Money orders may seem like an old-fashioned way to send money overseas, but they definitely have their place in the conversation.
International money orders, normally sent by mail, are a more secure than cash or checks since they don’t include your bank information and are more difficult to steal. You can use them to send money even if you don’t have a checking account, or to send money to someone else who doesn’t have a checking account.
However, they’re often slower and more expensive than alternatives like Wise. Which is why, before you commit to a money sending method, it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re choosing the best one for your needs.
This guide will help. Read on to learn what you need to know about sending money orders via Western Union, as well as some alternatives.
A Western Union money order is a lot like a check, except that you pay for it upfront. It can be delivered in person or via mail to anyone in the world, who can then cash it or deposit it into their bank account. Western Union is a great option for sending money overseas because it has agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories.¹
How much a Western Union money order costs depends on where you’re sending it and how you’re paying for it.
For example, it costs less if you pay online using a credit or debit card than if you pay in cash in person at a Western Union branch.2 On Western Union’s website, there’s a price estimator that will help you get an idea of what it will cost to send your money.
But for an example, let’s say you need to send $1000 from the US to the UK.
- Paying online: it will cost from $2.99-$81 in fees, depending on how you pay and whether you want to send the money to a bank account or as cash for pickup.²
- Paying in person: the fee will range from $8 to $58 depending on how you pay and how you want the money to reach your recipient.2
It’s also important to note that Western Union will mark up the exchange rate it uses to convert currency when sending internationally. So those fees you see? They aren’t the only fees.
Western Union makes it clear:
Western Union also makes money from currency exchange.²
Which means you’ll want to get out a calculator and start comparing the exchange rate you see on your screen to the one you find on Google to find out how much that additional charge is going to cost you.
Sending a Western Union money order is pretty straightforward.
If you’re going in person, all you have to do is:
- Head to a Western Union branch and purchase your money order
- Fill out the money order
- Either deliver the money order in person or send it via mail to the recipient
Otherwise, you can also pay online, use their mobile app, or send via phone if it’s available.
Western Union provides a guide for filling out a money order. Here’s what they say you need to do:³
- Pay to the order of: Write the name of the person you want to send money to. Make sure to do this first, because that way, if you lose the money order, no one else can find it and cash it. Also, make sure you know the correct spelling of the recipient’s name because you can’t change this information once the money order is processed.
- Purchaser’s Address: Fill out your information where it says “From,” “Sender,” “Remitter” or “Purchaser.” You’ll need to provide your full name and address.
- Signature: Sign the front of the money order, not the back — that’s where the recipient needs to sign in order to cash it.
- Keep your receipt: If the money order gets lost or damaged or needs to be replaced for any reason, you’ll need the receipt to track and cancel it.
On the Western Union website you should be able to click “Track a Transfer.”⁴ Then choose whether you are the sender or the receiver of the money order, and enter its tracking number, which can be found on the money order receipt. If you don’t know the tracking number, you can enter some personal information instead.
Western Union is one of the most common ways people send money overseas. You can send money to Western Union agents in more than 200 countries and territories,¹ although they still have restrictions on which banks they may work with in specific countries.
However, keep in mind that a money order has to be sent via the mail, so it can take a long time to get to an international destination. Western Union does offer faster money transfers online, but make sure to do your research, because that may not be your cheapest option.
Wise also sends money online but does so without marking up the exchange rate like Western Union admits to doing. Wise always sends money at the exact mid-market rate — like the rate you find on Google — so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay for your transfer. Also, you’ll know the exact amount because the transfer fee is spelled out to you ahead of time and there are no added markups or hidden fees. The transfer fee is usually 0.5-2.5% of the transfer amount depending on the destination. Wise is safe and secure and strives to be the most transparent way to move money across international borders. If you’re curious if you can save money with Wise, check out this live comparison between Wise and Western Union to find out how much you could save.
Whether you choose to move money via a bank, a money order or an alternative service like Wise, doing your research is the first step to choosing the best method for you.
- https://www.westernunion.com/us/en/home-new.html (July 2, 2018)
- https://www.westernunion.com/us/en/price-estimator/continue.html (July 2, 2018)
- https://www.westernunion.com/blog/fill-money-order/ (July 2, 2018)
- https://www.westernunion.com/global-service/track-transfer (July 2, 2018)
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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