How to receive money from Western Union

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Western Union is an international payment provider which has been operating for over 145 years. These days they make an impressive 31 transactions every second - transferring some $80 billion a year. With agent locations in over 200 countries and territories around the world, the chances are that you’ve heard of them.

If someone is sending you a payment via Western Union, you’ll want to know a bit more about how you can receive the money. This handy guide covers all you need to know, including the key questions:

  • How to receive money from Western Union in Australia?
  • What are the costs involved?
  • How long does it take to receive money from Western Union?

Of course, Western Union aren’t the only international payment provider available to you. We will also take a look at a competitor for comparison - Wise. By checking out the different services on offer - and the different fee structures, you’ll be able to choose the best provider for your needs.

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Receiving an international transfer from Western Union, what’s the big deal?

Western Union is one of the largest money transfer services in the world. Customers can send and receive money online or via agent locations. Money is delivered into a recipient’s bank account, or can be collected in local cash from an agent if this is preferred. There’s an extensive network of agents around the world, including some branches of 7-Eleven and Travel Money Oz here in Australia.²

Receiving your money with Western Union - bank transfer

If you’re expecting to receive a payment with Western Union, the sender will need to get a few of your details to make it happen.

If you want your payment to be sent directly to your bank account, you must give the sender:³

  • Your full name and address - name must be the same as shown on the bank account
  • Your mobile number
  • Bank name, account number and bank code
  • Confirmation of the purpose of the remittance

Receiving your money with Western Union - cash collection

If you have chosen to collect your money in person, the process is a little different.

You’ll have to make sure your sender knows your full name as shown on your government issued ID document. This is important, as you will have to show your ID to receive the cash. The payment won’t be released if the name isn’t the same on the transfer and on your ID paperwork.³

The sender will arrange the payment, and they’ll be given a Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN). They need to pass the MTCN to you in order for you to collect your payment.³

Fees and Rates

If you’re receiving an international payment through Western Union, the costs will usually be deducted before you get your money, either in cash or as a payment directly to your bank account. However, it’s good to understand the price, and the range of fees you may need to pay. Here’s all you should know:

Fee typeWestern Union Costs
Transfer fee⁵The transfer fee is added to the amount being sent, and so is usually paid by the sender. Costs depend on whether the payment is set up online or in branch, how much is being transferred, and the destination country. For example, sending AUD1,000 to a bank account in New Zealand will cost you AUD4 if you fund it with a bank transfer, or AUD10 if you use a card. If the money is to be collected at an agent location instead, it’ll cost AUD9 to pay with a bank transfer, but AUD20 to use a card. You can model the payment you wish to make online before you arrange it.
Exchange rate margins⁴Whether you arrange your payment online or at an agent location, you will be shown the exchange rate available before you confirm the transfer. This rate may vary from the google exchange rate as it can include a markup or margin added to the mid-market exchange rate. 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.” More on the Western Union exchange rate below
Possible SWIFT fees or recipient chargesIf you receive your money directly into your bank account there may be SWIFT charges to pay. These are fees payable to intermediary banks involved in the payment, or your own bank for receiving the payment. SWIFT costs vary depending on the payment route, which means your sender may not be able to say in advance if SWIFT fees will be deducted from the amount being transferred.

Western Union exchange rates

One thing that makes a big difference to your transfer is the exchange rate used. If a poor rate is used, you could find that the transfer costs more than it ought to in the end - even if the upfront fees look like good value. That means that you receive less than you expect.

The Western Union exchange rate is set based on the destination country and currency, and which payment route is used. The rate online may be different to the one used in an agent location - and different stores may even have different conversion rates based on factors like local competition.

Once your sender has found out which exchange rate will be applied to the Western Union transfer, it’s smart to compare this to the rate you’ll find on Google, to see if there is a markup or margin added. This is common practise but can be a surprise to 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.”⁴

Ask your sender to compare the Western Union exchange rate with that on offer with alternative providers. You’ll be able to model the payment and see how much you’ll receive based on different services.

If you’re expecting to receive money directly into your bank account, have the sender check out the low fee transfers available at Wise. Wise payments all use the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, and are often cheaper than traditional banks and payment providers.

How long does it take to receive money from Western Union

If you’re collecting your money from an agent location it could be ready in just a few minutes. Payments direct to your bank account will take a little longer. The exact length of time will depend a bit on where the payment is coming from - expect 3-5 working days in most cases.

Receiving money online or in person?

The most convenient way to get your money through Western Union may be to have it sent directly to your bank account. You’ll need to give all your bank details, as well as your full name, address and contact information to your sender. The money will then be delivered directly into your bank account, so there is nothing more to do other than wait.

If you need your money more quickly, or don’t have a bank account, you can also get your payment in local cash. In this case you need to give your sender your full name as shown on your ID documents. The sender will then give you a MTCN number, once the payment is set up.

Take your ID document and the MTCN to your nearest Western Union location, and you can get your money in cash, in Australian dollars.

How much will a transfer cost with Western Union?

Here’s an example of the price you’ll pay if you’re sending money with Western Union. We have also included the same payment made 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 GBP⁵Fee to pay using bank transfer - AUD4⁵ Total cost AUD1004⁵ Fee to pay using credit or debit card - AUD10⁵ Total cost AUD1010⁵GBP519.49⁵
AUD1,000 sent to the UK using Wise1 AUD = 0.54616 GBPFee 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 neatly illustrates how important it is to look at both the exchange rate and fees used by any international payment provider. Even though the upfront fees are a little higher, the recipient still ends up with more if you’re using Wise because the exchange rate is better.

Join Wise

As well as offering great value, Wise payments are convenient and secure - and you can save even more time and money by using a Wise borderless account for your international payments. Hold your money in dozens of currencies, and switch between them for just a low fee whenever you want to - always using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. It’s simple, quick and all done online so you can manage your money on the go.

Sources:

  1. https://www.westernunion.com/au/en/home.html

  2. https://www.westernunion.com/au/en/send-money.html

  3. https://www.westernunion.com/au/en/receive-money.html

  4. https://www.westernunion.com/au/en/legal/terms-conditions-digital.html

  5. https://www.westernunion.com/au/en/send-money/app/start/

All sources accurate 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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