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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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
For your typical overseas transfer, you’ll get a stronger exchange rate with PayPal.
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.
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.
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 Service||Payment Methods||Minimum and maximum transfers||Delivery methods||Transfer speeds||Countries and currencies|
|Credit card, debit card, cash||Minimum 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-wallet||Varies from minutes up to 3 days, depending on the types of transaction||200+ countries|
|Credit card, debit card, PayPal credit||Minimum 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 minutes||200+ countries|
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.
Frequently asked questions
Does Western Union work with PayPal?
No, you cannot pay for a Western Union transfer with PayPal. Read our guide to learn what payment methods Western Union supports.
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