Wise vs Western Union [2024]: Fees, rates & features

Wise and Western Union are both global providers which offer international payments and a broad selection of other services.

Check out this full Wise Vs Western Union review to help you decide which might be the best fit for your transaction needs. We’ll cover all you need to know about Wise and Western Union money transfer and business services, plus your options for multi-currency accounts and cards.

Summary: Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) is a specialist in international payments to bank accounts, with multi-currency accounts and cards for individuals and businesses. Western Union has a global agent network and allows payments in cash, to mobile wallets, and direct to bank accounts. Both are safe, reliable and offer a great range of services – which is best for you will depend on the payment type you’re making.

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Wise (formerly TransferWise) vs Western Union: The Important Bits

WiseWestern Union
Exchange ratesMid-market rateVary based on destination and channel
Transfer feesPercentage based fee from 0.43%Fees vary depending on payment type and destination
Transfer speedOver 50% of payments arrive instantlyCash payments often instant, bank transfers take a day or two
Overall serviceRated 4.2 out of 5 on Trustpilot, from 200,000+ reviewsRated 4 out of 5 on Trustpilot, from 63,000+ reviews
SafetyBased in the UK, LSE listed, licensed and regulated globallyOne of the largest payment companies in the world

Wise and Western Union: Features compared side by side

FeatureWiseWestern Union 
Send payments to160+ countries, 50+ currencies200+ countries and territories
Multi-currency accountsAvailable for 40+ currencies, Wise AccountNo
Debit card availableYes, Wise Debit CardNo
Cash payout availableNoYes
Mobile money payments availableTo some destinationsYes
Fully licensed and regulatedYesYes
Business services available Yes, Wise Business AccountYes – now through Convera

So, to summarize:

  • Western Union supports payouts to more countries compared to Wise
  • Wise has a multi-currency account and Wise debit card that supports 40+ currencies – Western Union does not have the foreign currency account option
  • Western Union offers payouts for cash collection and to mobile money accounts – Wise does not offer cash payouts and only supports mobile money payments to a handful of destinations
  • Both Wise and Western Union offer business solutions

If you’re choosing between Western Union and Wise, the way you want your payment to be received may be the deciding factor. If getting a cash payment to your recipient is crucial, Western Union may be the better option. However if you’re making a payment direct to a bank account, and Wise covers your destination country, it’s worth running a quick comparison to see which has a faster delivery time and a better exchange rate for your specific payment.

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Pros and cons of Wise (TransferWise) vs Western Union

Wise (formerly TransferWise)Western Union
✅ Transfers to 160+ countries, money transfers are normally fast, simple, and cheap
✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate
✅ Transparent fees that are easy to compare✅ Accounts to hold and exchange 40+ currencies
✅ You get a linked debit card, for easier spending
✅ Send payments all over the world
✅ Cash payments via agents are available
✅ Send online and in app, and pay with card or bank transfer
✅ Good selection of pay-out options
✅Large and established payment provider
❌Transfer fees vary by destination and payment method
❌ International transfers can’t be made in cash, or for cash collection
❌ Exchange rates may include a markup
❌ Fees vary by payment method and destination

The verdict: Wise or Western Union?

Whether Western Union or Wise win for you will depend on the specific services you need.

Western Union services cover almost every country on earth, with an extensive range of pay in and pay out options, and a strong agent network. However, the fees and exchange rates available vary between payment types and may not be the very best on the market.

Wise (TransferWise) is a specialist in transfers direct to bank accounts, and offers the mid-market exchange rate with low, transparent fees. Wise also offers a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card.

Which is better for your payment will depend on where you’re sending money to, and how you want it to be paid out. Wise has more transparent fees and a faster delivery time for transfers to bank accounts. However, Western Union has a huge global reach and can get cash payments delivered in minutes. The overall costs for each payment do vary so comparing both is the best way to find the right provider for your specific transfer.

Go to WiseWestern Union Review

About Western Union and Wise

Western Union was founded in 1861, and has an agent network covering almost every country on the planet. As well as in-person payments, Western Union processes an average of 34 digital transactions every second. You can send payments in 130+ currencies with Western Union.

