Wise vs Western Union: A Full Comparison – 2024

Wise and Western Union both offer Australian customers a selection of ways to make international payments around the world. However, the exact services available, as well as the way each charges customers, are quite different. So which is better between Wise vs Western Union?

This guide will help you decide. We’ll look at how they both work and how they compare on international transfers, plus the additional features you might be interested in like multi-currency accounts, card services and business products.

Summary: Wise offers international transfers to 160+ countries, and multi-currency accounts for convenient card spending, currency exchange and ways to receive payments for yourself and your business. Western Union offers international transfers to more or less every country in the world. If you want to send or have a payment received in cash, Western Union may be your best bet. If you need a multi-currency account and card, Wise may suit you better.

Go to Wise Go to Western Union

Wise vs Western Union: side by side

Wise and Western Union are both great options for sending payments overseas. Western Union offers a broader range of pay in and pay out options compared to Wise – but Wise has multi-currency accounts and cards, which aren’t available from Western Union.

To give a flavour, let’s start with an overview of Wise vs Western Union side by side, looking at available features.

Feature Wise Western Union
Service availability Online and in app – available in most countries globally Online, in app and in person through agent locations globally
Multi-currency account Hold and convert more than 40 currencies – for personal and business customers


Debit card available, plus local receiving accounts for 10 currencies

Send money to More than 160 countries More than 200 countries and territories
Pay in options Bank transfer, card or wallets like Apple Pay Cash, bank transfer, card or wallets like Apple Pay
Payout options Deposit to bank account, mobile money account deposits available in some countries Deposit to bank account, mobile money account, and for cash collection
Transfer fee From 0.43% Variable fees based on payment details
Transfer speed 50% of payments are instant, 90% arrive in 24 hours Cash collection payments can be available in minutes, bank deposits take up to 5 days
Exchange rates Mid-market rate Exchange rates include a markup
Regulated Y Y
Open a business account Y Western Union business services are offered via Convera

So, to summarise:

  • Wise is available in app and online, in most countries globally – Western Union is offered in app, online and through agents, in 200 countries and territories
  • Wise offers international accounts and cards for personal and business customers – Western Union does not
  • Wise currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with fees from 0.43% – Western Union uses an exchange rate which includes a variable markup
  • Western Union has pay in options including cash via local agents in Australia, Wise does not offer this service. Both support bank transfer and card payments
  • Western Union has pay out options including cash collection via local agents, Wise does not offer this service. Both support deposits to bank and mobile money accounts
  • Wise transfer fees start from 0.43% – Western Union has varying transfer fees depending on the specific payment you need to make
  • Wise payments to banks can be instant – Western Union payments for cash collection can be almost instant, but bank deposits may take a few days
  • Both providers are fully regulated, in Australia and elsewhere in the world

Read more about Wise here

Read more about Western Union here

Go to Wise Go to WesternUnion

The important bits

Here’s a comparison of Wise vs Western Union on key features including fees, safety and speed, which may help you decide which is right for you:

Wise Western Union
Rates Mid-market exchange rate Exchange rates include a variable markup
Fees Free to spend currencies you hold with your Wise card


No monthly charges


Transaction fees apply – from 0.43% for currency exchange and international transfers

Variable fees depending on the way you pay in, the way you want the transfer to be received and the destination country
Speed 50% instant, 90% same day Cash collection transfers can be instant, bank deposits may take 5 business days depending on destination
Service Desktop browser and mobile app Desktop browser, mobile app, and through agents globally
Safety Fully regulated and licensed Fully regulated and licensed
Reviews (TrustPilot) 4.2, Great, 204,000+ reviews 4, Great, 62,000+ reviews

To summarise:

  • Rates: Wise uses the mid-market rate, whereas Western Union applies a variable markup to the rates used
  • Fees: Wise accounts have no monthly fees, with currency exchange and transfer from 0.43%; Western Union fees vary depending on the type of transfer you make
  • Speed: Wise transfers may arrive instantly, and 90% arrive in 24 hours, Western Union transfers for cash collection can arrive in minutes, but bank deposits could take 3 – 5 days depending on the destination
  • Service: Both providers have online and in-app service, Western Union also offers in person services through an extensive agent network
  • Safetly: Both providers are fully regulated and licensed
  • Reviews: Wise has a Great rating on Trustpilot from 204,000+ reviews, Western Union has a Great rating on Trustpilot from 62,000+ reviews

Pros and cons

Wise Western Union
✅Multi-currency accounts to hold 40+ currencies
✅ Payments to 160+ countries
✅ Local receiving account details for 10 currencies
✅ Payment cards for use in 150+ countries
✅ Mid-market exchange rates
✅ Send payments to more or less all countries and territories globally

✅In person service through agents in Australia and globally
✅Pay out methods include cash collection
✅Pay in using cash as well as options for card and bank transfer payments
✅ Large, trusted and well established business

❌ Some service fees apply
❌ No physical location for face to face services
❌Exchange rates include a markup

❌Variable fees apply depending on how you set up your payment

Wise vs Western Union: The verdict

Western Union and Wise are worth looking at carefully if you want to send a payment to someone internationally. Both allow you to send money digitally to bank accounts and mobile wallets – but beyond that, they also have their own unique features which may suit different customer needs.

