Western Union Review: Fees, Rate and Safety 2022

Western Union is one of the world's most recognised money transfer brands, with agents in almost every country on earth. You can use Western Union to send payments in person, online and on the go through its mobile apps. Payout options are extensive - including bank transfers and cash for collection at agents around the world.

This Western Union Singapore review walks through all there is to know about Western Union, including fees, whether it's safe to use, how fast it is, how to get set up, and more.

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Western Union: Key points

Key features:

  • One of the most established and extensive money transfer services in the world

  • Send money in person, online and using the Western Union app - pay in cash using an agent, or by bank transfer or card for electronic payments

  • Payout methods include bank transfers, cash collection and mobile money payments

  • Huge agent network, covering over 500,000 global locations

  • Business services are available

    Key stats:

  • Founded in 1861 as a telegraph company

  • Facilitated its first payment in 1871, and switched entirely to money transfer services in 2006

  • Send in 130+ currencies, to over 200 countries and territories - you can send payments to every country on earth aside from Iran and North Korea

  • 34 digital transfers a second are processed by Western Union

  • 150 million retail and digital customers around the world

Pros:

  • Probably the biggest global agent network, and the biggest reach in terms of countries and currencies of any transfer provider

  • Pay in person with cash, or online using a bank transfer or card

  • Payout in cash, to a bank or mobile money account

  • Cash payments can be available in minutes

  • Fully regulated around the world, including by MAS in Singapore

Cons:

  • The total cost of transfers isn't always clear because of fees included in the exchange rates

  • Overall costs of sending money may not be the most competitive out there

  • Not all services are available in all destination countries

  • You'll usually pay more for faster, cash based services

Overall:

Western Union is one of the best known money transfer brands on the planet.

Having developed from an offline provider into the current hybrid of online, offline and mobile payments, Western Union has a great range of services backed up by a huge agent network. That makes them particularly attractive for anyone looking for an international payment provider with the option to pay in or pay out in cash.

Western Union may not be the cheapest option out there for electronic payments, but the range of services and the convenience of their agent network make them a contender if you're looking for a cash based transfer service.

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How much can I save with Western Union compared to a bank?

Using a specialist provider can often be much cheaper than opting for a regular bank when you need to send a payment overseas. Let's look at how the costs of sending a payment with Western Union might match up with a traditional bank.

Service

Western Union

Traditional bank fee

Open your account

Free

Minimum opening deposit may apply

Monthly fees

Free

Monthly fees or fall below fees may apply

International payment transfer fee

Fees vary depending on destination country, payment type and value

Fees vary between banks and accounts, and can include:


Around 1/8% commission + Agent Fee + Cable Charge (likely to be around 20 SGD) + exchange rate markup

Exchange rate used

Mid-market rate + markup

Mid-market rate + markup

International payment third party fees

Credit card cash advance fees may apply if you fund your payment by card


SWIFT fees may apply for bank transfers

SWIFT fees (commonly called agent fees) may apply

Receive international payments

No recipient fees when sending for cash collection


Recipient bank may impose a charge for direct bank deposits

Around 10 SGD per payment

Send money with Western Union

What is Western Union

When it was founded in the US over 160 years ago, Western Union was a telegraph service, helping people get messages to loved ones. A decade later, Western Union made its first pivot into money transfers, moving money via telegrams.

Over the years the services available from Western Union developed to suit consumer needs, including communications and financial products.

Fast forward to 2006, and Western Union sent their last telegrams, and became entirely dedicated to domestic and international money transfer services. You can now send money with Western Union in person, online or using an app. Payout options vary by country, but include bank transfers, cash for collection and transfers to mobile money accounts.

With one of the strongest agent networks in the world, Western Union is particularly known for arranging payments where either the sender or the recipient wants to deal in cash. Let's look at the full range of services on offer from Western Union:

Cash collection

You can send payments for cash collection via a huge range of Western Union agents around the world. Use the Agent Locator tool to find Western Union locations convenient to you or your recipient.

As the sender you'll be able to set up your payment online, in the app, or by visiting an agent yourself. Then you'll simply need to give your recipient the reference number, so they can take that and their photo ID documents to an agent local to them to get the cash.

If you choose the Money in Minutes service your payment could be available almost instantly.

Great for: getting money quickly, and in cash, to someone who may not be able to access a bank account.

Send money with Western Union

Bank transfers

Set up a payment online or in the Western Union app and have it deposited in your recipient's bank account directly. Payments usually arrive in a day or two. This can be a convenient option as your recipient won't need to visit an agent to get their money. It can also be the cheapest way to arrange an international payment.

