Western Union vs. Ria - Which one is cheaper in the US?

Adam Rozsa

Looking to send an international payment from the US? There are lots of ways to do it, but some are better than others.

You could wire money using your bank, but an online money transfer specialist could be both cheaper and faster.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at two big names in the money transfer world - Western Union vs. Ria Money Transfer. Both are US-based, but how do they compare on fees and exchange rates?

We’ll also throw an alternative into the mix - Wise. With low fees and great exchange rates, it could work out cheaper than some providers, especially compared to using your bank.


Western Union vs. Ria Money Transfer - an overview

Before we dive into which provider is cheaper in the US, it’s worth knowing a little background about each company.

Western Union (WU) is an international transfer specialist based in the United States. The company has a long history dating back to 1861, when it was founded as the Western Union Telegraph Company.¹

Today, it offers:

  • Transfers in 200+ countries and territories worldwide¹
  • Fast and secure online transfers
  • A global network of agents, enabling it to offer convenient services like cash pickup.
  • A wide range of payment and delivery methods, including the option to send money to bank accounts, cards and mobile wallets
  • A dedicated mobile app for sending and tracking transfers on the move.

WU also used to offer business solutions, before being acquired by another company.

Find out more about how to use Western Union in our handy guide.

Also based in the US, Ria Money Transfer is a younger business, although it has been operating since 1987.² Owned by Euronet Worldwide Inc, the company has:

  • A network of over 500,000 locations in 160 countries²
  • A range of delivery and payment methods - including cash pickup in some countries.
  • Fast and secure online transfers
  • A dedicated mobile app for sending and tracking transfers on the go.
💡 Read our Ria Money Transfer review for the full lowdown on the transfer provider.

Western Union vs. Ria Money Transfer - fees

Now we come to that all-important question - how much does it cost to use Western Union and Ria? And which is the cheaper option?

Let’s take a look at what each provider charges in upfront transfer fees.

Western Union transfer fees

Western Union’s fees vary depending on the details of the transfer. This includes the destination, amount, currency, payment and delivery methods.

The great news is that many transfers are fee-free, especially when you pay with a debit card or bank account. The only thing to watch out for is paying with a credit card, as there’s a fee of around $25. Fees also apply when you pay for your transfer in person at a store.³

💡You can check the fee for your transfer in advance over on the Western Union website, using the price estimator tool. Or you can use the WU app.

Ria Money Transfer fees

Just like Western Union, Ria’s upfront transfer fees also vary based on factors like the currency, destination, payment and delivery methods.

You can check the fee in advance on the Ria home page, before sending your transfer. You’ll need to enter the amount you want to send and the destination country, and you’ll be able to see the fee, live exchange rate and how much the recipient will get after currency conversion.
Ria Money Transfer also offers promotions from time to time, depending on where you’re based. This includes a free initial transfer when you sign up as a new customer.

What exchange rates do Western Union and Ria Money Transfer use?

As well as checking out the fees, it’s also a smart idea to compare Western Union vs. Ria on rates for converting currency.

The exchange rate can make a huge difference to the overall cost of sending money abroad. This is because it affects how much of your money actually reaches your recipient, and how much is lost in currency conversion.

Some transfer providers add their own margin or mark-up to what is known as the mid-market or interbank rate. This is considered to be one of the fairest rates you can get.

By adding in a mark-up, this is how some banks and transfer providers make their money. But unfortunately, it makes the transaction a little more expensive for you.

Both Western Union and Ria Money Transfer are likely to add a margin to the mid-market rate. We’ll show you how this could affect your transfer next.

Looking for an alternative to Western Union and Ria? Try Wise

For a winning combination of low fees and margin-free exchange rates, use Wise to send money internationally.

Open a Wise account online and you’ll get all these fantastic benefits:

  • Bank details in 9 currencies
  • The option to hold, send, spend and convert 40+ currencies at once
  • Send money overseas with low and transparent fees,
  • Order a Wise card for a one time fee of just $9 - for use in 150+ countries
  • Mid-market exchange rates on all transactions.

It’s quick, easy and free to open a Wise account online. And there’s even a handy Wise app, so you can manage everything from your phone. This includes sending and tracking transfers, and checking in on money you’ve received from senders all over the world.

Get a Wise Account today

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

A quick price comparison: Ria vs. Western Union vs. Wise

The fees and rates to send money abroad can vary quite a bit depending on the details of a given transfer. So to help you get a true picture of how much it costs with Western Union and Ria Money Transfer, let’s do a quick example.

Imagine you want to send $1,000 to a friend in Germany (EUR). Below is how much your recipient will receive with Western Union, Ria and an alternative such as Wise - with both fees and exchange rates taken into account.

For the sake of this example, we’ve done a bank-to-bank transfer, and assumed you’re a new customer (this means you can take advantage of the new customer offer at Ria Money Transfer)

ProviderTransfer feeExchange rateRecipient receives
Western Union³$0 USD0.9031€903.10 EUR
Ria Money Transfer⁴$0 (first transfer only, $5 fee after)0.90€904.50 EUR
Wise$6.82 USD0.920450 - mid-market rate€914.17 EUR

Correct at time of researching - 22-Aug-2023 – Pay-in method used for the transfer is ACH.

As you can see from this table, it’s the exchange rate that makes all the difference with international transfers.

Even though providers like Western Union and Ria charge no fees for some transfers, Wise still comes out on top because of its better exchange rate.

This is why it always pays to look closely at the exchange rate and compare a range of alternatives before hitting ‘send’ on that transfer.

Wise offers fast, secure and convenient transfers worldwide, along with a powerful multi-currency account and international debit card.

Check out how much it’ll cost to send your transfer with Wise here.

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

Bottom line – Western Union vs Ria: Which one is cheaper in the US?

After reading this, you should have a better idea of what fees and exchange rates to expect with Western Union and Ria Money Transfer. We’ve even looked at a hypothetical example, so you can see these costs in action.

But which provider is cheaper will all come down to your particular transfer. You’ll need to compare the fee and rate for both WU and Ria when the time comes, to see which is the best value.

And don’t forget to include Wise in your comparison. You could save money by sending international transfers with Wise, benefiting from low fees and great exchange rates.

Learn more about Wise

Frequently asked questions

Which is better - Ria or Western Union?

It all comes down to the details of your particular transfer, especially if cost is your primary focus.

The fees for sending transfers with either service can vary depending on the amount, currency and other factors. So, you’ll need to compare the two, remembering to look at the exchange rate as well as the fees.

Is Ria different from Western Union?

Yes, Ria Money Transfer is a completely separate company from Western Union, even though they both offer online money transfer services.

Is Ria owned by Western Union?

No, Ria Money Transfer isn’t owned by Western Union. The company that owns it is Euronet Worldwide Inc, an American provider of global electronic payment services.

Which is better - Ria or MoneyGram?

Of course, Ria and Western Union aren’t the only money transfer companies out there. You should also compare prices with other providers, such as MoneyGram, to see which is cheaper.

💡Take a look at our guide to alternatives to Western Union, including a look at Ria vs. MoneyGram vs. Western Union.

Sources used:

  1. Western Union - About Us
  2. Ria Money Transfer - About Ria
  3. Western Union - Price estimator
  4. Ria Money Transfer - Home
  5. Wise - Send Money

Sources last checked on date: 22-Aug-2023 >/small>

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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