How to send money via Western Union


Western Union is a global brand, specialising in making and receiving international payments. You can send and receive money all over the world, including payments for cash collection or delivery and direct bank transfers. If you’re considering using Western Union, you’ll need to know a bit about the costs, and how the service works.

This article will cover all the basics, including:

  • How to use Western Union in Australia
  • Ways to send and receive money
  • How to find the Western Union rate for currency conversion
  • Western Union service fees

We will also look at an alternative low fee international payment service for comparison - Wise. More on that, later.

Sending from Western Union, what’s the big deal?

Western Union started out in the US, back in the 1850s, and was originally involved in communications, linking the world with telegrams. Over time, their business evolved, and these days, Western Union is best known for its international payment services.

Western Union now works through a network of local agents throughout the world, as well as offering digital payment services via their app and website. You can register to make payments online, or visit an agent local to you. You’ll then have the choice of having the payment sent directly to your recipient’s bank account, or to have them visit an agent in their home country to collect the money as local cash.

Documents and information needed

If you want to arrange a payment online, you will need to create an account and verify your identity. Acceptable ID includes your passport, Australian driver’s license or a Proof of Age card. If you’re setting up a payment in a Western Union agent location, you’ll need to take along a similar government issued proof of identity to your nearest Western Union to get started.

Once you’ve registered, it’s time to give the details of your recipient to set up the transfer. If you’re paying direct to a bank account, you will need to provide the full bank details, including account number, sort code, bank name and address, and IBAN if relevant.

For payments which will be collected in person, you will have to give the full name of the recipient, as shown on their official government ID. You’ll then be given a Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) which you must pass on to the recipient. When they are ready to get their cash, they’ll take along the MTCN and their ID document, to the Western Union location you have agreed on, and collect the payment in the local currency.

Ways to pay

You’ll be able to arrange your transfer online or in an agent location, and can also make the payment either online or by visiting a store. You can even start the payment online, and then go to a store to hand over the cash if it’s most convenient for you. Depending on where you choose to pay, you’ll be able to use cash, a credit or debit card, or a POLi bank transfer.²

Not all services are available in all countries, and you might find there are limits to the amount of money you can send, based on the local laws in the destination country. Check out all the details for your situation and how to send via Western Union, by visiting their website.

Fees and Rates

There are a few different fees you’ll need to know about if you want to make an international payment or remit money home using Western Union. Here are the costs you should consider:

Fee typeWestern Union Costs
Transfer feeThe costs of a transfer depend on how you arrange it, how much you’re sending, and where you want to send money to. For example, sending AUD1,000 to India for cash collection will cost AUD20 if you pay using a credit or debit card. The same payment will cost AUD9 if you pay by bank transfer.⁴ You can model the payment you wish to make online before you arrange it.
Exchange rate marginsYou’ll see the exchange rate offered before you agree to a transfer. This rate might include a markup or margin added to the mid-market exchange rate. The rate you’re given will also depend on where you set up your payment. Here’s what Western Union say about their rates: “Western Union also makes money from currency exchange. When choosing a money transmitter, carefully compare both transfer fees and exchange rates. Fees, foreign exchange rates and taxes may vary by brand, channel, and location based on a number of factors.”¹ More on the Western Union exchange rate below
Possible SWIFT fees or recipient chargesSome bank transfers may incur SWIFT charges. These costs are applied by intermediary banks involved in the payment, or the recipient’s own bank. It’s not always possible to know in advance what the SWIFT costs may be. That might mean your recipient gets less than you expect into their bank in the end.

Western Union exchange rates

If you’re sending money overseas there will likely be a currency exchange required. A good exchange rate will make a big difference to the costs of the transfer - and a bad rate can mean you spend more than you have to.

The exchange rate offered by Western Union will vary based on where you’re sending money to, and which payment route you choose. It’s important to note that the rate offered online may be different to that available in store. Different agent locations may even have different rates based on the competition in the area.

Exchange rates available may include a markup or margin. This means that Western Union take the rate they receive when buying foreign currency, and add a margin to calculate the rate they pass to their customers. Here’s what the Western Union terms and conditions say about this:

“The exchange rate applied may be less favourable than some publicly reported commercial exchange rates used in transactions between banks and other financial institutions. Any difference between the currency exchange rate offered to customers and the currency exchange rate received by Western Union will be kept by Western Union (and, in some instances, its Agents) in addition to the transfer fees.”

Don’t forget to shop around for the best exchange rate available for your transfer, including checking out alternative providers. If you’re sending money direct to a recipient’s bank account, it’s worth taking a look at the low fee transfers available at Wise. Because these international payments all use the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, they can work out cheaper than many banks and payment providers.

Sending money online or in person?

It’s good to know that the costs and rates applied to your transfer may vary depending on whether you arrange the payment online or in a Western Union location. Typically setting up a payment in store will cost you more, and the exchange rate you get may not be the same as the one you get online.

You can model the payment options open to you, on the Western Union website to see what different costs apply.

How much will a transfer cost with Western Union?

Here’s an example of the costs involved in making a Western Union payment. We have also included the price you’ll pay if you make the same transfer with Wise, as a comparison.

Transfer detailsExchange rate usedTransfer fees and total costRecipient will get
AUD1,000 sent to the UK using Western Union1 AUD = 0.5195 GBP⁴Fee to pay using bank transfer - AUD4⁴ Total cost AUD1004⁴ Fee to pay using credit or debit card - AUD10 Total cost AUD1010⁴GBP519.49⁴
AUD1,000 sent to the UK using Wise1 AUD = 0.54616 GBP⁴Fee to pay using bank transfer - AUD5.68 Fee to pay using debit card - AUD9.64 Fee to pay using credit card - AUD14.56 Fee is deducted from the total paid, so the cost is always AUD1000Funded by bank transfer: GBP543.06 Funded by debit card: GBP541.03 Funded by credit card: GBP538.22

(Exchange rate correct at time of research - 17 June 2019)

This example shows how important it is to look at the exchange rate used for international payments, as well as the transfer costs. Getting a better exchange rate can mean you save money, even if the upfront fees are a little higher. By modeling payments online, you can see the costs for the same payment using different providers, to help you decide.

Make sure you check out the price of your transfer using Wise. If you want to make an international payment online, Wise is a safe, convenient and cheap way to get organised. You can also get a Wise borderless account to make it even easier to hold foreign currencies, and make or receive international payments using the mid-market exchange rate. There are no hidden fees to worry about, and no nasty surprises. Just simple and secure transfers all over the world, at a great price.



All sources correct as of 17 June 2019

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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