Great for: sending convenient international transfers online and in-app.

Mobile money

In some countries, Western Union can facilitate mobile money payments which are sent quickly and directly to people with mobile money accounts. This service is available in select locations where Western Union works in partnership with mobile phone operators.

Great for: mobile money payments direct to digital wallets.

Western Union Business solutions

Western Union Business Solutions cover one off international payments, mass payments, and FX risk management services.

The range of options is split down by Western Union to show how they can help different business types and industries. Mass payment services, for example, could be helpful for businesses managing international payroll or sending out royalty payments to clients internationally. Recurring transfers could help companies paying out pensions to members living overseas, and solutions to mitigate the risks of currency fluctuations can help businesses which deal in high volume international transactions like travel agents.

Great for: businesses trading or making payments internationally.

How does Western Union work?

Western Union's journey into payment services began some 150 years ago as an offline service offering money transfers via the telegraph network. Over the years the products and services on offer have developed and evolved - but one of the stand out factors of Western Union remains its offline options. Thanks to a huge network of agents around the world, you can send payments in person - and have them collected in cash on the other side of the globe, sometimes in just a few minutes.

Unsurprisingly the costs of payments which involve in person services are typically higher than online transfers - but it's a convenient way to get money quickly to someone who doesn't have easy access to a bank account.

Western Union also offers payments online and in their app, which can be delivered direct to bank and mobile money accounts or for cash collection. That means you can often combine the pay in and pay out services you need, to get the right mix for both you and your recipient.

Open a Western Union account

Is Western Union safe?

Western Union is a safe service to use. It is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore MAS as a Major Payment Institution.

Bear in mind you should only send payments to people you know and trust. Western Union warns about criminals who can try to use their services to commit consumer fraud. That's typically because cash payments can be arranged very quickly and are hard to trace once they've been picked up. By the time you realise you've been a victim the money has gone.

There's lots of information on the Western Union website to help you learn more about staying safe when sending money. Learn more about safety at Western Union.

Western Union fees

Western Union costs can include a transfer fee and an exchange rate markup. It's worth remembering third party fees - like credit card cash advance fees - can also apply, depending on how you pay.

The cost for your transfer will depend on several factors:

  • Destination country and currency

  • Payment amount

  • How you want to pay

  • How you want your recipient to get the money

You can start to set up your payment online or in the Western Union app, to see both the services which are available for your destination country, and the costs. You'll be able to look at different pay in and pay out options, including the fees, exchange rates and delivery times to see which best balances cost and convenience for you.

Western Union rate

Western Union exchange rates include a markup on the mid-market rate, and can vary by brand, channel and location. The rate you're offered at an agent may not be the same as one you find online - and different agents may use differing rates, too.

Send money with Western Union

How long does Western Union take?

How long it takes for your payment to be received depends on the destination and the specific service you select.

If you send a payment for cash collection through Western Union it may be available for collection quickly. Bear in mind that time zone differences and agent opening hours may impact the speed of your payment in this case.

If you're sending to a bank account, Western Union transfers usually take 1 to 3 working days to arrive, depending on the currency, country, and receiving bank's processes.

Western Union Pros

  • Global agent network, covering 130+ currencies and almost every country on earth
  • Transact in cash via an agent or use a bank account online

  • Cash payments can be available in minutes

  • Fully regulated by MAS in Singapore

Western Union Cons

  • Fees and rates vary and may not be the most competitive option

  • Limited services in some destination countries

  • In person service can be more expensive than online

How to use Western Union

If you're sending a payment in person you'll need to take along your valid government ID when you visit an agent location. The agent will then guide you through the process to set up your transfer and pay the amount being transferred plus fees.

To 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

Funding methods

Send a Western Union payment:

  • Using a bank transfer through DBS FAST

  • By Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card

  • In cash at an agent location

Payout methods

Arrange a Western Union payment, and select the following payout methods:

  • Bank transfer

  • Cash pickup at an agent

  • Mobile money account

How to create a Western Union account

You can create a Western Union account online or in the app in just a couple of steps:

  • Select Register

  • Enter your name as it appears on your government ID

  • Add your personal details

  • Enter your email to get confirmations and receipts

  • Complete the required verification step

To verify your account online you need to take a selfie which is then matched with your government issued ID document. It’s useful to know you can send money at an agent location without needing to complete the online verification step if you’d prefer - instead you’ll simply present your document in person to the agent.

