Old School Western Union vs New Tech TransferWise: Which is Cheaper?

Looking for better and cheaper ways to make an international money transfer? Find out which service is better, Western Union or TransferWise.

The Important Bits

TransferWise

Safety: Based in the UK, licensed and well backed

Rates: You receive the interbank exchange rate on google

Fees: Percentage based fee

Speed: 1-2 business days for most transfers

Service: Limited phone support but excellent online resources

Western Union

Safety:One of the largest 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

Safety: Western Union is one of the oldest and largest money transfer companies in the world

Rates: TransferWise gives the interbank rate and will always be better

Fees: TransferWise is clear and transparent. It's really hard to get an estimate on Western Union fees because they vary so much

Speed: Western Union is incredibly quick for services like cash pick up but are about the same as TransferWise for money transfers to a bank account

Service: Western Union has a huge network of physical stores making it easier to talk to someone in person. TransferWise has much better online support.

 

In so many ways, this is  case of old vs new, but there is a lot more to it than just technology.

Western Union is still a really good option if you want someone to pick up cash. This is because of their incredibly large branch network. It's easy and quick to send cash abroad. It's just not cheap.

TransferWise on the other hand are a cheaper option for money transfers to a bank account. They don't allow you to send to as many countries as Western Union but they have most of the globe covered.

Learn more about TransferWise

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.

 

TransferWise LogoTransferWise is a peer to peer money transfer service that is often recognised for its fast transfers and bank-beating exchange rates and fees. The company’s headquarters is located in London and has offices in New York and Tallinn.

Safety

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

TransferWise are regulated by ASIC & AUSTRAC (AFSL 456295)

Exchange Rates

Like banks, money transfer providers usually 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.

TransferWise sells currency to customers based on the mid-market exchange rate, which is the exchange rate bought at a wholesale price. The company makes its profit through fees instead.

Before making a decision, it is important to compare live exchange rates offered by each provider.

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

  1. View live rates online at Western Union or TransferWise
  2. Use TransferWise‘s currency calculator
  3. Compare exchange rates of up to 8 different providers at once 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.

As mentioned above, fees are the primary way TransferWise makes money. That’s why it’s just as important to compare fees as well as exchange rates.

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

 

Western Union TransferWise

Direct transfer to bank

AUD to GBP or NZD: $15 AUD fee

AUD to INR: No fee

0.7% of transfer amounting up to AUD 10,000 (minimum fee AUD 2)

Recipient pick up money in cash

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

AUD to INR: $25 AUD

0.7% on initial AUD 10,000 plus 0.5% on anything over

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

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 TransferWise
Cash:

Within minutes

Bank transfer from Australia to:

UK: 3 – 4 working days

New Zealand: 3 working days

Between 1 – 3 working days

 

What Currencies Can I Transfer?

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

To get in touch with TransferWise Australia, call +61 28 0466 244 (within Australia).

Final thoughts

In so many ways, this is  case of old vs new, but there is a lot more to it than just technology.

Western Union is still a really good option if you want someone to pick up cash. This is because of their incredibly large branch network. It's easy and quick to send cash abroad. It's just not cheap.

TransferWise on the other hand are a cheaper option for money transfers to a bank account. They don't allow you to send to as many countries as Western Union but they have most of the globe covered.

Learn more about TransferWise

Learn more about Western Union