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Western Union operates one of the world’s largest money transfer networks by with more than 500,000 agent locations around the world, but unfavorable exchange rates mean you’ll have to pay for the convenience.
Kelly Waggoner is editor-in-chief of Finder US. She's worked with publishers, magazines and nonprofits throughout New York City, including ghostwriting a how-to on copyediting for the Dummies series. Between projects, she toys with words, flips through style guides and fantasizes about the serial comma's world domination.
Western Union provides a variety of options
Western Union helps individuals and businesses transfer money around the globe and right here in our own country. You’ll find many options for transferring and collecting funds, like cash pickup, mobile wallet deposits and more. You can even transfer money to an inmate in a correctional facility. And you can make your transfer online, through WU’s mobile app, in person or over the phone. The variety of options Western Union offers is unusual in today’s mostly online-based money transfer providers.
How much does it cost to transfer money with Western Union?
International money transfer fees vary depending on the transfer method you use. The best way to learn how much you’ll pay is to input your transfer details into the price estimator on Western Union’s website.
To give you an idea of transfer fees, here’s what you’d pay to send $1,000 to Mexico:
Cash pickup at an agent location
$4 from a bank account; $15 with a credit or debit card
Deposit into a bank account
Sending the same amount to the UK would attract different fees, such as a fee of $2.99 for a transfer between bank accounts or $81 for a Money in Minutes transaction paid for with your credit or debit card.
How are Western Union’s exchange rates?
You’ll need to take the exchange rate into account when sending money overseas. Western Union’s rates are updated regularly based on the market, and you can find out the rate that applies to your specific transaction by clicking Estimate Price at the top of the Western Union website.
Our experience transferring money with Western Union
Here’s what we found when we sent live transfers to Mexico and France through Western Union.
Western Union would not accept our recipient’s Mexican bank account, resulting in an incomplete transfer.
Our funds were deposited into our recipient’s French bank account in a speedy 24 hours.
Western Union’s easy-to-use website allowed us to sign up and initiate a transfer in an impressive 3 minutes.
Through its Business Solutions, Western Union offers the flexibility of rate locks, forward contracts and recurring transfers.
What types of transfers can I carry out with Western Union?
There are multiple ways you can send money overseas with Western Union, starting with the ease and convenience of online transfers. The next option is to initiate a transfer by phone, although you can also visit one of Western Union’s 70,000 North American locations for a face-to-face transaction using cash or a debit card.
With Western Union, your recipient can collect the cash you send by:
Cash pickup. Cash transfers sent online, by phone or in person are available for pickup within minutes at any number of agent locations worldwide. Transfers from your bank account can take one to three days to arrive.
Mobile wallet deposit. Funds sent online or from an agent location are deposited in minutes.
Bank account deposit. Expect to wait one to three days for funds to arrive if you pay with a credit or debit card online, while transactions from your own bank account online or by cash at an agent location take two to five days.
Prepaid card. In select markets you can have the money transfer loaded onto a Western Union branded prepaid card.
Pros and cons of using Western Union
Trusted provider. Western Union has managed domestic and international money transfers since 1871.
Huge network. More than 500,000 agent locations around the world.
Flexible transfer options. Whether you pay with your credit or debit card or a bank account for cash pickup or a bank deposit, Western Union can take care of your transaction.
Weak exchange rates. With weak exchange rates that can be nearly 5% more than the mid-market rate, you have cheaper online options.
High fees. Where some companies offer free transfers or low-fee transfers, expect to pay more in fees to transfer with Western Union.
How does Western Union compare to other services?
Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
Case study: Anna’s experience
Anna Serio Writer
I used Western Union several times to transfer money to my partner, who was living in Beirut while I lived in New York. I sent the maximum $5,000 amount three times and paid a $175 fee each time.
It isn’t the cheapest money transfer option out there, but it was the most convenient. My partner didn’t have a bank account in Lebanon, so he had to pick it up in cash, ruling out several other options. Lebanon is one of those countries that uses US dollars and the Lebanese pound, and I wanted to avoid paying for a currency exchange. Western Union let me do both without a headache.
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.
Your recipient’s name and 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 required ID.
The registration and transfer process
You’ll need to create a Western Union online profile before you can send funds online. It’s free to register with your personal contact information and details about your linked bank account or credit or debit card.
You can also initiate a transfer by phone through Western Union’s toll free number, providing the details of your transaction and your payment information.
If you prefer the security of a face-to-face transaction, visit one of Western Union’s 70,000 North American locations to transfer funds using cash or a debit card.
Steps to transfer your money online
Enter your email address and create a password. Provide your name, phone number, address and birth date. Then choose and answer the security questions, copy the security code and check that you agree to the terms and conditions. Click “Continue.”
Once you’re fully logged in, enter the details of your transfer — including your recipient’s full contact information and banking details, if sending to a bank account. Choose your method of payment and enter your credit card or banking details. Finally, confirm and complete your transfer. You’ll receive a confirmation by email with your Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) — the number you can use to track your transfer online along the process to receipt.
Western Union offers plenty of useful transfer and cash pickup options when you need to send money overseas. Before you commit to sending your hard-earned dough, of course, you should always make sure to compare all the available options and find the best deal.
Frequently asked questions
To send more than $5,000 overseas using Western Union’s online service, sign up for a Western Union online forex account.
You will need to provide your recipient’s first and last name, and the country and city to which you are sending money. In some cases you will also have to provide a destination state.
If you select the Western Union In Minutes service, your funds will, as the name suggests, be available within minutes.
When processed through a reputable bank or company, your funds are safely tracked until in the hands of your recipient. And if you’re sending money internationally, federal protections are in place that require banks, credit unions and money transfer companies to, for example, disclose all fees upfront and give you 30 minutes to cancel a transfer, assuming it hasn’t yet been picked up or deposited.
Western Union’s MTCN is a unique tracking number assigned to your money transfer. Your receiver will need this number when picking up money at an agent location. You can use it to track your transfer online or to access customer support.
It depends on how you send it and to where. Delivery speeds range from minutes to three days or more. Get a quote online to see details for your particular needs.
Maximum limits vary based on your transaction history, your receiver’s country, your location and the service you choose. Get a quote online to see details for your particular needs.
Our team analyzes money transfer providers offering services in the US — from big names to digital upstarts. We rank rates and fees, speed, services and user experience for: Methodology
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