Western Union transfer fee: What's the price of a money transfer?


If you need to make a payment to someone based overseas, you’ll want to research the options available, including cost, convenience and speed.

This guide covers all you need to know about Western Union transfer fees and limits. 

We’ll also take a look at an alternative way to send money internationally for less using TransferWise. With TransferWise you can make fast, safe online payments all over the world using the mid-market exchange rate, for just a low transparent fee. More on that later. 

How much does Western Union charge?

Let’s get started with a look at Western Union fees.

The cost of your payment will depend on a number of factors, including where you’re sending money to, how you pay for the transfer, and how you want your recipient to get the money. 

It’s worth knowing that Western union fees for sending money in person can vary significantly compared with Western Union fees to send money by wire transfer. Typically, Western Union international fees also go up if you want the payment to be received in cash rather than direct to a bank account - although cash collection is normally a quicker way to get your payment to its destination.

The key fees you’ll pay are the transfer fee and any costs wrapped up in the exchange rate applied. However, there are also a couple of other potential charges to know about, including admin costs if your payment is not collected, and third party charges if your transfer is made by wire.

Western Union table fees

To work out the exact costs for your transfer, you’ll be able to use the Western Union fees calculator online. Simply enter the currency you want to send to and from, the way you want to pay for the transfer, and how you want your recipient to get the money. This will show you an instant quote for both the fee and exchange rate available online and instore.

To give an illustration of the typical costs of a Western Union transfer let’s look at an example: Sending USD1,000 to Canada in CAD. The range of costs and exchange rates on offer can be complex - we’ll explore these a little more below the table.

Transfer paid by:Payment delivered by:Transfer feeTotal costRecipient gets
Credit card (online)Cash pick upUSD34USD1,034CAD1,199.80
Debit card (online)Cash pick upUSD7USD1,007CAD1,199.80
Bank account (online)Cash pick upUSD5USD1,005CAD1,199.80
Credit card (online)Direct to bank accountUSD29.99USD1.029.99CAD1,317.00
Debit card (online)Direct to bank accountUSD2.99USD1,002.99CAD1,317.00
Bank account (online)Direct to bank accountUSD0USD1,000CAD1,317.00
Cash in storeCash pick up or direct to bank accountUSD9USD1,009CAD1130.20

*Fees and exchange rates correct at time of research - 5 October 2020

Western Union fees for sending money in person

With 500,000 agents around the world, the changes are that there’s one somewhere near you if you want to arrange your payment in person. Visiting a Western Union office means you can deal face to face with a customer service agent and pay in cash. However, you may find that the overall costs of your payment are higher when using this service.

You’ll see from the example above that sending your payment in cash comes with a fixed fee - in our example, this is USD9. However, the exchange rate applied to this transfer is the lowest of the three on offer. This means your recipient gets less in the end, no matter whether your payment is collected in cash or sent to their bank account.

Western Union online transfer fee

For convenience you can set up and pay for your Western Union transfer online. Western Union transfer fees for online payments vary depending on how you fund the payment, and how you want it to be received. You may also find that the exchange rate on offer changes depending on the options you select. 

In the example above, the best exchange rate is offered for payments made online which are received directly into the recipient’s bank account. The transfer fee varies according to payment method, with the highest charges for credit card payments, followed by debit cards and bank transfers. 

Western Union exchange rate

The exchange rate used by Western Union changes depending on how you set up your payment. That’s because there’s a markup - an extra fee - added to the rate used, which varies depending on the service you select.

This may come as a surprise - but it really shouldn’t. In fact, Western Union are completely upfront about this extra charge on their website. Here’s what they say:

“Western Union also makes money from currency exchange. When choosing a money transmitter, carefully compare both transfer fees and exchange rates.”

Exchange rates change all the time, which can make it tricky to keep up - and hard to know if you’re getting a good deal or not. Compare the exchange rate offered by Western Union against the rate you find for your currency using a Google search or an online currency converter, to see if there is a markup added. If there is, you might find you can save money by using an international transfer provider which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, like TransferWise.

Sending funds overseas? TransferWise could save you money

The fees and exchange rate costs used by Western Union can be confusing. If you want a simpler way to see the true costs of your international payment - take a look at TransferWise.

Transferwise payments are made using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. That’s the same rate you’ll find on Google. You just pay a simple transparent fee for each transfer, which can work out much cheaper than alternative providers. Head over to the TransferWise website to see how it works - you’ll be able to get an instant quote, and see comparisons with other major money transfer services to help you find the best deal available. 

Western Union sending money limit

There are limits to how much you can send with Western Union. These limits are set according to your account history, where you and your recipient are located, and the type of payment you’re making. When you log into your Western Union account and model the payment using the online fee calculator, you’ll be able to see the limits which apply to your chosen transfer.

Western Union receive money fees

In most cases there are no fees for receiving money through Western Union. However, the type of transfer made will dictate the exchange rate used - which may ultimately mean your recipient gets less than you expect.

Western Union also states that fees may be applied by third parties when sending money directly to a bank account. These may include charges levied by the recipient’s own bank. There may also be extra fees if your recipient asks to receive a payment in a different currency to the one you selected when arranging the transfer.

Western Union is a large international payment provider - but they’re not always the cheapest service available. Compare the costs of your transfer against modern competitors like  TransferWise to see how the price, convenience and speed measure up. You could find you get a better deal.