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Western Union vs. Wise (TransferWise)
We compare a well-known name with a newer online service to find which is better for sending money overseas.
Western Union offers faster transfer speeds — if you’re willing to pay extra. It also offers more delivery methods to more countries and currencies worldwide than Wise. But if exchange rates are important to you, Wise sticks closer to mid-market than Western Union. We compare Western Union and Wise on speed, cost and other features to help you pick the best option for your transfer.
|Fees||Fees start at $5||A percent fee of the transfer amount, plus a small fixed fee|
|Exchange rates||Up to 6% above the mid-market rate||Mid-market rate|
|Speed||Minutes up to 5 days or more||1–5 days or more|
|Max Transfer Amount||Varies by country||Personal and business accounts – up to $1,000,000 per transfer|
Bank debit (ACH) – $15,000 per day
Debit or credit card – $2,000 per 24 hours and $8,000 per 7 days
|Read review||Read review|
How they work?
To make an online transfer using Western Union, you go to its site, enter how much you’re transferring and to which country, and see how much you’ll pay for the exchange. Once complete, Western Union will convert and deliver your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide. You may also initiate a transfer by phone, through a mobile app or in person.
With Wise, you’ll need to create a free account, but it’s straightforward to set one up at the same time of your transfer. You also have the option of signing in with your existing Google+, Facebook or PayPal account.
To send money, you go to its site, select the currencies you are exchanging and indicate how much you want to send. After reviewing your rate and fee, money is pulled from your bank account and then sent to a Wise bank in the country to which you’re transferring money using mid-market exchange rate.
Who offers lower fees?
Figuring out your transfer fee with Western Union can be muddied. Although most fees start at $5, they 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, however, some agents offer fee-free transfer options.
Fees depend on where and how you’re sending money, but most clock in at $9.90. Wise charges a fixed fee, plus a percentage of each transfer which ranges from 0.5% to 2.35% of your transaction depending on the currency you’re transferring to. To send $1,000 to China, you’ll pay the currency fixed fee plus 1.1% of your transaction (or $18.79); to the Philippines, the fee drops to 0.75% plus the currency fixed fee ($10.92). You can easily find out what you’ll pay by visiting its “How much does Wise cost?” page.
Western Union’s typical starting transfer fee is lower than the average fee with Wise, but Wise offers a more uniform, transparent platform for paying for your international money exchange.
Compare other transfer services
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Who offers better exchange rates?
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 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
One of the biggest things that sets Wise apart from many other money transfer services is that it guarantees exchange rates that exactly match the mid-market rate, based on the minute that you initiate a transfer. As long as you send your money to them within 24 hours, you are guaranteed the same mid-market rate as when you started your transfer.
In other words, if you’re sending euros to Spain and the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.82 EUR, that’s the rate you’re going to get.
Its mid-market exchange rates make Wise the clear winner. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a stronger exchange rate elsewhere.
Delivery speed varies with transfer options. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes but at higher costs. Your cheapest options could take five days or longer, depending on the country.
With Wise, transfers from US dollars range from one to five business days.
Winner: Western Union
If you’re willing to pay for it, Western Union can usually transfer your money faster. But if you’re looking to save some dough, Wise can still move your money within a day in some cases.
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|
|Wise||Bank account, credit or debit card||$1 minimum; $1,000,000 maximum||Bank transfer||1-5 business days||30+ countries|
Case study: Sending $1,000 to the UK
Imagine that you want to send $1,000 to your son who is studying in London. Here’s what you’d pay for an online bank transfer with Western Union and Wise.
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 0.76 GBP||1 USD = 0.81 GBP|
|Transfer speed||4 –5 business days||1 business day|
|Total received||760.10 GBP||804.15 GBP|
Although Wise’s fee is a little more, your son can get more than 44 more pounds and get it much faster using this service over Western Union.
Depending on your transfer method and speed, Western Union could offer lower transfer fees. But the couple extra bucks is well worth Wise’s unbeatable exchange rates and quick service.
Ultimately, you’ll want to compare your options to find the service that best fits your individual needs.
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