Western Union Review
The Western Union brand is perhaps one of the most well-known in the money transfer industry. Founded in the United States over 170 years ago, this company has grown into a global operation that supports international remittances from all four corners of the world. In this review of the company we will assess how expensive, efficient and trustworthy Western Union money transfers are.
About Western Union
Western Union is a US-based company that provides various ways to transfer money around the world. Starting out in 1851 as a communications company specialising in telegraph-related services, in 2006 Western Union decided to concentrate their efforts on money transfers. Since then, the provider has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the biggest remittance companies in the world.
The Western Union headquarters are located in Denver, Colorado and there are over 500,000 agent locations worldwide, offering wire transfer and mobile money transfer services.
Western Union is a household name and the company’s yellow and black logo is globally recognised. The objective of this company review, however, is to provide an impartial and honest look at how affordable and effective this operator really is.
Western Union exchange rates, fees and costs
Service providers like Western Union make a profit from foreign exchange spread, transfer fees and any other charges paid by the customer. For this reason, understanding how much of your money is being spent on these costs means you can make a more well-informed decision about whether this service provider is for you.
Western Union applies a margin to the mid market rate for any given currency pair. The rates charged are different and dependent on several factors such as:
The type of transfer: Online money transfers attract higher rates than transfers arranged via an in-person visit to an agent
- The payout method: Cash pickups incur lower interest rates than traditional bank transfers
- The amount transferred: Larger amounts attract higher rates than smaller amounts
- The destination: The sending country will determine the exchange rate margin you will be charged
Our research found that exchange rates given to customers arranging a Western Union international transfer can incur markups up to 7% above the mid market rate. These rates are not nearly as competitive as the foreign exchange services offered by companies like TorFX or Xe.
In addition to a foreign exchange spread, Western Union imposes a sliding scale of transfer fees, instead of a fixed flat-fee. These fees are determined by the sending country, the transfer amount, the payment method and whether you are sending money online or through an agent.
Cash pickups are more expensive than direct-to-bank transfers. When paying for your transfer, debit card and credit card payments are more expensive but much faster.
Although bank transfers are a slower method, customers opting for this method can enjoy fee-free transfer. The price estimation tool on the Western Union website makes it easy for users to enter their transfer details and be presented with the total transfer fees upfront.
The exchange rate margins and transfer fees are the main costs to be aware of when sending money with Western Union: the company does not charge any additional fees. However, you may be charged origination fees by your bank and the recipient’s bank may issue landing fees. Senders who pay for their transfers using credit cards may also be charged cash advance fees by their card issuers.
Top destinations for sending money with Western Union
Western Union allows customers to send and receive money in over 200 countries, offering in-person services at more than 500,000 agent locations worldwide. One of the most popular transfer routes is the United States to Mexico corridor, with a market share of close to 20%.
Some transfer corridors may not be available, depending on the country you are sending money from, and some transfers may cost you more. With that said, Western Union still remains to be a money transfer operator that customers easily identify with.
The maximum amount you can send per corridor differs from one destination to another. When sending money from the UK to Nigeria, you can transfer up to 10,000 GBP while to India, you can transfer up to 50,000.00 GBP.
The most common remittance corridors are:
Pros and cons of Western Union
Western Union is a trusted authority in the money transfers space, but we want to identify the unique pros and cons of the service, to make it easier for our users to decide if this is the provider for them.
- Extensive sending and disbursement network coverage: Western Union supports 200+ countries with over 550,000 agents within its network making it widely accessible for customers located in almost any country
- Multichannel sending platform: Transfers with Western Union can be sent through an agent, the website, mobile app or airtime top up; the availability of each platform will vary depending on the country funds are sent from
- Tailored services for individuals and businesses: The company provides targeted solutions such as WU Business Solutions, Convenience Pay, Quick Pay, Quick Collect, and Netspend Prepaid Mastercard
- 24/7 customer service: Users can receive assistance from a Western Union agent via an array of support options including live chat, phone and email
- A trusted household name: Western Union has been operating for 170 years, and is a global leader in the remittance industry
- Services can be expensive: Certain remittance corridors are costlier than others, and many money transfer operators can beat Western Union prices
- Accessibility varies: Although Western Union is globally recognised, not all countries have access to multiple sending channels and pay-out methods; for instance, customers in Kenya can only access the service by visiting an agent location in-person
- Lack of transparency: Some customers complain of Western Union’s opaque approach to exchange rates and the largely unpredictable markups applied to certain currency pairings
What type of transfers can you make with Western Union?
The following types of transfers are available through Western Union:
- Cash pickups
- Bank transfers
- Mobile wallet deposits
Transfers can be arranged on the phone, in-person with an agent or online through the Western Union website or app.
