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Western Union Money Transfer Review

The Western Union brand is perhaps one of the most well-known in the money transfer industry. Founded in the United States over 170 years ago, this company has grown into a global operation that supports international remittances from all four corners of the world. In this review of the company we will assess how expensive, efficient and trustworthy Western Union money transfers are.

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About Western Union 

Western Union is a US-based company that provides various ways to transfer money around the world. Starting out in 1851 as a communications company specialising in telegraph-related services, in 2006 Western Union decided to concentrate their efforts on money transfers. Since then, the provider has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the biggest remittance companies in the world. 

The Western Union headquarters are located in Denver, Colorado and there are over 500,000 agent locations worldwide, offering wire transfer and mobile money transfer services. 

Western Union is a household name and the company’s yellow and black logo is globally recognised. The objective of this company review, however, is to provide an impartial and honest look at how affordable and effective this operator really is.

Western Union exchange rates, fees and costs

Service providers like Western Union make a profit from foreign exchange spread, transfer fees and any other charges paid by the customer. For this reason, understanding how much of your money is being spent on these costs means you can make a more well-informed decision about whether this service provider is for you.

Exchange rates

Western Union applies a margin to the mid market rate for any given currency pair. The rates charged are different and dependent on several factors such as:

  • The type of transfer: Online money transfers attract higher rates than transfers arranged via an in-person visit to an agent 
  • The payout method: Cash pickups incur lower interest rates than traditional bank transfers
  • The amount transferred: Larger amounts attract higher rates than smaller amounts
  • The destination: The sending country will determine the exchange rate margin you will be charged 

Our research found that exchange rates given to customers arranging a Western Union international transfer can incur markups up to 7% above the mid market rate. These rates are not nearly as competitive as the foreign exchange services offered by companies like TorFX or Xe

Transfer fees

In addition to a foreign exchange spread, Western Union imposes a sliding scale of transfer fees, instead of a fixed flat-fee. These fees are determined by the sending country, the transfer amount, the payment method and whether you are sending money online or through an agent.

Cash pickups are more expensive than direct-to-bank transfers. When paying for your transfer, debit card and credit card payments are more expensive but much faster. 

Although bank transfers are a slower method, customers opting for this method can enjoy fee-free transfer. The price estimation tool on the Western Union website makes it easy for users to enter their transfer details and be presented with the total transfer fees upfront.

Additional costs

The exchange rate margins and transfer fees are the main costs to be aware of when sending money with Western Union: the company does not charge any additional fees. However, you may be charged origination fees by your bank and the recipient’s bank may issue landing fees. Senders who pay for their transfers using credit cards may also be charged cash advance fees by their card issuers.

Top destinations for sending money with Western Union 

Western Union allows customers to send and receive money in over 200 countries, offering in-person services at more than 500,000 agent locations worldwide. One of the most popular transfer routes is the United States to Mexico corridor, with a market share of close to 20%.

Some transfer corridors may not be available, depending on the country you are sending money from, and some transfers may cost you more. With that said, Western Union still remains to be a money transfer operator that customers easily identify with.

The maximum amount you can send per corridor differs from one destination to another. When sending money from the UK to Nigeria, you can transfer up to 10,000 GBP while to India, you can transfer up to 50,000.00 GBP.

Mexico

The very first formal cross-border remittance market was set up to handle transactions between the United States and Mexico. Three decades later this is still the most popular transfer corridor for Western Union accounting for 20% of the market share. 

United States

Western Union’s headquarters are in Denver, Colorado, with 36% of customers hailing from the United States. Western Union’s domestic transfer options make it easy for Americans to send money anywhere in the US. 

France

With the release of its digital app, Western Union has become a global leader in the digital remittance market. One of the countries underpinning this digital growth is France, with more consumers able to access and make payments on the move.

The most common remittance corridors are:

Pros and cons of Western Union

Western Union is a trusted authority in the money transfers space, but we want to identify the unique pros and cons of the service, to make it easier for our users to decide if this is the provider for them.

