Western Union Review
Western Union is the oldest and largest money transfer service in the world. With more than half a million agent locations in 200-plus countries, territories, and jurisdictions, Western Union offers global reach that no competitor can match. The company’s global footprint is a component of its competitive advantage, but it’s only part of the story. Let’s examine the pros and cons of using Western Union’s money transfer services.
Pros and Cons of Western Union
Like all international money transfer services, Western Union has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some of the pros:
- Established reputation
- Agent locations across the country
- Fast, flexible service
On the downside:
- Could be more transparent about exchange rates
- Maximum transfer limits are low
Western Union was born in 1856 when the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company merged with the New York & Western Union Telegraph Company. In 1871, Western Union began using its extensive telegraph line coverage to facilitate money transfers. Over the decades, Western Union has become a leader in the international money transfer sector and maintains more than 500,000 agent locations globally. It has a physical presence in nearly every country and territory in the world. Western Union is familiar and trusted.
How It Works
Personal and business customers can both use Western Union’s easy system to send money to virtually any recipient, anywhere in the world. You can use the service in two ways: online or in-person at an agent location.
To use Western Union online, simply create an account or log in to your existing account. From there, you can choose your amount and decide whether you want your recipient to have the money deposited in their bank account or made available at a cash pickup point. When choosing your amount, you can adjust levels in both your local currency and the currency in your recipient’s destination country.
Next, choose you’ll choose your payment method from one of the options:
- Credit card
- Debit card
- Bank account
- Wire transfer from your bank to Western Union
The final step is to review the details you’ve entered and a summary of the total cost. Then, when you’re ready, confirm the transaction. You can then use Western Union’s industry-leading tracking tools to monitor the progress of your transfer. Your recipient will also be able to access tracking information.
If you elect to use the service in person, here’s what to do:
- Visit your nearest Western Union agent location. You can use a search feature on the company’s website to find the one nearest you.
- Set up the details of your transaction with an agent representative. You will have the option to pay with a credit card, debit card, or cash.
- Obtain tracking information for your transfer from the representative. This will enable you to use Western Union’s online monitoring tools to keep track of the transfer.
That’s it! It’s fast, easy, and convenient.
Features and Performance
Compared to competitors, Western Union offers a relatively large number of payment options.
According to Western Union’s website, performance and delivery times vary depending on your chosen method of payment:
- Credit card and debit card transactions complete in real-time, facilitating cash pickups or the electronic depositing of funds in your recipient’s account in mere minutes
- Bank account transfers typically take one to four business days, depending on where your recipient is located
- Some bank account transfers can be completed on the same day, and this usually happens if the recipient is in the same geographic region
- Service times for wire transfer payments vary but usually line up with bank account timelines
Some limits and conditions also apply. Here’s a breakdown of some key stats and figures as of January 2021:
- The minimum transfer amount is the equivalent of US$1
- Personal transfers max out at US$5,000 (less in some jurisdictions)
- Western Union is compatible with more than 150 currencies, but the company cannot initiate a transfer if it does not support your local currency or the currency of the destination country
As of January 2021, it only lacks support for digital wallet systems and online payment processors like PayPal.
Costs and Pricing
As of January 2021, the following costs apply to Western Union’s international money transfers:
- Transfers paid by credit card have a $14.99 fee
- Debit card payments cost $2.99
- Bank account and wire transfer payments incur no additional transaction fees
The company applies variable currency exchange rates, which are subject to many factors including:
- How you are paying for the transfer
- The type of transfer you are ordering (deposit versus cash pickup)
- The currency pair you are dealing with
- The destination location, as financial regulators in some supported jurisdictions apply additional fees to incoming funds
A 2020 analysis of Western Union’s exchange rate markups found a high degree of variability, making it virtually impossible to generalize. However, the following trends generally apply:
- Cash pickups are more expensive than bank account deposits
- Fees tend to be highest with card-based payments, as your credit card company may apply additional charges
- Delivery methods that transfer funds more quickly also cost more money
What Others Are Saying About Western Union
As the largest money transfer company in the world, Western Union has a very prominent presence on consumer review sites like Trustpilot, where it holds an average rating of 3.0 out of 5 as of January 2021. More than 18,000 people have reviewed the service on Trustpilot, with 63% giving it a perfect 5 out of 5 and 81% giving it 4 out of 5 or higher. Reviewers generally agreed the actual transfer service was fast and reliable.
The Bottom Line
No other company in the money transfer industry comes close to matching Western Union’s track record of dependability. Businesses do not survive for 160-plus years without earning their success, and Western Union offers reliability and dependability. For that reason, It’s a money transfer service that’s worth checking out.