Western Union review

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A straightforward way to send cash overseas — even if the recipient doesn't have a bank account.

Western Union operates one of the world’s largest money transfer networks with more than 500,000 agent locations around the world, but unfavourable exchange rates mean you’ll have to pay for the convenience.

Why should I consider Western Union?

  • Established service
    Western Union has managed both domestic and international money transfers since 1871.
  • Huge network
    With over 500,000 agent locations worldwide in more than 200 countries, Western Union is one of the world’s largest money transfer providers. Many of the agent locations in Ireland are often located in post offices and newsagents.
  • Flexible transfer options
    With a mix of online and agent location services, you can choose to pay with cash, credit, debit, bank accounts and more. Also, Western Union’s business transfer option lets you use hedging tools to get even more flexibility.
  • Fast
    Some transfers through Western Union can be received within minutes, which helps in an emergency or when you don’t want to wait a few days for your transfer to go through.

What to be aware of

  • Weak exchange rates
    Unfavourable exchange rates will lead to less money going to your recipient and more to Western Union. Exchange rates offered by Western Union can be as high as 20% — worse than the mid-market rate. So be sure to shop around when sending large amounts of money.
  • Maximum transfer limits
    You can send up to €1,000 per online money transfer without having to verify your identity or up to €5,000 after verification. Agent locations typically have no limit, however, so long as you can provide adequate identification while sending.
  • High fees
    Nearly all transactions through Western Union will have a transfer fee attached. Occasional promotions and coupons may help recover some of this fee amount, but expect to almost always pay a fee when sending money through Western Union.

Western Union fees and exchange rates explained

Western Union has different fees for nearly every country it sends to. These fees also depend on how you are paying for the transfer and how the transfer will be collected. Agent location fees typically aren’t posted online, but Western Union’s online fees are based on:

  • Location. The fees you pay will be different when sending to different countries around the world.
  • Payment. Paying with a credit card versus a debit card or a bank account will have different fees. Additionally, if paying with a credit card, you may be charged fees by your credit card provider too.
  • Receiving method. Picking up cash is typically more expensive than having money sent straight to a bank account.
  • Variable exchange rates. Western Union applies different exchange rates to different transfer types. It also uses stronger or weaker exchange rates based on the currency you are transferring.

When sending from Ireland for cash pickup, here are the fees and exchange rates we encountered using Western Union’s price estimator tool on 26 April 2021:

Sending €1,000 toPaying withFeePercent above mid-market
India (INR)
Credit/debit card2.902.4%
Bank account€2.901.9%
Kenya (KES)
Credit/debit card€2.907.4%
Bank account€2.907.4%

Sending money to India had moderately low exchange rate markups at 2.4%, while sending from EUR to Kenya had markups over 7% when we checked. Normally high markups are associated with low fees, but that’s not always the case. Some transfers can result in both high credit card fees and poor exchange rates.

Check if there are any Western Union promo codes available

How Western Union compares to other services

Name Product Minimum Transfer Transfer Time Transfer Fee
Wise (TransferWise) - Ireland
EUR 1
1-2 days
Varies
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Azimo - Ireland
GBP 10
Instant
Varies
Azimo sends money directly to a bank account or over 280,000 cash pick-up points. It also has fast transfers to 50+ countries.
XE Money Transfers - Ireland
EUR 1
Same day
EUR 2
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
WorldRemit - Ireland
EUR 1
Same day
Varies
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
CurrencyFair - Ireland
EUR 5
1-2 days
Varies
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
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Payment and receiving options

There are many ways to send money overseas with Western Union, each with its own set of limits, fees and restrictions. Western Union’s online, phone and in-store options include:

Payment options

  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Bank account
  • Cash (in-store)
  • Wire transfer

Receiving options

  • Cash (in-store)
  • Bank account
  • Mobile wallet
  • Prepaid card
  • Pay your bills

Not all options are available for all markets.

How long does a Western Union money transfer take?

You can send your transfer a few different ways, depending on the amount of fees you want to pay and how quickly you need it to arrive.

  • Fastest option — as little as 10 minutes

    Pay for your transfer with a credit or debit card and have it sent for cash pickup. When using a credit or debit card, you’ll typically pay a higher fee, but your money can arrive in as little as 10 minutes. However, your credit card may charge a cash advance fee, further increasing the cost of your total transfer.

  • Cheapest option — up to 5 business days

    Using a bank account to pay for your transfer is typically the cheapest way to send money, but is also almost always the slowest. Depending on verification needs, you may have to wait longer while Western Union confirms you own the registered bank account.

How much money can I send with Western Union?

