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Western Union Review

 

Western Union is one of the world’s most recognised money transfer brands, with agents in almost every country on earth. You can use Western Union to send payments in person, online and on the go through its mobile apps. Payout options are extensive - including bank transfers and cash for collection at agents around the world.

This Western Union review walks through all there is to know about Western Union, including fees, whether it’s safe to use, how fast it is, how to get set up, and more.

 

Western Union: Key points

 

Key features:

  • One of the most established and extensive money transfer services in the world
  • Send money in person, online and using the Western Union app - pay in cash using an agent, or by bank transfer or card for electronic payments
  • Payout methods include bank transfers, cash collection and mobile money payments
  • Huge agent network, covering over 500,000 global locations
  • Business services are available

Key stats:

  • Founded in 1861 as a telegraph company
  • Facilitated its first payment in 1871, and switched entirely to money transfer services in 2006
  • Send in 130+ currencies, to over 200 countries and territories - you can send payments to every country on earth aside from Iran and North Korea
  • 34 digital transfers a second are processed by Western Union
  • 150 million retail and digital customers around the world

Pros:

  • Probably the biggest global agent network, and the biggest reach in terms of countries and currencies of any transfer provider
  • Pay in person with cash, or online using a bank transfer or card
  • Payout in cash, to a bank or mobile money account
  • Cash payments can be available in minutes
  • Fully regulated around the world, including by the FCA in the UK

Cons:

  • The total cost of transfers isn’t always clear because of fees included in the exchange rates
  • Overall costs of sending money may not be the most competitive out there
  • Not all services are available in all destination countries
  • You’ll usually pay more for faster, cash based services

Overall:

Western Union is one of the best known money transfer brands on the planet.

Having developed from an offline provider into the current hybrid of online, offline and mobile payments, Western Union has a great range of services backed up by a huge agent network. That makes them particularly attractive for anyone looking for an international payment provider with the option to pay in or pay out in cash.

Western Union may not be the cheapest option out there for electronic payments, but the range of services and the convenience of their agent network make them a contender if you're looking for a cash based transfer service.

 

How much can I save with Western Union compared to a bank?

 

Using a specialist provider can often be much cheaper than opting for a regular bank when you need to send a payment overseas. Let’s look at how sending a payment with Western Union might match up with a few popular banks.

This comparison assumes you’re sending a payment using a bank transfer, which is then delivered right into your recipient’s own bank account.

Sending in GBP so your recipient gets:BarclaysLloyds BankWestern Union
1,000 EUR 25.12 GBP fee 29.91 GBP fee 7.11 GBP fee
5,000 EUR 125.59 GBP fee 149.54 GBP fee 35.52 GBP fee
10,000 EUR 251.12 GBP fee 299.01 GBP fee 71.02 GBP fee

 

Fees and exchange rates correct at time of research - 24th November 2021

 

About Western Union

 

When it was founded in the US over 160 years ago, Western Union was a telegraph service, helping people get messages to loved ones. A decade later, Western Union made its first pivot into money transfers, moving money via telegrams.

Over the years the services available from Western Union developed to suit consumer needs, including communications and financial products.

Fast forward to 2006, and Western Union sent their last telegrams, and became entirely dedicated to domestic and international money transfer services. You can now send money with Western Union in person, online or using an app. Payout options vary by country, but include bank transfers, cash for collection and transfers to mobile money accounts.

With one of the strongest agent networks in the world, Western Union is particularly known for arranging payments where either the sender or the recipient wants to deal in cash. Let’s look at the full range of services on offer from Western Union:

 

Cash collection

 

You can send payments for cash collection via a huge range of Western Union agents around the world. Use the Agent Locator tool to find Western Union locations convenient to you or your recipient.

As the sender you’ll be able to set up your payment online, in the app, or by visiting an agent in the UK yourself. Then you’ll simply need to give your recipient the reference number, so they can take that and their photo ID documents to an agent local to them to get the cash.

If you choose the Money in Minutes service your payment could be available almost instantly.

Great for: getting money quickly, and in cash, to someone who may not be able to access a bank account.

 

Bank transfers

 

Set up a payment online or in the Western Union app and have it deposited in your recipient’s bank account directly. Payments usually arrive in a day or two. This can be a convenient option as your recipient won’t need to visit an agent to get their money. It can also be the cheapest way to arrange an international payment.

Great for: sending convenient international transfers online and in-app.

 

Mobile money

 

In some countries, Western Union can facilitate mobile money payments which are sent quickly and directly to people with mobile money accounts. This service is available in select locations where Western Union works in partnership with mobile phone operators.

