We compare two well-established companies to see who has the edge for your next transfer overseas.
Western Union and MoneyGram are No. 1 and No. 2 in the international money transfer business — both nearly synonymous with overseas payments in an increasingly competitive market.
Western Union has been provided services for more than a century through its 500,000 agent locations worldwide. Around since 1940, MoneyGram is a major player with a presence in 200 countries.
Neither Western Union nor MoneyGram is the cheapest or fastest option out there. But with an online, mobile and physical presence, they are the most visible.
|Fees||$5 – $45||$5 – $48|
|Exchange rates||Up to 6%||5% or more|
|Speed||Minutes, up to five days or more||Minutes, or 2-4 days|
|Max Transfer Amount||$5,000||$2,999 per day and $2,999 every 30 days|
Western Union and MoneyGram: How they work
The way you go about a transfer with Western Union is nearly indistinguishable from the same process with MoneyGram.
So much, in fact, that we can describe them both in one shot: You go to their sites, enter how much you’re transferring and to where and see how much you’ll pay for the exchange.
With either service, you also have the option of visiting an office, calling or using a mobile app to initiate a transfer. And once complete, they convert and deliver your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide.
Who offers lower fees?
Figuring out much you’ll pay to transfer money internationally can be muddied. Although most fees start at $5, they can be as much 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, however, some agents offer fee-free transfer options.
Fees vary depending on how much money you’re transferring, how you’re sending it and the country you’re sending it to. Unless you actually initiate a transfer, it’s not easy to find out up front how much you’ll pay. As an example, to send $1,000 to China from a bank account, you’ll pay $8 in fees; to pay for that same amount by credit or debit card, you’ll pay $48. To send $1,000 for cash pickup in the Philippines, it’s $4.99 from a bank account and $10 by credit or debit.
While MoneyGram may be a bit more straightforward when it comes to fees, Western Union provides a few more ways to pay.
How to send cash overseas with Western Union
Compare Western Union to Moneygram
Case study: Sending $1,000 to Italy
Miles wants to send $1,000 to his great-aunt who lives in Italy. She first thought it’d be easier to just wire the money from her local bank. But with so many locations worldwide, she thought she’d give Western Union or MoneyGram a try.
Here’s what it’d look like to send a $1,000 bank-to-bank transfer with Western Union and MoneyGram.
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 0.8652 EUR||1 USD = 0.9167 EUR|
|Transfer speed||6 business days||4 business days|
|Total received||865.20 EUR||916.70 EUR|
Miles will pay about the same transfer fee to send through either service. But with MoneyGram’s stronger exchange rate and faster delivery time, his great-aunt can receive 51 more euros in about two days earlier.
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.
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 coffers.
We’ll use the example of a transfer to euros (EUR):
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR
- Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 0.86 EUR
MoneyGram also skews exchange rates for a profit. Depending on where you’re sending your money, the exchange rate could be 5% or more above the mid-market rate. Like Western Union, this means hundreds of dollars on a large transfer diverted to MoneyGram’s pockets.
So if you’re sending money to Europe:
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR
- MoneyGram’s exchange rate may be 1 USD = 0.91 EUR
Sending $1,000 to Europe with MoneyGram could result in about 50 more euros to your recipient over Western Union.
How to send money overseas through MoneyGram
Delivery speeds varies with 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.
Like Western Union, delivery speed with MoneyGram too varies by transfer option, with cash transfers in person or by phone delivered in minutes (again with higher costs). MoneyGram’s cheaper options take two to four business days for receipt.
There’s no question that these services are similar. But MoneyGram’s cheaper options could deliver your cash to loved ones and businesses abroad up to three days faster, depending on the country.Back to top
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||Minimum and maximum varies by country||Bank transfer, cash pickup, e-wallet||Varies from minutes to 5+ days||200+ countries|
|MoneyGram||Bank account, credit or debit card, cash||Minimum and maximum varies by country||Bank transfer, cash pickup, other options by location||2–4 days||190+ countries and 45+ currencies|
While Western Union and MoneyGram can appear similar, you may get a stronger exchange rate with MoneyGram — which is especially important for larger transfers.
Then, if it’s more important that your friends or family be able to pick up your money in cash, Western Union’s 500,000 agent locations worldwide beats MoneyGram more than 300,000.
These two services aside, you could do better with another money transfer specialist. Compare your options to find a provider that’s perfect for your situation.