Western Union was founded in 1851 as a telegraph company. Today, it is known as one of the largest money transfer providers in the world, with more than 500,000 agent-staffed locations in over 200 countries and territories.
Choosing Western Union gives you a very wide range of options for sending money in the U.S. and around the world. You can transfer and collect funds numerous different ways, including cash pick-up and mobile wallet deposits. Money transfers may be completed online, through the Western Union mobile app, over the phone or in person.
This global reach makes Western Union an unavoidable presence when you’re considering money transfer options. Unfortunately, Western Union’s fee structure is hardly straightforward and fees can be higher than the competition, so you’ll need to pay close attention to how much each transfer option costs.
Western Union money transfer highlights
- Membership program: The Western Union membership program, My WU®, allows you to earn points when you send qualifying transfers and bill payments. You’ll be able to redeem these points for fee reductions and a number of other rewards. In addition, you’ll gain access to special promotions throughout the year.
- Global footprint: Western Union has a very large network of online and branch office options in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, and gives you the ability to exchange money in 130 currencies.
- Comprehensive digital services: Customers can access nearly all of the company’s money transfer options on the website or the mobile app.
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How do I transfer money via Western Union?
First, make sure you trust the person you’re sending money to. Western Union is a legitimate money transfer option, but it’s also a favorite of scammers. In 2017, Western Union even settled a lawsuit for $586 million with the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department for failing to prevent wire fraud and money laundering.
You have four options for how to send money with Western Union: local agents, website, mobile app, and by phone. The company’s local agents are often located inside of small retail outlets — they were a popular option long before the internet was around. You can send money directly through WesternUnion.com, and the mobile app. Finally, you can also call up Western Union (1-800-CALL-CASH) to send money over the phone.
You’ll need to specify a few things when putting in an order for a money transfer with Western Union:
- Where the money is going
- Who is receiving the money (full name, and possibly their address)
- Your own and your receiver’s bank account information, if you’re transferring money into via bank accounts
- For U.S. banks: bank name, routing number, and account number
- For international banks: International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or equivalent
- How much you’re sending
- How your receiver is getting the money
- How you’re paying for the transfer
You may also need to provide more information for specific circumstances, such as if you’re paying a bill or transferring money to a prisoner.
You also have several options for how to transfer the money and how your receiver can pick up the money. Depending on the country, you can choose to send money in-person at a Western Union location with cash or via a bank account transfer, wire transfer, credit card, or debit card. You can also choose to deposit the money directly into the receiver’s bank account or have them pick up the cash at a Western Union location near them. Each of these options have their own fees and transfer times, and not all options may be available in every country.
Fees for Western Union money transfers vary widely. For example, to send $1,000 to someone else within the United States, you would pay the following amounts depending on how you choose to pay for the transfer, and how the receiver gets the cash:
- Bank account to bank account: $0.99
- Bank account to cash pick-up: $23.00
- Credit card to bank account: $72.00
- Credit card to cash pick-up: $141.99
- Debit card to bank account: $45.00
- Debit card to cash pick-up: $114.99
- Wire transfers are not available for transfers inside the U.S.
Pros and cons of Western Union
As with all transfer providers, Western Unions comes with pros and cons, which we’ve outlined in the table below.
What people are saying about Western Union
Many people have posted online reviews for Western Union and its money transfer services. Some reviewers stated that the company’s customer service could be improved. In several instances reviewers cited problems such as sending money to a loved one to help with an emergency, and the money either did not arrive or arrived in the incorrect amount. These senders spent a lot of time resolving their issues with the company and became frustrated with customer service.
Alternative money transfer options
Founded in 2011, TransferWise aims to make international money transfers cheap and simple. Today, the company touts that more than five million customers use TransferWise to move more than $4 billion dollars every month. TransferWise has 11 offices in four continents.
Because TransferWise matches mid-market exchange rates based on when you initiate the transfer, it might be a good alternative to Western Union if you’re hoping to save money on exchange rates.
- Where can you send money? You can send money domestically and internationally, as TransferWise serves Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Note, however, that with some countries you can only send or receive money, but not both, so you’ll need to check ahead of time for the options available in whichever country you’re interested in.
- How long does a transfer take? TransferWise transfers typically take between one and four business days, depending on the currency being paid out, and whether it’s a same-currency withdrawal or a transfer to a bank account in another country.
- How much can you send? The amount you can send varies depending on where you’re sending it and how you’re paying for it. You can send up to $1,000,000 from most U.S. states, however.
- Fee to send money: Fees vary and can be anywhere from 0.3% to 3.4% of total transaction.
Xoom was founded in 2001 and is owned by Paypal. Xoom lets you send money to people in three ways: deposit to a bank account, cash pickup, or cash delivered directly to your recipient.
- Where can you send money? You can send money to recipients in more than 70 countries, including countries like Canada, India, and the U.K.
- How long does a transfer take? Transfers could take up to two business days depending on the country, though you can send money instantly for cash pickup in some cases.
- How much can you send? If you live in the U.S., you can send up to $2,999 per day, $6,000 per 30 days, or $9,999 per 180 days. Verifying your profile can increase these limits up to $50,000 per day, $60,000 per 30 days, or $100,000 per 180 days.
- Fees to send money: Fees vary depending on a wide range of circumstances, such as how much you’re sending, where the money is going, and how you’re paying — you can use Xoom’s fee calculator to price it out. For example, it’ll cost you $5.99 to send $100 to someone else within the United States with Xoom.