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Western Union vs. PayPal

We compare a popular provider with a digital giant to see which is better for overseas transfers.

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Western Union is nearly synonymous with international money transfers. And then there’s electronic payment giant, which also allows you to send money overseas. Which is cheaper and faster for sending funds to friends, family and businesses outside the US?

Western Union logo money transfers Paypal
Fees Fees start at $5 Varies by transfer
Exchange rates Up to 6% above the mid-market rate Mid-market rate plus 2.5% margin
Speed Minutes up to 5 days or more Minutes to 1 day
Max Transfer Amount Varies by country Maximum $10,000 per transfer
Read review Read review

How do they work?

Western Union and PayPal both offer easy online processes to exchange and send money around the world.

Western Union

With Western Union, you go to its site, enter how much you’re transferring and confirm how you’re sending it and how it should be received. (You also have the option of visiting or calling an agent.) Once you’ve approved the exchange rate and fees you’ll pay, Western Union converts and delivers your money to your recipient’s bank account or for cash pickups at locations worldwide.

Read review: Western Union


To transfer money through PayPal, you’ll need to create a free PayPal account. You then send a transfer to your recipient’s PayPal account, funding the transfer with your PayPal balance, bank account, credit or debit card or PayPal Credit. After your recipient receives the money, they can either keep the funds in their PayPal account or withdraw the money to their bank account.

Read review: Paypal

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Who offers lower fees?

Western Union

Figuring out much you’ll pay to transfer money internationally with Western Union 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.


How much it costs depends on how much money you send, where you send it and how you pay for the transfer.

When you pay for an international transfer using your PayPal balance or linked bank account, you’ll pay a fee between $0.99 to $4.99 — the fee is waived if you’re sending to the US.

When you pay with a credit or debit card or PayPal Credit, PayPal charges a fee of 2.9% of the transaction amount, a fixed fee based on currency and a fee ranging from $0.99 to $4.99 depending on how much is sent.

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Winner: It depends
If you’re sending smaller amounts, you could pay minimal fees with PayPal — again, depending on where you’re sending it. For larger amounts, Western Union may be a more ideal provider.
For instance, sending $100 using Western Union can cost you as much as 10%, while PayPal transfers can come up to $8.
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Compare other transfer services

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
GBP 1,000 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.836 EUR 4,180 Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.
Go to site Show details
$1 Same day USD 0.00 0.841 EUR 4,203 XE offers fast transfers with no fees and a range of foreign currency tools. Go to site Show details
$10 Within an hour USD 1.99 0.828 EUR 4,136 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Quick, affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 1 - 2 days USD 40.00 0.844 EUR
Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks. Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.841 EUR 4,201 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

WorldRemit DealsWorldRemit Deals

WorldRemit: First Transfer FREE

You first transfer is free with WorldRemit when you use this coupon code. Send or pick up cash in the US or around the world.

Last verified


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.

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 coffers.


To calculate the exchange rate it offers to customers, PayPal takes the wholesale rate it gets from its bank and adds a 2.5% margin. PayPal updates this rate twice a day. But because you can’t know what PayPal’s wholesale rate is, it’s difficult to determine on your own what exchange rate you’ll get. The best way to find accurate exchange rates is by using PayPal’s currency exchange calculator, which you can find after you log in to your account.

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Winner: Paypal
For your typical overseas transfer, you’ll get a stronger exchange rate with PayPal.
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Case study: Sending $1,000 to Germany

Kendra wants to send $1,000 to her friend in Munich ahead of Oktoberfest. With so many locations worldwide, she thought she’d give Western Union a try. Then her friend suggested she look into PayPal.

Here’s what it’d look like to send a $1,000 bank-to-bank transfer with Western Union and Western Union.

Western Union PayPal
Transfer fee $5 $4.99 + 0.35 EUR
Exchange rate 1 USD = 0.8652 EUR 1 USD = 0.9451 EUR
Transfer speed 6 business days 1 business day
Total received 860.87 EUR 940.03 EUR

Kendra will pay a fee of $5 to transfer her money from her PayPal account. But even with the higher fee, the stronger exchange rate it offers will allow her to send about 80 more euro to her friend. That’s a few more steins of bier to enjoy.

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Who’s faster?

Western Union

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.


With PayPal, transferring among existing PayPal accounts is instantaneous. Payments from your PayPal account to another bank account are delivered by the next business day.

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Winner: PayPal

Whichever way you send your money, it’ll get to your recipient more quickly with PayPal. For deposits to an account, up to four days sooner.

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Who offers more options?

Payment Methods Minimum and maximum transfers Delivery methods Transfer speeds Countries and currencies
Western Union Bank transfer, 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
PayPal Bank transfer, credit or debit card, PayPal credit Minimum varies by country (about $0.02); maximum $10,000 per transfer PayPal transfer, bank transfer Varies from minutes to 1 business day 202 countries
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Bottom line

That you’ll get stronger exchange rates with PayPal is clear-cut. But depending on how much you’re sending, you could pay higher transfer fees with PayPal. Then if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, Western Union’s cash pickup may be your best option.

Ultimately, you’ll want to compare money transfer specialists to find a provider that’s right for your situation.

Frequently asked questions

Does Western Union work with PayPal?

No, you cannot pay for a Western Union transfer with PayPal. Read our guide to learn what target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>payment methods Western Union supports.

How long can money stay in Western Union before pick up??

In most cases, Western Union will hold onto unclaimed transfers for 45 days, after which they can no longer be picked up by the recipient. If more than 45 days have passed and you are the sender, contact Western Union to arrange for a refund.

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    CondexAugust 12, 2018

    Which is cheaper WU or Paypal to send £60 from UK to Wife In Indonesian.
    1. From my PP balance
    2. From my Debit card reg with PP
    3. OR, the cheapest mode using any service available

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaAugust 23, 2018Staff

      Hi Condex,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      According to our page, the answer to your question is it depends on the amount you will send. Generally, if you are going to send a smaller amount, PayPal would be ideal. However, you will be better off with WU if you are going to send a bigger amount of money.

      So, among the three options you provided, there is really no straightforward answer. What I suggest is for you to try both WU and PayPal. Before checkout, both of these platforms will tell you how much it will cost to use their services. From there, you would be able to know which one would give you a better deal.

      Other than WU and PayPal, you may also explore other money transfer service provider. Please go to this page.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!


  2. Default Gravatar
    TINMarch 10, 2017

    Hello. I want to know how I can send money by PayPal using the Western Union. I mean I want to buy a book online and payment is either by PayPal or credit card and they don’t accept Western Union transfer so is there any way that I can send money using the Western Union?

    • Default Gravatar
      LiezlJuly 28, 2017

      Hi Tin,

      Thanks for your question.

      I’m not sure if you can load money to your PayPal account through the Western Union. I suggest you visit the nearest Western Union agent to ascertain this.

      You may, however, add cash to your PayPal account via PayPal CASH. Simply log in to your account and select your preferred retailer. A custom barcode will be created and you can either print it out or present on your smartphone. You then bring your cash and barcode to the register at the retailer. Kindly note a service fee of $3.95 will apply. You can add anywhere between $20 and $500 to your PayPal account during each transaction. You’ll receive an email confirmation once your money has been added to your PayPal account.

      I hope this has helped.

      Best regards,

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