Moneygram vs Western Union vs Paypal

Information verified correct on December 6th, 2016

What’s the cheapest way to send an international money transfer from Australia to the USA? We put three major providers to the test.

If you need to send money to the USA from Australia, there’s now a wide range of money transfer providers that can handle the transaction. From cash pickup transfers to online payments, you’re spoilt for choice when looking for a fast and affordable way to send money overseas.

But before you make an international money transfer from Australia to the USA, it’s important to compare your options and find out which provider offers the most affordable and effective transfer solution. Here, we compared three major players in the money transfer market - MoneyGramWestern Union and PayPal – to see which one offers the best deal.

Sending $1,000 from Australia to the USA

The most effective way to compare MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal is to look at a case study such as the one below:

Malcolm wants to send $1,000 from Australia to his aunt on the west coast of the USA for her birthday. MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal all offer handy online calculators that estimate the cost of the transfer, so he punches in the details of his transaction to see what each company has to offer. The details of his comparison are shown in the table below:

MoneyGramWestern UnionPayPal
Transfer amountAUD$1,000AUD$1,000AUD$1,000
Exchange rate1 AUD = 0.682573 USD1 AUD = 0.7015 USD1 AUD = 0.69775*
Transfer feeAUD$65AUD$20AUD$10 (fee is 1% of transaction amount if funded by PayPal balance or bank account)


AUD$39 + fixed fee (fee is 3.9% of transaction amount plus a fixed charge if transfer is funded by your credit card)

Transfer methodCash pickupCash pickupTransfer to PayPal account
Processing time10 minutesWithin minutesUsually within 24 hours
Amount receivedUSD$682.57USD$701.50USD$697.78

*Based on wholesale exchange rate of 1 AUD = 0.723055 as at 8:20am, 19/05/2016. PayPal charges a currency conversion fee of 3.5% above the wholesale exchange rate for transfers to USD – this was used to calculate the exchange rate quoted in the table.

As you can see, Western Union offers the best exchange rate of the three providers and allows Malcolm to send more US Dollars for the same amount of Australian Dollars. But if he sent the transaction via PayPal and paid using his bank account or PayPal balance, the smaller transfer fee charged actually makes this a more affordable option.

The fees involved and the complexity of fee structures for this type of transaction shows that the values may vary depending on how much you want to transfer and what options you choose. This means you may need to take a closer look at each provider to work out which one offers the best deal for your circumstances.

A closer look at each service


With more than 350,000 agent locations around the world, MoneyGram allows you to send money to over 250 countries and territories. The convenience of picking up cash from one of the provider’s worldwide locations makes it a popular choice, while the ability to process a transfer in around 10 minutes is another big plus.

When it comes to sending money to the USA, MoneyGram’s exchange rate is noticeably lower than those offered by PayPal and Western Union. It also charges a high transfer fee of $65 when you send AUD$1,000 to the US, but it’s worth noting that the fee changes depending on the amount you send. For example, the fee drops to AUD$35 if you send $500.

It’s also important to point out that while MoneyGram may not offer the best AUD/USD exchange rate, it could still offer a competitive rate for transfers to other destinations. You can compare it to other money transfer options at any time by using the “Estimate fees” feature on the MoneyGram website to calculate the cost of your transaction.

Western Union

Western Union has 500,000-plus agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories, making it the largest money transfer service in the world. In our comparison, it also offered the best exchange rate of the three companies, resulting in a noticeable difference to the amount that arrived in the USA.

In terms of transfer fees, Western Union’s $20 charge is significantly cheaper than MoneyGram and competitive with PayPal’s offering. Fees also vary depending on the amount you send, with a lower, AUD$500 transfer to the USA attracting a fee of AUD$15.

The Western Union website also offers a convenient “Calculate Price” feature to help you work out the cost of a transfer and compare your options. Remember that rates and fees could change for each transfer you want to make, so it’s worth comparing a few options every time you need to send money overseas.


The biggest attraction of PayPal’s international money transfer service is that it’s completely digital. Transactions can be funded from your PayPal balance, your bank account balance or your credit card, and you can send money to anyone with a PayPal account.

But things get tricky when you need to calculate the exchange rate and fee that will apply to your transaction. First of all you will need to consider the currency conversion fee.For transactions to the US and Canada, this rate is 3.5% above the wholesale exchange rate. The fee rises to 4% above the wholesale exchange rate when converting to all other currencies.

You also need to calculate the transaction fee, which is 1% of the transaction amount when you send money to the USA using your PayPal balance or bank account. If you pay for the transaction using your credit card, on the other hand, you’ll be charged 3.9% of the transaction amount plus a fixed fee. Not only is this structure confusing, but the fees and charges you pay can quickly add up.

These fees also vary depending on where you are sending money, with credit card transaction fees ranging from 3.9% to 7.4% of the transaction amount, plus a fixed fee. So make sure you’re fully aware of the total cost of sending an international transfer with PayPal before you commit to a transaction.

Online money transfer companies

Before sending money anywhere around the world, it’s useful to compare the services offered by specialist online money transfer companies. These providers, such as OFX and World First, are specialists when it comes to moving money across international borders.

As online businesses don’t maintain branch networks, costs are kept to a minimum and can mean fewer fees for customers. These companies also trade in large volumes of foreign currency, allowing them to provide competitive exchange rates on transfers from Australia to the USA and countries around the world.

It’s quick and easy to compare money transfer providers online, so consider the services of a specialist online company before you finalise the details of your transaction.

How do I compare money transfer providers?

Remember to consider the following features when weighing up the pros and cons of money transfer companies:

  • Exchange rates. The exchange rate you receive has a huge bearing on the overall affordability of your transaction. Look for a company that regularly offers better exchange rates than its competitors, but make sure to check whether there are any hefty transfer fees attached.
  • Transfer fees. Transfer fees typically range from zero right up to around $100,so it makes sense to read the fine print and find out about any fees and charges attached to your transaction.
  • Processing times. Transfer times also vary greatly, usually from a few minutes to roughly a week, so check how long each company takes to get your money from A to B.
  • Transfer methods. Will the funds be sent direct to the recipient’s bank account or made available for cash pickup? Can you pay for a transfer using a credit card, cash or with funds from your bank account?
  • Available currencies and destinations. Some companies only offer support for a limited number of currencies and transfers to selected destinations. Check each company’s list of supported currencies and countries to decide whether it’s right for you.
  • Customer service. Check how and when each transfer provider offers customer service and support. This will give you the peace of mind of knowing that help will be on hand if you ever have difficulties with a transaction.

These key features show how important it is to compare your options when sending an international money transfer. Start comparing money transfer providers at today.

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