Pros
Extensive sending and disbursement network coverage: Western Union supports 200+ countries with over 550,000 agents within its network making it widely accessible for customers located in almost any country
Multichannel sending platform: Transfers with Western Union can be sent through an agent, the website, mobile app or airtime top up; the availability of each platform will vary depending on the country funds are sent from
Tailored services for individuals and businesses: The company provides targeted solutions such as WU Business Solutions, Convenience Pay, Quick Pay, Quick Collect, and Netspend Prepaid Mastercard
24/7 customer service: Users can receive assistance from a Western Union agent via an array of support options including live chat, phone and email
A trusted household name: Western Union has been operating for 170 years, and is a global leader in the remittance industry
Cons
Services can be expensive: Certain remittance corridors are costlier than others, and many money transfer operators can beat Western Union prices
Accessibility varies; although Western Union is globally recognised, not all countries have access to multiple sending channels and pay-out methods. For example, customers in Zambia can only access the service by visiting an agent location in-person.
Lack of transparency: Some customers complain of Western Union’s opaque approach to exchange rates and the largely unpredictable markups applied to certain currency pairings

What type of transfers can you make with Western Union?

The following types of transfers are available through Western Union:

  • Cash pickups
  • Bank transfers
  • Mobile wallet deposits

Transfers can be arranged on the phone, in-person with an agent or online through the Western Union website or app.

How long will it take to receive money using Western Union?

Transfers processed through Western Union can take anywhere from minutes to a couple of days depending on the following factors.

  • Pay-out method: Customers opting for the cash pickup or mobile wallet pay-out option, will typically see funds arrive within minutes, albeit for a fee. On the other hand, bank deposits may take up to 2 days to be delivered due to the corresponding banks involved in processing the payment.
  • Payment method: Paying for your transfer using a debit or credit card will result in faster delivery times than payment via bank transfer
  • Destination: The country you send money to will determine the transfer turnaround; the more remote the country and currency pairing, the longer a transfer may take

What payment methods can I use when sending money with Western Union?

There are several ways you can pay for your Western Union transfer. Much like the payout options, payment methods differ per sending country. The following are the common transfer payment options.

  • Debit or credit card: credit card payments may incur additional cash advance fees depending on the issuer
  • Cash payment made at an agent location
  • Instant bank transfer through SOFORT banking: This method is available in the United Kingdom and EU countries such as Poland, Switzerland, Italy and Germany
  • Bank transfer through the Faster Payments Service (FPS): Compared to BACS Payments, this method takes minutes or even seconds to get the money to Western Union

What are the best reasons to use Western Union?

Here we will provide a list of the best reasons for business or personal clients to use Western Union for their next money transfer:

Business 

  • Payment management- The WU EDGE platform allows you to import vendor invoices from your accounting system to the platform for payment. This solution helps in managing international payments
  • Risk management- The team of experts at Western Union can help you formulate a risk management plan that suits your business
  • Receive business payments from local and international clients in your local currency
  • Pay international employees on time through a streamlined payroll service

Individual

  • Send money to your family and friends
  • Pay for goods and services
  • Pay tuition fees
  • Pay bills using the bill payment service
  • Pay mortgages and other loans

Can I trust Western Union?

Western Union has an impressive track record being one of the oldest companies in operation today. It began in 1851 with its headquarters in 7001 E. Belleview Avenue Denver, Colorado 80237 (866) 405-5012. It has grown to be a phenomenal financial services company with an extensive global reach.

According to the business overview included as part of the company’s annual reports, Western Union offers businesses and individuals ways to send money and make payments globally. In 2006, the company ended its telegram and commercial messaging services to focus mainly on money transfer and payment services.

Western Union has grown through acquisitions of strategic businesses such as Angelo Costa International Ltd, an Ireland-based money transfer company, Travelex Group, a foreign exchange company based in London, and Finint S.r.l. among several others.

