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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The most common remittance corridors are:
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.
The following types of transfers are available through Western Union:
Transfers can be arranged on the phone, in-person with an agent or online through the Western Union website or app.
Transfers processed through Western Union can take anywhere from minutes to a couple of days depending on the following factors.
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.
Here we will provide a list of the best reasons for business or personal clients to use Western Union for their next money transfer:
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.
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.
On Trustpilot, Western Union has 17,002 reviews. In more than 80% of these, customers have been happy with the service they received. Most of the comments centred on:
Western Union has simplified the process of sending and receiving money. There are several ways you can send money and below are the steps to take.
Sending Money Online
Step 1: On the website click the Send Money link and fill in the receiver’s country and amount.
Step 2: Select the payout option which could be cash pickup, bank deposit, or mobile wallet transfer.
Step 3: Pick the transfer payment option.
Step 4: Proceed to register for an account giving your name, email and physical addresses, and phone number.
Step 5: Key in the recipient’s details including the payout information, confirm and send
Step 6: Track your transfer
Sending Money Through An Agent:
Step 1: Locate the agent. You can use the website or Western Union mobile application to check the agent nearest to you.
Step 2: Visit the store and fill out the necessary forms
Step 3: Pay for your transfer
Step 4: Confirm the recipient details and send
Step 5: Track your transfer
Yes, Western Union has a mobile application running on both Android and iOS platforms.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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%.
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.
In this next section we will take you through a step-by-step guide to sending a money transfer using the Western Union app.
On Google Play, the application has been reviewed by 37,000+ users. On the App Store, it has 5,100 ratings and an overall score of 4.5/5.0.
Artiom is a marketing graduate from the University of Portsmouth, Artiom’s primary experience is in SEO but he has a broad knowledge of all facets of digital marketing. He optimises the organic experience on MoneyTransfers.com with the content team, manages and creates unique marketing tactics, and generally supports the overall growth of the website.