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XE vs. Western Union

Which provider is more cost-effective when it comes to international money transfers?

XE and Western Union are two well-known financial services, and one of them offers the fastest option — but not always the cheapest. We compare these money transfer giants side by side to find out which one offers the best value for your money.

Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
XE
Within minutes
$3

View details
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Western Union
Within an hour
From $0

View details
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Which has lower fees?

XE

XE international money transfers are free, regardless of amount sent.

Western Union

Western Union’s fees change currency to currency and depend on the transfer amount as well as the transfer methods. For example, cash pickups generally have higher fees.

It’s important to get a price estimate using the Western Union calculator before committing so you know the exact fee.

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Winner: XE

XE doesn’t charge any fees, making it the clear winner in this category.

Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending $1,000 and $3,000 to Japan

Let’s compare a $1,000 and $3,000 transfer to Japan to see which provider is the better choice and if the transfer amount makes a difference.

For the $1,000 transfer, we’ll look at a Western Union cash pickup, while for the $3,000 transfer, we’ll look at a Western Union bank transfer. Keep in mind that these elements change the fees and rates for Western Union transfers. In both instances, we’ll base the fees off of paying with a debit card.

Sending $1,000 to Japan
XEWestern Union
Transfer fee$0$7
Exchange rate1 USD =104.2416 JPY1 USD = 96.0004 JPY
Transfer speed1-5 daysSame day
Total Japanese yen receivedJPY¥104,241.60JPY¥95,328.40
Receiver getsJPY¥8,913.20 moreJPY¥8,913.20 less
Sending $3,000 to Japan
XEWestern Union
Transfer fee$0$2.99
Exchange rate1 USD =104.8611 JPY1 USD = 105.4469 JPY
Transfer speed1-5 days4 days
Total Japanese yen receivedJPY¥314,583.30JPY¥316,025.41
Receiver getsJPY¥1,442.11 lessJPY¥1,442.11 more

While XE is the cheaper option on the first transfer, Western Union offers a slightly better deal on the second transfer.

Note that the Western Union exchange rates change depending on whether it’s a bank transfer or cash pickup. As the $3,000 Western Union transfer is an example of a bank transfer, the fees are lower and the exchange rate is much better than the $1,000 transfer.

Which offers better exchange rates?

XE

XE adds a margin to the exchange rate, which varies based on the currency. Keep in mind that the rate you’ll pay is different from what’s shown on the XE currency converter tool, which shows live market rates without the mark-up.

For a transfer to Singapore:

  • XE’s exchange rate: 1 USD =1.3608 SGD
  • Mid-market rate: 1 USD = 1.3819 SGD

This is a margin of 1.53%.

Western Union

Western Union also adds a margin to its exchange rates, which widely varies depending on the currency, payment method and the way the receiver would like to collect the money. The exchange rate on cash pick-ups is not as good as the exchange rate on bank transfers.

For the same example:

  • Western Union’s cash pickup exchange rate: 1 USD = 1.2109 SGD
  • Western Union’s bank transfer exchange rate: 1 USD = 1.3685 SGD
  • Mid-market rate:1 USD = 1.3819 SGD

This ends up at a margin of 1% for a bank transfer and 12.4% for cash pickup.

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Winner: XE

XE generally offers better exchange rates than Western Union. Western Union’s rate for bank transfers — which can take up to six business days or more — are often very close to XE’s rates. But for faster transfers, XE offers significantly better rates.

Which is faster?

XE

XE will confirm the estimated date when you set up your transfer, but the majority of transfers are initiated within the same day. While some transfers arrive the same day, transfers to specific countries can take one to four days if you send after hours. And some less popular currencies may take longer.

Western Union

Western Union cash pickups are available within minutes, but bank transfers can take up to six days. It depends on the transfer and how it’s received.

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Winner: Tie

Both Western Union and XE can get your money there in the same day, but it will be received in different ways. Western Union offers speedy cash pickups, but XE has faster bank transfers.

General features

Payment methodsReceiving optionsMinimum and maximum transfersTransfer speedsCurrencies
XEBank transferBank transferMinimum: $1

Maximum: $500,000

Within minutes40+ currencies
Western UnionBank transfer, cash transfer, debit card, credit cardBank account, cash pick-up, mobile walletMinimum: $1

Maximum: $2,500

Within minutes100+ currencies

XE

Set up an account with XE, get a quote and if you’re happy with that quote, you send XE the money. XE will complete the transfer for you.

Western Union

Register for a Western Union account. After that, you go into your profile and select the Send money option. Once you’ve entered all the transfer details, you choose your payment method and pay Western Union. Once your payment is received, they’ll transfer the funds.

Bottom line

Overall, XE is typically a better choice when compared side by side to Western Union. Western Union’s fees and exchanges rates are so varied that you’ll often get stung by a hidden fee. On the other hand, XE adds a smaller mark-up to the exchange rate, plus it has no fees.

To get the best deal on your next transfer, compare other transfer providers to see how they stack up.

Looking for more options?

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. 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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