In the United Kingdom and EEA area, Western Union, operating as Western Union Business Solutions (UK) Limited, is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). In the United States, the company is regulated both at the state level by the various licensing and banking regulations and at the federal level by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The company employs Financial Action Task Force standards to guide its operations whether or not the host country has adopted them. This is in addition to an AML (Anti-Money Laundering) Compliance program and a robust Internal Audit Committee whose operations are in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

The licencing and regulations comprise restrictions and requirements that Western Union must abide by. For instance, the company is required to separate client funds from company funds for security purposes.

The company has a robust risk evaluation and management framework that brings together the Audit Committee and the Compliance Committee both of which are oversight committees of the board. They look into matters such as cybersecurity, legal and regulatory issues, financial performance and others.

As part of the security measures, Western Union has implemented Software Composition Analysis (SCA). This is a customer authentication security layer applied to both payment booking and account access and manipulation. It is part of the two-factor authentication (2FA) security protocol.

User feedback about Western Union

Users on review sites and social media have been vocal about their experiences with Western Union. Most of them have praised the money transfer operator while others have shared their bits of frustrations.

Western Union has 29,784 reviews on TrustPilot, where 75% of these customers have been happy with the service they received. Most of the comments centred on the following:

  • Faster transfers especially on cash pickups
  • Accessible customers service
  • Reliability and safety with adequate security measures
  • Simple interface to navigate when sending money
  • The convenience of mobile wallet deposits

How to Get Started with Western Union to Send and Receive Money

As money transfers can often be unnecessarily complicated, we want to help our users by providing a simple step-by-step guide to sending and receiving money using Western Union. 

Sending Money Online Through the Western Union Website

One of the easiest ways to send money with Western Union is via their online website. Western Union has simplified money transfers and the whole process, from setting up an account to sending money, can be achieved in less than ten minutes. 

  • Step 1: Visit the Western Union website and click the Send Money link. On the scroll down menu, select the recipient’s country and the amount of money. Choose the payout option from cash pick up, bank transfer or mobile wallet and then select the transfer payment option. These are credit/debit card, online, or standard bank transfer. Users can also choose an in-store option to be directed to their nearest Western Union agent location. 
  • Step 2: Register for an online account using your name, email, home address and phone number. 
  • Step 3: Enter the recipient’s details and payment information before confirming. 
  • Step 4: Track your transfer online using your MTCN number.

Sending Money through the Western Union App

The Western Union mobile app allows users to send funds quickly and efficiently, whether at home or on the move. The whole process from downloading the app to making your transfer can be achieved in little less than ten minutes. 

  • Step 1: Visit the app store on your iOS (Apple) device or Google Play (Android) and search for the Western Union app. Once the app has downloaded, you’ll be given a short demonstration of its features and asked to register for an account. Proceed to register for the account using your name, email address and home phone number. Once you’ve completed the registration, you’ll be asked to select your home country and language for the app. 
  • Step 2: Now that you’re all set up, choose the country that you wish to send money to, the amount that you wish to send and click next. You’ll then need to select a payment option from cash pick up, bank transfer, or mobile wallet. Once this has been done, select the transfer payment option from credit/debit card to Apple Pay or online or standard bank transfer. Users who wish to be directed to their nearest Western Union agent can select the in-person option. 
  • Step 3: Key in the details for your recipient, including the choice of payment then confirm and send. 
  • Step 4: You can track your transfer through the Western Union app. 

Sending Money through a Western Union Agent

With over 500,000 Western Union agents located globally; sending money in person is a simple process wherever you happen to be in the world. Although your proximity to your local Western Union agent will vary depending on your location; once inside the store the process should take around 15 minutes from start to completion. 

  • Step 1: Visit the Western Union website or mobile app and select Send Money in Person. Here you can enter a postal code or city in order to be directed to your local agent. 
  • Step 2: Visit Your Local Western Union Agent and fill out the necessary forms. Once these have been completed, you’ll need to pay for your transfer. 
  • Step 3: Confirm the recipient details and send. 
  • Step 4: You can track your transfer online or through the Western Union app using your MTCN number.

Does Western Union have an app?

