Remitly vs Western Union - Which is best?

Tommy Buckley

Looking to send money overseas? You’ll have lots of options, including using your bank. But a quicker, more convenient and cheaper way could be to use a specialist international money transfer service.

In this guide, we’ll be comparing two popular choices for overseas payments - Remitly and Western Union. We’ll be aiming to find out which is the easiest to use. Plus, how both services compare on fees, exchange rates, transfer times and more.

But first, a little background info for you. Remitly is a US-based online remittance service established in 2011, which currently offers transfers in over 170 countries worldwide¹.

Western Union (WU), meanwhile, can trace its roots all the way back to 1861, when the Western Union Telegraph Company completed the first transcontinental telephone line in North America.

Today, the company offers money transfer services to nearly every corner of the world, with a 500,000+ strong agent network. And online, Western Union averages 24 transactions every single second².

Both services are popular choices due to their convenient online money transfer services. But which is better, Remitly or Western Union? Read on to find out.

It’s also worth comparing both services with alternatives such as Wise. Another international transfer specialist, Wise offers low fee transfers worldwide at the mid-market exchange rate. But we’ll look at this more later.

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

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Fees - is Remitly cheaper than Western Union?

The first thing you’ll want to know about is fees. Which provider is cheaper for international transfers - Remitly or Western Union?

The short answer to this is, it depends. Both providers charge an upfront transfer fee, but this can vary based on:

Where you’re sending from and to
The currency
The payment method (e.g. bank account or credit card)
The collection method (e.g. bank account deposit or cash pickup)
The amount you’re sending.

For both Remitly and Western Union, you can see how much you’ll pay in fees before you send. You can check costs in advance on each of the providers websites.

However, there is still a cost involved in sending a transfer with WU as well as Remitly. To discover this, we need to look closely at the exchange rates being offered.

Exchange rates - Remitly vs. Western Union

It’s not just the upfront fee you need to look at when comparing international transfer providers. It’s just as important to compare the exchange rate you’re getting. This can make a big difference to the overall cost of your transfer. Get an unfavourable rate and the transfer could end up costing you a bundle.

Both Remitly⁸ and Western Union⁴ Each use a different exchange rate, which may or may not include a margin or mark up.This is partly how they make their money. Also known as the interbank rate, this is the one you’ll find on Google or currency sites like It’s a good benchmark to compare other rates to, so you can see how much extra you’re being charged.

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Remitly vs. Western Union - Cash withdrawal options

But what if the person you’re sending to doesn’t have a bank account? If it’s easier or more convenient, you can choose cash pickup when setting up your transfer.

This is where your recipient (or you, if someone has sent you money) can visit a branch of the transfer provider in person to collect their money in cash. They’ll usually need some ID and the details of the transfer, such as a reference number.

The good news is that you can do this with both Remitly and Western Union. However, it really does depend on the destination you’re sending to. Both Remitly and Western Union have large international networks.

Pickup Locations

Western Union has over 500,000 cash pickup locations worldwide², so it has a presence in multiple countries. You can use this location finder tool to pinpoint the nearest one for you or a recipient.

Remitly does offer cash pickup in many countries with a number of banking partners or agents which are displayed on the transfer page of the country you want to transfer to. You can also use Remitly’s pickup locator for each of the following countries These are¹¹:

  • India
  • Colombia
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • Guatemala
  • Dominican Republic.

You can find more information on Remitly cash pickup locations here.

Transfer Times

Now, how long does it take to transfer money with Remitly and Western Union, and who is quicker?

Remitly offers two different options when sending an international transfer - Economy and Express.

Economy is usually the cheapest, and delivers your funds within 3-5 working days. The Express service sometimes comes with a higher fee, but it offers delivery within minutes (if you use a debit card to pay for your transfer)¹².

Western Union offers delivery in minutes if you use your debit or credit card to pay for the transfer - and crucially, if your recipient lives in a country where mobile money transfer is an option¹³.

For transfers to bank accounts with WU, it generally takes around 2 days for the money to arrive¹³.


When using any kind of financial service, it’s always important to check out safety and security features. But what kind of protection can Remitly and Western Union offer? Let’s take a look.

