Western Union review
A straightforward way to send cash overseas – even if the recipient doesn't have a bank account.
Western Union operates one of the world’s largest money transfer networks with more than 500,000 agent locations around the world, but unfavourable exchange rates mean you’ll have to pay for the convenience.
|Product Name||Western Union|
|Pay by||Cash, Credit card, Debit card, Bank transfer|
|Receiving options||Cash pickup location, Bank account, Mobile wallet, Prepaid phone credit|
|Customer service||Phone, Email|
|Available currencies||AED, AFN, ALL, AMD, ANG, AOA, ARS, AUD, AWG, AZN, BAM, BBD, BDT, BGN, BHD, BIF, BMD, BND, BOB, BRL, BSD, BTN, BWP, BYN, BZD, CAD, CHF, CLP, CNY, COP, CRC, CUP, CVE, CZK, DJF, DKK, DOP, DZD, EGP, ERN, ETB, EUR, FJD, FKP, GBP, GEL, GHS, GIP, GMD, GNF, GTQ, GYD, HKD, HNL, HRK, HTG, HUF, IDR, ILS, INR, IQD, ISK, JMD, JOD, JPY, KES, KGS, KHR, KMF, KRW, KWD, KYD, KZT, LAK, LBP, LKR, LRD, LYD, MAD, MDL, MGA, MKD, MMK, MNT, MOP, MRU, MUR, MVR, MWK, MXN, MYR, MZN, NAD, NGN, NIO, NOK, NPR, NZD, OMR, PEN, PGK, PHP, PKR, PLN, PYG, QAR, RON, RSD, RUB, RWF, SAR, SBD, SDG, SEK, SGD, SLL, SOS, SRD, STN, SYP, THB, TJS, TMT, TND, TOP, TRY, TTD, TWD, TZS, UAH, UGX, USD, UYU, UZS, VES, VND, VUV, WST, XAF, XCD, XOF, XPF, YER, ZAR, ZMW|
|Bank account required?||No|
|Personal account manager?||No|
Why should I consider Western Union?
- Established service. Western Union has managed both domestic and international money transfers since 1871.
- Huge network. With over 500,000 agent locations around the world in more than 200 countries, Western Union is one of the world’s largest money transfer providers. There are more than 12,000 agent locations in the UK alone, often located in post offices and newsagents.
- Flexible transfer options. With a mix of online and agent location services, you can choose to pay with cash, credit, debit, bank accounts, and more. Also, Western Union’s business transfer option lets you use hedging tools to get even more flexibility.
- Fast. Some transfers through Western Union can be received within minutes. This is especially helpful when sending cash in an emergency.
What to be aware of with Western Union
- Weak exchange rates. Unfavourable exchange rates will lead to less money going to your recipient, and more to Western Union. Exchange rates offered by Western Union can be as high as 20% worse than the mid-market rate, so be sure to shop around when sending large amounts of money.
- Maximum transfer limits. You can send up to £4000 every 3 days with a credit card or £50,000 through bank transfer. Agent locations typically have no limit, however, so long as you can provide adequate identification while sending.
- High fees. Nearly all transactions through Western Union will have a fee attached. Occasional promotions and coupons may help recover some of this fee amount, but expect to almost always pay a fee when sending money through Western Union.
Western Union fees and exchange rates explained
Western Union has different fees for nearly every country it sends to. These fees also depend on how you are paying for the transfer and how the transfer will be picked up. Agent location fees typically aren’t posted online, but Western Union’s online fees are based on:
- Location. The fees you pay will be different when sending to different countries around the world.
- Payment. Paying with a credit card versus a debit card or a bank account will have different fees. Additionally, if paying with a credit card you may be charged fees by your credit card provider, too.
- Receiving method. Picking up cash is typically more expensive than having money sent straight to a bank account.
- Variable exchange rates. Western Union applies different exchange rates to different transfer types. It also uses stronger or weaker exchange rates based on the currency you are transferring.
