Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
For your typical overseas transfer, you’ll get a stronger exchange rate with PayPal.
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.
|Transfer fee||$3||$0||US$4.99 + 3.4% + 0.35 EUR|
|Exchange rate||1 SGD = 0.5894 EUR||1 SGD = 0.6091 EUR||1 SGD = 0.5950 EUR|
|Transfer speed||1 business day||1 business day||1 business day|
|Total received||587.63 EUR||609.10 EUR||570.41 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who offers more options?
|Payment Methods||Minimum and maximum transfers||Delivery methods||Transfer speeds||Countries and currencies|
|MoneyGram||Bank account, credit or debit card, cash||Minimum and maximum varies by country||Bank transfer, cash pickup, other options by location||2–4 days||190+ countries and 45+ currencies|
|Western Union||Bank account, credit or debit card, cash||Minimum and maximum varies by country||Bank transfer, cash pickup, e-wallet||Varies from minutes to 5+ days||200+ countries|
|PayPal||Bank transfer, credit or debit card, PayPal credit||Minimum varies by country (about $0.02); maximum $10,000 per transfer||PayPal transfer, bank transfer||Varies from minutes to 1 day||202 countries|
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
More guides on Finder
Apps and bank accounts to split bills with friends
Compare a range of banks and apps that let you split bills, request money and send payments to friends.
Sending money internationally during the coronavirus pandemic
Learn about how COVID-19 may affect the ways you transfer cash around the world.
5 ways to pay for your overseas tuition
Learn how to pay tuition abroad to help make your international study dreams a reality.
Western Union vs. MoneyGram
We put MoneyGram and Western Union side by side to help you make a decision for your next local or international payment.
Best international money transfer apps
Compare popular money transfer apps to get the most out of your mobile international transfer.
Singapore debit cards for overseas travel
Make sure you have one of these debit cards before you travel overseas.
Find a money transfer location
Send cash to friends or family. Find an international money transfer service in your neighborhood.
Review: Remitly money transfers
Read our review of Remitly to discover why this fast, competitive option may be the best choice for your next international money transfer.
Review: Crypto.com cryptocurrency app and exchange
Learn more about the Crypto.com platform in our complete review.
eToro review: CFD and forex social trading
Join the world’s largest social trading network, and learn from experienced forex traders.