Western Union vs. MoneyGram: Who’s cheaper? Faster?

We compare two well-established companies to see who has the edge for your next transfer overseas.

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Western Union and MoneyGram are No. 1 and No. 2 in the international money transfer business — both nearly synonymous with overseas payments in an increasingly competitive market.

Western Union has been provided services for more than a century through its 500,000 agent locations worldwide. Around since 1940, MoneyGram is a major player with a presence in 200 countries.

Neither Western Union nor MoneyGram is the cheapest or fastest option out there. But with an online, mobile and physical presence, they are the most visible.

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Western Union Moneygram Western Union logo money transfers moneygram
Western Union Moneygram
Fees Varies by transfer From £2.99
Exchange rates Up to 6% 5% or more
Speed Minutes, up to five days or more Minutes, or 2-4 days
Max Transfer Amount Varies by country Varies by country

Western Union and MoneyGram: How they work

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

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.

Who offers lower fees?

Western Union

Figuring out much you’ll pay to transfer money internationally can be muddied. Although most fees start at £1.90, they can be quite high 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. For more information, see our Western Union Fees page.

MoneyGram

Fees vary depending on how much money you’re transferring, how you’re sending it and the country you’re sending it to. Unless you actually initiate a transfer, it’s not easy to find out up front how much you’ll pay. As an example, to send £1,000 to China from a bank account, you’ll pay £8 in fees; to pay for that same amount by credit or debit card, you’ll pay £48. To send £1,000 for cash pickup in the Philippines, it’s £4.99 from a bank account and £10 by credit or debit. For more information, see our MoneyGram Fees page

  • Winner: Tie

While MoneyGram may be a bit more straightforward when it comes to fees, Western Union provides a few more ways to pay.
How to send cash overseas with Western Union

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Compare Western Union to Moneygram

Table: sorted by a combination of service offering and the amount your recipient will receive

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 1 1 day GBP 8.00 1.132 EUR 5,649 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers


Case study: Sending £500 to Italy

Miles wants to send £500 to his great-aunt who lives in Italy. She first thought it’d be easier to just wire the money from her local bank. But with so many locations worldwide, she thought she’d give Western Union or MoneyGram a try.

Here’s what it’d look like to send a £500 bank-to-bank transfer with Western Union and MoneyGram.

Western UnionMoneyGram
Transfer fee£0£19.99
Exchange rate1 GBP = 1.0942 EUR1 GBP = 1.0675 EUR
Transfer speed3 business days4 business days
Total received547.09 EUR533.77 EUR

Miles will pay no transfer fee to send through Western Union, and with their stronger exchange rate and faster delivery time, his great-aunt can receive around 14 more euros in about a day earlier.

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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.

Western Union

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 means hundreds of dollars that goes straight into Western Union’s coffers.

We’ll use the example of a transfer to euros (EUR):

  • If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR
  • Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 0.86 EUR

MoneyGram

MoneyGram also 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. Like Western Union, this means hundreds of dollars on a large transfer diverted to MoneyGram’s pockets.

So if you’re sending money to Europe:

  • If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR
  • MoneyGram’s exchange rate may be 1 USD = 0.91 EUR
  • Winner: MoneyGram

Sending $1,000 to Europe with MoneyGram could result in about 50 more euros to your recipient over Western Union.
How to send money overseas through MoneyGram

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Who’s faster?

Western Union

Delivery speeds varies 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.

MoneyGram

Like Western Union, delivery speed with MoneyGram too varies by transfer option, with cash transfers in person or by phone delivered in minutes (again with higher costs). MoneyGram’s cheaper options take two to four business days for receipt.

  • Winner: MoneyGram

There’s no question that these services are similar. But MoneyGram’s cheaper options could deliver your cash to loved ones and businesses abroad up to three days faster, depending on the country.

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Who offers more options?

Payment Methods Minimum and maximum transfers Delivery methods Transfer speeds Countries and 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
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
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Bottom line

While Western Union and MoneyGram can appear similar, you may get a stronger exchange rate with MoneyGram — which is especially important for larger transfers.

Then, if it’s more important that your friends or family be able to pick up your money in cash, Western Union’s 500,000 agent locations worldwide beats MoneyGram more than 300,000.

These two services aside, you could do better with another money transfer specialist. Compare your options to find a provider that’s perfect for your situation.

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