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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 to 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 who have a better track record and also offer 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 choose to pay with cash, credit, debit, bank accounts and more. Also, Western Union’s business transfer options let you use hedging tools to get 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 January 31, 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 their bank account 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, and the highest fee we’ve seen is $243.

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.

It’s best to compare the displayed rate on Western Union with the current mid-market rate to work out the size of the margin charged. 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?

There are several payment options 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 will determine 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 are looking to make a large money transfer, then 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 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.

To combat these types of scams, Western Union provides clear warnings on their 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 headquarters 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?

If you want to see how Western Union compares to the exchange rates and fees offered by other money transfer services, enter the details of your transaction into the table below.

1 - 17 of 17
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
OFX
24 hours
$0

View details
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
$0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000)

View details
Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
Currencies Direct
Within an hour

View details
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates.
Xe
Within minutes
$3

View details
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
CurrencyFair
24 hours
€3

View details
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Currencies Direct
Within an hour

View details
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates.
WorldRemit
Within an hour
From $1.99
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Use the code ‘4FREEFINDER’ to get 4 free transfers if you are a first time user. Eligible countries only.

View details
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
OFX International Money Transfers (Business)
24 hours
$0

View details
Business customers: Send safe, no-limit transfers with no fees and competitive exchange rates.
Dunbridge Financial
24 hours
$0

View details
Dunbridge Financial offers competitive exchange rates and zero fees on transfers to more than 120 countries.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within an hour
From 0.41%

View details
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers

View details
Use code FINDERUSA20 for $20 off your first transfer from the US when you send at least $250. T&Cs apply.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Instarem
Within an hour
$1

View details
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers

View details
Use code FINDERUSA20 for $20 off your first transfer from the US when you send at least $250. T&Cs apply.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Currencies Direct (business)
Within an hour

View details
Minimizes costs of international transactions and offers custom solutions for business clients.
CurrencyTransfer for Business
24 hours
$0

View details
Increase business efficiency with zero transaction fees and same-day transfers.
Xe Money Transfer for Business
Within minutes
$3

View details
Save your time and money with Xe Money Transfer for business.
Revolut
Revolut
Within minutes
$0

View details
Sign up and get a free $10 welcome bonus. T&Cs apply.
Revolut offers 10 zero-fee international transfers a month, amazing exchange rates, and transfers within 30 minutes.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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 is unable to 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, you will need to log into your account. Look at your recent money transfer activity and select the transfer you would like to cancel. You’ll only be able to cancel the transfer if the money hasn’t been picked up or deposited. The amount of money refunded will depend 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 there are many users with great experiences and many with 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. Some ways to do this include avoiding 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 also worth comparing Western Union’s fees and rates against other money transfer providers to see how they stack up.

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157 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    CSJuly 13, 2019

    IF I USE MY BANK ACCOUNT TO SEND MONEY TO A BANK ACCOUNT IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, DOES MY BANK CHARGE FOR A TRANSFER FEE? SO IN OTHER WORDS, BESIDES THE FEE I’M PAYING TO WESTERN UNION, I WOULD ALSO HAVE SOME FEES FROM MY BANK, NO?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      fayemanuelJuly 14, 2019Staff

      Hi CS,

      Thanks for contacting Finder.

      Generally, you’ll pay fees for incoming and outgoing wires. The wire transfer fees your bank charges depend on whether you’re sending the money. Some banks charge more depending on how you initiate the wire transfer — for example, online or in person.

      For Western Union, the specific transfer fees for a money transaction are indicated in the “Send Money Online” field on their website. The receiver may incur additional fees for receiving the sender’s funds through an account-based money transfer, a mobile telephone, or to a bank account.

      I hope that helps.

      Kind Regards,
      Faye

  2. Default Gravatar
    DaveJuly 11, 2019

    Someone sent me money, and when I tracked it, the status is “on hold”. What does it mean?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JhezJuly 12, 2019Staff

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Upon checking, there are a few reasons why a money transfer might be on hold. If it’s been less than 30-40 minutes since you completed it, it may not be fully processed yet. Please wait a few more minutes and then check the status again.

      There are times that they need to confirm the sender’s identity before they can process a money transfer. If this is the case, they will send the sender an online web receipt and an email asking them to call. Once they have confirmed the sender’s information, the transfer will be completed and the receiver can pick up the money. You may contact Western Union to find out more details about the status of the transfer.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

  3. Default Gravatar
    HalimatJuly 10, 2019

    I received the MTCN today from my mum based in Saudi Arabia to Nigeria. Unfortunately, I couldn’t receive the money into my bank because it shows “customer is not allowed, refund in progress”. Why? And what should I do please?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniJuly 12, 2019Staff

      Hi Halimat,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      It is best to contact WU directly on this matter. You may also advise your mum, who is the sender about this so she can check if the refund pushed through or not.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  4. Default Gravatar
    AnnaMay 15, 2019

    Ccem poslat 450€ zo slovenska do spojenych arabskych emiratov dubaja aky je poplatok

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      BellaMay 16, 2019Staff

      Hi Anna,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      The fees to send 450€ from Slovakia to the UAE would be €4.90. This rate applies if you pay Western Union through a credit/debit card and your recipient will receive the money as a cash pickup. Furthermore, Western Union would tell you how much you will be paid upon checkout. This way, you can review your fees before you continue the cash transfer.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,
      Bella

  5. Default Gravatar
    DeoMay 14, 2019

    Hello,

    There is no transfer from Paypal to Western Union, why is that? I need this.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniMay 14, 2019Staff

      Hi Deo,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      Transferring directly from Paypal to WU is not possible but you may transfer your funds from Paypal to a local bank, and then send it to Western Union. You may use some exchange websites that offer this service however it could a bit risky.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

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