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MoneyGram vs. Western Union vs. PayPal

We put three major providers to the test when it comes to sending cash overseas.

International money transfers are no longer a game for only tried-and-true players like Western Union and MoneyGram. Newer companies, like PayPal, promise to undercut the competition to earn your business. Here we compare 3 major players — MoneyGram vs. Western Union vs. PayPal — to see which one offers the better deal.

How do they work?

MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal each offer an easy online process to exchange and send money around the world.

MoneyGram and Western Union

The way you go about sending a transfer with MoneyGram is nearly indistinguishable from the same process with Western Union.

So much, in fact, that we can describe them both in one shot: You go to their sites, enter how much you’re transferring and to where and see how much you’ll pay for the exchange.

With either service, you also have the option of visiting an office, calling or using a mobile app to initiate a transfer. And once complete, they convert and deliver your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide.

PayPal

To transfer money through PayPal, you’ll need to create a free PayPal account. You’ll 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.

Read review: Paypal

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Who offers better exchange rates?

To understand who offers better exchange rates, you’ll need to first look at the midmarket 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.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram skews exchange rates for a profit. Depending on where you’re sending your money, the exchange rate could be 5% or more above the midmarket rate. This means hundreds of dollars on a large transfer diverted to MoneyGram’s pockets.

Western Union

Like MoneyGram, depending on the country you’re sending money to, a typical exchange rate at Western Union could be up to 6% above the midmarket rate. If you’re sending a large amount overseas, this is a lot of money straight into Western Union’s coffers.

PayPal

To calculate the exchange rate it offers to customers, PayPal takes the midmarket rate and adds a 3% or 4% margin. 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.

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Who offers lower fees?

The most effective way to compare MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal is to look at a case study.

Case study: Sending $750 to Germany

Malcolm wants to send $750 to his sister, a military wife living at the Canadian Forces Base Lahr in southwestern Germany.

He’s tempted by the convenience of his local bank, despite its reputation for high fees and weak exchange rates. Before he decides, he compares how much he’ll pay to deposit the money to his sister’s bank account with MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal.

MoneyGramWestern UnionPayPal
Transfer fee$4.99$0$24.74 + 0.35 EUR
Exchange rate1 CAD = 0.6600 EUR1 CAD = 0.6524 EUR1 CAD = 0.6443 EUR
Transfer speedWithin hours0-4 business days1 business day
Total received912.12 EUR860.87 EUR912.62 EUR

Malcolm analyzes his options to understand how the complexity of fee structures and transfer options ultimately affect how much he’ll pay. There’s no question that MoneyGram offers the strongest exchange rate. Additionally, the fee is much less than PayPal but is more than Western Union.

If time isn’t on Malcolm’s side, MoneyGram wins with a delivery time of just hours compared to 1 or 4 business days with MoneyGram or Western Union.

Ultimately, he’ll need to weigh which element is more important before making his transfer.

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Who’s faster?

MoneyGram

Delivery speed varies by transfer option, with cash transfers in person or by phone delivered in minutes — at higher costs. MoneyGram’s cheaper options take 2-4 business days for receipt.

Western Union

Like MoneyGram, delivery speed with Western Union too varies by transfer option. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes — at 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 more quickly with PayPal. For deposits to an account, up to 4 business days sooner.

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Who offers more options?

Money Transfer ServicePayment MethodsMinimum and maximum transfersDelivery methodsTransfer speedsCountries and currencies
MoneyGramBank transfer, credit card, debit card, cashBank account, cash pick-up locationMinimum: $1

Maximum: $990

Within an hour100+ currencies
Western UnionCredit 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
PayPalCredit 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
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Bottom line

You may get stronger exchange rates with either Moneygram or Western Union. For very small transfers, PayPal could potentially cost less, but the fees really add up for large transfers. If you’re sending directly to your recipient’s bank account, Western Union wins out with a $0 transfer fee for most types of transfers. However, if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, MoneyGram’s or 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.

Compare other transfer services

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
CAD 1 Same day CAD 0.00 0.786 USD
3,932
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools. Go to site Show details
CAD 10 Within an hour CAD 1.99 0.782 USD
3,907
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.
Go to site Show details
CAD 0 Within an hour CAD 3.99 0.787 USD
3,933
Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Go to site Show details
CAD 1 1 - 2 days CAD 45.00 0.79 USD
3,916
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

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