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Transferwise vs Western Union

TransferWise vs Western Union. Which one is the solution for you and your money transfer needs? Which option should you choose if you need to send or receive money internationally? Check out our comparison of the pros and cons of each money transfer service.

    Last updated March 25, 2019
    Written by François Briod

    Our recommendation: TransferWise is a better deal (unless you need cash options)*

    *It's a better deal for sending money online. If you need to pay in cash or need the recipient to receive the money in cash, then there is no deal with TransferWise--they don't offer this option.

    TransferWise is an online service that specializes in helping you send money between two different currencies. They charge very competitive fees, but what is unusual about TransferWise is that they do not take a margin on the exchange rate.

    Western Union is one of the world’s most recognized and largest worldwide money transfer companies in the industry best known for their cash pay-in and payout options. They have over 550,000 agent locations across 200 countries and territories globally. They also offer online money transfers.

    Both money transfer companies are excellent choices, but in general, TransferWise is more affordable because of their zero margin on exchange rates (whereas Western Union's exchange rates are above the mid-market, or "real," exchange rate). But f you need to send money for cash pickup or want to pay cash, Western Union offers this service, but TransferWise does not.

    Compare TransferWise, Western Union and 100+ international money transfer services

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    TransferWise VS Western Union

    TransferWise wins the comparison with a score of 9.2/10 versus 7.1/10 for Western Union.


    Monito score 9.2/10


    What we like about TransferWise

    • You get the true mid-market rate

    • Low and transparent transfer fees

    • Fantastic user experience

    • Exceptional customer reviews on Trustpilot

    What we dislike about TransferWise

    • You can only send to a bank account

    Monito score 7.1/10


    What we like about Western Union

    • An enormous network of agent locations (over 550,000) across the world that enable cash pickup, and the ability to send and receive money in over 200 countries

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

    • 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

    • Exchange rate margins are not transparent

    Detailed breakdown of our comparison between TransferWise & Western Union

    Western Union
    Fees & Exchange Rates

    With a score of 8.8/10, TransferWise has a more competitive pricing than Western Union.

    Ease of Use

    TransferWise received a better score (9/10) than Western Union in our "ease of use" evaluation

    Credibility & Security

    TransferWise scores 9.4/10 against 8.5/10 for Western Union for our credibility & security criteria

    Service & Coverage

    TransferWise's coverage and diversity of services isn't as good as Western Union's who get a score of 9.5/10.

    Customer satisfaction

    TransferWise has a higher number of positive customer reviews than Western Union

    Customer support

    We rated TransferWise's customer support at 9.5/10, better than Western Union's 6.5/10 score.


    TransferWise wins the "transparency" competition with a score of 10/10

    How TransferWise & Western Union Services, Fees & Exchange Rates compare

    How TransferWise works:

    Transfers are paid from your bank account, debit or credit card. Funds go directly to the recipients bank account. Options vary according to the country combination of where you are sending money from and to. As an example, if you are transferring money from the UK to India you can pay with your debit or credit card, or directly from your bank account., but if you are sending money from Germany to France, you can make a SOFORT transfer. Exchange rates and fees are displayed before you make the transfer. TransferWise also calculates fees for you and warns you about potential local bank fees (which they can't control).

    How Western Union works:
    Western Union is not solely an online money transfer service.  Customers have the option to send and pick up money in cash, receive funds in a  bank account, onto a mobile wallet or on a prepaid card.  You are always able to pay with with your debit or credit card, and from some locations you can send money from our bank account via a local bank transfer, by using an online payment system ( such as SOFORT, Trustly or iDEAL). Western Union also has a mobile app available in online, through Western Union’s mobile app. The also offer bill payments as well as money orders.


    TransferWise charges a percentage of your total transfer amount. This amount is roughly 0.6% to 1% of the transfer fees (it depends on the currency combination). There's no transaction fee if you pay via a traditional bank transfer. Paying via ACH? There's a 0.15% fee, or by debit or credit card there's generally a 0.3% to 2% fee. It's variable; according to TransferWise's website, "most banks charge an additional fee. These processing fees vary depending on the kind of card you use and where it was issued." Fees are also always very clearly displayed, and if there is a local bank fee that may be added, they alert you to that.

    Fees at Western Union vary --it depends on how much money you send, the countries you're sending money from and to, plus the pay-in and pay-out methods you choose. Paying for your transfer with a credit or debit card and receiving the money in cash is sometimes the most costly mix. Overall, picking up money at agent location usually incurs higher costs than when you send money online.

    Exchange rates

    TransferWise's exchange rate is set to standard, mid-market rate. They don't add a margin on top of that rate, which is unique compared to their competitors.

    As is the case with other money transfer services Western Union takes a margin between the exchange rate they offer their customers, and the mid-market exchange rate. Overall, during out tests we found that Western Union makes up on average to 20% of its profit via exchange rate margins. Note that exchange rates vary according to pay-in and payout methods Exchange rates are sometimes better if you send larger amounts of money.

    Key takeaways:

    • When it comes to flat fees, Western Unions fluctuates so much according to pay-in and payout methods as well as country combination that it is possible that sometimes, fees may be less for a transaction compared to TransferWise. However, when we played around with a number of country combinations, we did not ind any instances where Western Union's fees were lower that TransferWise.
    • In terms ofd exchange rates, TransferWise is better, period.
    • TransferWise is fantastic and the better option when it comes to online money transfers, but they don't offer the option for cash pickup (nor the ability to pay cash). So, if you needs cash options, Western Union is the only option.

    "TransferWise is better for online money transfers, but if you need to pay cash or have your recipient to receive cash, Western Union is the only option."

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