Wise vs. Western Union | Costs, Limits, Speed

Wise vs. Western Union | Costs, Limits, Speed

There are already various companies that allow us to receive and send money internationally. When there are so many alternatives, it’s natural to be unsure which one to choose, as it’s important to consider not only the security of a financial transaction but also the rates charged and the transaction duration. Let’s explore the two most popular ones and make a comparison between them: Wise and Western Union.


Wise VS Western Union

The Wise, formerly TransferWise, is an online platform for transmitting money internationally. It was founded in 2011. It’s a unique, rapid, and dependable service with low fees. You can pay with a debit or credit card, or transfer funds from your online banking account. The receiver receives money immediately from Wise’s local bank account in their own currency.

Western Union, founded in 1857, is one of the oldest methods of sending money internationally. It can be found in over 200 different countries. The beneficiary can withdraw money in cash or into a bank account through Western Union at any point of service that is a Western Union branch throughout the world. To make the transfer, you go to a bank branch or do it online on the operator’s website.

Wise VS Western Union: Comparison


When you compare TransferWise and Western Union prices you’ll notice that Wise costs are lower. The ideal method to do this is to use the simulators provided by each platform, which allow you to enter all of your data and calculate the total value of your transfer even before you complete the registration and shipment. Wise also uses the commercial exchange rate, which is better than Western Union’s tourist exchange rate.

Let’s do some maths. In the below chart, we’ve highlighted the estimated costs on different transfer amounts from the US to Europe. Note that this data has been collected in August 2021 and can change any time at the discretion of the providers.

Wise (Through Bank Debit)
Western Union (To a Bank Account via Debit Card)

Transfer Amount:$1,000

The recipient gets 846.85
Fees: $6.40

The recipient gets €834.90
Fees: $2.99

Transfer Amount: $500

The recipient gets €422.82
Fees: $3.47

The recipient gets €417.45
Fees: $2.99

Transfer Amount: $250

The recipient gets €208.73
Fees: $2.99

The recipient gets €211.21
Fees: $2


Both are secure and trustworthy. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) in the United Kingdom has authorized and overseen Wise’s functioning. This means that the funds are directly deposited into banking institutions. The funds are held in Barclays Bank in Europe and Wells Fargo Bank in the United States.

Western Union is also regulated by dependable and safe institutions in the countries where they operate. 

Transfer Time

Delivery time at Wise can range from 4 hours to 4 working days (this is rare though). If the currency is GBP, the money might arrive in 2 minutes.

If you send money to a bank account by Western Union, it normally takes one or two working days to arrive. Depending on when and where it is sent, it may be deposited the same day or take up to three business days. Sometimes, depending on the branch’s operation, your transfer can be received in minutes.

Exchange Rates

Western Union’s margins are above the mid-market rate. Still, it’ll be fair to note that it changes depending on several factors such as transfer type and payout method.

When transferring money, Wise makes no markup on the exchange rate. It offers you the same exchange rate you would see on Google.


Wise supports transfers to 60 countries. These countries include many countries in Europe, the United States, Australia, India, and Canada.

Western Union supports more than 130 currencies. Plus, it has thousands of agent locations in over 200 countries worldwide.

Payment Options

Wise accepts the below payment methods:

  • credit or debit cards,
  • online bank transfers (the most common method),
  • Apple and Google Pay,
  • POLi,
  • ACH (direct bank debits)

Wise doesn’t accept cash or cheque payments in any currency. It doesn’t offer cash pickups, either.

At Western Union, you can pay via credit or debit cards, through instant bank transfers, bank transfers via the FPS, or even cash at an agent location. Here are the transfer types that Western Union provides.

  • Bank transfers
  • Cash pickups
  • Mobile wallet deposits

Customer Reviews

Wise has over 125,000 reviews on Trustpilot. Its score is 4.6 out of 5, which translates as excellent.

What users like about Wise is that it’s easy to use. Plus, it’s affordable and offers fast transfers. However, users also complain about its digital focus and lack of customer service agents which they can talk to directly. Another pain point is that its fees are competitive only for small sums of money.

Western Union has over 18,000 reviews on Trustpilot. Its score is 2.3.

Western Union users like the easy delivery and physical agent locations. However, most of the users aren’t happy with high exchange rates.

How To Transfer Money With Wise

After registering to Wise with your information, you’ll choose the amount, the currency, and the recipient’s details. Once you put all this data, you’ll see the cost and conversion rate instantly. Transparent and quick.

The system provides you with a payment slip that can be paid online or via bank transfer.

After you confirm the transaction, the recipient receives an email with the estimated time for receipt. 

How To Transfer Money With Western Union

You can send money with Western Union either with their affiliates or bank branches it works with. Here is how to send money this way:

  • Go to a Western Union affiliate or branch.
  • Submit your ID, fill out the customer form, pay the fees, and get your code.
  • Give the code to your receiver. The receiver collects the funds through this code.

Online transfer is also available. You can make an online transfer and the recipient receives the money either through their bank account, via agencies, or mobile wallet (available in some countries).

Conclusion: Wise VS Western Union | Which Is Better?

Wise is a very popular money transfer service among our community members. It’s highly preferred by digital nomads and those who like to do everything online. The only con is the lack of a cash pay-out option, but this is bearable.

Western Union is a well-respected provider and more accessible thanks to its easy cash pickup. However, it doesn’t seem to compete with Wise and its competitive rates. For further reading, check out our Wise Review.

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