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Send money overseas: Western Union vs Wise (TransferWise)

Which money transfer service has less fees and better rates when you need to send funds overseas?

When you need to send money overseas from Canada, choosing the right provider to handle the transaction is crucial. Poor exchange rates and high transfer fees can turn a simple transaction into an expensive nightmare and leave a big hole in your bank balance, so it’s vital that you compare transfer providers before sending any funds overseas.

Western Union and Wise both offer competitive international money transfer services from Canada to countries in all four corners of the globe. But which company offers the most affordable and convenient transfers? Let’s compare them and find out.

Compare Western Union and wise

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
CAD 1 Same day CAD 20.00 0.763 USD
3,799
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Show details
CAD 1 1 - 2 days CAD 45.00 0.79 USD
3,913
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

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

Our table below shows you the fees and exchange rates you can expect from other money transfer specialists. Compare Western Union and Wise to the other providers below to see if it’s the best option for you.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
CAD 1 Same day CAD 0.00 0.786 USD
3,929
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 0.781 USD
3,904
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
3,930
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
3,913
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

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

Meet the contenders: Western Union vs Wise

Western Union: One of the best-known names in the international money transfer game. With a history dating back to 1851, Western Union offers quick and easy transfers to more than 200 countries around the world. You can use Western Union to send in-person cash transfers or online transactions, and you can send funds to overseas bank accounts or for cash collection from more than 500,000 Western Union locations worldwide.

Wise: Wise is a much newer arrival on the international transfer scene, founded in 2011. The London-based company operates a peer-to-peer money transfer service that promises fast transactions and bank-beating exchange rates. All transfers are sent online to your recipient’s bank account.

Exchange rates: Western Union vs Wise

The exchange rate is often the most crucial factor in determining the affordability of a transaction. You want to find the highest exchange rate available so you get the best value for the Canadian dollars you want to convert into another currency.

Western Union: Western Union’s exchange rates vary greatly depending on the amount of money you’re sending, where you send it and the transfer method you select. They also change daily. However, it does offer a handy price calculator on its website to help you find out what exchange rate will apply to your transaction. Like most money transfer providers, Western Union makes money on the margin between the mid-market exchange rate and the rate it offers to its customers.

Wise: Meanwhile, because Wise is a peer-to-peer money transfer service, it allows you to send money overseas using the real mid-market exchange rate. As a result, it offers superior exchange rates to Western Union and is a clear winner in this category. Wise’s live rates are easily visible by selecting your currencies on the provider’s homepage. Click ‘Go to Site’ in the table above to see the rates for your transfer.

The table below compares exchange rates for a $1,000 international money transfer in several common currencies. Make sure to compare current live rates between transfer providers before submitting a transaction request.

WiseWestern Union cash transferWestern Union bank account transfer
CAD/USD1 CAD = 0.7544 USD1 CAD = 0.7298 USD1 CAD = 0.7298 USD
CAD/EUR1 CAD = 0.6597 EUR1 CAD = 0.6244 EUR1 CAD = 0.6244 EUR
CAD/GBP1 CAD = 0.5733 GBP1 CAD = 0.5496 GBP1 CAD = 0.5496 GBP
CAD/INR1 CAD = 53.6239 INR1 CAD = 52.4976 INR1 CAD = 52.4976 INR
CAD/NZD1 CAD = 1.1041 NZD1 CAD = 1.0580 NZD1 CAD = 1.0580 NZD
CAD/CNY1 CAD = 5.0886 CNY1 CAD = 4.9601 CNY1 CAD = 4.9601 CNY

*Exchange rates at 28/01/19. Always source a quote for current rates.

Transaction fees: Western Union vs Wise

The other main cost you need to consider when sending a transfer – and the other way transfer providers make money – is the transaction fee.

Once again, Western Union’s fee varies depending on the amount you send, the destination country and your transfer method. The price calculator tool on its website can be used to work out how much you will have to pay for your transaction.

As it doesn’t apply an exchange rate margin, Wise relies on charging fees to make money. Fees vary depending on the amount you send and where you send it, but a minimum fee of $2 is always applies. For example, the following fees apply if you want to send CAD to GBP with Wise:

  • Amounts up to $10,000: a fee of 0.7% applies
  • Amounts over $10,000: a fee of 0.7% applies to the initial $10,000, and a 0.5% fee applies to anything over that amount

You can find full details of Wise’s fees on its pricing page, but the table below outlines transaction fees for a number of common currencies when sending CAD$1,000:

WiseWestern Union cash transferWestern Union bank account transfer
CAD/USD$5.69$20 (credit or debit) $59 (in store)$10
CAD/EUR$6.67$60 (credit or debit) $40 (in store)$10
CAD/GBP$5.69$20 (credit or debit) $40 (in store)$10
CAD/INR$7.60$20 (credit or debit) $14 (in store)$0
CAD/NZD$6.18$20 (credit or debit) $54 (in store)$10
CAD/CNY$15.33$18 (credit or debit) $5 (in store)$8

*Rates correct as of 28/01/2018. Always source a quote for current rates.

