Western Union Review

Western Union is one the world’s oldest and largest remittance companies, and is unsurprisingly a household name given it’s been facilitating money transfers since 1871. You’ve more than likely heard of Western Union, or at the very least, would recognise its logo given they have more than 500,000 agent locations worldwide. But when searching for the best provider to send your money abroad, you don’t want your decision to be based solely on familiarity. 

So how do you know if Western Union offers the best remittance service for your needs? 

Well, that’s exactly why we’ve written this Western Union Review, where we’ll present the firm’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as break down the various services that they offer. We’ll provide a comprehensive account of our own experience, as well as a detailed analysis from the tens of thousands verified Western Union reviews. By the end, you’ll have a much better idea of whether or not they’re the smart choice for sending money abroad. 

As a brief overview, Western Union is a costly option to send money overseas, but its convenience and multiple delivery methods may prove useful if you need to send money abroad in an emergency.

Western Union is hugely popular but are they the right provider for your needs?

How Did We Review Western Union?

As a first step, we set up a new account to evaluate Western Union’s registration process and position ourselves to conduct a test transfer. We did not inform Western Union that the account was created for review purposes, ensuring we experienced the service as any typical user would, allowing us to provide an unbiased evaluation to prospective customers. While examining the simplicity of the registration and the money transfer process, we considered user-friendliness and efficiency, as well as evaluating the usefulness of any available additional features.

Our review process also considered the following:

  • Compliance and regulation
  • Exchange rates and fees
  • Service quality
  • Customer feedback
  • Features specific to Australia

Taking all these factors into account, we rated Western Union across five performance indicators, subsequently combining these to produce Western Union’s overall review score.

Key Information

AttributeDetail
Established1871
Launched in AustraliaN/A
HeadquartersDenver, U.S.A
OfficesMultiple offices across U.S.A, South America, UK, Europe, Africa
RegulationASIC (AU), plus extensive regulation across a vast range of operating territories
No. of customers>150 million active customers
No. of currencies130+
Transfer feesVaries by currency and delivery method
Customer reviews (Overall)4.0/5, 74,884 reviews
Customer reviews (Australia)N/A 
Annual trading volume (Overall)AU$153.3 billion
Minimum transfer$0
Maximum transferVarious limits based on destination and payment/delivery methods
Online platformYes
Mobile appYes
Account managerNo

Pros and Cons

  • Wide reach – Western Union has more agent locations than any remittance provider in the market and deals with a vast range of currencies
  • Multiple delivery methods - one of the firm’s key strengths lies in offering a full range of collection methods like bank transfer, cash pickup and mobile wallets
  • Fast and reliable in emergencies – Western Union is trusted by millions to deliver cash in minutes to those in need
  • High and non-transparent fees - Western Union masks its costly fees in a new customer promotion, making it difficult for prospective users to know if it’s worth signing up to make regular transfers
  • Poor exchange rates for cash pickup - Western Union applies a high fx margin to many overseas transfers, particularly if your recipient is collecting cash
  • Slow bank transfer delivery times - whilst it varies greatly by location, some bank transfers will have your recipient waiting for days before being receiving their funds

About Western Union

As the largest and oldest money transfer provider in the world, the Western Union brand has become synonymous with overseas remittances. To give you an idea of just how big the firm is, Western Union handles, on average, 25 transfers per second! They have more than 500,000 agent locations worldwide and an impressive reach, facilitating transfers to many countries and currencies that other firm’s do not handle. 

The firm has also expanded its service over time, displaying an ability to evolve its offering in order to serve an audience that is moving more towards digital services. This is reflected in Western Union’s annual reports, which shows its digital revenue growth has risen consecutively by 11% the last two years. 

Western Union is one of the few publicly traded money transfer companies and is currently listed on the New York Stock Exchange. This also means customers have a lot of transparency into the company’s finances, which in 2023 showed the firm made a net income of US$626 million with an impressive operating margin just shy of 20%.

Western Union Currency Exchange Services

With Western Union, you’re limited to a spot transfer service, meaning you’re unable to lock in a favourable rate for future transactions with any hedging tools. The Western Union app and platform do allow you to schedule transfers. Keep in mind though, that by automating a transfer, you won’t be able to determine the precise exchange rate you will receive ahead of time.

How to pay for your transfer

When sending money online, you have several payment options including:

  • Credit or debit cards (Visa or MasterCard)
  • Bank transfer, including PayID and PayTo transfers
  • Google Pay or Apple Pay

For those visiting a physical agent location, payment options may vary by agent. It’s best to assume that they’ll only accept cash, but many agents will also take a debit card as payment.

Delivery methods 

Western Union specialises in offering a variety of ways for your recipient to obtain their funds, thereby making overseas money transfers more accessible, even to those without access to a bank account.

Let’s look at the delivery methods available with Western Union:

Cash pickup – Western Union boasts a vast network of over 500,000 locations globally, allowing your recipient to pick up cash within minutes.

