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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.

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Western Union

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  • Track your money transfer in real time
  • Send money online, through our app, or at an agent location
  • Fast money transfers to 200+ countries and territories
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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.

How do they work?

Western Union and PayPal both offer straightforward online processes to exchange and send money around the world.

Western Union

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.

Read review: Western Union

PayPal

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.

Read review: PayPal

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Which offers lower fees?

Western Union

Figuring out much you’ll pay to transfer money internationally with Western Union can be muddied. Although most fees start at $5, they can be as much as $45 when paying by credit or debit card for cash pickup in certain countries. When sending money to high-traffic countries such as Mexico or India, however, some agents offer fee-free transfer options.

PayPal

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 between $0.99 to $4.99 — the fee is waived if you’re sending to the US.

When you pay with a credit or debit card, Amex Send Account or PayPal Credit, PayPal charges a fee of 2.9% of the transaction amount, a fixed fee based on currency and a fee ranging from $0.99 to $4.99 depending on how much is sent.

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Winner: It depends

If you’re sending smaller amounts, you could pay minimal fees with PayPal — again, depending on where you’re sending it. For larger amounts, Western Union may be the more ideal provider. For instance, sending $100 using Western Union can cost you as much as 10%, while PayPal transfers can come up to $8.

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Compare other transfer services

Our table lets you compare the services you can use to send money abroad. Compare services on transfer speeds and fees, then click Go to site when you're ready to send.
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
Airwallex
Airwallex
Within minutes
$0
After spending $15k in your first 90 days, receive a one-time $500 bonus that will automatically be credited to your account on any FX conversion.
Airwallex can help you make business payments to 150+ countries in 60+ currencies.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From 0.41%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Cash App
Within minutes
From $0
With this peer-to-peer payment app make payments to your friends and family with no transfer fees within the US or from the US to the UK or EU.
Instarem
24 hours
From 0%
New Instarem customers will get a special FX rate and zero-fees on their first transfer.
Instarem offers offers rewards on every transaction.
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $0
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
Western Union
Within minutes
From $0
Enjoy $0 fee on your first online transfer. Western Union makes money from currency exchange. Not valid on credit cards or sends to Cuba.
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries and territories around the world.
OFX International Money Transfers (Business)
24 hours
$0
Business customers: Send safe, no-limit transfers with no fees and competitive exchange rates.
CurrencyTransfer for Business
24 hours
$0
Increase business efficiency with zero transaction fees and same-day transfers.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
Xe Money Transfer for Business
24 hours
$0
Save your time and money with Xe Money Transfer for business.
Currencies Direct (business)
24 hours
$0
Minimizes costs of international transactions and offers custom solutions for business clients. Currencies Direct may call you to confirm your transfer, so be prepared for a phone call shortly after initiating a transfer.
Xe
Within minutes
$3
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
$0
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
Currencies Direct
24 hours
$0
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Currencies Direct may call you to confirm your transfer, so be prepared for a phone call shortly after initiating a transfer.
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Code exclusive

WorldRemit: First Transfer FREE

You first transfer is free with WorldRemit when you use this coupon code. Send or pick up cash in the US or around the world.

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.

Western Union

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.

PayPal

To calculate the exchange rate it offers to customers, PayPal takes the wholesale rate it gets from its bank and adds a 2.5% 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.

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Winner: Paypal

For your typical overseas transfer, you’ll get a stronger exchange rate with PayPal.

Who’s faster?

Western Union

Delivery speeds vary with transfer options. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes — at higher costs. Your cheapest options could take five days or longer, depending on the country.

PayPal

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.

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Winner: PayPal

Whichever way you send your money, it’ll get to your recipient faster with PayPal. For deposits to an account, up to four days sooner.

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Who offers more options?

Payment MethodsMinimum and maximum transfersDelivery methodsTransfer speedsCountries and currencies
Western UnionBank transfer, credit or debit card, cashMinimum and maximum varies by countryBank transfer, cash pickup, e-walletVaries from minutes to 5+ days200+ countries
PayPalBank transfer, credit or debit card, PayPal credit, Amex Send AccountMinimum varies by country (about $1.00); maximum $5,000 per transferPayPal transfer, bank transferVaries from minutes to 1 business day200+ countries
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Bottom line

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.