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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.

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. 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.

When you pay with a credit or debit card, PayPal charges a fee of 3.4% 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

At the time of writing, Western Union Singapore charges only S$0 to S$5 per transfer, depending on where and how you’re sending it. So in terms of fees, Western Union is the more ideal provider compared to PayPal.

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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
7,333
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
7,389
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
7,389
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 0.739 USD
7,382
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
7,389
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
7,385
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
7,376
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
7,322
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

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 between 0.4% to 1% above the mid-market rate. With all things considered, Western Union is certainly a reasonably-priced service.

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: Western Union

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

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 countryPayPal transfer, bank transferVaries from minutes to 1 business day200+ countries
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Bottom line

That you’ll get stronger exchange rates with Western Union is clear-cut. In addition, you could pay higher transfer fees with PayPal. If your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, Western Union’s cash pickup could also 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.

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