Whereas some companies only require the recipient to have a valid ID, with Western Union they’ll need to complete a ‘To Receive Money Form’. This will require them to enter various transfer details including the tracking number, transfer amount, and some basic information about the sender. 

Bank transfer – Western Union provides the traditional option of a bank transfer in some regions, but you’ll need to verify if this service is available in the recipient’s country ahead of time.

Mobile wallet – With Western Union you can transfer funds directly to a recipient’s mobile wallet, which can prove useful in parts of Asia and Africa where bank accounts are less common.

Limits

Online transactions are typically capped at AU$5,000 per day, but users can verify their exact limits, as well as specific receiving country limits, either online or through the app. If you’re paying via bank transfer directly to your recipient’s bank, then your send total can reach up to the AUD equivalent of 50,000 USD.

There are no limits to the number of large transfers one can send over any timeframe. Western Union defines a large transfer as anything over the equivalent value of 15,000 USD, however additional information may be required for any transfer exceeding AU$9,000. 

Bear in mind some agent locations may have their own limits in place, based on factors such as payment method, sender and receiver countries, and receiving method.

Western Union Fees & Exchange Rates

Exchange Rates 

Western Union’s exchange rates vary based on how your recipient will collect the funds. In most cases, the best exchange rate you’ll get is for a bank transfer, then transfers to a mobile wallet, and finally cash pickup, which often offers the worst exchange rate. With that said, for some countries, they offer the same rate for all collection methods, so it’s worth checking on Western Union’s website by entering your transfer details into their calculator on the ‘Send Money’ page.  

At the time of writing, we found that Western Union’s rates for bank transfers were fairly competitive. You could still make savings by choosing one of the best money transfer apps, but you’re certainly better off using Western Union than one of Australia’s big four banks for sending money overseas.  

It’s when you select cash pickup that the exchange rate begins to worsen significantly. For popular currency corridors like AUDUSD, AUDGBP, AUDEUR, and AUDNZD, the average fx margin at the time of writing was around 1.5%, but it can be as high as 6% for some more exotic currencies. For the convenience of cash pickup, a 1.5% margin would not be an extortionate amount if it were the total cost, but users also have to factor in transfer fees.

You can easily see Western Union’s exchange rate in their fx calculator online or in app

Fees 

Western Union charges a variable transfer fee based on destination country, payment method, and collection method. Given how much this fee varies, it’s difficult to provide guideline figures, but we can confidently say that Western Union charges fees that are above the market average for non-bank providers. 

For example, to send 2,000 AUD via cash payment at a Western Union location, you’ll pay AU$18 in transfer fees alone. Remember that’s on top of whatever costs you’ve incurred from Western Union’s fx margin. Generally speaking, if your recipient is collecting cash, or if you’re paying in cash, you will incur a higher fee than if you were to make an international transfer directly to a bank account.  

We were disappointed that Western Union appeared to be purposely misleading new customers with its lack of transparency regarding fees. They offer a zero fee promotion on a user’s first transfer, but unlike other providers offering similar promotions, they do not share with the user how much the fee would normally cost. Meaning the user would have to go through the entire process of registering an account and completing an overseas transfer, just to know what the future fee would be for their next transaction. 

All that to find out that future transfers will incur a higher fee. Not ideal! 

Is there a Western Union App?

Yes, Western Union offers a widely used mobile app available on both Google Play and the App Store that has been downloaded globally over 5 million times.

The app has mostly positive feedback, with impressive ratings across both platforms: 

  • 4.6/5 on the App Store, based on 25.7K AU reviews.
  • 4.4/5 rating on Google Play based on 124K AU reviews.

The Western Union app allows users to register a new account, send money, monitor transfers, and track down the nearest agent location. The most commonly praised aspect is the app’s ease of use, as transfers can be completed with just a few clicks. Some users describe it as the easiest and fastest overseas transfer app available. Several users like the re-design and layout that was implemented in the last 18 months, and many found registering a new account to be a breeze. 

However, some negative feedback points to areas needing improvement. Users have reported clunky navigation, payment tracking delays, occasional freezing and app crashes. There are also several UX issues, such as buggy field entry text and formatting.

Despite these bugs, the Western Union app remains highly rated and popular among users, demonstrating its overall reliability and effectiveness.

Send money overseas or find your nearest agent location in the Western Union app

Is Western Union Safe?

Yes, we can confidently state that Western Union is a safe and trusted provider for international money transfers. 

Western Union is regulated by the ASIC, and the company invests a significant amount to ensure its Australian affiliate network remains in accordance with AUSTRAC requirements. Not to mention they’re also regulated in all their operating territories, including the UK which has notoriously stringent standards.  

