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Western Union vs. Ria

See how this industry giant compares to a growing online money transfer service to see which is faster and cheaper.

When you need to transfer money overseas, you have a lot of options. Western Union is one of the global leaders in international money transfers, but newer companies like Ria offer competitive rates, which can help you save money.

Which offers lower fees?

Western Union

Western Union’s fees vary depending on the destination country, transfer amount, payment method and receiving method. Transfer fees start at $1.99 for transfers to bank accounts, assuming you pay by debit or credit.

But fees can shoot as high as $100+ if you’re paying by cash (in store) for cash transfers in large amounts.

That being said, online transfers to some countries come with zero fees.


Money transfer fees with Ria also vary based on the destination country, transfer amount, payment method and receiving amount. It’s generally cheaper to pay by debit and send to a bank account than it is to pay by credit and send funds for cash pickup.

Fee amounts typically start around $3 but can go as high as $65 for transfers at the maximum amount ($2,999).

As with Western Union, some types of transfers come with zero fees.

Trophy iconWinner: Tie
Western Union and Ria both offer zero-fee transfers to some countries, and both are fairly inexpensive for sending small amounts. While Ria’s fees don’t go as high for large transactions, you can send more with Western Union, which explains its potentially higher fees.

Which offers better exchange rates?

The midmarket rate is the “true” exchange rate between 2 currencies, or the real value of one currency when exchanged for another currency. The exchange rate you get from money transfer services like Ria and Western Union is the midmarket rate minus a small fee worth a percentage of the midmarket rate. This fee is sometimes referred to as a markup on the exchange rate.

A lower exchange rate means more of your money is pocketed by the transfer service and your recipient gets less money. A higher exchange rate means the transfer service pockets less of your money and more goes to your recipient.

Western Union

Depending on the country you’re sending money to, a typical exchange rate at Western Union can be anywhere between 1% and 6%+ less than the midmarket rate. For perspective, a 4% markup on the exchange rate means you could lose hundreds of dollars on very large transfers.

Here’s how Western Union’s exchange rate markup could work if you’re sending CAD to euros (EUR):

  • If the midmarket rate is 1 CAD = 0.7165 EUR
  • Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 CAD = 0.6969 EUR (2.74% markup)


Ria takes a substantially smaller margin than Western Union, typically between 1% and 3%.

Here’s how Ria’s exchange rate markup could work if you’re sending CAD to euros (EUR):

  • If the mid-market rate is 1 CAD = 0.7165 EUR
  • Ria’s exchange rate might be 1 CAD = 0.6980 EUR (2.58% markup)
Trophy iconWinner: Ria
Ria’s competitive exchange rates give it an advantage over Western Union.

Which is faster?

Western Union

Western Union’s transfer speed varies depending on the type of transfer. Sending money for cash pickup can take just minutes, but sending money between bank accounts can sometimes take up to 4 business days.


Ria’s transfer speed also depends on the way you send money. When you use your credit or debit card, transfers typically arrive within 15 minutes. Transfers funded from your bank account can take up to 4 business days.

Trophy iconWinner: Tie
Both Western Union and Ria offer transfers that can arrive within minutes and transfers that can take up to 4 business days. There’s no clear winner here.

Western Union vs. Ria: Sending $1,000 to India

Here’s how fees, exchange rates and transfer speeds break down if you send $1,000 from Canada to India through Western Union and Ria. In this example, we assume funds are sent to a bank account, payment is made by debit and the fee is charged on top of the sending amount (not deducted from it). This information is current as of March 18, 2022.

Western UnionRia
Transfer fee$1.99$0
Exchange rate1 CAD = 59.2923 INR1 CAD = 59.148766 INR
Transfer speedMinutesMinutes
Total received59,174.31 INR59,148.77 INR

In this case, Ria’s transfer fee is lower, but Western Union offers a stronger exchange rate, resulting in your recipient getting more money. This is why it’s important to check all the details of your transfer. Lower fees might not mean your recipient gets more money. Conversely, a stronger exchange rate might not mean every other features of a transfer service is better as well.

Western UnionRia Logos
Availability200+ countriesApprox. 160 countries
FeesStarts around $1.99 ($0 fee for some transfers)Starts around $3 ($0 fee for some transfers)
Exchange ratesTypically between 1% and 6%Typically between 1% and 3%
SpeedMinutes up to 4 business days15 minutes up to 4 business days
Transfer limits
  • Minimum: $1.00
  • Maximum: $7,500 CAD per online transfer. Send more in person at an agent location. Additional receiving limits may apply based on the destination country.
  • Minimum: $1.00
  • Daily maximum: $2,999
  • 30-day maximum: $7,999
Payment methods
  • Debit
  • Credit
  • Bank transfer
  • Cash
  • Debit
  • Credit
  • Bank account
  • Cash
Receiving methods
  • Cash pickup
  • Direct deposit to bank account
  • Mobile wallet
  • Cash pickup
  • Direct deposit to bank account
  • Home delivery (available for select countries)
How it works
  1. Visit Western Union’s website or login to its mobile app.
  2. Select the destination country.
  3. Enter the sending or receiving amount.
  4. From here, you can see the exchange rate and the total cost. Choose your payment method and the way you want the money received.
  5. Enter your receiver’s details, and complete the transaction.
  1. Visit Ria’s website or login to its mobile app.
  2. Enter the destination country, sending amount, currency, payment method and receiving method. You can see details like the fee, receiving amount and transfer time.
  3. Enter the recipient’s information.
  4. Enter the details of the receiving method (i.e. bank deposit)
  5. Enter your payment information, and complete the transfer.
Read our reviewRead our review

Compare international money 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 - 4 of 4
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
Dunbridge Financial
24 hours

View details
Dunbridge Financial offers competitive exchange rates and zero fees on transfers to more than 120 countries.
24 hours
From $15

View details
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 45+ currencies.
24 hours

View details
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
XE Business Transfers
XE Business Transfers
Within minutes

View details
XE Money Transfer can help your business unlock international transfers. Forward contract and limit order options available.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Western Union and Ria offer similar options, but you can potentially save money with Ria’s competitive exchange rates. Of course, you should always compare your options to find the service that best fits your needs.

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