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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.

Western Union logo Wise Logo
FeesFees start at $5A percent fee of the transfer amount, plus a small fixed fee
Exchange ratesUp to 6% above the mid-market rateMid-market rate
SpeedMinutes up to 5 days or more1–5 days or more
Max Transfer AmountVaries by countryPersonal 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 reviewRead review

How they work?

Western Union and Wise both offer ways to transfer your money online, but they do have some key differences in the way they work.

Western Union

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.

Read review: Western Union

Wise

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.

Read review: Wise

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Who offers lower fees?

Western Union

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.

Wise

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.

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Winner: Tie

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.

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Compare other transfer services

Our table lets you compare the services you can use to send money abroad. Compare services on transfer speeds and fees, then click Go to site when you're ready to send.
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
OFX
24 hours
$0

View details
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
Dunbridge Financial
Dunbridge Financial
24 hours
$0

View details
Dunbridge Financial offers competitive exchange rates and zero fees on transfers to more than 120 countries.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
$0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally £5,000)

View details
Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
XE
Within minutes
$3

View details
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
WorldRemit
Within an hour
From $1.99

View details
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within an hour
From $2.26

View details
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Instarem
Within an hour
$1

View details
Exclusive: Use code GET60 and save $30 on each transaction over $200. Valid for the first two transactions and till 31st July 2021. T&Cs apply.
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers

View details
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Western Union
Within an hour
From $0

View details
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
MoneyGram
Within an hour
From $0

View details
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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. Let’s look at the rates that Western Union and Wise 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 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

Wise

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.

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Winner: Wise

Its mid-market exchange rates make Wise the clear winner. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a stronger exchange rate elsewhere.

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Who’s faster?

Western Union

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.

Wise

With Wise, transfers from US dollars range from one to five business days.

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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.

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Who offers more options?

Payment MethodsMinimum and maximum transfersDelivery methodsTransfer speedsCountries and currencies
Western UnionBank account, credit or debit card, cash$1 minimum; maximum varies by method and paymentBank transfer, cash pickup, e-walletVaries from minutes to 5+ days200+ countries
WiseBank account, credit or debit card$1 minimum; $1,000,000 maximumBank transfer1-5 business days30+ countries
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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.

Western UnionWise
Transfer fee$2.99$7.21
Exchange rate1 USD = 0.76 GBP1 USD = 0.81 GBP
Transfer speed4 –5 business days1 business day
Total received760.10 GBP804.15 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.

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Bottom line

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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