Yes, Western Union has a mobile application running on both Android and iOS platforms.

What is the Western Union app?

Originally founded in 1851, Western Union has come a long way since their early days, when sending telegrams was the main objective. What started as a transcontinental telegraph cable has evolved into a leading global payments network, allowing the company to remain at the forefront of dynamic money transfers for over 150 years. 

Due to their pioneering nature, the launch of the Western Union app came as no surprise when it arrived in 2016. It is a more convenient, digital version of Western Union’s cross-border money transfer services, enabling users to send money anywhere, anytime, at the touch of a button. 

The accompanying slogan “Send it app to cash” encapsulates Western Union’s unique selling proposition; customers can not only move money overseas in a speedy and safe way, but the money can be received via cash pick-up.

Through the app, you can do a number of things such as:

  • Sending cash to 200+ countries and territories
  • Tracking transfers
  • Checking historical transactions
  • Locating Western Union agents
  • Accessing customer service help
  • Reloading prepaid cards

How do you add money to your Western Union balance?

Like other money transfer apps, this is the mobile equivalent of Western Union’s offerings, however, unlike other apps such as Google Pay and PayPal, this app does not function as a digital wallet.

Instead, there are three ways to pay for your Western Union money transfer, all of which include their own fees. These are as follows:

  • Payment in cash via one of the Western Union branches
  • Payment via your bank account
  • Payment via debit or credit card

Who can send money with the Western Union app?

This service is available to customers all over the world. Simply download the app on iOS or Android, free of charge, and set up an account. 

Most customers seek out the services of Western Union due to their cash pay-out option which is available to customers worldwide, with collection points at over 500,000 branches in 200 locations around the globe.

Receiving Money from Western Union to Your Bank Account 

Your friends and family can send cash through Western Union to billions of bank accounts worldwide. If you’re expecting to receive funds directly into your account, it couldn’t be more straightforward.

The time that the funds take to appear in your account can vary depending on several factors, from the location that the money is being sent from, to the timing of the transfer. On average, domestic transfers are typically completed within 24 hours, although users transferring between counties will find that their online money transfer can take between one to five business days to process.

  • Step 1: Simply let the person sending the cash know your bank details. 
  • Step 2: Once the sender has completed the transaction, either online or through their mobile app, they’ll be sent a confirmation with an MTCN number which they will be able to share with you. 
  • Step 3: You can use this MTCN number to track the transaction through the Western Union website or mobile app.

Receiving Money from Western Union to an Agent Location

You can pick up your cash in minutes at any one of Western Union’s 500,000 agent locations worldwide. If you are receiving funds domestically, you will typically find that on average the funds will arrive within 24 hours. In comparison, international transfers can take between one to five business days to process.

  • Step 1: Make sure the person completing the transfer knows your details. 
  • Step 2: Once the person has completed the transaction on their end, they’ll be sent a confirmation with an MTCN tracking number which they can share with you. 
  • Step 3: Simply visit the Western Union website or mobile app in order to find your local agent. 
  • Step 4: Visit your chosen Western Union agent with your MTCN number and a valid form of ID. This should be a government-issued ID, such as a passport or driving licence. You’ll receive your money once your details have been verified. 

Receiving Money from Western Union Directly to a Mobile Wallet

In selected countries, you’ll be able to receive cash directly into your mobile wallet. Typically, domestic funds will arrive at your bank account within 24 hours and international transfers will take between one to five business days to process. 

  • Step 1: Make sure the person completing the transfer has your correct name as it appears on your ID, your wallet service provider and wallet mobile number.
  • Step 2: Once the transaction has been completed, you’ll receive an SMS containing an MTCN number, which you can use to track the funds. You’ll also receive an SMS once the money has been delivered into your account.

Can I make international payments with the Western Union app?

Western Union is predominantly used for their international payment services, as opposed to domestic payments which can be easily executed via low-cost domestic wire transfers. We would recommend this service for anyone who needs to send an international payment to a remote corner of the world, or is sending an uncommon currency, because of vast accessibility of Western Union services.

