Western Union vs PayPal money transfers

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 then there’s the electronic payment giant, which also allows you to send money overseas. Which one is cheaper and faster for sending funds to friends, family and businesses outside the UK?

The fees and rates used in this comparison are accurate as of 3 March 2021.

Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
Western Union
Within minutes
From £2.90

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Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
PayPal
24 hours
£0

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Use PayPal to safely send money and receive payments from around the world in over 25 currencies with just an email address or mobile number.
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How do they work?

Western Union and PayPal both offer easy online processes to exchange and send money around the world.

Western Union

Go to the Western Union site 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 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.

Read review: PayPal

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Which has lower fees?

Western Union

Western Union’s fees for sending money from the UK start from £2, but in some cases can run up to £15 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

PayPal charges a flat fee of £2.99, but you’ll be charged an extra fee if you’re paying by card (how much depends on the currency you’re sending to).

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Winner: It depends

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 the UK with PayPal than Western Union. To find the actual cheaper option, though, you’ll also need to factor in exchange rates.

Compare other transfer services

Table: sorted by promoted deals first
Our table below lets you compare services you can use to send money abroad. Compare fees, exchange rates and discounts from different money transfer services, and when you have made your choice, click Go to site.
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
TorFX
24 hours
£0

View details
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
XE Money Transfer
Within minutes
£2
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ £25 Amazon voucher when you refer a friend

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XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Central FX
24 hours
£0

View details
Finder exclusive: New and existing customers through Finder pay zero fees. Valid till 31 January 2022. T&Cs apply.
Central FX's dedicated team will guide you or your business from first call to final payment.
Currencies Direct
24 hours
£0

View details
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
£0

View details
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
CurrencyFair
24 hours
€3

View details
Special offer: New customers get unlimited fee-free transfers for their first 3 months. T&Cs apply.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Azimo
Within minutes
From £0.99
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ First two transfers free for new customers.

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Azimo sends money directly to a bank account or over 280,000 cash pick-up points. It also has fast transfers to 50+ countries.
Remitly
Within minutes
From £1.49
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Free transfers and better exchange rates for new customers

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Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From £1.99
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Conditions apply.

View details
Use code Take10GB to get £10 off when you spend £20. Valid till 31 January 2022. T&Cs apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
VertoFX Business
24 hours
£0

View details
Special offer: New customers get $100 trade credit after their first transaction. T&Cs apply.
VertoFX sends money via bank transfer at competitive rates and fees in 35+ currencies.
Wise (TransferWise) Business
2 days
From £3.75

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Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
TorFX Business
24 hours
£0

View details
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Currencies Direct Business
24 hours
£0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en/info/refer-a-friend

View details
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates.
CurrencyFair Business
24 hours
€3

View details
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
WorldFirst Business
24 hours
£0

View details
WorldFirst sends 60+ currencies at competitive rates with no fees. If you find a better eligible quote, WorldFirst will beat it.
Wise (TransferWise)
4 hours
From £3.75

View details
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Wise (TransferWise)
4 hours
From £3.75

View details
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
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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.

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: PayPal

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

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.

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 more quickly 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 creditMinimum varies by country; maximum £10,000 per transferPayPal transfer, bank transferVaries from minutes to 1 business day202 countries
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Bottom line

That you’ll get stronger exchange rates with PayPal is clear-cut. But depending on how much you’re sending, you could pay higher transfer fees with PayPal. Then if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, Western Union’s cash pickup may 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.

How long can money stay in Western Union before pickup?

In most cases, Western Union will hold onto unclaimed transfers for 45 days, after which they can no longer be picked up by the recipient. If more than 45 days have passed and you are the sender, contact Western Union to arrange for a refund.

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