Western Union has international payment options which allow you to pay in cash through an agent, and to have the money received in cash at the other end through an agent in the destination country. This service isn’t available from Wise – Wise cross border payments are deposited to bank accounts and use the mid-market exchange rate with low, transparent fees.

Wise doesn’t allow you to pay in or pay out in cash – but you can open a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card, and ways to get paid by others conveniently in a selection of currencies. Western Union does not provide multi-currency accounts or cards.

If both Wise vs Western Union offer the type of transfer you need to make it’s worth comparing them on cost to see which is best for you – more on that later.

Go to Wise Go to WesternUnion

About Wise and Western Union

Wise: Wise was founded in the UK in 2011, and offers low cost cross border transfers, multi-currency account services, debit cards and business products. Today, Wise has over 16 million customers globally, and has maintained its focus on offering mid-market rate currency conversion and speedy payments. All Wise services are delivered online and in app, with transparent fees and low overall costs.

Western Union: The company was founded in 1861, and has an online service and agents in almost every country on the planet. As well as payments to bank accounts and mobile money wallets, Western Union’s 600,000+ agents worldwide allow for cash collection payments in most countries globally. You can send payments to 200+ countries and territories with Western Union.

How do they work?

As with all financial service providers, before you can use Wise to send a payment or open a multi-currency holding account you’ll need to get verified. This can be done with just your phone and your usual ID documents. Then, to make a payment you’ll send the money in AUD to Wise’s local Australian account, and Wise will dispatch the funds to your recipient through its global network of local bank accounts.

Western Union also requires customers to provide ID for verification, either online or in person at an agent location. You’ll be able to set up a payment online or in app if you want to pay with card or bank transfer – or go to an agent here in Australia if you want to pay in cash. Fees and rates vary depending on the channel you choose to use.

Wise vs Western Union fees

Wise and Western Union have different products – and therefore, different fee types. We’ll walk through some payment examples to give an idea of this in just a moment. Here’s a rundown of the typical costs you’ll need to know about:

Service Wise fee Western Union fee
Ongoing fees No fee to open a Wise personal account, no ongoing fees No fee to register
Card fee 10 AUD Not applicable
Spend currencies you hold No fee Not applicable
Spend currencies you don’t hold From 0.43% Not applicable
ATM fee 2 withdrawals to the value of 350 AUD/month free, then 1.5 AUD + 1.75% Not applicable
Overseas transfers From 0.43% Variable fees based on channel, currencies and payment type

Fees correct at time of writing – 15th January 2024

Read more about Wise fees here

Wise vs Western Union: which is cheaper?

Where the services from Wise and Western Union overlap is in international transfers to bank accounts. Using a specialist like Wise or Western Union is often cheaper than using a bank to send a cross border payment – but different providers tend to win on different payment types and values.

Here’s a head to head between Western Union and Wise on costs for a couple of different value and currency payments, to illustrate. You can also check the Wise costs and get a comparison against other providers, on the Wise website.

Amount & Currency Recipient gets with Wise Recipient gets with Western Union Which is cheaper?
Sending 1,000 AUD to GBP 521.58 GBP 526.16 GBP Western Union
Sending 5,000 AUD to GBP 2,609.10 GBP 2,637.18 GBP Western Union
Sending 1,000 AUD to USD 665.54 USD 662.31 USD Wise
Sending 5,000 AUD to USD 3,327.86 USD 3,318.05 USD Wise

Fees correct at time of writing – 15th January 2024

As you can see, Western Union came out on top for payments to GBP while Wise was cheaper when sending money to the US. Because the costs of sending a payment are very variable based on the destination, currencies and type of transfer, it’s well worth comparing a few providers before you decide which to use.

Wise vs Western Union exchange rates

Wise uses the mid-market rate for currency exchange – the same one you’ll find on Google or using a currency conversion tool. All the costs you need to pay are shown separately so you can easily compare and check the total amount.

Western Union uses a variable markup on the exchange rate offered for currency conversion. The amount of the markup can vary depending on whether you arrange your payment online, in app or in person. To see what you’re being charged for exchange you’ll need to compare the Western Union rate against the mid-market rate you can find on Google.

Wise vs Western Union: which is faster?

