by making a local bank transfer or by using an online payment system such as SOFORT, Trustly or iDEAL.
    5. You'll get a confirmation by email with your unique tracking number (MTCN). If you’re sending money for cash pick-up, your recipient will need to provide the MTCN to collect the money.

    How to send money with Western Union's mobile app

    1. Open the WU mobile app and tap “Send money”.
    2. Select the country you would like to send money to, and enter the amount you wish to send.
    3. Choose how the money should be received, and how you wish to pay for your transfer.
    4. If you’re not logged in, you’ll be asked to do so.
    5. Enter your recipient’s name and other information such as their bank account details (if you are sending to their bank account) and telephone number (if you are sending to their mobile wallet). If you’ve already sent money to them before, you can simply select an existing receiver.
    6. Enter your credit or debit card information, or simply use your phone’s camera to scan your card.
    7. Review your transfer details, which includes your unique tracking number (MTCN). If everything looks good, simply tap send.

    How to send money with Western Union at an agent location

    1. Find and go to an agent location near you.
    2. Fill out the money transfer form, and provide your recipient’s name and other information such as their bank account details (if you are sending to their bank account) and telephone number (if you are sending to their mobile wallet).
    3. Give the completed form to the Agent, and pay for your transfer with cash or, in certain locations, a debit card.
    4. You’ll get a receipt with your unique tracking number (MTCN). Make sure to keep it. If you’re sending money for cash pick-up, your recipient will need to provide the MTCN to collect the money.

    The story behind Western Union

    The Western Union Telegraph Company was born in 1851 after the fusion of the “New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company” and 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 the name 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.

    Compare Western Union's exchange rates and fees

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    • Why you can trust Monito's reviews

      Monito's mission is to help you (and thousands of others each day) find the best providers for your money transfers.

      We do that by providing real-time comparison of exchange rates and fees (you can use the form below to make a comparison) and by writting in-depth reviews about money transfer providers.

      We have partnerships with many money transfer providers (Western Union included), which help us get access to their exchange rate and fees information (which we always check for accuracy). Those partnerships help us support our activity and offer our service for free.

      We put a lot of efforts to review money transfer providers like Western Union in details and based on objective and verifiable criteria. A good example of that is the in-depth User Experience Benchmark Study we conducted in August 2018.


    Compare Western Union to 300+ other providers

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    Questions you may have

    Read our guides on sending money abroad