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Western Union vs. PayPal

We compare a popular provider with a digital giant to see which is better for overseas transfers.

Western Union is nearly synonymous with international money transfers, and if your recipient needs cash pickup, it might be the way to go. But depending on the currency, PayPal may offer a better exchange rate and fast transfer speeds. We compare Western Union and PayPal to help you pick the best option for your transfer.

Western Union

Go to the Western Union site, enter how much you’re transferring and confirm how you’re sending it and how it should be received. You also have the option of visiting or calling an agent.

Once you’ve approved the exchange rate and fees you’ll pay, Western Union converts and delivers your money to your recipient’s bank account or for cash pickups at locations worldwide.

Read review: Western Union

PayPal

To transfer money through PayPal, you’ll need to create a free PayPal account. You then send a transfer to your recipient’s PayPal account, funding the transfer with your PayPal balance, bank account, credit or debit card or PayPal Credit. After your recipient receives the money, they can either keep the funds in their PayPal account or withdraw the money to their bank account.

Which offers lower fees?

Western Union

Figuring out much you’ll pay to transfer money internationally with Western Union can be muddied. Sending directly to your recipient’s bank account is free for transfers to most countries. When sending money for cash pickup, most fees start at $5, although they can be as much as $100+ when sending large amounts, assuming you’re paying by credit or debit card.

PayPal

How much it costs depends on how much money you send, where you send it and how you pay for the transfer.

When you pay for an international transfer using your PayPal balance or linked bank account, you’ll pay a fee of either $2.99 or $4.99 — the fee is waived if you’re sending to within Canada. If you’re sending to certain countries and paying by credit or debit instead of your paypal balance, you’ll have to pay an additional 2.90% fee plus a small fixed fee (usually around CAD$0.50).

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Winner: Western Union

For most countries, you pay $0 transfer fees with Western Union if you send money directly to your recipient’s bank account. With PayPal, sending large amounts to many regions in the world could cost you a flat fee + a percentage fee + a fixed fee, which can add up really quickly as the transfer amount increases. Western Union is our winner here.

Compare other transfer services

Our table below lets you compare services you can use to send money abroad. Compare fees, exchange rates and discounts from different money transfer services, and when you have made your choice, click Go to site.
1 - 8 of 8
Name Product _compare_ Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
Wise (TransferWise)
24 hours
From 0.43%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Xe Money Transfers
Within minutes
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Instarem
Within minutes
From $0
Use code HELLO to get $20 off on first two transfers on a min transfer of $250. Valid until November 30, 2023.
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
Africhange
Within minutes
From $0
Send money in CAD to Africa on this blockchain and P2P powered provider.
Remitly
Finder Award
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From $0
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
MoneyGram
Finder Award
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $4.99
For a limited time, get $0 fees on your first money transfer from Canada. Conditions apply.
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
OFX
Finder Award
OFX
24 hours
$0
Exclusive offer: Discounted exchange rates for your first and ongoing transactions. $0 transfer fee.
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
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Which offers better exchange rates?

To understand who offers better exchange rates, you’ll need to first look at the mid-market rate. This is the true exchange rate that averages the buying and selling rate of a global currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.

Western Union

Depending on the country you’re sending money to, a typical exchange rate at Western Union could be up to 6% above the mid-market rate. If you’re sending a large amount overseas, this means hundreds of dollars straight into Western Union’s coffers.

PayPal

To calculate the exchange rate it offers to customers, PayPal takes the wholesale rate it gets from its bank and adds a 3% or 4% margin. PayPal updates this rate twice a day.

But because you can’t know what PayPal’s wholesale rate is, it’s difficult to determine on your own what exchange rate you’ll get. The best way to find accurate exchange rates is by using PayPal’s currency exchange calculator, which you can find after you log in to your account.

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Winner: Paypal

For your typical overseas transfer, you’ll get a stronger exchange rate with PayPal.

Who’s faster?

Western Union

Delivery speeds vary with transfer options. Your transfer could take minutes if you send money online (and pay by credit or debit), at an agent location or by phone. Although this could come with higher costs. Your cheapest options could take up to 3 business days, depending on the country.

PayPal

With PayPal, transferring among existing PayPal accounts is instantaneous. Payments from your PayPal account to another bank account are delivered by the next business day.

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Winner: PayPal

Whichever way you send your money, it’ll get to your recipient faster with PayPal. For some transfers, this could be up to 3 business days sooner than Western Union.

Who offers more options?

Money Transfer ServicePayment MethodsMinimum and maximum transfersDelivery methodsTransfer speedsCountries and currencies

small Western Union logo Image: screenshot from web

Credit card, debit card, cashMinimum is $1.00

Maximum is $7,500 for cash pickups or $999 for direct deposit to a bank account

Deposit to bank account, cash pickup, e-walletVaries from minutes up to 3 days, depending on the types of transaction200+ countries

small PayPal logo Image: screenshot from web

Credit card, debit card, PayPal creditMinimum varies by country (about $0.02)

Maximum is unlimited for Verified accounts, though anywhere from $10,000-$60,000 can be sent in a single transaction. Unverified account limits vary.

PayPal transfer (can be deposited into bank account afterwards)Almost immediately or up to several minutes200+ countries

Bottom line

That you’ll get stronger exchange rates with PayPal is clear-cut. But depending on how much you’re sending, you could pay higher transfer fees with PayPal. Then if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, Western Union’s cash pickup may be your best option.

Ultimately, you’ll want to compare money transfer specialists to find a provider that’s right for your situation.

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