Wise vs Western Union
Wise vs Western Union: Is Wise Better Than Western Union?
Co-Founder of Monito and money transfer expert, François has been helping Monito’s users navigate the jungle of money transfer fees, bad exchange rates and tricks for the last ten years.
A writer and editor at Monito, Jarrod is passionate about helping people apply today’s powerful finance technologies to their lives. He brings his background in international affairs and his experiences living in Japan to provide readers with comprehensive information that also acknowledges the local context.
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Wise and Western Union are both highly credible experts in their industries that you can trust to send your money abroad. As we look closer at these two competitors in this comparison, however, we will find that Wise is generally more affordable because it never charges margins on exchange rates (whereas Western Union's exchange rates are weaker than the mid-market, or "real" exchange rate). Western Union does have an edge when it comes to cash transfers, though, because Wise does not operate any services in paper cash.
Wise is an online service that specializes in sending money by bank transfer, debit or credit card, wire transfer, and several other country-specific transfer methods. They charge some of the industry’s most competitive fees. What is even more unusual and attractive about Wise is that they do not make money by marking up exchange rates.
Western Union is one of the world’s most recognized and largest worldwide money transfer companies in the industry, best known for its 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.
Before you decide whether to go with Wise or Western Union, our side-by-side comparison review will walk you through their security, quality of service, fee schedules, and customer satisfaction.
Compare Wise and Western Union to other top providers:
Trust & Credibility
Licensed and authorised in the UK, US, Europe, and other countries.
A publicly-traded company, licensed and authorized by the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Security & reliability
HTTPS, segregated client accounts, secure data storage and network.
Fully secure with top-notch security protocols, including segregated user accounts and HTTPS.
16 million customers, 4,500 employees, and $133 billion in annual volumes.
Founded in 1851, WU is arguably the biggest name in the international money transfer world.
No exchange rate margin, only a low transparent fee.
Not fully transparent, around 70% of total fees are not disclosed upfront, but in the FX margin.
Wise vs Western Union: Trust & Credibility
When it comes to trust and reliability, it will be hard to go wrong with either Wise or Western Union. Founded in London, Wise is licensed by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. Western Union was founded in the United States and is regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services in the US. In addition, both follow legal compliance in every region in which they operate globally.
We don’t see a fundamental difference between Wise or Western Union when it comes to security or trust. Wise is a large company that over 10 million customers trust with their money. Western Union is the oldest and largest money transfer company in the world, with an astounding 150 million customers entrusting the company with their remittances and transfers.
Is Wise Safe?
However, we did award Wise the highest possible score for transparency because they truly lead the international money transfer industry in this area. Wise’s costs are upfront and accessible on their home landing page, and they always use the real exchange rate. Western Union applies an exchange rate that is weaker than the real mid-market rate (which is a form of a hidden cost). We think this can be somewhat misleading to some users who might not know what an exchange rate margin is, which is why Western Union earned a low score.
Service & Quality
Opening an account
No exchange rate margin, only a low transparent fee.
Opening an account with Western Union Online is reasonably easy on its website and mobile app.
Making a transfer
Very easy, can be done in just a few clicks.
Transferring money with Western Union Online is a speedy and straightforward process for first-time and returning users alike.
Very easy, responsive live chat and phone support available 24/7.
Western Union Online provides a FAQ that's detailed and offers phone support features accessible via the mobile app.
Wise vs Western Union: Service Quality
When it comes to the ease of sending money, Wise has a slight edge over Western Union thanks to its transparent and easy-to-use desktop and mobile interface.
Is Wise Better Than Western Union?
With Wise, transfers vary according to the combination of the sending country and the destination country. For 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. The mid-market exchange rate and Wise’s fixed fees are displayed before you make the transfer. Wise also calculates fees for you and warns you about potential local bank fees (which they can't control).
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 your debit or credit card, and from some locations, you can send money from your 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. They also offer bill payments as well as money orders.