Great for: mobile money payments direct to digital wallets.

 

Business solutions

 

Western Union Business Solutions cover one off international payments, mass payments, and FX risk management services.

The range of options is split down by Western Union to show how they can help different business types and industries. Mass payment services, for example, could be helpful for businesses managing international payroll or sending out royalty payments to clients internationally. Recurring transfers could help companies paying out pensions to members living overseas, and solutions to mitigate the risks of currency fluctuations can help businesses which deal in high volume international transactions like travel agents.

Great for: businesses trading or making payments internationally.

 

How does Western Union work?

 

Western Union’s journey into payment services began some 150 years ago as an offline service offering money transfers via the telegraph network. Over the years the products and services on offer have developed and evolved - but one of the stand out factors of Western Union remains its offline options. Thanks to a huge network of agents around the world, you can send payments in person - and have them collected in cash on the other side of the globe, sometimes in just a few minutes.

Unsurprisingly the costs of payments which involve in person services are typically higher than online transfers - but it’s a convenient way to get money quickly to someone who doesn’t have easy access to a bank account.

Western Union also offers payments online and in their app, which can be delivered direct to bank and mobile money accounts or for cash collection. That means you can often combine the pay in and pay out services you need, to get the right mix for both you and your recipient.

 

Is Western Union safe?

 

Western Union is regulated by the FCA in the UK, making it a safe service to use.

Bear in mind you should only send payments to people you know and trust. Western Union warns about criminals who can try to use their services to commit consumer fraud. That’s typically because cash payments can be arranged very quickly and are hard to trace once they’ve been picked up. By the time you realise you’ve been a victim the money has gone.

There’s lots of information on the Western Union website to help you learn more about staying safe when sending money.

 

Western Union pricing

 

Western Union costs can include a transfer fee and an exchange rate markup. It’s worth remembering third party fees - like credit card cash advance fees - can also apply, depending on how you pay.

The cost for your transfer will depend on several factors:

  • Destination country and currency
  • Payment amount
  • How you want to pay
  • How you want your recipient to get the money

You can start to set up your payment online or in the Western Union app, to see both the services which are available for your destination country, and the costs. You’ll be able to look at different pay in and pay out options, including the fees, exchange rates and delivery times to see which best balances cost and convenience for you.

 

Western Union exchange rate

 

Western Union exchange rates include a markup on the mid-market rate, and can vary by brand, channel and location. The rate you’re offered at an agent may not be the same as one you find online - and different agents may use differing rates, too.

 

How long does Western Union take?

 

How long it takes for your payment to be received depends on the destination and the specific service you select.

If you send a payment for cash collection through Western Union it may be available for collection quickly. Bear in mind that time zone differences and agent opening hours may impact the speed of your payment in this case.

If you’re sending to a bank account it will usually take 1 to 3 working days to arrive, depending on the currency, country, and receiving bank’s processes[7].

 

Western Union Pros

 

  • Global agent network, covering 130+ currencies and almost every country on earth
  • Transact in cash via an agent or use a bank account online
  • Cash payments can be available in minutes
  • Fully regulated by the FCA in the UK

 

Western Union Cons

 

  • Fees and rates vary and may not be the most competitive option
  • Limited services in some destination countries
  • In person service can be more expensive than online

 

How to use Western Union

 

If you’re sending a payment in person you’ll need to take along your valid government ID when you visit an agent location. The agent will then guide you through the process to set up your transfer and pay the amount being transferred plus fees.

To send money online or in the Western Union app:

  1. Log into the Western Union desktop site or open the app
  2. Select the country you want to send to and enter the payment amount
  3. Select the services you require, and check the fees and rates
  4. Follow the prompts to enter the required information
  5. Select payment method, confirm and fund your transfer

 

Funding methods

 

Send a Western Union payment:

  • Using a bank transfer
  • By card
  • Using Klarna
  • In cash at an agent location

 

Payout methods

 

Arrange a Western Union payment, and select the following payout methods:

  • Bank transfer
  • Cash pickup at an agent
  • Mobile money account

 

How to create an account

 

You can create a Western Union account online or in the app in just a couple of steps:

  • Select Register
  • Enter your name as it appears on your government ID
  • Add your personal details
  • Enter your email to get confirmations and receipts

You may be able to get started making payments right away, or you might need to upload some documents for verification if you want to send higher value payments.

