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MoneyGram vs. Western Union vs. PayPal

We put three major providers to the test when it comes to sending cash overseas.

International money transfers are no longer a game for only tried-and-true players like Western Union and MoneyGram. Newer companies, like PayPal, promise to undercut the competition to earn your business. Here we compare three major players — MoneyGram vs. Western Union vs. PayPal — to see which one offers the better deal.

How do they work?

MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal each offer an easy online process to exchange and send money around the world.

MoneyGram and Western Union

The way you go about sending a transfer with MoneyGram is nearly indistinguishable from the same process with Western Union.

So much, in fact, that we can describe them both in one shot: You go to their sites, enter how much you’re transferring and to where and see how much you’ll pay for the exchange.

With either service, you also have the option of visiting an office, calling or using a mobile app to initiate a transfer. And once complete, they convert and deliver your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide.

PayPal

To transfer money through PayPal, you’ll need to create a free PayPal account.

You’ll send a transfer to your recipient’s PayPal account, funding the transfer with your PayPal balance, bank account, credit or debit card.

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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Who 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.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram skews exchange rates for a profit. Depending on where you’re sending your money, the exchange rate could be 5% or more above the mid-market rate. This means hundreds of dollars on a large transfer diverted to MoneyGram’s pockets.

Western Union

Like MoneyGram, 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 is a lot of money straight into Western Union’s coffers.

PayPal

To calculate the exchange rate it offers to customers, PayPal takes the mid-market rate and adds a 2.5% margin. 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.

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Who offers lower fees?

The most effective way to compare MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal is to look at a case study.

Case study: Sending $1,000 to Germany

Malcolm wants to send $1,000 to his sister, a military wife living at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany.

He’s tempted by the convenience of his local bank, despite its reputation for high fees and weak exchange rates. Before he decides, he compares how much he’ll pay to deposit the money to his sister’s bank account with MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal, through debit card payment.

MoneyGramWestern UnionPayPal
Transfer fee$3$0US$4.99 + 3.4% + 0.35 EUR
Exchange rate1 SGD = 0.5894 EUR1 SGD = 0.6091 EUR1 SGD = 0.5950 EUR
Transfer speed1 business day1 business day1 business day
Total received587.63 EUR609.10 EUR570.41 EUR

Malcolm analyses his options to understand how the complexity of fee structures and transfer options ultimately affect how much he’ll pay. There’s no question that Western Union is the best option, in this case, offering the strongest exchange rate with zero transfer fee.

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Who’s faster?

MoneyGram

Delivery speed varies by transfer option, with cash transfers in person or by phone delivered in minutes — at higher costs. MoneyGram’s cheaper options take two to four business days for receipt.

Western Union

Like MoneyGram, delivery speed with Western Union too varies by transfer option. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes — at higher costs. Your cheapest options could take one to 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 more quickly 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
MoneyGramBank account, credit or debit card, cashMinimum and maximum varies by countryBank transfer, cash pickup, other options by location2–4 days190+ countries and 45+ currencies
Western UnionBank account, 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 creditMinimum varies by country (about $0.02); maximum $10,000 per transferPayPal transfer, bank transferVaries from minutes to 1 day202 countries
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Bottom line

That you’ll get stronger exchange rates with Western Union is clear-cut. In addition, if you transfer to your recipient’s bank account with a credit/debit card, you’d enjoy $0 in transfer fees. If your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, consider MoneyGram’s or Western Union’s cash pickup option.

Ultimately, you’ll want to compare money transfer specialists to find a provider that’s right for your situation.

Compare other transfer services

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
SGD 0 Same day SGD 4.99 0.734 USD
7,332
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
SGD 250 1 day SGD 0.00 0.739 USD
7,388
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.
Go to site Show details
SGD 2,000 1 day SGD 0.00 0.739 USD
7,388
TorFX guarantee to beat any competitor's exchange rate for a transaction. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details
SGD 1 Same day SGD 3.99 0.738 USD
7,381
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
SGD 250 1 day SGD 0.00 0.739 USD
7,388
Send guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. T&Cs apply.
Send has fee-free transfers in 30+ currencies to over 200 countries.
Go to site Show details
SGD 1 1 - 2 days SGD 45.00 0.742 USD
7,384
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies. Go to site Show details
SGD 5 1 - 2 days SGD 3.00 0.738 USD
7,375
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
SGD 1 1 day SGD 43.00 0.742 USD
7,386
Pay no fees on your first two transfers, up to S$3000.
SingX offers the real exchange rate every time you make a transfer and can help you send money across the world.
Go to site Show details
SGD 200 2 days SGD 50.00 0.736 USD
7,321
Exclusive: Use code FINDER10 to receive US$10 off your first transaction.
InstaReM offers simple transfers with a flat 0.5% transfer fee for most transfers.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

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