50% of Wise payments to bank accounts internationally are instant, 90% arrive on the same day – although the exact delivery time can depend on factors including the destination country, and the recipient’s bank processing times.

Western Union offers transfers for collection in cash which can often be picked up immediately. However, if you’re sending a payment to a bank account it could take a few days to arrive. Some bank deposits do happen quickly – others can take up to 5 days.

Wise vs Western Union international transfer limits

Wise has limits for both personal and business customers which can vary based on destination country – usually around 1 million GBP or the equivalent.

Western Union lets customers send 5,000 AUD a day online. If you’d prefer to pay in person there’s not usually a limit to the amount you can send at an agent. However, extra verification checks apply if you send more than 9,000 AUD – and sending at an agent will often mean paying a higher fee compared to arranging your transfer online.

Ease of use

  • Creating an account: Create your account online or in-app with both Western Union and Wise; Western Union also allows customers to register at an agent location in Australia
  • Making a transfer: Wise and Western Union both let you pay for a transfer by bank transfer, card or wallet such as Apple Pay – if you visit a Western Union location you can also pay in cash
  • Ways to send money: Send payments to your recipient’s bank account or to mobile money wallet with both Western Union and Wise; Western Union also supports transfers for cash collection
  • Languages: Wise offers 15 languages, plus multi-lingual support services, Western Union offers services in a broad selection of languages online, as well as local languages wherever you visit an agent
  • Minimum & maximum amounts: Wise sending limits can vary by destination country, and based on your account type. Western Union lets you send 5,000 AUD a day online, or higher values via an agent

Go to Wise Go to WesternUnion

Supported currencies

Western Union supports a very broad selection of currencies for payments to 200+ countries and territories globally. Wise supports 40+ currencies, and lets you send payments to over 160 countries.


Both Western Union and Wise are safe to use, and fully regulated for the services they offer. As global businesses, they’re both overseen by a selection of bodies, including ASIC and AUSTRAC in Australia, and other bodies such as the FCA in the UK.

Wise vs Western Union customer service

Wise customer service is primarily delivered through in-app chat, which is available in a selection of languages, 24/7. You can also email the team if you’d prefer – log into your Wise account to check which is the best way to connect with customer services based on your specific issue.

Western Union has an in app customer service option, plus phone support and the option to pop into an agent close to you if you want to talk to someone in person.

Conclusion: Comparing Wise and Western Union

Western Union and Wise both offer convenient ways to make online and in-app international payments direct to bank accounts and mobile money wallets. However, they both also have their own unique features, so which is best for you may just depend on the service you need.

Western Union’s unique strength lies in its huge agent network of 600,000+ locations globally. This allows you to pay for your transfer in cash and have it collected in cash at the other end – often in minutes.

This service isn’t available from Wise – but you will be able to open a Wise international account to hold 40+ currencies, and get a linked debit card for spending and withdrawals globally.

On pricing, we found both were pretty similar. In our comparison, Wise was cheaper for some payment routes – while Western Union was better for others. If cost is your main concern you’ll want to compare both – which is easy to do online, over on the Wise website.

Go to Wise Go to WesternUnion

FAQ – Wise vs Western Union

What is the difference between Wise and Western Union?

Wise and Western Union are global currency specialists which have some overlapping services – as well as their own unique features. Both let you send payments digitally to banks around the world. On top of this, Wise has multi-currency accounts for convenient spending in foreign currencies, while Western Union has a huge agent network to allow you to transact in cash conveniently.

Which is better: Wise or Western Union?

Both Western Union and Wise are great options, so you’ll need to compare both using this guide to see which is best for you. If you want a multi-currency account, Wise may be your best bet. If you need to send money in cash, check out Western Union.

Is Wise or Western Union cheaper?

We compared Wise vs Western Union on a couple of different payment routes – and they were pretty evenly matched on the transfers used in our comparison. That means it’s important to shop around before you confirm your transaction to make sure you get the best deal.

Is Wise or Western Union faster?

50% of Wise payments are instant, 90% arrive on the same day. Western Union offers transfers for cash collection which can be available almost instantly, as well as bank deposits which may arrive quickly, or could take up to 5 days.

How many currencies do Wise and Western Union support?

Western Union supports payment routes to 200+ countries and territories. Wise supports 40+ currencies, and lets you send payments to over 160 countries.

Claire Millard
Fintech copy and content writer
Claire Millard is a content and copywriter with a specialty in international finance. Her work has featured in The Times and The Telegraph, as well as industry magazines and leading personal finance blogs.
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Ileana Ionescu
Content manager
With a background in business journalism, Ileana is an experienced content manager, creating content for Exiap that helps its audience make informed decisions about their finances.
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Last updated
March 11th, 2024