Wise VS Western Union | Costs, Limits, Speed

Originally published at: Wise VS Western Union | Costs, Limits, Speed | Go VisaFree

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

Verdict: Although the exact fees might vary depending on payment methods, Wise stands out with slightly lower fees. Western Union’s fee structure is complex and it has high exchange rate markups.

Open a Wise Account


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. 

Verdict: Both platforms are equally safe.

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.

Verdict: We’ll call it a tie as this depends on several factors. Both providers offer money transfer methods where you can choose the delivery time depending on your priority.

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.

Verdict: As Wise provides providing international transfers at the mid-market rate, it’s hard to beat Wise.


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.

Verdict: Western Union has a more extensive network.

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

Verdict: If you want your recipient to get the transfer as cash, go for Western Union. Wise is focused on digital transactions and doesn’t offer cash payouts.

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.

Verdict: Wise has more positive reviews than Western Union. Although Western Union is one of the oldest providers in the industry and has many local customers, Wise gets better reviews.

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. 

Open a Wise Account

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.

What is your take on this? We’ll be happy to hear your thoughts. Please join us in our growing community and share your experience.