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Western Union¹ is one of the best known money transfer services in the world, with a range of digital and in person services. If you need to send a payment to someone overseas, the chances are Western Union can help, with transfers to bank accounts and for cash collection in almost every country in the world. However, before you get started you’ll want to know the Western Union fees that will apply to your transfer, to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
This guide covers the Western Union charges you should know about as well as the Western Union Singapore exchange rate that’s used whenever you need to switch from dollars to a different delivery currency. We’ll also touch on a comparison of Western Union versus an alternative, Wise, to help you work out which provider is best for you.
|Table of contents
The total amount you pay in Western Union fees will vary based on a number of factors, including:
- How you pay
- How you want the money to be received
- What currency and country you’re sending to
- The value of the payment
The options available to you may vary based on the specific country you’re sending to, but in many cases, up to 3 different fees will be charged, to calculate the full Western Union charges for your transfer:
Let’s break these fees down a little:
The transfer fee you pay will depend on how you set up your payment. With Western Union Singapore you can arrange a transfer in several different ways:
- Online using the Western Union desktop site
- In the Western Union app
- In person at a Western Union location
- Start your payment online and pay in a Western Union agent location
How you can pay will vary depending on the way you arrange your transfer. Payments made in person can usually only be made in cash, while online and in app transfers may be funded by card or bank transfer. Bank transfers usually result in the lowest fees, while paying in cash or with a credit card may mean a higher charge.
⚠️ Watch out for extra fees when using a credit card
You may get hit with a cash advance fee from your card issuer, when you use a credit card to pay. Western Union recommends using a debit card instead.³
The Western Union transfer fee may also vary depending on how you want the payment to be received - transfers to bank accounts are usually the cheapest option, while payments for cash collection can cost more.
We’ll focus on the Western Union exchange rate in a bit more detail later - but the rate you’re offered will include a markup on the mid-market exchange rate. This is an extra fee that’s tricky to spot and which can work out to be the most costly of all the charges you’ll pay overall.
Third party fees aren’t paid to Western Union - but they’ll push up your transfer costs nonetheless. Examples include a credit card cash advance fee if you pay by card - or intermediary bank fees if you’re sending money to be deposited into someone’s bank account.
Here’s an overview of the different Western Union international transfer fees you may come across in your payment:
|Western Union transfer fee
|Varies depending on the payment type and destination Payments made online, to bank accounts are usually cheaper - particularly if you’re paying by bank transfer Payments funded in cash or collected in cash can come with higher fees
|Exchange rate mark-up
|Exchange rate markups are added into the rate you’re quoted to convert from SGD to the currency you need Rates vary depending on the way you set up your payment, and the currency you need This is a percentage fee, which means it can be extremely costly if you’re sending a high value transfer
|Third party charges
|Third party charges may include credit card cash advance or interest fees, or charges levied by intermediaries or the recipient’s own bank if you’re sending direct to a bank account
We mentioned earlier that the Western Union exchange rate will include a markup. What that means is that there’s an extra fee tucked away in the rate you’re offered, which is not split out transparently. That said, Western Union is perfectly clear about the charge - on the main desktop site you’ll see a message stating:
‘Western Union also makes money from currency exchange’
Here’s how it works: Western Union buys currencies using the mid-market exchange rate. That’s the rate you’ll get with a Google search, or a currency conversion tool. Then, to calculate the rate passed on to customers, Western Union adds an extra percentage fee which is rolled up in the rate. This fee varies depending on the currency and how you’re arranging the transfer - but it can push up the costs significantly, and makes it trickier to see what you’re really paying for your transfer.
💡 Spot the Western Union exchange rate markup by getting a quote for your transfer, and checking the rate offered against the rate for your currency pair you get from Google. The difference represents the markup. We’ll look at a comparison of Western Union vs Wise in just a moment, to show how this can push up costs overall.
To send money with Western Union online you’ll need to first create and validate an account. Once this is done you can send payments of up to 5,000 SGD online or in the Western Union app².
If you need to send more you may be able to do so by visiting an agent location in Singapore. Different agents set their own upper limits so you’ll need to call in advance to check your transfer is available. This may mean a slightly higher cost compared to arranging your transfer online.
Western Union offers an impressive suite of services - but they’re not the right choice for everyone. To help you decide if Western Union is the one for you let’s look at a comparison of Western Union vs another specialist provider - Wise. First, we’ll compare the features of each provider so you can see what’s similar - and where there are differences:
|Supported countries and currencies
|80+ countries, 50+ currencies
|Exchange rate includes a markup and varies by payment type
|Mid-market exchange rate
|525,000 locations worldwide
|Pay out options
|Cash, bank accounts, mobile money accounts
|Bank account deposit is the main delivery option for most destinations Some other pay outs are available by country - for example, to an Alipay wallet in China
|5,000 SGD online - higher transfers may be available from some agent locations
|High limits - usually set at around the equivalent of 1 million GBP depending on the currencies
|Send to businesses
|Not recommended - for payments to friends and family only
Next, let’s take a look at how an example transfer might work with both Western Union and Wise. In this case let’s imagine we are sending 1,000 SGD to a friend in the UK, paid for using a bank transfer, and deposited into their GBP bank account directly for convenience:
|Amount paid (bank transfer)
|Recipient receives exactly
|1 SGD = 0.5664 GBP
|1 SGD = 0.641871 GBP
As you can see, although Western Union has a lower transfer fee - in fact, there’s no transfer fee at all for this payment - your friend would get more in the end if you send your money with Wise. That’s because Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate for all currency conversion, with low, transparent fees split out so you can see exactly what you’re paying.
Western Union really stands out because of its huge agent network and ability to get money to almost any corner of the globe - often instantly. However, they’re not always the cheapest option if you want to arrange a payment to someone’s bank account, and you’re paying by card or bank transfer.
In this case, check out a few alternatives like Wise to see if you can get a better deal in the end, with low transparent fees and one of the fairest exchange rates out there. Sign up for a free Wise account today, to see how much you can save.
- Western Union Singapore
- Western Union FAQ
- Western Union SG - Send money page. Fees depending on the payment/receiving methods, exchange rate information, payment methods shown
Sources checked on 04.11.2022
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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