When sending from the UK for cash pickup, here are the fees and exchange rates we encountered using Western Union’s price estimator tool on 7 April 2021:
|Sending £1,000 to||Paying with||Fee||Percent above mid-market|
|India (INR)||Debit/credit card||£3.90||2%|
|France (EUR)||Debit/credit card||£4.90||6.6%|
Sending cash to India had moderately low exchange rate markups, while sending from GBP to EUR had markups over 6% when we checked. Normally high markups are associated with low fees, but in this case sending cash to France includes both high credit card fees and poor exchange rates.
Check if there are any Western Union promo codes available
How Western Union compares to other services
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Find out other alternatives to Western Union
Payment and receiving options
There are many ways to send money overseas with Western Union, each with its own set of limits, fees and restrictions. Western Union’s online, phone and in-store options include:
- Credit card
- Debit card
- Bank account
- Cash (in-store)
- Wire transfer
- Cash (in-store)
- Bank account
- Mobile wallet
- Prepaid card
- Pay your bills
Not all options are available for all markets.
How long does a Western Union money transfer take?
You can send your transfer a few different ways, depending on the amount of fees you want to pay and how quickly you need it to arrive.
Fastest option – as little as 10 minutes
Pay for your transfer with a credit or debit card and have it sent for cash pickup. When using a credit or debit card you’ll typically pay a higher fee, but your money can arrive in as little as 10 minutes. However, your credit card may charge a cash advance fee, further increasing the cost of your total transfer.
Cheapest option – up to 2 business days
Using a bank account to pay for your transfer is typically the cheapest way to send money, but is also almost always the slowest. Depending on verification needs you may have to wait longer while Western Union confirms you own the registered bank account.
How much money can I send with Western Union?
Your limits will vary based on your transaction history, the recipient’s country, your country, and the service you choose.
Online: If you want to send more than £800 over a five-day period, Western Union will need you to confirm your identity first – after that you’ll be able to send up to £4,000 within a three-day period. Unless you’re sending a bank transfer to another bank account, in which case you’ll be able to send up to £50,000 per transfer depending on the selected country.
Agent location: There’s usually no restriction on the amount of money you may send at an agent location. However, some countries set limits on how much can be received. If you have questions about a specific amount you’re sending or a specific country, you can call customer services on 0808 234 9168 to find out.
How do I use Western Union?
Western Union offers several ways for you to send money. As a minimum you’ll need:
- A Western Union account. It’s easy to set up a free account as part of your transfer.
- Valid payment method. You can pay by debit card for Western Union’s fastest and cheapest transfer or use a credit card or bank account. You can also pay in cash at an agent location.
- Recipient’s contact information. If sending to a bank account, you’ll need the bank name and account number. If you’re sending a prepaid card for home delivery, you’ll need the address and phone number.
- Your contact and payment information. The card number or account number and security information for the account you’re transferring from.
If your recipient is picking up cash in person, let them know to bring along a valid ID that matches the name you are transferring to.
The registration and transfer process
You’ll need to create a Western Union online profile before you can send funds online. It’s free and relatively quick to register. If you don’t want to register online you can contact Western Union by phone and provide the necessary information that way.
If you prefer the security of a face-to-face transaction, visit one of Western Union’s 12,000 UK locations to transfer funds using cash, a credit or debit card.
Steps to send a Western Union transfer online
Signing up and sending money through Western Union can be done online, in person or through the mobile app.
- Create your free account using your name and contact information.
- Verify your account through the email and phone number provided.
- Provide the required identification, if asked.
- Start your transfer by clicking Send money.
- Fill in your transfer details, select payment methods and click Send.
- Refer to your receipt for tracking details.
How to find a Western Union location to send money in-person
How do I track a Western Union transfer?
You have a few options: track online, through an agent or by telephone. All options require the same information, which is your MTCN or Money Transfer Control Number. This is Western Union’s unique tracking number assigned to your money transfer. Your recipient will need this number when picking up money at an agent location.
If you don’t have the MTCN, you can track transfers using:
- Sender’s phone number OR Sender and receiver names
- Receiver’s country and amount sent
- Date of transfer
Additional information may also be needed, which is why tracking with the MTCN is the easiest option.
What are Western Union’s Digital Locations?