Send money with Western Union

What documents you'll need

Before you can open a Western Union account online or in the Western Union app you'll need to verify your account. To do this you follow the onscreen prompts to enter your ID details including your ID type, ID number, and ID issue date. The documents you can use are likely to include your passport or NRIC - the full list of options will be confirmed once you start to create your account.

You'll be taken to the selfie KYC tool and asked to take a selfie which is then used for identity verification.

How long does verification take?

Verification online will take just a few minutes. You’re asked not to close down the app or desktop site while verification is in process.

If you need to make an urgent transfer you can visit a Western Union agent where you can present your ID in person to arrange a payment.

Western Union limits

There’s no specific limit to the amount you can send with Western Union if you’re visiting an agent location. However, bear in mind that agents might have their own rules about the value of payments they’re willing to process.

Online, once you’ve verified your account you’ll usually be able to send 5,000 SGD per transfer, with an upper total limit of 50,000 SGD. These limits can vary and are automatically set by Western Union - contact customer service if you need support with your account limits.

Supported currencies

Western Union supports 130+ different currencies and lets you send to over 200 different countries and territories. In fact, every country in the world aside from Iraq and North Korea is covered in some form.

To check if there are Western Union agent locations near to you, or local to your recipient, use this Western Union agent locator tool.

Western Union reviews

Western Union scores an average of 3.3 stars on Trustpilot, from a total of over 20,000 listed reviews at the time of writing. That's an Average score.

Of the reviews that have been posted, 60% did give Western Union the highest possible Trustpilot rating. There's particular praise for the ease of using the Western Union app. Here's what a few happy customers said:

"Very good app, I haven't had any problems sending money"

"It is really easy using Western Union. I really like using the app because it saves my information and the people that I'm sending money to."

When it comes to the less good reviews, 16% of people gave the worst available rating, with issues focused on things like high fees and complex customer verification processes.

Western Union accessibility

Use Western Union online, in the mobile app on both Apple and Android phones, or by visiting an agent location. 

Western Union customer service

You can always visit a Western Union agent to get help - or use these options instead:

Customer support channel

Western Union availability

Phone support

+65 6336 2000 (English is available 24/7; Mandarin Chinese from 8:00 am to midnight)

Chat support

Available via the app or desktop site

Email address

[email protected] (for support in English) 

 [email protected] (for support in Mandarin Chinese)

Western Union alternatives

  • Wise - send online and mobile payments which use the real exchange rate and low transparent fees, or open an online international account to send and hold multiple currencies. Cash payments are not available

  • Remitly

  • similar range of payout options as Western Union, but fewer countries covered. Choose different delivery speeds which come with a choice of transfer fees.

  • PayPal or Xoom - send instant payments at home and abroad - convenient and quick, but not always the cheapest. With PayPal your recipient will also need to set up an account to get their money.

  • Revolut - open an online international account to send and hold multiple currencies from the same account.

Conclusion

Western Union is a giant in the world of international payments, with transfers available in person, online and on the go through mobile apps. One of Western Union's biggest strengths is its global reach. Between online services and a global network of 500,000+ agents, almost every country in the world is covered. And with cash payments available almost instantly, it's an especially good pick if you need to get money quickly to someone without a bank account.

Western Union might not be the fastest or cheapest for online and mobile transfers direct to bank accounts, but definitely worth looking at for in person and cash collection payments.

Send money with Western Union

General advice: The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own personal situation and requirements before making any financial decisions. We compare currency exchange and money transfer services in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. We only display reputable companies which we have researched and approved.

FAQ

How much does Western Union cost?

Western Union fees depend on the country you’re sending to, the value of the payment and the specific transfer type.

How long does Western Union take to transfer funds?

Cash payments made under the Money in Minutes option can be available almost instantly. Bank transfers may take a day or two to arrive.

Is Western Union safe?

Western Union is fully regulated by MAS in Singapore.

How does Western Union apply exchange rates?

Western Union makes money from currency exchange. That means that there’s a markup - a fee - added to the exchange rate offered to customers.

Does Western Union have a mobile app?

Get the Western Union app on Apple and Android phones.

How does Western Union work?

Western Union supports transfers through its huge agent network, as well as via a desktop site and mobile app. Send payments to a recipient’s bank account, as a mobile money payment, or for cash collection.

How many currencies does it support?

Western Union supports 130+ currencies.

General advice: The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own personal situation and requirements before making any financial decisions. We compare currency exchange and money transfer services in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. We only display reputable companies which we have researched and approved.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 14 April 2022