Western Union vs. CurrencyFair: Who has better transfers? | finder.com
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Western Union vs. CurrencyFair money transfers compared

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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.

Western Union logo money transfers currencyfair
Western Union CurrencyFair
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
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Western Union and CurrencyFair: How they work

Both services offer online transfer options.

Western Union

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.

CurrencyFair

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?

Western Union

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.

CurrencyFair

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%.

  • Winner: CurrencyFair

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.

Western Union

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

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
  • Winner: CurrencyFair

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.

Who’s faster?

Western Union

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.

CurrencyFair

With CurrencyFair, your recipient will receive funds within 1 to 4 business days, depending on your recipient’s location.

  • Winner: Tie

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

Bottom line

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.

Western UnionCurrencyFair
Transfer fee$5$3
Exchange rate1 USD = 1.27 AUD1 USD = 1.32 AUD
Transfer speed7 days3 days
Total received1,274.321,316.50 AUD

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