Remitly Safety Features¹⁴:

  • Account verification processes to maintain high standards of security, protection and trust.
  • A secure, encrypted server connection
  • Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance to verify users
  • Regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK - it’s also registered with HMRC as a money service business
  • Card payment security from Verified by Visa and Mastercard SecureCode
  • 24/7 customer support team.

Western Union Safety Features¹⁵:

  • Encryption technology to protect personal and financial information
  • PCI DSS compliant¹⁶
  • Extensive checks to validate user identities
  • Dedicated fraud hotline
  • Regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)¹⁶.

Accessibility & Ease of Use

One of the main reasons to use an online money transfer service is convenience. You need a website or app that is user-friendly, quick and easy to use. You should be able to send a transfer in just a few taps.

But is this the case with Remitly and Western Union? Let’s take a look at options for accessing each service.


The Remitly and Western Union websites work in similar ways. You need to open an account in order to send a transfer.

But before you do, you can check transfer fees and exchange rates for your chosen currency pair (e.g. GBP to USD).

Once a transfer is sent, you can track it on the Western Union website. Remitly offers a similar service, but in the form of status updates so you can see where your transfer is up to.

Mobile app

As you’d expect from such established services, both Remitly and Western Union also have mobile apps. Both are available from the Google Play (Android devices) and App store (iOS devices).

With the Western Union app¹⁷, you can send and track transfers in just a few taps. You can also find agent locations near you and view live exchange rates.

Additional features include the option to set preferred exchange rates, and simple card scanning (to use a card for payment). This ensures that you don’t have to enter details manually and risk making a mistake.

The Remitly app¹⁸ offers all the same features as the website, including sending and editing transfers, viewing the latest exchange rates and checking your transfer status.

You can increase your sending limits, upload documents securely (if needed) and receive transfer notifications. You’ll log in with your fingerprint, making it quick and secure to use.

Want the same convenient transfer service whether you send online or via a mobile app? Sign up with Wise, which offers an easy-to-use website and app. It’s easy to get started, and you can send your first transfer in just a few taps. ²⁰


If you prefer to arrange and pay for your transfer in person, or you’re a recipient and need to pick up your payment in cash, you’ll need to know about real-world store options.

Remitly doesn’t have physical locations, as it’s primarily a digital remittance service. However, cash pickup is available in a lot of countries worldwide at a number of partner banks or agents.

Western Union has more than 500,000 agent locations worldwide, and around 4,700 of these are in the UK¹⁹. You’ll usually find Western Union agents within other shops, such as newsagents and post offices. You can find your nearest location here.

Remitly vs Western Union - Which one is best?

So, is Remitly better than Western Union, or is it the other way around? The two services are pretty similar, offering secure money transfers through their website and mobile apps. You can check the fee and exchange rate in advance, and expect delivery in minutes if you fund your payment with a debit card.

It could all come down to your particular needs. For example, if you need cash pickup or to pay for your transfer in cash, Western Union is the best option.

When it comes to cost, it’s worth remembering that these two providers aren’t the only options out there. Bear in mind that both Remitly and WU add a margin to the mid-market exchange rate, which means a hidden extra cost for you.

An alternative such as Wise only ever uses the mid-market rate, with nothing added on top. The transfer fee you see is all you’ll pay, so there are never any surprises. It could work out much cheaper overall, as more of your money will reach your recipient.

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Pricing/fees: Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information

  1. Remitly Investor Relations -Overview
  2. Western Union Corporate site
  3. Remitly - US pricing
  4. Western Union - Send to USA
  5. Remitly - France pricing
  6. Remitly - Australia pricing
  7. Remitly - India pricing
  8. Remitly User Agreement - 4.8 Exchange Rates
  9. Wise - Send money
  10. Remitly Help - Cash pickup details
  11. Remitly Help - Transfer speeds
  12. Western Union - FAQs
  13. Remitly - Send to Bangladesh
  14. Western Union - Security Center
  15. Western Union UK
  16. Western Union - Money transfer app
  17. Remitly Help - Remitly app
  18. Western Union UK Home
  19. Eligibility is subject to verification of customers identity.

Sources last checked on date: 04-May-2023

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 Wise Payments 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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