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Western Union review

A straightforward way to send money overseas with multiple transfer options - just watch out for high fees and weak exchange rates.

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Western Union has a gigantic global network of agent locations and bank connections that makes it easy to send money almost anywhere. Transfer money fast for higher fees or a bit slower for lower fees, depending on your needs and resources.

However, given Western Union’s history of customer complaints and lawsuits, maybe consider looking at smaller money transfer providers with a better track record and offering better exchange rates and lower fees. Having said that, Western Union will almost always be a cheaper option than your bank, especially when sending one-off transfers or to remote destinations.

Why should I consider Western Union?

  • Established service. Western Union has managed both domestic and international money transfers since 1871.
  • Huge network. With over 500,000 agent locations worldwide 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.
  • Flexible transfer options. With a mix of online and agent locations services, you can pay with cash, credit, debit, bank accounts and more. Also, Western Union’s business transfer options let you use hedging tools for even more flexibility.
  • Fast transfers. Some transfers through Western Union be received within minutes, which helps in an emergency or when you don’t want to wait a few days for your transfer to go through.

What to be aware of

  • 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.
  • Maximum transfer limits. There is a maximum limit on how much you can send online, which is determined by which country you are sending to. However, agent locations typically have no limit as long as you can provide adequate identification while sending.
  • High fees. Nearly all transactions through Western Union will have a transfer fee attached, ranging from $3.50 to $100 or more. Occasional promotions and coupons may help but always expect to pay a fee when sending money through Western Union.

How much are Western Union’s transfer fees?

Western Union has different fees for nearly every country it sends to, and we’ve seen fees range from as low as $3.50 up to $100 or more. These fees depend on how you are paying for the transfer and how the transfer will be collected. Agent location fees aren’t typically 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. Keep in mind that if you choose to pay 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.

When sending money to China from the US for cash pickup, here are the fees we encountered using Western Union’s price estimator tool on November 21, 2022:

Sending $1,000 toPaying withFee
China Debit card$75
Credit card$102
Bank account$26
Cash (in-store)$8

Fees for money transfers within the US

The cost to send money within the US via Western Union depends on the amount you are sending, your payment method and how your recipient would like to receive their cash. To send $100 from your bank account to theirs still carries a significant fee of $14.00.

Sending the same amount from your credit card as a cash pickup will cost you $20.50. The maximum you can send in one day is $5,000, which would cost you $243 with a credit card and $50 via bank transfer.

How are Western Union’s exchange rates?

Western Union makes money by adding a margin to the exchange rate in addition to any fees charged. It applies different exchange rates to different transfer types.

It also uses stronger or weaker exchange rates based on the currency you are transferring. Use Western Union’s price estimator tool to see what exchange rate you would be offered on your transfer.

You can compare the displayed rate on Western Union with the current mid-market rate to determine the margin they charge. Then, use the interbank rate as a benchmark for comparing the rates of other money transfer providers.

What are the ways I can send money abroad with Western Union?

Western Union has a diverse range of transfer options. We’ll go through the most used options and what the steps look like:

How to send money transfer online with Western Union

To send your first money transfer with Western Union, you will need to create a profile online:

How to send money transfer via the Western Union app

With the Western Union app, you can send money, transfer transfers, review exchange rates and find agent locations. Sending a transfer is simple:

Send money in person at Western Union locations

If you prefer to send your money transfer in person, then complete the following steps:

Send money by phone

Western Union has the option to send money by phone. Customers can call the Telephone Money Transfer hotline at 800-CALL-CASH, if they are sending money from the US to a recipient in the US.

Send money online and pay in cash

If you want to pay in cash, then you can start your money transfer online and opt for Pay in-store.

How can my recipient get the money?

Western Union has several options for how your intended recipient can get their money. Choose from any of the following:

  • Cash (in-store)
  • Bank account
  • Mobile wallet
  • Prepaid card
  • Pay your bills

What are Western Union’s payment options?

