Western Union vs Wise (ex.TransferWise). Which is for you?

Roberto Efflandrin

Sometimes you might find yourself in a position where you need to send money to a loved one, friend or company overseas quickly. Although this type of transfer is possible to do using banks, there are alternative services out there that actually specialise in moving money internationally quickly, securely and in some cases cheaper than traditional banks.

This article will introduce you to and compare two alternative providers for international money transfers, Western Union (WU), and Wise (ex TransferWise). This can help you decide if either company best fits your needs for sending money abroad.

💰 Wise provides you the real exchange rate and low transparent transfer fees shown upfront.

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Wise money transfers

(Transfer)Wise vs Western Union in Australia

Wise (ex TransferWise) and Western Union (WU) are both global financial technology companies that specialise in moving money internationally. Both companies offer money transfer options to individuals and businesses all over the world, including customers in Australia.

Who is Western Union?

Western Union (WU) was founded in 1851 as a Telegraph company in the United States. It was the first telegraph company to build a transcontinental telegraph line that could carry messages across North America.¹

Since then, WU has expanded its telegraphic network across the globe into 200 countries including Australia offering money transfers using their extensive network connections.

Who is Wise (ex TransferWise)?

Wise , formerly known as TransferWise, was founded in 2011 based on a vision to make international money transfer fast, cheap and simple for everyone. Wise expanded into the Australian market in 2016, making international money transfers using its growing network possible for Australian customers

Western Union vs Wise — main product offerings

You might be thinking, if these services both offer money transfers abroad, what actually makes them different from each other. Let’s start by going through each of the main product offerings to the Australian market.

Western Union² Wise
Online international money transfers Online international money transfers
3,600 agents in Australia for In-person money transfers & cash pick up³ Wise Multi-currency account
WU Mobile wallet Wise Business account
WU Business Solutions (now known as Convera)⁴ Debit cards (virtual and physical card types)

As seen on 3rd October 2022

One of the main differences between the two services is that WU offers cash pay in and out options, while Wise is electronic money only.

Western Union vs Wise — The fees

Now that we’ve seen the differences in products on offer, let’s now see how each company compares on fees to use these services and features.

Service Western Union³ Wise
Sending money First transfer is free when registering for WU online account

0.99 AUD transfer fee online using POLi up to limit of $50,000 AUD

$12 AUD for cash deposit in a WU branch⁵

Variable fees starting at 0.41% . Depending on currency and payment method used

As seen on 3rd October

The best way to really see how each service compares is to show a transfer example when sending AUD from Australia to the United Kingdom, to be received in GBP.

Type of transfer WU⁵ Wise
Sending money (Example transfer from AUD to GBP using Poli/bank transfer) To send $1000 AUD to the UK in GBP

Transfer fee = $0.00

Exchange rate = 0.5672 GBP to 1 AUD

Receiver will receive = 567.15 GBP

To send $1000 AUD to the UK in GBP

Transfer fee = $5.14 AUD

Exchange rate = GBP to 1 AUD

Receiver will receive = 570.95 GBP See pricing

As seen on 9rd October 2022

As you can see, for this one-off transfer, even though you are paying more in transfer fees with Wise, your beneficiary receives more GBP than when sending money using the same payment method with Western Union. Western union fees increase if you use a participating agent location to send or pay for your transfer.⁵

Western Union vs Wise — exchange rates used

You may notice that some providers offer different exchange rates to the rate you can see updated on Google at any given time. Let’s compare which exchange rate is used by WU and Wise.

Western Union Wise
Western union claims it makes money from the currency conversion⁶

FX rates include a margin can range anywhere from 0% - 6% depending on the currency⁷

Wise offers the mid Market rate (What is this?)

Your recipient gets what you see calculated on your transfer order form.

As seen on 6th August 2022

Margins must be factored in when making a money transfer as it can result in your beneficiary receiving less than they were expecting.

Mid Market rate

Western Union vs Wise — supported currencies and routes

Lets see how WU and Wise compare with supported currencies and countries where you can transfer from Australia.

Service Western Union⁸ Wise
Sending money currencies 130 different currencies and to 200 countries and territories Send money to 80 countries

As seen on 6th October 2022

Money transfer speed

Let’s see how each service compares on transfer speed when sending money overseas from Australia.

