XE Money Transfer vs Western Union

Should you go with XE or Western Union the next time you send money overseas?

Updated

Fact checked

Western Union and XE are two well-known financial services, but which provider is more cost effective when it comes to international money transfers? We compare them side by side to find out.

The fees and rates used in this comparison are accurate as of 2 March 2020.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 1 Same day GBP 0.00 1.299 USD
6,495
Whatever amount you transfer, XE will not charge you a fee for using their service. Go to site Show details
GBP 1 Same day GBP 19.90 1.261 USD
6,282
Send money online to friends and family around the world with Western Union. Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

Which has lower fees?

XE

XE doesn’t charge fees on international money transfers. However, it does highlight that there may be some third-party charges, such as financial institution fees. To find out, check with the recipient bank.

Western Union

Western Union’s fees are varied. They change currency to currency and depend on the transfer amount as well as the transfer methods. For example, if you’re transferring to a cash pick-up, the fees increase by a large amount. It’s important to get a price estimate using the Western Union calculator before committing so you know the exact fee.

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Winner: XE

As XE doesn’t charge fees, it’s the clear winner in this category.

Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending £1,000 and £3,000 to Japan

Let’s compare a £1,000 and £3,000 transfer to Japan to see which provider is the better choice and if the transfer amount makes a difference.

For the £1,000 transfer, we’ll look at a Western Union cash pick-up, while for the £3,000 transfer, we’ll look at a Western Union bank transfer. Keep in mind that these elements change the fees and rates for Western Union transfers.

Sending £1,000 to Japan
XEWestern Union
Transfer fee£0£9.90
Exchange rate1 GBP = 137.04 JPY1 GBP = 126.83 JPY
Transfer speed1-2 daysWithin minutes
Total Japanese yen receivedJPY ¥137,046JPY ¥126,832
Receiver getsJPY ¥10,214 moreJPY ¥10,214 less
Sending £3,000 to Japan
XEWestern Union
Transfer fee£0£2.90
Exchange rate1 GBP = 137.04 JPY1 GBP = 135.11 JPY
Transfer speedSame day4 days
Total Japanese yen receivedJPY ¥411,139JPY ¥405,354
Receiver getsJPY ¥5,785 moreJPY ¥5,785 less

XE clearly saves you money on both transactions, as Western Union’s fees are higher and its exchange rates aren’t as good.

Transferring the £1,000 with XE gives you JPY ¥10,214 (around £70) more and the £3,000 with XE gives you JPY ¥5,785 (approximately £40) more.

Note that the Western Union exchange rates and fees change depending on whether you’re doing a bank transfer or cash pick-up.

Which offers better exchange rates?

XE

XE adds a margin to the exchange rate. The margin is normally between 0.4% and 1% on popular currencies, but it’s dependent on the currency. Keep in mind that the rate you’ll pay is different from what’s shown on the XE currency converter tool, which shows live market rates without the mark-up.

So for a transfer to Singapore:

  • XE’s exchange rate: 1 GBP = 1.95 AUD
  • Mid-market rate: 1 GBP = 1.96 AUD

This is a margin of 0.51%.

Western Union

Western Union also adds a margin to its exchange rates, which changes greatly depending on the currency, payment method and the way the receiver would like to collect the money. The exchange rate on cash pick-ups is not as good as the exchange rate on bank transfers.

For the same example:

  • Western Union’s exchange rate: 1 GBP = 1.92 AUD
  • Mid-market rate: 1 GBP = 1.96 AUD

This ends up at a margin of 2%.

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Winner: XE

XE generally offers better exchange rates than Western Union. It can vary currency to currency, but across the board, XE’s rates appear to be more consistent.

Which is faster?

XE

XE will confirm the estimated date when you set up your transfer, but the majority of transfers are made within the same day. Some less-popular currencies may take longer.

Western Union

Western Union cash pick-ups are available within minutes; however, bank transfers can take up to five days. It’s dependent on the transfer and receiving method.

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Winner: Tie

Both Western Union and XE can get your money there within the same day; however, it will be received in different ways. Western Union offers speedy cash pick-ups, but XE has faster bank transfers.

General features

Payment methodsReceiving optionsMinimum and maximum transfersTransfer speedsCurrencies
XEBank transferBank transferMinimum: £1

Maximum: £500,000

Same day40+ currencies
Western UnionBank transfer, cash transfer, POLi, debit card, credit cardBank account, cash pick-up, mobile walletMinimum: £1

Maximum: £5,000

Same day100+ currencies

XE

Set up an account with XE, get a quote, and if you’re happy with that quote, you send XE the money. XE will then complete the transfer for you.

Western Union

Register for a Western Union account. After that, you go into your profile and select the “send money” option. Once you’ve entered all the transfer details, you choose your payment method and pay Western Union. Once your payment is received, they’ll transfer the funds.

Bottom line

Overall, XE is typically a better choice when compared side by side to Western Union. Western Union’s fees and exchanges rates are so varied that you’ll often get stung by a hidden fee. On the other hand, XE adds a smaller mark-up to the exchange rate, plus it has no fees.

Looking for more options?

Table: sorted by a combination of service offering and the amount your recipient will receive
Use our calculator below to compare additional providers and see if you can get a better rate elsewhere.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 2,000 1 day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
TorFX guarantee to beat any competitor's exchange rate for a transaction (conditions apply).
Get bank-beating exchange rates and no fees when you transfer with TorFX.
Go to site Show details
GBP 5,000 Same day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
Universal Partners FX offers competitive exchange rates and same-day transfers for 100+ currencies. Go to site Show details
GBP 2,500 Same day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
Central FX’s dedicated private client team will guide you through the money transfer process from first call to final payment. Go to site Show details
GBP 1 Same day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
Whatever amount you transfer, XE will not charge you a fee for using their service. Go to site Show details
GBP 3,000 1 day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
Get no fees as a Finder customer when you transfer your money overseas with Global Reach. Go to site Show details
GBP 5,000 1 day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
Take advantage of fee lock-ins and live bookable rates, helping you save up to 85% in hidden bank fees. Go to site Show details
GBP 2,000 1 day GBP 0.00 1.301 USD
13,007
Make transferring money abroad as simple and safe as possible with bank-beating exchange rates - online, via the app or over the phone. Go to site Show details
GBP 1 1 - 2 days GBP 1.99 1.289 USD
12,887
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Quick, affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
GBP 5 2 days EUR 3.00 1.299 USD
12,994
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
Get bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
GBP 10 Within an hour GBP 2.00 1.299 USD
12,987
First two transfers free for new customers.
Instant or 1 hour transfers to over 50 countries, send money directly to bank accounts or over 280,000 cash pickup points.
Go to site Show details
GBP 50 Same day GBP 2.99 1.293 USD
12,925
Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Conditions apply.
An online money transfer service with cash pick-up, bank account to bank account and airtime transfers available.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

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