How much does it cost to use the Western Union app?

When it comes to sending money internationally, Western Union fees are considerably higher than other international money transfer providers. However, due to their solid reputation, many customers are happy to pay for these fees, comforted by the familiarity of the Western Union brand. 

Costs are determined by the type of transfer, the location it is being sent and how it will be received. There is a limit of up to £2,500 (or equivalent) per transaction. As outlined in the earlier section, payment options include cash, bank transfer, debit or credit card and there is a fee for each of these methods which ranges from $5 – 20. 

In addition to these upfront costs, Western Union also adds a mark-up to the mid-market rate. Again, the percentage of this mark-up is contained within the exchange rate and determined by destination country, but it ranges from 2 to 20%. 

How long does it take to send money with the Western Union app?

Money transfers paid for via cash, credit or debit card may be available to pick-up or withdraw within minutes, depending on the branch’s operating hours. 

Money transfers sent via banks will typically reflect in the recipient’s bank account within 2 business days. However, factors such as security procedures employed by the recipient’s bank may affect processing times. 

These transfer times have been provided by Western Union as an estimate and do not include the estimated payment processing times. As previously mentioned, transfer speed differs according to country.

How to send money with the Western Union app

In this next section we will take you through a step-by-step guide to sending a money transfer using the Western Union app.

Step 1. Download the app and register with Western Union
Step 2. “Send money now”
Step 3. How will the money be received?
Step 4. How will you pay?
Step 5. Adding your recipient
Step 6. Review and send
Step 7. Don’t lose your tracking number

User review on App Store and Google play for Western Union App

On Google Play, the application has been reviewed by 99,000+ users. On the App Store, it has 12,400 ratings and an overall score of 4.6/5.0.

Frequently Asked Questions about Western Union

Can I cancel my Western Union money transfer?
Does Western Union Offer Any Form of Buyer Protection?
Does Western Union Have a Loyalty Rewards Program?
How Can I Sign Up to My WU?
What Are Western Union Agent Locations?

April Summers

April is a trained journalist and the Content Editor for MoneyTransfers.com. She has 10 years experience writing about a diverse range of subjects, from financial services to arts and entertainment. When she’s not writing about global remittances she can be found daydreaming about her next holiday abroad.

Customer reviews

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Hi I nee at this i can get money because of my middle name not on there can you help me

By EarleneRamonaEstrada
21 November 2020 - 08:51pm

I just had a niece of mine send money from Harare, Zimbabwe to Australia. She meant to send $55 as she thought it would cost $4.99 as it does here in the USA. We are shell shocked as she’s been told that it costs $15 to send money internationally. Why would it cost more than times 3 to send from Harare than it does when sending anywhere from the USA? They are not even providing the foreign currency – one has to find their own and still be charged an arm and a keg?‍♀️. Is there a specific reason why this is so? Looking forward to hear from you.

By Norma Dlodlo
19 October 2020 - 11:16am

Can i send cash to Norway?
How much the Fee?
Thank you!

By Ave A. Buban
12 July 2020 - 08:30am

How do I receive money sent to me through western union yet I’m not western union client

By Simphiwe Dlamini
8 May 2020 - 07:19pm

I need updated contacts for Lilongwe city Western Union agents and locations.

By Emmanuel mandebvu
27 April 2020 - 08:05am

Dreadful customer service. On hold for ages then the call centre staff are no help at all. Told me to email, which I already have about 10 times. Politely asked to speak to a manager and hung up on. Complete waste of time. Useless

By saeran adams
17 April 2020 - 02:05am

With “Direct To Bank” money Transfer, if the Transfer from Western Union has been successfully received by the receiving Beneficiary’s Bank, but the bank, like most banks in Nigeria, for example, is in the habit of first using their Beneficiary’s money to fund Banks businesses before crediting the money into recipient’s Bank Account – which could take weeks and even over a month, which international regulatory body can one lodge one’s complaint with?

By Oladiran Lawoye
6 March 2020 - 12:00pm