As you can see, the right provider for your transfer will depend on the size of your transaction. For example, while Wise is a cheaper option when sending $1,000 to China as per the table above, if you were sending $5,000, Wise’s fee rises to $45.11 while you still only need to pay between $5 – $18 to send the funds with Western Union, depending on your payment method.

How to send money with Western Union and Wise

It’s quick and easy to send money overseas with both Western Union and Wise. If sending money online with Western Union you will need to follow these simple steps:

To send cash online with Western Union:

  1. Click ‘Go to Site’ in the table above.
  2. Register for a free account online.
  3. Verify your identity with a valid form of ID, for example your driver’s licence or passport.
  4. Login to your account and enter the details of your transaction (how much you’re sending and where, including your recipient’s bank account details).
  5. Pay for the transaction with your credit or debit card.
  6. You will receive an email confirmation with a tracking number.
  7. The money is deposited into your beneficiary’s account.

To send cash from a Western Union location:

  1. Visit your nearest Western Union branch.
  2. Complete a “Send Money” form.
  3. Give the Western Union agent the completed form and the funds to cover the transfer amount and fee.
  4. Save your receipt and give the tracking number to your recipient so they can collect the cash.

If you want to send funds with Wise, you will first need to sign up for an account:

  1. Click the ‘Go to Site’ button at the top of this page.
  2. Sign up for an account on the Wise website.
  3. Verify your ID.
  4. Enter the details of your transfer, including the amount, currency and your recipient’s bank account details.
  5. Pay for the transaction using your bank account or card.
  6. Your funds will be sent to your beneficiary’s bank account within 1–4 working days.

Supported countries and currencies

Before you choose a transfer provider, it’s important to check whether it will allow you to send money to your chosen destination and in the currency you want.

Western Union is the clear winner in this category, offering transfers in more than 135 currencies to over 200 countries. Rather than listing all the supported transfer destinations here, we recommend using the price calculator tool on the Western Union website to find out where you can send funds.

Wise doesn’t support as many currencies as Western Union, but it does allow you to send and receive the following currencies:

  • CAD
  • USD
  • GBP
  • EUR
  • CHF
  • PLN
  • SEK
  • NOK
  • DKK
  • HUF
  • CZK
  • BGN
  • RON
  • NZD
  • JPY
  • BRL

Transfer options: Western Union vs Wise

There are several other options you should consider to help you decide which transfer provider offers the most convenient service for you. Check out the table below to see how Western Union and Wise stack up across a number of other key categories.

Western UnionWise
Payment methods
  • Credit or debit card
  • Instant bank transfer
  • Cash (in-person cash transfers)
  • Electronic funds transfer
  • Credit or debit card
Transfer time
  • Within minutes (cash transfers)
  • 1–4 working days (bank transfers)
1–4 working days
Maximum transaction limit
  • $7,500
  • No maximum
Business paymentsYesYes
Forward contractsNoNo
Limit ordersNoYes

Customer support

One of the often-neglected factors you should consider before choosing a money transfer service is the customer support it provides. This ensures that you will be able to have your questions answered promptly and problems efficiently dealt with if they arise.

Western Union: Western Union offers a frequently asked questions section on its website, while you can also access help via phone and email customer assistance.

Wise: Wise offers a handy online help section with a wide range of frequently asked questions and basic advice articles. Phone, email and live chat support are also available.

To get a clearer idea of the services and support offered by transfer providers, it’s a good idea to read online reviews from other customers.

Which option is better: Western Union or Wise?

Whether you should send your international money transfer with Western Union or Wise depends on the details of your transaction. In most cases you will find that Wise represents the more affordable option, with better exchange rates and lower transfer fees, so it will usually be the best option if you are looking for the cheaper of the two.

However, there are certain situations where Western Union is a more suitable choice, such as if you want to send an exotic currency not supported by Wise. Western Union is also a worthwhile option if you’re looking for the speed and convenience of a near-instant cash transfer, allowing you to transfer cash to someone on the other side of the world within minutes.

Consider your transfer needs and objectives before you lodge a transaction and you will be able to choose the right provider to help you send money overseas.

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