We compare a well-established company with an online upstart to help you learn which is best for your next transfer overseas.
If you’re new to the world of international money transfers, you may be overwhelmed by your options. It’s no longer a game for only tried-and-true players like Western Union. Newer companies like World First promise to undercut the competition to earn your business.Overall, World First will save you on exchange rates and fees, while Western Union has a few more options for delivery.
Western Union and World First: How they work
Western Union and World First both offer easy online transferring to get your money where it needs to be.
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 or calling 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 World First, you go to its site, enter how much money you’ll be transferring, and send your funds to World First. World First 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.
World First charges a flat $10 fee for transfers under $10,000. Transfers of more than $10,000 are free.
For business transfers, World First bases its fees on how frequently you use its services.
Exclusive offer: $0 fees with World First
Because World First is a trusted partner of finder.com, you can avoid fees on all qualifying transfers. Enjoy competitive exchange rates and pay $0 in fees by initiating a transfer through our site.
While Western Union offers a lower starting fee of $5, World First’s transparency and flat $10 fee make it easier to estimate what you’ll pay.
Case study: $1,000 to Spain
Say you want to send $1,000 to you daughter who’s studying abroad in Spain. Here’s what an online bank-to-bank transfer would like with Western Union and World First.
|Western Union||World First|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 0.88 EUR||1 USD = 0.95 EUR|
|Transfer speed||6 days||4 days|
|Total received||880 EUR||950 EUR|
You can save $5 on transfer fees with World First (though you can enjoy a $0 transfer fee with our exclusive offer), and your kid receives about 70 more euro over Western Union. And in two fewer days.
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.
We’ll look at the rates Western Union and World First offer compared to 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 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
World First takes a smaller margin than Western Union — sometimes less than 1% above the mid-market rate.
Using the same example of a transfer to euros (EUR):
- If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.96 EUR
- World First’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 0.95 EUR
World First also provides an online side-by-side comparison against the exchange rates your bank might offer.
Winner: World First
Sending $1,000 to Spain with World First results in about 70 more euros to your recipient over Western Union. A much stronger exchange rate makes World First the clear winner.
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.
Your quickest option is a same-day transfer. However, World First advises that you should allow four days for a US payment to clear.
Your average transfer will likely take about the same time with both services, whether you pay for expedited services or not. However, World First has a slight edge 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|
|World First||Bank account||$250 minimum; no maximum||Bank transfer||Varies from same day to 4 days||20+ currencies|
It’s no joke: World First has become a major competitor in the international money transfer market. If cost is your main concern, World First’s transfer fees and competitive exchange rates will save you money over Western Union. It can also be a few days faster. Ultimately, you’ll need to compare your options to find the service that’s right for you.
Frequently asked questions
See how Western Union and World First compare to other money transfer companies
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