Western Union are a well known and established provider of international payment services. If you need to send money anywhere in the world, chances are that Western Union will be able to help. However, before you decide which provider to arrange your payment with, it’s a smart idea to do some research into the rates and fees used, so you can see how much your transfer will cost.
This article covers everything you need to know about fees for sending money with Western Union, and the exchange rate you’ll get for your transfer. We’ll also highlight an alternative as a comparison - Wise.
With a Wise borderless account you can send and receive money all over the world for a low fee, with all currency conversion done using the google exchange rate. This makes cross border payments simple, and can also cut the costs of your international payment. All that and more, coming up in a moment.
Western Union have over 550,000 agents operating in some 200 countries, as well as offering online payment services to individuals and businesses¹. They’re one of the world’s largest international payment providers, moving over 300 billion US dollars in 2018 alone. That’s an average of a staggering 34 transactions a second.
The Western Union website has a cost estimator to allow you to model the payment you want to make, and get the exchange rate and fee information you need. You just need to input how much to send, the country and currency, and you’ll see the options available. You can select how you want the recipient to get the money, and how you’d like to fund the transfer, to see how much it will cost.
Here are some example fees to get you started:
|Fee type||Western Union cost|
|Transfer fees - paying by bank transfer||Fee varies depending on whether your recipient will receive the money directly in their bank account, or at an agent location. For example, when funded by bank transfer, sending AUD500 to the Philippines will cost you AUD4 if send direct to a bank account, and AUD7 for agent collection. A transfer to France may cost AUD5 to a bank account, and AUD7 for agent collection³.|
|Transfer fees - paying using a credit or debit card||Fee varies depending on whether your recipient will receive the money directly in their bank account, or at an agent location. Sending AUD500 to the Philippines using your credit or debit card will cost you AUD4 if send direct to a bank account, and AUD20 for agent collection. A transfer to France may cost AUD5 to a bank account, and AUD35 for agent collection³.|
|Exchange rate markup||The Western Union exchange rate may include a markup on the mid-market exchange rate. You may also receive a different rate if you arrange your payment online, compared to the rate you’ll get if you visit an agent location⁴. More on the mid-market exchange rate and why it matters, in the next section.|
As well as any upfront fee for your transfer, Western Union will add a markup to the exchange rate they use for your transfer. Here’s what Western Union says about their exchange rates⁴:
“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”
It’s worth noting that the rates you get may vary, depending on how and where you arrange your transfer. Here’s how Western Union explain this, in their terms and conditions²:
“Fees, foreign exchange rates and taxes may vary by brand, channel, and location based on a number of factors.”
When you know the rate Western Union will use for your particular transfer, you can compare it with the mid-market exchange rate, which is the rate you’ll find using an online currency converter, or a google search. This is the rate that banks and exchange services get when they buy foreign currency themselves, but it’s often not the rate that they pass on to their customers. Instead, they choose to add a markup or margin to the exchange rate, which they can then keep as profit.
It’s helpful to know that not all international payment services add a markup to the mid-market exchange rate. Wise** payments are made using the same exchange rate you’ll find on google, with no margin added. There’s just a low, upfront fee to pay instead. This transparent charge makes it easy to see the real cost of your international payment, and can often work out cheaper than using a regular bank or transfer service.
To give an idea of the price of a specific transfer, we have modeled a payment to the UK, and compared the costs to the same transfer using a different provider - Wise. Let’s imagine you’re sending AUD1,000 to a friend in the UK, who wants to receive it directly into their local bank account there.
|Transfer type||Transfer fee and total cost of the payment||Exchange rate used||Amount recipient will get|
|Western Union - funded by bank transfer||AUD4 Total transfer cost - AUD1,004||AUD1=GBP0.5228||GBP522.80|
|Western Union - funded by credit or debit card||AUD10 Total transfer cost - AUD1,010||AUD1=GBP0.5228||GBP522.80|
|Wise||AUD5.22 - deducted from transfer value Total transfer cost - AUD1,000||AUD1=GBP0.54464||GBP541.80|
Rates and fees correct at time of research - April 24 2019
Before you choose an international transfer provider, it pays to do some research. You’re looking for a fast, convenient and safe way to move your money - and of course, you want the cheapest price out there. A great option might be to get yourself a Wise borderless account. This smart new type of account is designed to allow you to hold multiple currencies in one place, and manage your money online or using your smartphone. You can switch between currencies, or make payments in foreign currencies easily, using the mid-market exchange rate and for just a small transparent fee. You’ll also get your own local bank details for major currencies like US dollars, euros and pounds, so you can receive payments to your account fee free.
Compare the costs of your transfer, using Western Union and Wise, to see which is cheaper.
All sources correct as of 24 April 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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