Several payment options are available with Western Union, each with its own set of limits, fees and restrictions. Its online, phone and in-store options include:

  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Bank account
  • Cash (in-store)
  • Wire transfer

How long does an international transfer with Western Union take?

Send your transfer a few different ways, which determines how quickly your transfer is sent and how much it will cost.

If you pay for your transfer with a credit or debit card and have it sent for cash pickup – 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.

The cheaper but slower option would be to make a bank transfer. This can take up to five business days. Depending on verification needs, you may have to wait longer while Western Union confirms you own the registered bank account.

Transfers typically takeClock icon for transfer speed

1 day

How much money can I send with Western Union?

Your limits will vary based on a number of factors, including your transfer history, location, transfer destination and what service you choose.

See the maximum amount you can send when inputting your transfer details in the Send Money section on Western Union’s homepage.

If you want to make a large money transfer, Western Union allows you to transfer up to $50,000 from the US when sending from your bank account directly to the receiver’s bank account. But keep in mind that this limit may not be available for all receiver countries and is subject to restrictions based on the factors mentioned above.

Limits at Agent Locations

There’s usually no restriction on the amount 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.

Is Western Union safe to use?

Western Union uses policies and procedures like photo identification and tracking number (MTNC) verification to help make sure your money is sent to the right person. It also educates its agents and customers on how to protect themselves from fraud and scams.

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 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.

To combat these types of scams, Western Union provides clear warnings on its website before a user sends a money transfer. This popup warning requires users to choose Accept before sending their transfers.

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.

Can I trust Western Union?

Western Union is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and has been in business since 1851. The company originated as a telegram service and launched its money transfer service in 1871. This has been growing ever since through wire transfers, money orders and money transfers in general to over 200 countries.

Between 2004 and 2010, Western Union was accused of allowing fraudulent transactions and received more than 550,000 complaints about fraud. Since then, it has paid over $586 million in fines to settle this issue. Being extra cautious by only sending or receiving money from people you know is a necessary extra step for your safety.

How does Western Union compare to other money transfer services?

Enter your transaction details to see how Western Union compares to the exchange rates and fees offered by other money transfer services.

1 - 9 of 9
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Instarem
Within minutes
From 0%
New Instarem customers will get a special FX rate and zero-fees on their first transfer.
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $1.99
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From 0.41%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
OFX International Money Transfers (Business)
24 hours
$0
Business customers: Send safe, no-limit transfers with no fees and competitive exchange rates.
Currencies Direct (business)
24 hours
$0
Minimizes costs of international transactions and offers custom solutions for business clients. Currencies Direct may call you to confirm your transfer, so be prepared for a phone call shortly after initiating a transfer.
Currencies Direct
24 hours
$0
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Currencies Direct may call you to confirm your transfer, so be prepared for a phone call shortly after initiating a transfer.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
$0
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
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Frequently asked questions

How do I contact Western Union?

Contact Western Union’s customer care team through live chat, phone and post. Its website also has a FAQ section.

How long does Western Union hold money?

Money transfers are available for pickup for 90 days. If the recipient cannot pick up the funds and it has been 90 days, you’ll need to contact customer services for the transfer to be renewed and made available for payout.

How do I get my money back from Western Union?

If you wish to cancel your money transfer, log in to your account. Look at your recent money transfer activity, and select the transfer you want to cancel. You can only cancel the transfer if the money hasn’t been picked up or deposited. The amount of money refunded depends on the service chosen and the reason for cancellation.

How good is Western Union’s service?

Western Union reviews are generally positive, with the expected negative reviews popping up on review sites like Trustpilot and ConsumerAffairs. It’s no surprise that many users have great experiences and many have poor experiences, given that Western Union caters to hundreds of millions of customers.

How do I avoid Western Union’s fees?

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid Western Union’s fees in full — but you can try to make them as low as possible. One way to do this not using a credit card as a payment method, as this tends to carry a high fee.

Bank transfers also tend to be cheaper than cash pickups. It’s worth comparing Western Union’s fees and rates against other money transfer providers to see how they stack up.