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Western Union vs PayPal money transfers

We compare a popular service with a digital giant to see which is better for overseas transfers.

Western Union is nearly synonymous with international money transfers. And then there’s the electronic payment giant PayPal, which also allows you to send money overseas. Which is cheaper and faster for sending funds to friends, family and businesses outside Singapore?

The fees and rates used in this comparison are accurate as of 18 February 2019.


The “Rate” and “Amount received” displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention “Finder” before you commit to a brand.

Which has lower fees?

Western Union

Western Union’s fees for sending money from Singapore start from S$0, but in some cases can run up to S$10 or higher.

The fee varies a lot by situation – your destination country, chosen currency, amount transferred and payment method will all affect the total fee. There is typically an additional charge for credit card payments.

PayPal

You don’t have to pay any transaction fees when you’re sending payments. If you send a payment overseas in a different currency, a small conversion fee ranging from 3.5% to 4% applies.

On the other hand, the recipient will need to cover a fee consisting of 3.9% of the total amount requested plus a fixed fee of S$0.50 for every paid request. If you’re using the payment request service for your business, you may be eligible for a lower fee.

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Winner: Tie

There are certain situations where PayPal fees will be higher than Western Union’s for the same transfer, but these tend to be very specific situations.

In most cases it’s likely to cost less in fees to send money from Singapore with PayPal than Western Union when you’re sending small amounts. To find the actual cheaper option, though, you’ll also need to factor in exchange rates.

Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending S$1,000 to the UK

Let’s see how Western Union and PayPal compare when sending S$1,000 to the UK. In this example, we’ll be using a transfer paid by a bank transfer, rather than a credit card. In this example, we assume that if you’re using PayPal, you’d be transferring extra to cover for the transfer fee incurred on your recipient’s end to compare the total costs of the transfer between the two providers.

Sending S$1,000 to the UK
Western UnionPayPal
Transfer fee$0$39.50
Exchange rate1 SGD = 0.5664 GBP1 SGD = 0.5814 GBP
Transfer speedVariesUp to a week
Total British pounds receivedGBP£566.40GBP£581.14
Receiver getsGBP£14.74 lessGBP£14.74 more

In this case, PayPal’s exchange rates are better than Western Union’s but you end up paying more with PayPal due to its transfer fees.

Which offers better exchange rates?

Western Union

Western Union’s currency exchange margins vary widely depending on the currency and the situation. In general, the margin added onto the exchange rate can vary from 2% to 6%. If you’re sending a large amount overseas, this means hundreds of dollars that goes straight into Western Union’s coffers.

PayPal

PayPal’s margin, like Western Union, depends on what currency you’re sending to. In general:

  • To USD or CAD: 3.5% added to the exchange rate
  • To other currencies: 4% added to the exchange rate

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Winner: Tie

There are no clear winners here. It all depends on the situation and either can be cheaper or more expensive than the other.

Which is faster?

Western Union

The speed of your transfer is mostly dependent on the transfer method. Cash pick-up or mobile money app deposits can be available in just a few minutes, while bank account transfers might take several days.

PayPal

PayPal money transfers might take a week or more end-to-end, depending on circumstance and destination.

If you don’t already have funds in your PayPal account it might take several days to top it up, and after that it might take another few days to finish the transfer.

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Winner: Western Union

Western Union offers payments within minutes. Its bank transfers will typically take several business days to clear. PayPal’s bank transfer speeds are similar, with the added burden of needing to top up or link your bank account first.

If you want to get verified and send money as fast as possible, Western Union has a clear advantage over PayPal.

General features

Payment methodsReceiving optionsMaximum and minimum transfersTransfer speedsCurrencies
Western UnionBank transfer, cash, credit and debit cardBank account, cash pick-up, mobile money appMinimum: $1

Maximum: $50,000

Same day95+
PayPalPayPal account, bank transfer, credit and debit cardPayPal account, bank transferMinimum: $1

Maximum: $60,000

1 day20+

Western Union

With Western Union, you go to its 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.

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.

Bottom line

The most cost-effective and convenient option will depend on the circumstance. If you’re paying by card, it’s worth being aware of the additional fees this incurs at both PayPal and Western Union.

Similarly, it’s worth checking the exchange rates for your currency ahead of a transfer. While PayPal’s rates are fixed at a set amount above mid-market, Western Union’s will vary widely from currency to currency.

Looking for more options?

Use our calculator below to compare fees, exchange rates and transfer speeds of other international money transfer services. Just enter the details in the calculator to see what fees and exchange rates you would get.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
SGD 0 Same day SGD 4.99 0.74 USD
7,399
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 0.746 USD
7,455
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 0.746 USD
7,455
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 0.745 USD
7,448
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 0.746 USD
7,455
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 0.748 USD
7,451
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 0.744 USD
7,442
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 0.748 USD
7,453
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 0.743 USD
7,388
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


The “Rate” and “Amount received” displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention “Finder” before you commit to a brand.

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