Your limits will vary based on your transaction history, the recipient’s country, your location, and the service you choose.

ONLINE: If you want to send more than €1,000, Western Union will need you to confirm your identity first – after that, you’ll be able to send up to €5,000.

AGENT LOCATION: There’s usually no restriction on the amount of money you may send at an agent location. Government regulations in Ireland mean that additional information is required to send or receive transfers over €15,000 over a 12-month period. Some countries set limits on how much can be received. If you have any questions about a specific amount you’re sending or a specific country, you can call customers services.

ON THE PHONE: The money transfer limit ranges will vary depending on the Western Union location and transfer destination.

Note: Limits may vary based on sending and receiving location, so it’s best to check with Western Union itself before sending.

How do I use Western Union?

Western Union offers several ways for you to send money. As a minimum, you’ll need:

  • A Western Union account. It’s straightforward to set up a free account as part of your transfer.
  • Valid payment method. You can pay by debit card for Western Union’s fastest and cheapest transfer or use a credit card or bank account. You can also pay in cash at an agent location.
  • Recipient’s contact information. If sending to a bank account, you’ll need the bank name and account number. If you’re sending a prepaid card for home delivery, you’ll need the address and phone number.
  • Your contact and payment information. Know the card number or account number and security information for the account you’re transferring from.

If your recipient is picking up cash in person, let them know to bring along a valid ID that matches the name you are transferring to.

The registration and transfer process

You’ll need to create a Western Union online profile before you can send funds online. It’s free and relatively quick to register. If you don’t want to register online, you can contact Western Union by phone and provide the necessary information.

If you prefer a face-to-face transaction, visit one of Western Union’s locations to transfer funds using cash, a credit or debit card. It might be worth calling beforehand to check the opening hours to avoid a wasted journey.

Must read: COVID-19 update

Your nearest Western Union location may not be open, so call ahead. Sending money online or with a money transfer app could be safer and easier.

Steps to send a Western Union transfer online

Signing up and sending money through Western Union can be done online, in person or through the mobile app.

  1. Create your free account using your name and contact information.
  2. Verify your account through the email and phone number provided.
  3. Provide the required identification, if asked.
  4. Start your transfer by choosing Send money.
  5. Fill in your transfer details, select payment methods and choose Send.
  6. Refer to your receipt for tracking details.

How do I track a Western Union transfer?

You have a few options: track online, through an agent or by telephone. All options require the same information, which is your MTCN.

The MTCN, or Money Transfer Control Number, is Western Union’s unique tracking number assigned to your money transfer. Your receiver will need this number when picking up money at an agent location. The number can be found on your receipt.

If you don’t have the MTCN, you can track transfers using:

  • Sender’s phone number OR Sender and receiver names
  • Receiver’s country and amount sent
  • Date of transfer

Additional information may be needed, which is why tracking with the MTCN is the easiest option.

How to keep your money transfer safe

What is Western Union’s Digital Locations?

A Digital Location is Western Union’s way of bringing agent location services to the digital world. This service is first launching in a few markets, but Western Union has plans to expand the program.

Users connecting to a Digital Location can expect the same level of customer service they’d get from a regular agent location, but digitally. Customers can expect multiple language support and video or phone chat with a Western Union money transfer personal-service assistant.

As it’s not available in Ireland, though, if you want to send money digitally then be sure to compare your options to save money on your next transfer.

Western Union lawsuits and customer complaints explained

Large numbers of customer complaints is fairly standard for companies as massive and far-reaching as Western Union, but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve.

Online seller fraud and money transfer scams

This is the most common type of complaint by users online, and there is little that Western Union can do besides educate its customers to help them avoid these situations. Typical scams through Western Union include:

  • Payment requests. Someone online offers to sell you something and asks that you pay through Western Union. They pick up the cash that you sent to a Western Union agent location, and you never hear from them again.
  • Overpayment scam. You receive a cheque that appears to be valid for a new job, a service or a product you are offering. The cheque amount is more than you earned, so the sender requests you return the extra amount by money transfer. After sending the money transfer, you’ll learn that the cheque bounced, and there is no way to reverse the money transfer.
  • Tax scam. You are contacted by someone claiming to be from a government agency, stating that you owe taxes and they must be paid immediately. The person will claim the fastest way to send money and avoid penalties is through a money transfer.

To combat these types of scams, Western Union has started providing clear warnings on their website before a user sends a money transfer. This popup warning requires users to choose Accept before sending their transfer. Western Union has a specific Twitter account dedicated to fraud awareness that tweets about the newest and most relevant scams while they are popping up. Also, Western Union now operates 24/7 phone lines for customer support all over the world.