Western Union money transfer

Wise was launched as TransferWise back in 2011 as a low-cost international payment provider. These days, Wise has upwards of 16 million customers, and also offers personal and business accounts to hold and manage currencies, accept payments and spend using a linked debit card.

Overall: Whether Western Union or Wise is best for you will depend on the country you’re sending to, and the pay in and pay out methods you prefer.

Western Union has an impressive network of around 600,000 agents worldwide, allowing for fast and convenient payments in cash. However, when it comes to transfers to bank accounts the overall costs can be less transparent compared to competitors because a variable markup will be added to the exchange rate available.

Wise is a specialist in transfers direct to bank accounts, and offers a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card. Wise international transfers can come with better rates and more transparent costs compared to Western Union. If Wise supports payments to the country you’re sending to, and you want your transfer to be delivered to a bank account, compare both to see which is your best bet.

Fees and exchange rate: Wise vs Western Union

Wise has low transaction costs for the services you use – currency conversion fees are from 0.43% with mid-market exchange rate, and international transfer charges vary by destination and currency.

Wise personal accounts are free to open. There’s a one time fee of 31 USD to open a Wise business account. Holding money in a Wise account is free.

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Learn more here: Wise transfer fees and, here you can compare Wise exchange rate.

Western Union fees and exchange rates vary by brand, channel and location. That means you may be quoted a different fee and rate if you pay online or in the app, compared to at an agent – and one agent may charge you more or less than another.

Fees with Western Union can include:

In general, transfers where there’s a cost of labor will be more expensive than digital payments. Sending a payment in person at an agent, or having the money collected or delivered in cash will probably mean more fees and a less favorable exchange rate compared to sending online to a bank account.

Wise vs Western Union: which is cheaper?

International payment providers are usually cheaper than using a traditional bank for your crossborder payment. However, the overall costs, and the exchange rates you can access do vary from one service to the next, so it’s still worth shopping around.

Here are a few examples so you can see how Wise and Western Union payments measure up. Here we’re assuming you’re making a transfer worth 1,000 USD, from your bank account, direct to a bank account overseas, in GBP, EUR and CAD.

Amount & CurrencyWith Wise the recipient gets:With Western Union the recipient gets:Which is cheaper?
Sending 1,000 USD to GBP781.67 GBP773.56 GBPWise
Sending 1,000 USD to EUR916.31 EUR904.36 EURWise
Sending 1,000 USD to CAD1,336.63 CAD1,324.18 CADWise

As you can see, in the comparisons we ran your recipient got slightly more with Wise every time. There’s not a huge difference, so you’ll want to run your own checks before you decide which service to use – this is easy as both Wise and Western Union offer an online quote with no obligation. Just type in the amount and currency you want to send, to see the rate and fee, and any applicable new customer bonus you may be entitled to.

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Wise vs Western Union: which is faster?

The transfer speed depends on the amount and type of currency, country of transfer and turnaround time of your bank to clear payment.

Wise transfers can arrive in just a few minutes – especially if you pay with a card.

  • 50%+ of payments are instant
  • 90%+ of the total arrive within 24 hours
  • Exact delivery time will depend on where you’re sending money, and your own bank’s processing speed.
  • You’ll see an estimated delivery time when you arrange your payment.

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Western Union offers a range of different delivery options and times:

  • Money in minutes – almost instant cash collections
  • Next day delivery – available next working day
  • Bank deposits – 2 to 5 business days
  • Bill payments – varies by billing company process
  • Mobile money transfer – almost instant

How each provider works

Sending money with Wise

To use Wise you’ll need to create an account, and depending on the type of payment you want to make you might need to provide some ID for verification.

Once your account is up and running make payments online and in the Wise app:

  1. Log into your account
  2. Type in how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get
  3. Enter the recipient’s details – bank account number or email
  4. Check over the details
  5. Fund your payment using a card or bank transfer
  6. Confirm and your money will be on the move

Wise money transfers are made through Wise’s network of local bank accounts, so they arrive faster and don’t incur intermediary fees. When you want to pay for your transfer in USD you’ll send the money to Wise’s local US account. Then Wise will make a payment of the equivalent amount in your preferred currency, from their account in the destination country.

