We compare a household name in international money transfers with a newer, simpler way to pay.
Western Union is a household name for money transfer and other financial services, but it’s no longer the only option out there. Newer companies like CurrencyFair offer competitive exchange rates through peer-to-peer services to earn your business loyalty.
|Fees||Fees start at $5||On average, customers at the moment pay around 0.38%|
|Exchange rates||Up to 6% above the mid-market rate||Exchange rate varies by user|
|Speed||Varies from minutes to 5+ days||2–4 business days|
|Max Transfer Amount||Varies by method and payment||No limit|
Western Union and CurrencyFair: How they work
Both services offer online transfer options.
To use Western Union, you go to its site, enter how much you’re transferring and to where, and see how much you’ll pay for the exchange. (You also have the option of visiting an office, calling or using a mobile app to initiate a transfer.) Once complete, Western Union converts and delivers your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide.
For CurrencyFair, you go to its site and set an exchange rate you want on your currency. You’re then matched with someone who wants to exchange money with you. After your currency is converted, CurrencyFair transfers it to your recipient’s bank account.
Who offers lower fees?
Fees vary depending on how much you’re transferring, how you’re sending it and where you’re sending it to. While most transfer fees start at $5, they can reach as high as $45 when paying by credit or debit card for cash pickup in certain countries. When sending money to high-traffic countries such as Mexico or India, though, some agents offer fee-free transfer options.
When customers exchange money on CurrencyFair, CurrencyFair charges a fee of the total amount. If you’re able to find another CurrencyFair user with whom you can exchange your money, CurrencyFair charges 0.15% of the total transfer amount. If you exchange with CurrencyFair, that percentage jumps to 0.4% to 0.6%.
If you can find another CurrencyFair user to exchange with, you’ll pay 0.15% of the transfer total — a bargain compared with Western Union.
Who offers better exchange rates?
To understand who offers better exchange rates, you’ll need to first look at the mid-market rate. This is the true exchange rate that averages the buying and selling rate of a global currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.
We’ll look at the rates that Western Union and CurrencyFair offer compared to the mid-market rate.
Depending on the country you’re sending money to, a typical exchange rate at Western Union could be up to 6% above the mid-market rate. If you’re sending a large amount overseas, this means hundreds of dollars that goes straight into Western Union’s pocket.
We’ll use the example of a transfer to euros (EUR):
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.96 EUR
- Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 0.88 EUR
CurrencyFair takes a much smaller margin than Western Union, with rates that are usually within 0.5% of the mid-market rate.
Using the same example of a transfer to euros (EUR):
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.96 EUR
- CurrencyFair’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 0.95 EUR
CurrencyFair edges out Western Union with competitive exchange rates. Its website also provides a handy side-by-side comparison of its exchange rate and fee versus what your bank might offer you for an identical transfer to help you make an informed decision.
Western Union’s delivery speeds vary, depending on your transfer options. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes (at higher costs). Your cheapest options could take five days or longer, depending on the country.
With CurrencyFair, your recipient will receive funds within 1 to 4 business days, depending on your recipient’s location.
CurrencyFair gets bonus points for being upfront about when your recipient will have access to the money, and with no extra fees, while Western Union can offer nearly instant transfers but at higher costs.
Who offers more options?
|Payment Methods||Minimum and maximum transfers||Delivery methods||Transfer speeds||Countries and currencies|
|Western Union||Bank account, credit or debit card, cash||$1 minimum; maximum varies by method and payment||Bank transfer, cash pickup, e-wallet||Varies from minutes to 5+ days||200+ countries|
|CurrencyFair||Bank account, credit or debit card (Irish only)||$1 minimum; no maximum||Bank transfer||1–4 business days||18 countries|
Western Union offers flexibility in terms of transfer methods, but CurrencyFair comes out on top when comparing nearly every other aspect of your money transfer.
Of course, you’ll want to compare your options to find the service that best fits your individual needs.
Send $1,000 to Australia
Let’s say you want to send $1,000 to your sister who’s traveling in Australia. Here’s what an online bank-to-bank transfer would like with Western Union and CurrencyFair.
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 1.27 AUD||1 USD = 1.32 AUD|
|Transfer speed||7 days||3 days|
|Total received||1,274.32||1,316.50 AUD|