Which of these two services offer lower fees, better rates and faster delivery to friends and family around the world?
Western Union is a familiar brand for money transfers, providing services for more than a century. It’s not the cheapest or fastest, but with an online, mobile and physical presence through its network of 500,000 agent locations worldwide, it’s the most visible option out there.
Then there’s OFX: a digital transfer service with better exchange rates, lower fees and an easier way to send money online. It supports 55 currencies from 190 countries and offers a no-fee threshold to avoid transfer fees altogether.
We compare them to help you decide which is better for your needs.
Western Union and OFX: How they work
You can get your money where it needs to go using Western Union or OFX.
With 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.
With OFX, you’ll need to create a free account, but it’s easy to set up as part of your transfer. It’s a simple process: You go to its site, enter how much money you’ll be transferring, and send your funds to an OFX account. OFX then converts your currency and sends it to your recipient, who collects it via bank transfer.
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. Fees start at $5 but can soar to up to $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, some agents offer fee-free transfer options.
OFX charges nothing for minimum transfers of $1,000 or more. Period.
While Western Union’s fees can start at $5, costs can soar to $45 or more depending on the details of your transfer. OFX charges no transfer fees, making it the resounding winner.
Who offers stronger 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.
Western Union and OFX have two very different approaches when it comes to respecting 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.
Let’s use the example of a transfer to Philippine peso (PHP):
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 49.74 PHP
- Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 47.57 PHP
A typical exchange rate at OFX is about 0.4% above the mid-market rate — a competitive rate any way you look at it.
So using the same example of sending money to the Philippines:
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 49.74 PHP
- OFX’s exchange rate could be 1 USD = 48.88 PHP
OFX’s stronger exchange rates will nearly always put more money into your recipient’s pocket than Western Union’s will. Say you have a son studying in Tokyo you’d like to help with textbooks and other school supplies. Here’s what you’d pay for an bank-to-bank transfer with Western Union and OFX. With OFX, you save the $5 to transfer $1,000 to Japan and send nearly 8,500 more yen to your kid in at least three fewer days. That’s more than $70 toward books and more.
Send $1,000 to Japan
Western Union OFX Transfer fee $5 (other bank fees may apply) $0 Exchange rate 1 USD = 108.667 JPY 1 USD = 117.117 JPY Transfer speed 7 business days Up to 4 business days (1–2 to OFX, 1–2 to recipient) Total received 108,667 JPY 117,117 JPY
Say you have a son studying in Tokyo you’d like to help with textbooks and other school supplies. Here’s what you’d pay for an bank-to-bank transfer with Western Union and OFX.
With OFX, you save the $5 to transfer $1,000 to Japan and send nearly 8,500 more yen to your kid in at least three fewer days. That’s more than $70 toward books and more.
Delivery speed 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.
To transfer your money to OFX, it takes one to two business days. It takes another one to two days to send that money from OFX to your recipient. You’re looking at least two business days to complete a transaction from send to receipt.
Your average transfer will likely take about the same time with both services, whether you pay for expedited services or not. However, OFX takes a slight lead given Western Union’s possible delivery of five-plus days.
Who offers more options?
|Providers||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|
|OFX||Electronic funds transfer (EFT)||$1,000 minimum; no maximum||Bank transfer||1–2 business days to transfer to OFX; 1–2 business days to transfer to recipient||190+ countries (exclusions include Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria)|
OFX’s lower fees and stronger exchange rates makes it a major competitor in the international money transfer market. But if you don’t have time on your side, you may opt to pay more with Western Union to get it there in cash.
Ultimately, you’ll need to compare your options to find the service that’s right for you.