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Sending money with Western Union

You can send a Western Union payment in person by visiting an agent location. You’ll need to take along a government issued ID, and can usually only pay in cash.

Or, you can 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

Which is the safest? Wise or Western Union

Both Wise and Western Union are fully licensed and regulated – making them safe and trustworthy providers.

Western Union services may be provided by Western Union Financial Services, Inc. and/or Western Union International Services, which are licensed as Money Transmitters by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Learn more about Western Union safety here.

Wise US Inc is authorized to operate in most US states. In the other states, Wise offers services in partnership with Community Federal Savings Bank. Wise is regulated by local authorities everywhere it operates.

Customer reviews: TransferWise vs Western Union

Wise (TransferWise) customer reviews

Let’s take a look at the reviews being posted online about Wise and Western Union. To recap, Wise (formerly TransferWise) gets a 4.2 star out of 5 on Trustpilot, while Western Union gets 4 out of 5 – both strong scores. Here’s a bit more detail.

Good Wise reviews often mention price, exchange rate, account services and speed of delivery. Here’s one 5 star customer review left for Wise:

“I’ve been using Wise to transfer money for several years now. I always get the best rates and their fees are low and transparent. My transfer arrives quickly. They comply with all local financial institution rules. I feel that my money is secure with Wise.

I have also recently started using their Wise debit card which allows me to make payments in different currencies at much better rates than I would get with my bank. I am more than happy with their service.”

As you’d expect, it’s not all positive though. Some themes which arise from less satisfied customers include issues with account verification and additional checks being completed. As these processes can slow down transfers – or mean your Wise account is temporarily locked while verification checks run – some posted reviews complain that they can’t get their money, or have lost out because of payment delays.

Wise customer service replies to all comments left on Trustpilot, and generally where accounts are suspended pending checking or verification, the Wise team state that this is a legal requirement, and offer ways for the reviewer to get in touch to discuss the case personally.

Western Union customer reviews

When it comes to Western Union, happy customers usually mention speed and ease of use, particularly when paying in or out in cash. Here’s a comment from a happy Western Union customer:

“I have been transferring money monthly for several years to someone in another country. The process is so easy. I simply start the transaction online then go to a local Western Union location to complete the transaction. The funds are available to the other party immediately. Highly recommend!”

Where customers aren’t so happy, themes include complaints about the lack of Western Union reward programs or delays in getting money delivered. This is particularly in the context of bank to bank payments. As with Wise, Western Union replies to many Trustpilot reviews and offers advice and ways for the customer to get in touch for a personal response.

Supported currencies

With Wise you can send money to 160 countries and hold and convert 40+ currencies in your Wise account.

Western Union transfers can be made to almost every country in the world with the exception of Iran and North Korea, where sanctions prevent payments being made.

Availability in the US

Wise services are available to users in most countries around the world. There’s a handy tool on the Wise website which lets you select the country you’re in and check exactly what types of accounts and transfers are available there.

Western Union has an impressive global network and offers its services either in person, by phone or online in almost every country in the world.

Ease of use

Creating an account:

  • Wise accounts are opened and operated online or using the Wise app.
  • Western Union accounts can be set up online, in the app, or by visiting an agent location.

Making a transfer:

  • Wise international payments can be made online or in the Wise app.
  • Western Union payments can be made online, in the app, or by visiting an agent location.

Ways to send money:

  • Wise transfers can be funded by bank transfer, credit or debit card.
  • Western Union transfers can be funded by bank transfer, credit or debit card, or cash at agent locations.

Languages supported:

  • Wise offers global support in a range of languages, online, using the app, and by phone.
  • Western Union has phone and online support – as well as an agent network of 600,000+ locations to offer help when needed.