Transparent Customer Interface
Western Union has a well-designed interface that allows customers to submit their bank details and their recipient’s bank details easily. However, we weren’t impressed with the fact that nearly all of Western Union’s fees were hidden in the exchange rate. Western Union’s weaker exchange rate was not communicated clearly on the sending page. The page seemed rather designed to let customers assume that a standard exchange rate was applied to the final sending amount.
⬇ Min. Transfer
⬆ Max. Transfer
English, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Portugese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish
English, French, Spanish, Polish, German, Danish, Finnish, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Chinese, Italian
|Try Wise ❯||Try WU ❯|
Wise vs Western Union: Fees & Exchange Rates
Both Wise and Western Union are far cheaper and faster ways to transfer money abroad than traditional high-street banks. However, Wise is very often the cheaper option between the two, no matter what country you are sending to or from. Based on searches done on the Monito comparison engine, Western Union is seldom the cheapest money transfer service of all for bank transfers.
Wise Exchange Rate
Unlike Western Union, Wise charges no exchange rate margin (it does not exchange currency lower than the mid-market rate and does not keep the difference). Wise makes its money by adding a small percentage or fixed fee onto every transfer. These fees are transparent and can be seen on the sending page or Wise's dedicated fees calculator. Fees are 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 — they depend on how much money you send, the countries you're sending money to and from, 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 an agent location usually incurs higher costs than sending money online.
Exchange Rate Margins
Overall, during our tests, we found that Western Union makes up on average 20% of its profit via exchange rate margins. Note that Western Union’s exchange rates may become better the larger the amount you send.
Western Union vs. Wise Fees Comparison
Take a look at the table below to get a better picture of how this works:
Rates of providers change constantly and vary depending on the locations of the sender and receiver. To ease the process of finding the cheapest international money transfer service, run a search on Monito's live comparison engine:
Compare Wise Money Transfer and Western Union To Other Top Providers
Very good reviews on Trustpilot.
3.9 out of 5 stars from around 48,000 reviews on Trustpilot.
App Store reviews
Outstanding App Store reviews.
4.8 out of 5 stars from 599,000 reviews on the App Store.
Google Play reviews
Very good reviews on Google Play.
4.6 out of 5 stars from over 10,000,000 users on Google Play.
Wise vs Western Union: Customer Satisfaction
Based on how customers review Wise and Western Union, it was clear that Wise customers seemed happier with their service.
Wise received a 4.5 out of 5 stars from Trustpilot with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Around 85% of 116 thousand customers rating the service five out of five stars. Western Union, on the other hand, received only 2.6 out of 5 stars from over 18 thousand reviews on Trustpilot.
While Western Union is trusted by a larger base of customers, Wise has a larger proportion of its customer base that is satisfied with their work.
Wise vs Western Union: Is Wise Better Than Western Union For You?
In most cases, the experts at Monito recommend Wise over Western Union, especially for international bank account transfers. Wise will show you every fee that is calculated into the final sending amount upfront and will send your money in a matter of days and even hours.
We only recommend using Western Union over Wise for cash pick up, which is a service that Wise does not provide. If you’d like to learn more, then we recommend reading our in-depth review on Western Union and our review on Wise.
For certain countries and at certain times in the year, companies can change their fee schedules. Therefore, we recommend comparing money transfer providers on Monito's real-time comparison engine to find the best deal for your transfer in real-time.
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Our recommendations are built on rock-solid experience.
- We've reviewed 50+ money transfer providers
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Monito's Side-by-Side Comparisons of Other Cheap International Money Transfer Services
Why Trust Monito?
You’re probably all too familiar with the often outrageous cost of sending money abroad. After facing this frustration themselves back in 2013, co-founders François, Laurent, and Pascal launched a real-time comparison engine to compare the best money transfer services across the globe. Today, Monito’s award-winning comparisons, reviews, and guides are trusted by around 8 million people each year and our recommendations are backed by millions of pricing data points and dozens of expert tests — all allowing you to make the savviest decisions with confidence.
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