Western Union⁹ Wise
Transfer times can range from being received in a few minutes up to 4 days.

A beneficiary of a WU transfer will depend on the transfer method chosen, the amount being sent and which country the beneficiary is in.

You can see the full list for country specific transfer times here when transferring funds from Australia (for bank transfers)

Though a large part of Wise transfers are completed in minutes, the general time frame for a transfer is from a few minutes up to 4 business days, depending on how fast your money reaches Wise, verification requirements and currency pay out times.** **

See how long do transfers take.

As seen on 3rd October 2022

Sometimes transfers can take longer than the specified timeframes listed above for either service. This can be due to national holidays in the sending or receiving country, weekends, service outages, among other reasons.

Transfer pay in and pay out payment methods

Here are some ways you can pay in and your recipient gets paid out with WU and Wise.

Payment types Western Union⁵ Wise
Pay in options
  • Bank transfer
  • Credit or Debit card
  • Poli service
  • cash deposit at agent
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Poli service
  • Wise account transfer
  • Bank Transfer
  • Pay ID
Payout options
  • Cash pick up
  • Bank account transfer
  • Wise account
  • Bank account transfer

As seen on 6th October 2022

Meet Wise

Pros and cons of using these services

Now that we’ve covered the products, features and fees associated with WU and Wise, we’ll bring it all together and compare the pros and cons for choosing either service.

Western Union Wise
Pros
  • Extensive network of 200 countries available to make transfers and 130 currencies to payout in
  • Low upfront flat transfer fee when using POLi transfer method
  • Can deposit and pick up cash as pay in/out method at large number of branch/agent locations globally
  • Small fees shown upfront.
  • Uses real exchange rate, like the one seen on Google
  • Offers wider range of services for personal and business international finance management
Cons
  • Margins on exchange rates
  • Transfer fees between payment methods and currencies
  • Some countries only have access to use agents for transfers, rather than online or through the WU app
  • Cannot cash in/out with physical cash
  • Online only service with no physical locations

What about safety?

Western Union

Western Union agent locations and products are offered through Western Union Business Solution (WUBS) Pty Ltd and regulated through their Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) (AFSL number: 404092).¹⁰

Wise

Wise Australia Pty Ltd is an authorised deposit-taking institution, regulated in Australia under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Wise holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) (AFSL number: 513764) and purchased payment facilities (PPF) licence. Money sent through wise is held in dedicated bank accounts in Australia and in other countries.

Customer reviews for Western Union and Wise in Australia

Let’s see how Western Union and Australia compare based on past and existing customer experience reviews.

Western Union reviews Wise reviews
Trustpilot review: 4.0/5 star rating from just over 36,000 reviews¹¹ Trustpilot review: 4.5/5 star rating ¹² from just over 174,000 reviews

As seen on 6th October 2022

Customer support and contacts

It is important that providers offer options that make it easy to make contact with their customer service team. Here are the ways you can contact WU and Wise

Western Union Wise
Call within Australia 1800 173 833 and from overseas +61 2923 19729 Via the Wise mobile or web app here
Through the WU app Via Wise’s dedicated Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page
Find an agent location within Australia here Through the dedicate help FAQ pages here

Wrapping up

At the end of the day, the service which is best for you comes down to your own personal needs.

Wise and Western Union both offer comparable services when it comes to sending and receiving money from overseas. Western Union has an extensive network of global agents which makes it a great way to deposit and receive international cash withdrawals quickly.

However, Wise transfers can prove to be cheaper thanks to using the real exchange rate on currency conversions. It also provides more services and products that can help you manage your international finances all in one account and with one App.

If you want to give Wise a try to see for yourself how well it can work for you, sign up for a free account. Registration can be done online in minutes.

Register your Wise account in minutes


Sources:

  1. Western Union history
  2. Western Union products
  3. Western Union money transfer
  4. Western Union Business Solutions
  5. Western Union payment option
  6. Western Union FX rate
  7. Western UnionAustralian FX margins
  8. Western Union currency payouts
  9. Western Union transfer speeds
  10. Western Unionlicensing
  11. TrustPilot review for Western Union
  12. TrustPilot for Wise
  13. Productreview.com.au WU review
  14. Productreview.com.au Wise review

Sources checked on: 06 October 2022


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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