Review: Western Union money transfers
An easy way to send cash overseas — even if the recipient doesn't have a bank account.
finder.com’s rating: 3.25 / 5.0
Speed: 5.0 / 5.0
Services: 4.0 / 5.0
User experience: 2.0 / 5.0
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.
Min. Transfer Amount
Max. Transfer Amount
3 - 5 days
|Product Name||Western Union Money Transfers|
|Min. Transfer Amount||USD 1|
|Max. Transfer Amount||USD 5,000|
|Transfer Methods||Online, Phone, Agent, Bank Account to Bank Account, International Money Order|
|Transfer Options||Regular payments, One off payments|
Minimum transfer time
|3 - 5 days|
|Customer Service||Phone, Chat, Email, Branch|
|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, BZD, CAD, CDF, CHF, CLP, CNY, COP, CRC, CUP, CVE, CZK, DJF, DKK, DOP, DZD, EGP, ERN, ETB, EUR, FJD, FKP, GBP, GEL, GGP, GHS, GIP, GMD, GNF, GTQ, GYD, HKD, HNL, HRK, HTG, HUF, IDR, ILS, IMP, INR, IQD, IRR, ISK, JEP, JMD, JOD, JPY, KES, KGS, KHR, KMF, KPW, KRW, KWD, KYD, KZT, LAK, LBP, LKR, LRD, LSL, LYD, MAD, MDL, MGA, MKD, MMK, MNT, MOP, MRO, MUR, MVR, MWK, MXN, MYR, MZN, NAD, NGN, NIO, NOK, NPR, NZD, OMR, PAB, PEN, PGK, PHP, PKR, PLN, PYG, QAR, RON, RSD, RUB, RWF, SAR, SBD, SCR, SDG, SEK, SGD, SHP, SLL, SOS, SPL, SRD, STD, SYP, SZL, THB, TJS, TMT, TND, TOP, TRY, TTD, TVD, TWD, TZS, UAH, UGX, USD, UYU, UZS, VEF, VND, VUV, WST, XAF, XCD, XDR, XOF, XPF, YER, ZAR, ZMW|
|Exchange Rate Updates||Real time|
- Low minimum transfer amount of $1.00
- Option to send money in minutes
- Transfer to a wide range of countries
- Not the cheapest option depending on transfer location
Zak Killermann is a staff writer at Finder specializing in money transfers. He has ghostwritten hundreds of FinTech articles over the years and found his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Zak has been traveling internationally for nearly half his life and — after getting burned once by an over-the-counter money exchange — vowed to never settle for anything short of the mid-market rate.
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 United States; it is integrated into many grocery stores, convenience stores, check cashing stores and more.
Western Union's coronavirus responseIf you’re used to sending money in person and can no longer access brick-and-mortar stores due to lockdown, WU has launched the Digital Location program. We understand this can be a complicated shift in your money sending routine, so please refer to the Digital Location section of this guide for more information on where to find a Digital Location and how to use it.
What's in this guide?
- Why should I consider Western Union?
- What to be aware of with Western Union
- Western Union fees and exchange rates explained
- Payment and receiving options
- How long does a Western Union money transfer take?
- How much money can I send with Western Union?
- How do I use Western Union?
- The registration and transfer process
- Western Union lawsuits and customer complaints explained
- Can I trust Western Union?
- Does Western Union have an app?
- How does My WU: Western Union's reward program work?
- Bottom line
- Frequently asked questions
- How does Western Union compare to other services?
Why should I consider Western Union?
Western Union has managed both domestic and international money transfers since 1871.
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 42,000 agent locations in the US alone, often located in grocery stores and convenience stores.
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.
Some transfers through Western Union can be received within minutes. This is helpful when sending cash in an emergency, or just in general when you don’t want to wait a few days for your transfer to go through.
What to be aware of with Western Union
Weak exchange rates
Unfavorable 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 a maximum of $2,999.99 per online money transfer. Agent locations typically have no limit, however, so long as you can provide adequate identification while sending.
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 US for cash pickup, here are the fees and exchange rates we encountered using Western Union’s price estimator tool on February 11, 2020:
|Sending $1,000 to||Paying with||Fee||Percent above mid-market|
Sending money to India had moderately low exchange rate markups at 1.99%, while sending from USD to EUR had markups over 20% when we checked. Normally high markups are associated with low fees, but in this case sending to France includes both high credit card fees and poor exchange rates.
Case study: Anna’s experience
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.
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 5 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 location (state), and the service you choose.
ONLINE: When sending online your limits are typically as follows. When sending using a smartphone, the same limits apply, although not all the same services are offered on mobile.
|Service||Limit per transfer|
|In Minutes, Three Day, and WU® Pay||$2,999|
|Mobile Money Transfer||$500|
|Bill Payments/Quick Collect||$2,500 per 7 days to a biller (certain states have a limit of $400 only)|
|Prepaid Services||Limits vary by card issuer|
|Online FX International Payments||$10,000 (can be raised)|
AT 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 Care to inquire.
ON THE PHONE: The money transfer limit ranges from $300 to $2,500.
Note: Limits may vary based on sending and receiving location, so always best to check with Western Union itself before sending.
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 42,000 North American 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.
Western Union lawsuits and customer complaints explained
Large numbers 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.
- Providing 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.
- 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.
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.
Lawsuits against Western Union
After a long investigation, in January 2017 Western Union agreed to forfeit more than $550 million and enter into anti-fraud agreements with many state and federal agencies. These lawsuits focused on Western Union’s aiding and abetting of wire fraud by failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program.
The outcome of the lawsuits lead Western Union to agree to:
Fraud can be reported to the FTC as well as your state’s Attorney General.
More on money transfer scams and how to avoid them
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 — as explained above. Being extra cautious by only sending or receiving money from people you know is a necessary extra step for your safety.
Western Union is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and has been in business since 1851. The company originated as a telegram service, and moved onto offering standardized time services, stock tickers and eventually money transfers. In 1871, Western Union launched its money transfer service and has been growing it ever since through wire transfers, money orders and money transfers in general to over 200 countries.
Independent research of any brand is 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 February 11, 2020.
What Western Union’s reviews look like
|Trustpilot||4.1 out of 5, based on 17,130 customer reviews|
|CompareRemit||2.1 out of 5, based on 195 customer reviews|
|Monito||7.9 out of 10, staff reviewed|
|NerdWallet||3.5 out of 5, staff reviewed|
|ConsumerAffairs||3.6 out of 5, based on 2,350 customer reviews|
|Finder.com||3.25 out of 5, staff reviewed|
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:
|Google Play Store||4.5 out of 5, based on 143,161 customer reviews|
|Apple App Store||4.8 out of 5, based on 225,802 customer reviews|
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. Points can be earned 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. Points are earned based on fees paid, at a $1 in fees paid to 1 My WU point earned ratio.
- Redeem points for rewards. Spend your points to receive discounts on service fees, with special promotions offered throughout the year.
In the past, redeeming your Western Union My WU points earned you:
|25 points||50 points||95 points||140 points|
|Redeem at an agent location||$2.00||$4.00||$8.00||$12.00|
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 if possible to reap even more savings!
Western Union offers plenty of useful transfer and cash pickup options when you need to send money domestically or internationally. Before you commit to sending your hard-earned dough, though, be sure to 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.