Digital Locations are Western Union’s way of bringing agent location services to the digital world. This service is first launching in a handful of countries – Austria, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Oman – but Western Union has plans to expand the program.
Users connecting to a Digital Location can expect the same level of customer service they’d get from a regular agent location, but digitally. Customers can expect multiple language support and video or phone chat with a Western Union money transfer personal-service assistant.
As it’s not available yet in the UK, though, if you want to send money digitally then be sure to compare your options to save money on your next transfer.
Western Union lawsuits and customer complaints explained
A large number of customer complaints is fairly standard for companies as massive and far-reaching as Western Union, but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve.
Online seller fraud and money transfer scams
This is the most common type of complaint by users online, and there is little that Western Union can do besides educate its customers to help them avoid these situations. Typical scams through Western Union include:
- Payment requests. Someone online offers to sell you something and asks that you pay through Western Union. They pick up the cash that you sent to a Western Union agent location and you never hear from them again.
- Overpayment scam. You receive a check that appears to be valid for a new job, a service or a product you are offering. The check amount is more than you earned, so the sender requests you return the extra amount by money transfer. After sending the money transfer you’ll learn that the check bounced, and there is no way to reverse the money transfer.
- Tax scam. You are contacted by someone claiming to be from a government agency, stating that you owe taxes and they must be paid immediately. They will claim the fastest way to send money and avoid penalties is through a money transfer.
To combat these types of scams, Western Union has started providing clear warnings on their website before a user sends a money transfer. This popup warning requires users to click Accept before sending their transfer. Also, Western Union has a specific Twitter account dedicated to fraud awareness that tweets about the newest and most relevant scams while they are popping up. Also, Western Union now operates 24/7 phone lines for customer support all over the world.
More on money transfer scams and how to avoid them
Western Union reviews and complaints
Western Union reviews are generally positive, with the expected negative reviews popping up on review sites like Trustpilot. It is no surprise that there are many users with great experiences and many users with poor experiences, given that Western Union has hundreds of millions of customers. Independent research of any brand is therefore always a great idea before using it.
We’ve done some of the footwork for you and compiled reviews from around the internet. These reviews are accurate as of 6 March 2023.
|Trustpilot||3.9 out of 5, based on 43,833 customer reviews|
|Monito||7.5 out of 10, staff reviewed|
Can I trust Western Union?
Between 2004 and 2010, Western Union was accused of allowing fraudulent transactions and received more than 550,000 complaints about fraud. Since then, Western Union has paid over $586 million in fines to settle this issue. The outcome of the lawsuits lead Western Union to agree to:
- Provide clear fraud warnings.
- Increase its websites and telephone numbers to handle customer fraud.
- Block any and all money transfers sent to a person who is the subject of a fraud report until it is cleared up.
- Refund a money transfer if Western Union fails to comply with its anti-fraud procedures and the sender is the target of fraud.
Being extra cautious by only sending or receiving money from people you know is a necessary extra step for your safety.
Does Western Union have an app?
Yes, Western Union has an app on both Google Play and the App Store. Features the app has includes:
- Scan your card. Use your phone’s camera to quickly scan your credit card, debit card and photo ID to save time and prevent mistakes.
- Biometric logins. Both face and fingerprint recognition can be used to log in by using Touch ID.
- Check currency exchange rates on the go. Current currency exchange rates and fees can be found in the app instead of having to use your phone’s browser.
- Create an order in the app then pay in cash. To speed up the time spent at an agent location, start your money transfer on the app then pay at an agent location to complete it.
- Find an agent location using GPS. Use the in-app map to find agent locations based on your GPS or search anywhere around the world.
|Google Play Store||4.5 out of 5, based on 72,083 customer reviews|
|Apple App Store||4.6 out of 5, based on 9,800 customer reviews|
More on the best money transfer apps
How does My WU: Western Union’s reward program work?
My WU is Western Union’s membership program and it is free to sign up for. You can earn points by completing qualifying transactions. Follow these steps to get started:
- Sign up for free. An email and mobile number is required to sign up, and you have to opt-in after creating your Western Union account.
