Western Union Canada, Money Transfer: Fees, Rates and How To

Diane Rekker

You can use Western Union to send money to friends and family abroad, or make international business payments - sending money direct to your recipient’s bank account, or for cash collection or delivery.

The services available from Western Union - and the costs - will vary depending on where you’re sending money to, as well as the payment and delivery method you prefer.

This guide will give you the lowdown on using Western Union Canada, and will also offer an alternative - international payments with Wise.

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What could be an alternative to Western Union, for your international money transfer?

If your recipient doesn’t have to receive the money in cash, Wise could be a good alternative to sending money with Western Union. With Wise you can simply send your money, online, from Canada to over 40+ currencies around the world. And you can be sure that your money will be converted with the mid-market exchange rate, so you won’t lose out.

But what will this cost you?

Let’s look at a fictive transfer of 500 Canadian dollars to the UK in Pounds, to be received on a local bank account.

Costs Western Union Canada Wise
Upfront fee - Pay with credit/debit card CA$19⁽²⁾
Intermediary and/or receiving fees Possibly, yes¹ No
Exchange rate Mid-market exchange rate + mark up¹ Mid-market exchange rate

Fees correct on January 29, 2020

Although the upfront fees don’t seem to differ a lot, there could still be a big difference in the end. Western Union calculates a mark up on their exchange rate, and, when you transfer money to a bank account, there’s a possibility that your money could go through several intermediary banks who can all charge a (small) fee for their service. You’ll find more on this, below.

What are the fees for an international money transfer with Western Union?

If you want to send an international payment with Western Union, the first thing you’ll want to do is model the transaction to see the fees that’ll be applied. Costs vary depending on the destination, amount being sent, and the payment and delivery method.

It’s worth noting that the price shown online includes the upfront fee - but you’ll also pay an additional charge in the form of a markup on the exchange rate. We’ll cover this later.

If you’re sending money directly from one bank account to another, there may also be extra costs if the payment is routed through intermediary banks¹. A lot of international payments made through banks or other providers, use the Swift network to move money from one country to the other, but this means that your money could move through up to 3 intermediary banks, who can all take a (small) fee of the amount you sent.

Let’s look at a few example costings to give you an idea of the transfer fees. To get the most up-to-date price for your transaction, head to the Western Union website².

Transaction detail Options and fees
CA$1,000 sent to France
  • Transfer to a bank account: CA$29 fee using credit or debit card (paying in cash or from a bank account: not available)
  • For cash collection: CA$44 fee using credit or debit card / CA$7 fee at an agent location in Canada (paying from a bank account: not available)
CA$1,000 sent to India
  • Transfer to a bank account: CA$29 fee using credit or debit card (paying in cash or from a bank account: not available)
  • For cash collection: CA$34 fee using credit or debit card / CA$7 fee at an agent location in Canada (paying from a bank account: not available)
CA$1,000 sent to Australia
  • Transfer to a bank account: CA$29 fee using credit or debit card (paying in cash or from a bank account: not available)
  • For cash collection: CA$44 fee using credit or debit card / CA$7 fee at an agent location in Canada (paying from a bank account: not available)

Fees and costings correct at time of writing - January 29, 2020

What exchange rate do you get with Western Union?

We mention above that there’s an additional charge from Western Union wrapped up in the exchange rate applied to your transfer. This is what they say about this, in their Terms and conditions¹:

“...Canadian currency is converted to foreign currency at an exchange rate set by Western Union. Any difference between the rate given to You and the rate received by Western Union will be kept by Western Union (and its Agents in some cases) in addition to the Transfer Fees. … The Transfer Fees and the money Western Union (or its Agents) makes when it changes your dollars into foreign currency may vary based upon the payout currency that you select….”

So what does that mean exactly?

When banks and currency specialists buy and sell currency between themselves, they use the mid-market exchange rate to calculate the costs. That’s also the rate you’ll find if you google your currency pairing.

However, many providers - including Western Union - don’t pass this exchange rate on to their customers. Instead, they add a markup, which they can then keep as profit. This is an additional charge. However, because of the way it’s set out in the cost calculation you’re shown, it can be tricky to understand exactly how much extra you’re paying.

Before you decide to place your transfer with Western Union, or any other provider, compare the offered rate with the mid-market rate for your currency, using an online currency converter or by googling your currency pair. That should allow you to calculate the markup being used.

If you’re not happy with the price on offer, or simply want to compare with an alternative provider, check out the costs for the same payment made with Wise. All payments with Wise use the mid-market exchange rate, with just a low transparent fee to pay, which you’ll see upfront. That makes it easy to see the true cost of your transaction - and can save you money, too.

Where can you send money with Western Union?

Western Union has over 500,000 agent locations around the world, and allows you to send money in person and online from/to around 200 countries. You can check out the agent locations near to you - and your recipient - online³. You’ll also be able to set up transfers from the comfort of your own home, by registering an online account with Western Union.

If you’re looking to compare services, it’s good to know that you can send money to 160+ different countries with Wise. More currency routes are being added all the time, making it even easier to access low cost international payments. Check out the currencies and countries supported by Wise.

How does a money transfer with Western Union work?

With Western Union you can create a transfer in person at an agent location, or online.

If you want to send money at an agent location, you’ll need to find an agent close to you, complete the send money form they provide you with, and make payment. All agents should accept cash payments - some also take credit or debit cards, although the fees for these payment methods might vary.⁴

To send money online, here are the steps you’ll need to take²:

  • Register online for a free Western Union account
  • Log in and choose the country, delivery method, amount you want to send and how you’d like to pay
  • Check the costs and exchange rate to make sure you’re happy with the quote
  • Enter your receiver’s name, mobile number or bank account details - depending on the delivery method selected
  • Pay using your card
  • You’ll receive either a tracking number (MTCN) or SMS to confirm your payment. If your recipient will collect the cash in person, you’ll need to give them the MTCN to do so

Does Western Union have a money transfer app?

If you choose to use Western Union, you may benefit from their money transfer app, available for both Apple and Android phones⁵.

If you’re thinking about using low cost international payments from Wise instead, you can also make life easy using the free money transfer app to arrange, track and review your payments. You can get the Wise app for iOS, or the Wise app for Android.

If you need to send money overseas, it pays to check out a few different payment providers before you choose the right one for you.

Western Union is a large and reliable brand - but the fees can be on the high side compared to alternative providers, especially when you take the exchange rate markup into account. Look at a range of options including the cheap, secure and fast international payments with Wise, to help decide which is best for your transfer.

Sources used for this article:
1.Western Union Terms and Conditions
2.Send money page
3.Agent locator
4.Send money in person
5.Mobile app
All sources checked on January 29, 2020

*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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