The fact it’s a publicly traded company should provide added peace of mind, as this not only means greater transparency, but also suggests Western Union will be incredibly tight on its compliance, given the added scrutiny it will be under.

safe tofx


Western Union Reviews

Western Union has a solid online reputation, with a 4.0 out of 5 star rating on TrustPilot based on over 74,000 reviews. Many users praise the service for its reliably fast transfers and the convenience it offers recipients for collecting funds. Additionally, both the digital platforms and mobile apps are noted for being very user-friendly.

However, there are several recurring negative themes in the reviews. 

Many loyal customers express dissatisfaction with the current loyalty program, which Western Union has addressed, informing users the loyalty program is currently being updated. Other recurring complaints include long wait times for refunds on failed transactions, issues with generating tracking numbers or email receipts, and inconsistent advice from different support team members. Some users also report money being held for too long when sending to existing payees. These gripes all seem fairly justified, given Western Union’s best use case is for delivering money fast in emergencies. 

While Western Union’s service is generally reliable, these issues highlight areas that could benefit from improvement, as currently, their online rating is slightly below the industry average.

How Does an Overseas Transfer with Western Union Work?

Your experience of sending money abroad with Western Union will vary based on how you decide to pay for your transfer, as well as how your beneficiary will receive the funds. Below is a general guideline of how this process works. 

Create an Account

If you’re sending money digitally, your first step is to register a new account with Western Union. This is a quick process, just make sure you have your passport or Australian driving licence to hand so you can verify your identity. If you’re paying for a transfer in person, you can also verify your identity with an Australian-issued 18+ proof of age or Photo Card.

Confirm the Details of Your Transfer

If you’re paying in cash at a partner location, the agent might prompt you to double-check all details, so take your time to review everything carefully before proceeding. Remember, it’s always your own responsibility to check all transfer details, which includes reviewing Western Union’s exchange rate and any associated fees.

You’ll also need to calculate the FX margin yourself if you want to understand the true cost of the transfer.


Enter your beneficiary’s details

The chosen delivery method will determine the required information at this stage.

Cash pickup transfers only require the recipient’s full name as it appears on their ID, but for payments to a mobile wallet, debit card, or bank transfer, you’ll need to provide more details. For a bank transfer, you’ll need the recipient’s bank information, including an international ID code such as a routing number for a recipient in the USA, or an IBAN for those in the UK and Europe.

Check online and you’ll see that Western Union provides a tremendous amount of resources which explain the formatting requirements for bank transfers to almost every country in the world.

Sit Back and Relax

Once you’ve taken the time to ensure you’re confident that all details are correct, you can lock in your transfer, then kick back and wait for your funds to arrive.

Western Union will provide an estimated delivery time, along with a MTCN tracking number, which you can use to check on the status of your transfer either online or using your app.

How Long Does a Western Unionv Transfer Take?

The delivery speed with Western Union largely depends on the chosen delivery method. For cash pickups, funds are typically available for collection within minutes, making it an extremely swift option for emergency money transfers. However, international wire transfers may take between one and five days to process and are not handled on weekends. 

With that said, Western Union conveniently provides a guideline list of bank transfer delivery times on its website, categorised by the receiving country, which is a welcome layer of transparency for potential users. With the exception of Argentina, bank transfers to all other countries are estimated to take a maximum of 2 business days. Additionally, users will be provided a guideline delivery time upon confirming a transfer, and can track its status using the tracking number (MTCN) provided on their receipt.

While not explicitly stated, there are hints from Western Union’s FAQs that larger transfers may take longer to complete due to extra security checks and processes.

When to Use Western Union for Money Transfers

Seeing as Western Union is a fairly expensive option for most international transfers, its use cases are somewhat limited, and we seldom recommend it for sending money abroad. With that said, Western Union is a reliable choice for emergency situations, when you need to send funds fast to a recipient that does not have access to a bank account. 

What’s more, if you’re sending money to a unique destination, then it could be that Western Union is one of your only options. Their extensive network of pick-up locations and vast coverage of global countries and currencies is pretty much unrivalled, even compared to close competitors like MoneyGram.  

Assuming your recipient has access to a bank account, then there are numerous alternatives to consider that offer better value for money and superior service overall.

For smaller transfers under AU$20,000, we recommend using ‘Wise’, a highly rated money transfer app known for its fast, reliable, and very affordable international transfers.

For larger transfers, signing up with a leading currency broker is a no brainer. You’ll not only get access to great rates, you’ll also be assigned a dedicated account manager to offer guidance and help you leverage other fx tools to get the absolute most out of every transfer. You can learn more by checking out some of our top rated currency brokers such as Send Payments or OFX.

Our Verdict

Undoubtedly, Western Union is one of the major players in the money transfer industry, providing secure and dependable overseas transfers. With an extensive network covering a vast number of destination countries and currencies, Western Union serves as an excellent emergency solution seeing as their reach is unrivalled. 

However, Western Union has relatively limited use cases due to its higher costs compared to leading alternatives. The steady growth of Western Union’s digital services may eventually drive low enough fx margins to make them more competitive with the market leaders, but this remains to be seen for now.