- Send money to earn points. You’ll earn 5 points for every transaction made.
- Redeem points for rewards. 25 points get you 25% off your next transaction fee and 30 points get you 50% off; with other special promotions offered throughout the year.
Pro tip: Saving your My WU points to spend in larger amounts may net you greater rewards per point spent. Although it can be tempting to spend 25 or 50 points, save those points up and you can reap even more savings.
Western Union offers plenty of useful transfer and cash pickup options when you need to send money abroad. Before you commit to sending your hard-earned cash, though, make sure you compare other available options to find the best deal. Although Western Union is often one of the most convenient options, it is always worth checking to see if there are additional companies with lower fees and stronger exchange rates for you to benefit from.
Want to compare Western Union with other services side-by-side?
Zak Killermann is a technical publisher at Finder who’s specialized in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for six years — covering everything from ICO booms, crypto winters, memecoins and more. He’s mined and minted cryptocurrencies, and geeks out over Ethereum upgrades. Zak’s focus is in breaking down technical concepts into approachable nuggets of information. While diving into all things crypto, Zak also contributes to Finder’s money transfers and stocks verticals.
Western Union has a gigantic global network of agent locations and bank connections that makes it easy to send money to almost anywhere. You can transfer this money fast for higher fees, or a bit slower for lower fees, depending on your needs and resources. Overall I’d recommend checking Western Union for any transfer you need to make, if only to get a baseline on prices.
Given Western Union’s history of customer complaints and lawsuits, consider looking at Western Union alternatives, as many smaller competitors have a better track record and also offer better exchange rates and lower fees. Western Union will almost always be a cheaper option than your bank, especially when sending one-off transfers or to remote destinations. Lastly, a major perk of using Western Union is the sheer number of physical locations in the UK; it is integrated into many post offices, corner shops, newsagents and more.
Ask an expert
June 8, 2019
I am having difficulties receiving cash from Western Union. I was due to get around £800 sent from Brazil to the UK. However, Western Union called the sender (a family friend) and blocked the cash and sent it back over. Is there any reason for this?
June 10, 2019
Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t receive your money.
The common reason that this happens is due to security. Another reason is if Western Union suspects malicious activities.
Best is for you or your sender to check with Western Union. They can further explain the reason why the money was blocked.
I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.
Have a wonderful day!
May 17, 2019
Hi. When the do a bank transfer on Western union it tells me I have 14 days to complete the transaction by going to my bank and transferring the money to them. If I don’t do that within 14 days the transaction will cancel
My question is, if I made the transaction say 7 days on, and the exchange rate has become much worse, do I still get the exchange rate agreed at the time? Or is it adjusted to what it is at the time I compete the transaction?
May 18, 2019
Thanks for your inquiry! The wire transfer is just a notice of movement of funds – there are no rates attached to it because the transfer happens in one of the major trading currencies. This means the actual wire transfer is done in the same currency – USD to USD or EUR to EUR. However, if say you transfer EUR to USD, the rate will be what the bank will sell dollars to you, which will be the amount deducted from your account. This rate is usually the mid-market rate, and it is the rate posted on your bank’s website or available through their normal channels.Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.
February 6, 2019
How do I send money to a friend in Lanzarote. It is not coming up on the country list?
February 10, 2019
Thank you for getting in touch with finder.
You may send money to Lanzarote via Western Union. Upon checking on Western Union’s official page, it is considered as part of Spain. There are a few agent locations in Arrecife City and the rest of the area. Kindly check out WU’s official page to get the complete list.
I hope this helps.
Thank you and have a wonderful day!
January 11, 2019
Can charities use this service?
January 12, 2019
Thank you for getting in touch with finder.
Yes. Western Union can service charities. Kindly visit Western Union business solutions page then click on the Speak with a NGO Specialist to contact an NGO specialist and discuss your options.
I hope this helps.
Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.
Thank you and have a wonderful day!
July 21, 2017
Why does the currency calculator not work!!?
July 23, 2017
Thanks for getting in touch.
Western Union real-time calculation is available on their website. Kindly click the “go to site” button above to get a quote from the Western Union.