 

What documents you'll need

 

If you want to send a payment of 800 GBP or more online or in the Western Union app you’ll need to verify your account. To start this process simply log into your account and add a transfer value over 800 GBP. You’ll then be guided to the verification process, and asked to upload images of:

  • A photo ID document - passport, national ID card, driving license or residence permit
  • Proof of address - utility bill, bank or credit card statement

The document you upload for proof of address must be no more than 90 days old and show your full name and address as in your Western Union profile.

 

How long does verification take?

 

If your account can be verified electronically it won’t take long. If there are any problems you’ll get an email asking for more documents - or you’ll just get an email notification to say your account is active.

If you need to make an urgent transfer you can visit a Western Union agent where you can present your ID in person to arrange a payment.

 

Western Union limits

 

You can send up to 799.99 GBP without needing to upload any documents for verification. To send more than that you’ll need to submit documents to show your identity and address.

Once your account is verified you can send transfers up to a maximum of 4,000 GBP, or 50,000 GBO for bank to bank payments. Providers may also impose their own limits if you’re sending money in person.

 

Supported currencies

 

Western Union supports 130+ different currencies and lets you send to over 200 different countries and territories. In fact, every country in the world aside from Iraq and North Korea is covered in some form.

To check if there are Western Union agent locations near to you, or local to your recipient, use this Western Union agent locator tool.

 

Western Union reviews

 

Western Union scores an average of 3.3 stars on Trustpilot, from a total of over 20,000 listed reviews at the time of writing. That’s an Average score[9].

Of the reviews that have been posted, 60% did give Western Union the highest possible Trustpilot rating. There’s particular praise for the ease of using the Western Union app. Here’s what a few happy customers said:

“Very good app, I haven't had any problems sending money”

“It is really easy using Western Union. I really like using the app because it saves my information and the people that I'm sending money to.”

When it comes to the less good reviews, 16% of people gave the worst available rating, with issues focused on things like high fees and complex customer verification processes.

 

Western Union accessibility

 

Use Western Union online, in the mobile app on both Apple and Android phones, or by visiting an agent location. It’s useful to know that accounts set up from the UK can only be used in the UK version of the Western Union global site.

 

Western Union customer service

 

You can always visit a Western Union agent to get help - or use these options instead:

Customer support channelWestern Union availability
Phone support 0808 234 9168
Chat support Available via the app or desktop site
Western Union mailing address Western Union Internet United Kingdom

PO Box 8252

LONDON W6 0BX

United Kingdom

 

Western Union alternatives

 

  • Wise - send online and mobile payments which use the real exchange rate and low transparent fees, or open an online international account to send and hold multiple currencies. Cash payments are not available
  • Remitly
    • similar range of payout options as Western Union, but fewer countries covered. Choose different delivery speeds which come with a choice of transfer fees.
  • PayPal or Xoom - send instant payments at home and abroad - convenient and quick, but not always the cheapest. With PayPal your recipient will also need to set up an account to get their money.
  • Revolut - open an online international account to send and hold multiple currencies from the same account.

 

Conclusion

 

Western Union is a giant in the world of international payments, with transfers available in person, online and on the go through mobile apps. One of Western Union’s biggest strengths is its global reach. Between online services and a global network of 500,000+ agents, almost every country in the world is covered. And with cash payments available almost instantly, it's an especially good pick if you need to get money quickly to someone without a bank account.

Western Union might not be the fastest or cheapest for online and mobile transfers direct to bank accounts, but definitely worth looking at for in person and cash collection payments.

FAQ

1. How much does Western Union cost?

Western Union fees depend on the country you’re sending to, the value of the payment and the specific transfer type.

2. How long does Western Union take to transfer funds?

Cash payments made under the Money in Minutes option can be available almost instantly. Bank transfers may take a day or two to arrive.

3. Is Western Union safe?

Western Union is fully FCA regulated in the UK.

4. How does Western Union apply exchange rates?

Western Union makes money from currency exchange. That means that there’s a markup - a fee - added to the exchange rate offered to customers.

5. Does Western Union have a mobile app?

Get the Western Union app on Apple and Android phones.

6. How does Western Union work?

Western Union supports transfers through its huge agent network, as well as via a desktop site and mobile app. Send payments to a recipient’s bank account, as a mobile money payment, or for cash collection.

7. How many currencies does it support?

Western Union supports 130+ currencies.

General advice: The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own personal situation and requirements before making any financial decisions. We compare currency exchange and money transfer services in over 200 countries worldwide. We only display reputable companies which we have researched and approved.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 12 January 2022