Lawsuits against Western Union

After a long investigation, in January 2017 Western Union agreed to forfeit more than US$550 million and enter into anti-fraud agreements with many state and federal agencies. These lawsuits focused on Western Union’s aiding and abetting of wire fraud by failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program.

The outcome of the lawsuits led Western Union to agree to:

  • Provide clear fraud warnings.
  • Increase its websites and telephone numbers to handle customer fraud.
  • Block any and all money transfers sent to a person who is the subject of a fraud report until it is cleared up.
  • Refund a money transfer if Western Union fails to comply with its anti-fraud procedures and the sender is the target of fraud.

Fraud can be reported to your local Garda station.

More on money transfer scams and how to avoid them

Western Union reviews and complaints

Western Union reviews are generally positive, with the expected negative reviews popping up on review sites like Trustpilot. It is no surprise that there are many users with great experiences and many users with poor experiences, given that Western Union has hundreds of millions of customers.

Independent research of any brand is always a great idea before using it. We’ve done some of the footwork for you and compiled reviews from around the internet. These reviews are accurate as of 26 April 2021.

Trustpilot2.7 out of 5, based on 18,378 customer reviews
CompareRemit2.0 out of 5, based on 234 customer reviews
Monito7.9 out of 10, staff reviewed

Can I trust Western Union?

Between 2004 and 2010, Western Union was accused of allowing fraudulent transactions and received more than 550,000 complaints about fraud. Since then, Western Union has paid over US$586 million in fines to settle this issue. The outcome of the lawsuits lead Western Union to agree to:

  • Provide clear fraud warnings.
  • Increase its websites and telephone numbers to handle customer fraud.
  • Block any and all money transfers sent to a person who is the subject of a fraud report until it is cleared up.
  • Refund a money transfer if Western Union fails to comply with its anti-fraud procedures and the sender is the target of fraud.

Being extra cautious by only sending or receiving money from people you know is a necessary extra step for your safety.

Does Western Union have an app?

Screenshot of the Western Union app

Yes, Western Union has an app on both Google Play and the App Store. Features of the app include:

  • Scan your card. Use your phone’s camera to quickly scan your credit card, debit card and photo ID to save time and prevent mistakes.
  • Biometric logins. Both face and fingerprint recognition can be used to log in by using Touch ID.
  • Check currency exchange rates on the go. Current currency exchange rates and fees can be found in the app instead of having to use your phone’s browser.
  • Create an order in the app, then pay in cash. To speed up the time spent at an agent location, start your money transfer on the app then pay at an agent location to complete it.
  • Find an agent location using GPS. Use the in-app map to find agent locations based on your GPS or search anywhere around the world.
Google Play Store4.5 out of 5, based on 202,376 customer reviews
Apple App Store4.6 out of 5, based on 10,000 customer reviews

More on the best money transfer apps

How does My WU: Western Union’s reward program work?

My WU is Western Union’s membership program, and it is free to sign up for. Points can be earned by completing qualifying transactions.

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Sign up for free. An email and mobile number is required to sign up, and you have to opt-in after creating your Western Union account.
  2. Send money to earn points. Points are earned based on fees paid, at a $1 in fees paid to 1 My WU point earned ratio.
  3. Redeem points for rewards. Spend your points to receive discounts on service fees, with special promotions offered throughout the year.

Pro tip: Saving your My WU points to spend in larger amounts may net you greater rewards per point spent. Although it can be tempting to spend 25 or 50 points, save those points up if possible to reap even more savings!

Bottom line

Western Union offers plenty of useful transfer and cash pickup options when you need to send money overseas. Before you commit to sending your hard-earned cash, though, be sure to compare other available options to find the best deal. Although Western Union is often one of the most convenient options, it is always worth checking if there are additional companies with lower fees and stronger exchange rates for you to benefit from.

Want to compare Western Union with other services side-by-side?

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Review by


Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder. He’s ghostwritten hundreds of articles on fintech, finding his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Traveling internationally for nearly half his life — and getting burned once by an OTC money exchange — Zak's vowed not to settle for anything short of the mid-market rate again.

Expert review

Western Union has a gigantic global network of agent locations and bank connections that makes it easy to send money to almost anywhere. You can transfer this money fast for higher fees, or a bit slower for lower fees, depending on your needs and resources. Overall I’d recommend checking Western Union for any transfer you need to make, if only to get a baseline on prices.

Given Western Union’s history of customer complaints and lawsuits, consider looking at Western Union alternatives, as many smaller competitors have a better track record and also offer better exchange rates and lower fees. Western Union will almost always be a cheaper option than your bank, especially when sending one-off transfers or to remote destinations.

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