How long will it take to receive money using Western Union?
Transfers processed through Western Union can take anywhere from minutes to a couple of days depending on the following factors.
- Pay-out method: Customers opting for the cash pickup or mobile wallet pay-out option, will typically see funds arrive within minutes, albeit for a fee. On the other hand, bank deposits may take up to 2 days to be delivered due to the corresponding banks involved in processing the payment.
- Payment method: Paying for your transfer using a debit or credit card will result in faster delivery times than payment via bank transfer
- Destination: The country you send money to will determine the transfer turnaround; the more remote the country and currency pairing, the longer a transfer may take
What payment methods can I use when sending money with Western Union?
There are several ways you can pay for your Western Union transfer. Much like the payout options, payment methods differ per sending country. The following are the common transfer payment options.
- Debit or credit card: credit card payments may incur additional cash advance fees depending on the issuer
- Cash payment made at an agent location
- Instant bank transfer through SOFORT banking: This method is available in EU countries such as the United Kingdom, Poland, Switzerland, Italy and Germany
- Bank transfer through the Faster Payments Service (FPS): Compared to BACS Payments, this method takes minutes or even seconds to get the money to Western Union
What are the best reasons to use Western Union?
Here we will provide a list of the best reasons for business or personal clients to use Western Union for their next money transfer:
- Payment management- The WU EDGE platform allows you to import vendor invoices from your accounting system to the platform for payment. This solution helps in managing international payments
- Risk management- The team of experts at Western Union can help you formulate a risk management plan that suits your business
- Receive business payments from local and international clients in your local currency
- Pay international employees on time through a streamlined payroll service
- Send money to your family and friends
- Pay for goods and services
- Pay tuition fees
- Pay bills using the bill payment service
- Pay mortgages and other loans
Can I trust Western Union?
Western Union has an impressive track record being one of the oldest companies in operation today. It began in 1851 with its headquarters in 7001 E. Belleview Avenue Denver, Colorado 80237 (866) 405-5012. It has grown to be a phenomenal financial services company with an extensive global reach.
According to the business overview included as part of the company’s annual reports, Western Union offers businesses and individuals ways to send money and make payments globally. In 2006, the company ended its telegram and commercial messaging services to focus mainly on money transfer and payment services.
Western Union has grown through acquisitions of strategic businesses such as Angelo Costa International Ltd, an Ireland-based money transfer company, Travelex Group, a foreign exchange company based in London, and Finint S.r.l. among several others.
In the United Kingdom and EEA area, Western Union, operating as Western Union Business Solutions (UK) Limited, is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). In the United States, the company is regulated both at the state level by the various licensing and banking regulations and at the federal level by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The company employs Financial Action Task Force standards to guide its operations whether or not the host country has adopted them. This is in addition to an AML (Anti-Money Laundering) Compliance program and a robust Internal Audit Committee whose operations are in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.
The licencing and regulations comprise restrictions and requirements that Western Union must abide by. For instance, the company is required to separate client funds from company funds for security purposes.
The company has a robust risk evaluation and management framework that brings together the Audit Committee and the Compliance Committee both of which are oversight committees of the board. They look into matters such as cybersecurity, legal and regulatory issues, financial performance and others.
As part of the security measures, Western Union has implemented Software Composition Analysis (SCA). This is a customer authentication security layer applied to both payment booking and account access and manipulation. It is part of the two-factor authentication (2FA) security protocol.
User feedback about Western Union
Users on review sites and social media have been vocal about their experiences with Western Union. Most of them have praised the money transfer operator while others have shared their bits of frustration.
On Trustpilot, Western Union has 17,002 reviews. In more than 80% of these, customers have been happy with the service they received. Most of the comments centered on:
- Faster transfers especially on cash pickups
- Accessible customers service
- Reliability and safety with adequate security measures
- Simple interface to navigate when sending money
- The convenience of mobile wallet deposits
How to send and receive money?
Western Union has simplified the process of sending and receiving money. There are several ways you can send money and below are the steps to take.
Sending Money Online
- Step 1: On the website click the Send Money link and fill in the receiver’s country and amount.
- Step 2: Select the payout option which could be cash pickup, bank deposit, or mobile wallet transfer.
- Step 3: Pick the transfer payment option.
- Step 4: Proceed to register for an account giving your name, email and physical addresses, and phone number.
- Step 5: Key in the recipient’s details including the payout information, confirm and send
- Step 6: Track your transfer
- Sending Money Through An Agent:
- Step 1: Locate the agent. You can use the website or Western Union mobile application to check the agent nearest to you.
- Step 2: Visit the store and fill out the necessary forms
- Step 3: Pay for your transfer
- Step 4: Confirm the recipient details and send
- Step 5: Track your transfer