We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.
XE vs. Western Union
Western Union is the fastest option — but not always the cheapest.
Western Union and XE are two well-known financial services, but which provider is more cost effective when it comes to international money transfers? We compare them side by side to find out.
The fees and rates used in this comparison are accurate as of August 6, 2019.
Which has lower fees?
XE doesn’t charge fees on international money transfers.
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.
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
|Exchange rate||1 USD =104.2416 JPY||1 USD = 96.0004 JPY|
|Transfer speed||1-5 days||Same day|
|Total Japanese yen received||JPY¥104,241.60||JPY¥95,328.40|
|Receiver gets||JPY¥8,913.20 more||JPY¥8,913.20 less|
Sending $3,000 to Japan
|Exchange rate||1 USD =104.8611 JPY||1 USD = 105.4469 JPY|
|Transfer speed||1-5 days||4 days|
|Total Japanese yen received||JPY¥314,583.30||JPY¥316,025.41|
|Receiver gets||JPY¥1,442.11 less||JPY¥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 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 markup.
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 also adds a margin to its exchange rates, which changes greatly 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.
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 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, it can take 1-4 days if you send after hours or for transfers to certain countries. And some less-popular currencies may take longer.
Western Union cash pickups are available within minutes, but bank transfers can take up to six days. It’s dependent on the transfer and receiving method.
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.
|Payment methods||Receiving options||Minimum and maximum transfers||Transfer speeds||Currencies|
|XE||Bank transfer||Bank transfer||Minimum: $0
|1 - 2 days||40+ currencies|
|Western Union||Bank transfer, cash transfer, debit card, credit card||Bank account, cash pick-up, mobile wallet||Minimum: $1
|3 - 5 days||100+ currencies|
Set up an account with XE, get a quote, and if you’re happy with that quote, you send XE the money. XE will then complete the transfer for you.
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.
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?
Use our calculator below to compare additional providers and see if you can get a better rate elsewhere.
Image source: Supplied, photographer: XE, Western Union
Ask an Expert