- Founded 170 years ago, Western Union is the world's largest money transfer service.
- Find out how to sign up and start transferring money right away.
- Learn about Western Union's fees, currency exchange rates, and more.
Finding the right money transfer company to suit your needs can be difficult. With so many options, each with unique advantages, you may not know which is best for you. However, Western Union provides a transfer service around the globe and might be just what you are looking for.
But how does it stand up against its competitors, and is it user-friendly? Find answers to these questions and more in our in-depth review below.
Inside this review
What is Western Union?
Western Union (WU) is a worldwide financial services company with headquarters in the US but offices, branches, agents and online access around the globe. Its users can send cash or bank deposits and, in some cases, mobile wallet deposits to people worldwide. Whether paying using a bank account, debit, or credit card, WU users can transfer money almost anywhere. Many Australia Post branches are WU agents in Australia.
Western Union was founded in 1851 as a telegraph service in America, later developing into a telecommunications and money transfer company. The overseas transfer service became an essential arm of the business from the 1980s onwards. Its headquarters are situated in Denver, Colorado, USA.
Using Western Union to transfer money
To start sending funds with Western Union, you must register on its website, free of charge. Click 'Register', enter your full name, date of birth and email address, and create a secure password. You'll be asked to provide identification, such as a driver's licence or passport.
Once registered, you can log in to your account and select a destination country for your funds and an amount in Australian dollars, which will be converted into the local currency in the destination country. You'll need to supply their account details if you send money to someone's bank account.
After choosing your payment method, you'll be able to review all your transfer details, including fees and currency exchange rates, before submitting the transfer and paying. In addition, you'll be issued a transaction number to track the progress of your transfer.
Current countries supported
Western Union offers support in over 200 countries and almost as many currencies. Below are just some of the countries you can transfer funds to via WU:
- United States and Canada
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom and other European countries
- Domestic transfers in Australia
Funding your WU account is exceptionally straightforward. You can pay directly from your bank account using Australia Post's POLi platform or select a credit or debit card. You could also pay using a prepaid card or cash at a WU branch or agency.
Transfer fees vary, depending on the amount you're sending, where you're sending it to, how you will pay for it, and whether you're transferring to a bank account or letting your recipient pick up cash. Western Union has a 'price estimator' on its website, allowing you to see the fees and exchange rate applicable to your amount, destination country, pick-up method and payment method.
Online transfers to an Australian or overseas bank account are typically free if you pay for it by a bank transfer from an Australian account (using the POLi payment platform). Still, they cost $2.90 if paying using a credit or debit card.
If you want your recipient to be able to pick up cash, online transfers start at $2.90 for small amounts (e.g. $100) whether you pay by POLi or card, but rise to $6 or more for amounts over $1,000 paid for using POLi, and as high as $14 when paying by card. Even higher fees may be charged for more significant amounts transferred for cash pick-up in more unusual transfer destinations (e.g. Congo-Democratic Republic, Cook Islands), especially if you pay by card.
In some destination countries, funds may be transferred into a mobile wallet, resulting in lower transaction fees. Over-the-counter fees charged by Western Union agents may differ from online fees.
Credit card issuers may also charge you a cash advance fee and interest if you pay using a credit card.
Western Union is currently offering one fee-free transfer for first-time users.
Currency exchange rates
In addition to earning revenue from transaction fees, Western Union makes some of its profit from currency exchange rates, in common with major banks and many competing money transfer platforms. However, rather than using a mid-range exchange rate, it adds a small percentage profit margin (e.g. up to 5%) to the rate it uses.
The time likely to elapse before your recipient receives the funds can vary from minutes to several business days. Shorter times will apply for cash transfers, but a transfer to a bank account can take up to 2 days or longer outside regular banking hours or for more unusual destination countries.
Who Western Union is for (based on design, features and costs)
Western Union is designed for people who wish to transfer funds across large distances with little fuss. It is suited to individuals and business owners looking for lots of sending, receiving and payment options from the world's largest money transfer service. It may not suit you, though, if you are looking for the cheapest way to send money.
Check out our money transfer comparison page where you can compare rates, fees, available countries, currencies, and more for banks and online services.
Pros and cons
- The company has been around for a long time. WU has been operating for 170 years, and its name is almost synonymous with 'money transfer'. However, it has been used by millions of people worldwide for years and has built up a reputation for being trustworthy.
- Extensive, well-established network. It's the world's largest money transfer network. This means WU is highly accessible and is available in most countries.
- Plenty of branches and agents in Australia. If you prefer to make your transfer using an over-the-counter service rather than online, you won't have much difficulty finding a local agency at Australia Post, currency exchange services or even a newsagent in some cases.
- Many payment and pickup options
- Operations are regulated by ASIC and FinCEN in the US, making them safer to use.
- 24/7 customer service. Any disputes or issues can be quickly resolved thanks to the readily available customer service.
- Exchange rates include a profit margin. Typically, the exchange rate won't benefit the sender because it is less favourable than the mid-market rate.
- Fairly high fees. WU fees can be higher than those of its competitors in some cases.
- Scam target, but avoidable. As with most online money transfer services, WU is a target for online scams. You can protect yourself by only sending money to recipients you already know and trust. If you must send funds to a stranger, avoid sending a large sum at once.
How fast is it to send money via WU?
Most transfers are instant and, at worst, shouldn't take longer than two business days to arrive in most cases. However, if you choose to send funds after 7 p.m. or on the weekend, then there may be a slight delay, meaning your money may take three days, or in some cases, even four days, to arrive.
Are there any minimum or maximum transfer amounts?
There isn't a minimum transfer threshold. There's a maximum daily transaction limit of $5,000, but this may vary depending on your transaction history and the type of transaction you want.
Does Western Union have a mobile app?
WU offers users access to its service through a desktop or mobile app suitable for users on the go. The mobile application can be downloaded on Android or iPhone devices through their respective app stores.
The mobile application currently has 4.5 stars out of 5 stars rating on the Google Play store and a 4.6-star rating on the iOS store.
Why would you choose WU over other competitors in Australia?
Unlike some competitors, such as PayPal, WU has the advantage that it has many ways to send money. It allows users to send or receive money online, via a bank account, in person, and cash at a branch or agency. This applies to both senders and recipients.
Because it has such a vast network, WU is more likely to be able to service less popular destination countries and currencies.
Is the WU platform more suited to individuals or businesses?
Overall, services such as Western Union are more suited to individuals than smaller businesses because of their sometimes higher transfer fees and unfavourable exchange rates. However, larger businesses may swallow the higher costs, preferring to associate with a service with a longstanding reputation.
Does WU have a loyalty program?
Yes. You can sign up for My WU. Your money transfer transactions will earn loyalty points which can be exchanged for fee discounts on future transactions.