Minimum & maximum transfer amounts:

  • Wise limits depend on which currencies you send to and from, and how you pay. However, you can make several smaller transfers if your ideal transfer amount exceeds the limit for the specific payment.
  • Western Union usually has a limit of the currency equivalent of 50,000 USD for payments from verified accounts. Different limits may apply in some destination countries

Business accounts: Wise vs Convera

If you run a business with customers, clients or suppliers around the world a multi-currency account and business foreign currency services can help. Both Wise and Western Union have business operations which offer accounts and smart solutions to US businesses trading globally. The Western Union business service provider operates under a different branding in the US – Convera. Here are some key details:

Wise Business Account features

  • Hold money in 40+ currencies for free,
  • Exchange money with low fees and mid-market exchange rates
  • Send payments around the world to 160+countries
  • Get paid internationally in 10 currencies with local account details
  • 50%+ of payments are instant, 90% arrive in 24 hours
  • Debit and business expense cards available for international spending
  • Batch payments and integrations with QuickBooks or Xero accounting software
  • Team member account access available

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Convera (formerly Western Union business) features

  • Global business payments in 140 currencies, to 200 countries and territories
  • Solutions are tailor made to your business needs
  • Industry options for travel agents, banks, legal companies, royalty based sectors and more
  • Western Union business has advanced FX management tools for different business sectors
  • Time saving options like mass global payments to cut admin

Conclusion: Wise money transfer vs Western Union?

While Wise and Western Union have some overlapping services, they probably suit different customer needs. Wise is a specialist in international bank transfers, and also offers multi-currency accounts. Western Union’s stand out factor is its agent network which gives it a truly global reach.

If you want to make a low cost bank transfer, you’ll need to compare the costs and delivery times for your payment to decide which is best. In the comparisons we ran, Wise was cheaper and had a quick delivery time with mid-market exchange rates and transparent fees. However, Western Union also offers cash pay in and pay out services, which Wise can not. If what you’re looking for is a fast transfer to cash the Western Union global agent network may well make this the right service for you.

Go to WiseWestern Union Review

TransferWise vs Western Union FAQ

Is Wise better than Western Union?

Wise and Western Union offer varied services which may suit different customer needs – neither is better, it will all come down to the exact service you need. Wise is strong for international transfers to bank accounts, and offers flexible multi-currency accounts and cards which you can’t get from Western Union. On the other hand, Western Union can help you pay in and out in cash through its agent network, which isn’t on offer from Wise.

Is Western Union better than Wise (TransferWise)?

Neither Western Union nor Wise is better overall – it just depends on what you need. Western Union is the one for you if you want to pay in cash or if you want your recipient to get their money in cash at the other end. Wise doesn’t offer these services – but can help you with a multi-currency account and card, which Western Union doesn’t have. Compare both to see which works best for your specific needs.

Is Wise or Western Union cheaper?

In our comparisons, Wise was cheaper for international payments to bank accounts. Costs vary by currency route though, so you’ll need to compare the fees for a few providers to find the best one for you.

Western Union also offers cash pay in and pay out services, which are not provided by Wise. These are typically more expensive than transfers to and from bank accounts, but can arrive instantly.

What is the difference between Wise and Western Union?

Wise is a specialist in transfers direct to bank accounts, and offers a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card. Western Union on the other hand has an impressive network of around 600,000 agents worldwide, allowing for fast and convenient payments in cash, as well as international payments arranged online and in-app. If you are looking to get paid internationally with low costs and expense cards, Wise can be a good alternative to Western Union.

Is Wise or Western Union faster?

Wise payments can arrive instantly, with most being delivered within 24 hours. Western Union cash collection payments are usually instant, bank transfers can take up to 5 days for some destinations.

How many currencies do Wise and Western Union support?

Wise customers can send payments to 160+ countries, and hold and manage 40+ currencies in their Wise accounts. Western Union allows customers to send payments to 200+ countries and territories – all around the world with the exception of Iran and North Korea.

Is Wise or Western Union better?

Whether Wise or Western Union is better will depend on the type of payment you’re making. Wise can often have more transparent fees because there’s no variable markup on the exchange rate applied. However, which offers best value for your payment will depend on the transfer value and destination.

Claire Millard
Fintech Content Writer
Claire Millard is a content and copywriter with a specialty in international finance. Her work has featured in The Times and The Telegraph, as well as industry magazines and leading personal finance blogs.
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Seyma Mektepli
Seyma is an experienced content writer and editor-in-chief at Exiap, delivering informative articles on personal finance, and money transfers.
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Last updated
January 30th, 2024