Western Union vs PayPal: Are They Still Cheap?

Need to make an international money transfer? Western Union and PayPal are good alternatives to a bank. Find out which option is cheaper and if it will suit your needs.

The Important Bits

PayPal

Safety: One of the largest payment companies in the world

Rates: Vary depending on the situation

Fees: A lot depends on the country but is usually percentage based

Speed: Usually quick but can be up to 6 business days

Service: Average customer service both on and offline

Western Union

Safety: One of the largest and oldest payment companies in the world

Rates: Vary depending on the situation

Fees: Fee vary depending on product, country etc

Speed: Also depends on the service you use but can instant

Service: Offer online, app and in-store support

The Verdict

These are two of the best known names in money transfers, but are they still a cheap way to transfer money?

In most cases - no.

Western Union is incredibly convenient and fast if you need to send cash to someone overseas in a hurry.

PayPal is incredibly quick and easy to use, particularly if the other person has a PayPal account.

While both are usually cheaper than a bank, there are now companies that do exactly the same thing, but with better exchange rates and lower fees.

If you are still keen to use either Western Union or PayPal, here is a review of both, head-to-head.

Learn more about PayPal

Learn more about Western Union

Let's have a look at them in more detail

Western Union LogoWestern Union is one of the oldest and most popular money transfer companies in the world. Founded in 1851 and formerly known as the ‘New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company”, their operations grew rapidly and expanded internationally. The company moved into financial services and money transfers in 2009 when it acquired Canadian global payment company Custom House.

 

PayPal LogoPayPal is one of the world's most popular payment systems used to purchase goods and pay for services. It is also a way to transfer money to people in other countries.

Safety

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is the government body that ensures and regulates fair and transparent conduct of financial services. Every company offering financial services must be granted an Australian Financial Service (AFS) licence by ASIC to carry out business in Australia.

 

Western Union PayPal
Western Union Online Limited is Regulated by ASIC Regulated by ASIC
ARBN 141 662 633 Australian Financial Service Licence 304 962

Exchange Rates

Like banks, Western Union and PayPal make their money in two main ways: Firstly, the margin from which they purchase currency at a wholesale rate and the cost of currency sold on to customers. Secondly, an additional transaction fee.

In Western Union's case, the exchange rate can be widely varied, depending on the currency, country, and method of payment. The company has a price estimator on its website that allows you to look up its exchange rates.

PayPal uses a retail exchange rate, which is a comparatively poor rate. Their rate offered is the rate you would get if you bought currency at the airport, which is one of the worst ways to buy currency. If you make payment with a credit or debit card, you could choose to use the currency conversion rate determined by your card provider instead.

Before making a decision, it is important to compare live exchange rates. It is more difficult to get clear information of PayPal's rates as you can only see the converted amount afer you commit to buy.

Here are three ways to compare the rates offered by Western Union and other providers:

  1. View live rates online at Western Union
  2. Call Western Union at 1800 173 833 (within Australia)
  3. Compare exchange rates from other providers online with our comparison engine

Fees

Western Union's fee structure depends on the country, currency and the way you send money to your recipient. You can choose to send money in cash for your recipient to pick up at a Western Union branch or through a direct bank transfer.

PayPal's fees are calculated on a percentage and payment method, depending on the country. You can choose to add funds to your PayPal account or pay with a credit or debit card.

Be mindful that there could be more fees invloved than the ones mentioned here. You could be charged a cash advance fee by your card provider. In addition, your recipient's bank could charge a deposit fee or corresponding bank fee to deposit the funds.

 

Western Union PayPal
Direct transfer to bank

AUD to GBP or NZD: $15 AUD fee

AUD to INR: No fee

PayPal Balance

0.5% to 3.3% depending on the country

Recipient pick up money in cash

AUD to GBP, NZD or USD: $30 AUD fee

AUD to INR: $25 AUD

Credit or debit card

3.9% – 7.4% plus a flat fee depending on the country

How Long Does It Take To Transfer Money With Western Union and PayPal

The transfer speed depends on the amount and type of currency, country of transfer and turnaround time of your bank to clear payment.

 

Western Union PayPal
Cash:

Within minutes

Bank transfer from Australia to:

UK: 3 – 4 working days

New Zealand: 3 working days

Between 3 – 5 working days

What Currencies Can I Transfer?

For an extensive list of currencies available for transfer with Western Union and PayPal, check out our reviews for each company
PayPal Review
Western Union Review

Customer Support

Should you have any queries, you can contact Western Union at 1800 173 833 (within Australia) or +61 2 9231 9729 (outside Australia).

 

Final thoughts

These are two of the best known names in money transfers, but are they still a cheap way to transfer money?

In most cases - no.

Western Union is incredibly convenient and fast if you need to send cash to someone overseas in a hurry.

PayPal is incredibly quick and easy to use, particularly if the other person has a PayPal account.

While both are usually cheaper than a bank, there are now companies that do exactly the same thing, but with better exchange rates and lower fees.

Learn more about PayPal

Learn more about Western Union