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Western Union vs PayPal money transfers

We compare a popular service with a digital giant to see which is better for overseas transfers.

Western Union is nearly synonymous with international money transfers. And then there's the electronic payment giant PayPal, which also allows you to send money overseas. Which is cheaper and faster for sending funds to friends, family and businesses outside Australia?

The fees and rates used in this comparison are accurate as of 18 February 2019.

Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
Western Union
Within minutes
From $0
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
PayPal International Money Transfers
PayPal International Money Transfers
24 hours
From $0
Use PayPal to safely send money and receive payments from around the world in over 25 currencies with just an email address or mobile number.
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Which has lower fees?

Western Union

Western Union's fees for sending money from Australia start from $4, but in some cases can run up to $30 or higher.

The fee varies a lot by situation – your destination country, chosen currency, amount transferred and payment method will all affect the total fee. There is typically an additional charge for credit card payments.

PayPal

PayPal charges a flat fee of $5.99, unless you're paying by card. That means there'll be another 2.6% fee added on top, though it could be more depending on the currency you're sending to.

Trophy icon
Winner: PayPal

There are certain situations where PayPal fees will be higher than Western Union's for the same transfer, but these tend to be very specific situations.

In most cases it's likely to cost less in fees to send money from Australia with PayPal than Western Union. To find the actual cheaper option, though, you'll also need to factor in exchange rates.

Let's crunch the numbers: Sending $1,000 and $10,000 to the UK

Let's see how Western Union and PayPal compare when sending two different amounts to the UK. In this example, we'll be using a transfer paid by a bank transfer, rather than a credit card.

Sending $1,000 to the UK
Western UnionPayPal
Transfer fee$4$6.53
Exchange rate1 AUD = 0.5272 GBP1 AUD = 0.5758 GBP
Transfer speedVariesUp to a week
Total British pounds receivedGBP£525.09GBP£572.04
Receiver getsGBP£46.95 lessGBP£46.95 more
Sending $10,000 to the UK
Western UnionPayPal
Transfer fee$24$6.53
Exchange rate1 AUD = 0.5272 GBP1 AUD = 0.5758 GBP
Transfer speedVariesUp to a week
Total British pounds receivedGBP£5,259.35GBP£5,754.24
Receiver getsGBP£494.89 lessGBP£494.89 more

In this case, PayPal's exchange rates are good enough compared to Western Union's that you'll generally save money on sufficiently large transfers.

It makes a big difference on smaller transfers too, with PayPal bringing savings of around GBP£30 to GBP£50 compared to Western Union. It pays to look at the exchange rates and not just the fees.

Which offers better exchange rates?

Western Union

Western Union's currency exchange margins vary widely depending on the currency and the situation. In general, the margin added onto the exchange rate can vary from 2% to 6%. If you're sending a large amount overseas, this means hundreds of dollars that goes straight into Western Union's coffers.

PayPal

PayPal's margin, like Western Union, depends on what currency you're sending to. In general:

  • To USD or CAD: 3.5% added to the exchange rate
  • To other currencies: 4% added to the exchange rate

Trophy icon
Winner: Tie

There are no clear winners here. It all depends on the situation and either can be cheaper or more expensive than the other.

Which is faster?

Western Union

The speed of your transfer is mostly dependent on the transfer method. Cash pick-up or mobile money app deposits can be available in just a few minutes, while bank account transfers might take several days.

PayPal

PayPal money transfers might take a week or more end-to-end, depending on circumstance and destination.

If you don't already have funds in your PayPal account it might take several days to top it up, and after that it might take another few days to finish the transfer.

Trophy icon
Winner: Western Union

Western Union offers payments within minutes, although it costs extra and won't necessarily be suitable for every situation. Its bank transfers will typically take several business days to clear. PayPal's bank transfer speeds are similar, with the added burden of needing to top up or link your bank account first.

If you want to get verified and send money as fast as possible, Western Union has a clear advantage over PayPal.

General features

Payment methodsReceiving optionsMaximum and minimum transfersTransfer speedsCurrencies
Western Union
  • Bank transfer
  • Cash
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Bank account
  • Cash pickup location
Minimum: $1

Maximum: $50,000

Within minutes138 currencies
PayPal
  • Bank transfer
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Bank account
  • Mobile wallet
Minimum: $1

Maximum: $10,000

24 hours25 currencies

Western Union

With Western Union, you go to its site, enter how much you're transferring and confirm how you're sending it and how it should be received. You also have the option of visiting or calling an agent.

Once you've approved the exchange rate and fees you'll pay, Western Union converts and delivers your money to your recipient's bank account or for cash-pickups at locations worldwide.

PayPal

To transfer money through PayPal, you'll need to create a free PayPal account. You then send a transfer to your recipient's PayPal account, funding the transfer with your PayPal balance, bank account, credit or debit card or PayPal Credit.

After your recipient receives the money, they can either keep the funds in their PayPal account or withdraw the money to their bank account.

Bottom line

The most cost-effective and convenient option will depend on the circumstance. If you're paying by card, it's worth being aware of the additional fees this incurs at both PayPal and Western Union.

Similarly, it's worth checking the exchange rates for your currency ahead of a transfer. While PayPal's rates are fixed at a set amount above mid-market, Western Union's will vary widely from currency to currency.

Looking for more options?

Our table below lets you compare services you can use to send money abroad. Compare fees, exchange rates and discounts from different money transfer services, and when you have made your choice, click Go to site.
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
TorFX
24 hours
$0
TorFX sends money overseas in 40+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Xe Large Transfers
24 hours
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
Send Payments
24 hours
$0

Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
Revolut
Within minutes
$0
Send money with great rates and low fees in 30+ currencies.
Xe Money Transfers
Within minutes
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Instarem
Within minutes
From 0%
50% off first transaction fee from any country in APAC (outside India).
Minimum transfer of $250 and max transfer of $500,000
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From 0.43%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 50+ currencies.
TorFX
24 hours
$0
TorFX sends money overseas in 40+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From $0.99
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Rocket Remit
Within minutes
From $0 to $5
Send money instantly to friends and family in over 45 countries using just your mobile number.
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $1.99
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
SingX
Within minutes
From 0.5%
SingX offers the real exchange rate every time you make a transfer and can help you send money across the world.
CurrencyFair
Within minutes
€3
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
Send Payments
Send Payments
24 hours
$0
Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
MasterRemit
Within minutes
From $0
Get your 1st and 2nd money transfer for free with promo codes FIRSTFREE and MASTERFINDER!.
Send money in minutes at competitive exchange rates to the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
Western Union
Within minutes
From $0
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
Qantas Business Money
Within minutes
$0
Limited time offer: Earn up to 125,000 bonus Qantas Points as a first-time converter. Ends 30 April 2024. Conversion limits and T&Cs apply.
Set up accounts in 11 different currencies and get rewarded for global business payments by earning Qantas Points.
Airwallex
Within minutes
$0
Streamline global payments in 60+ currencies. Send & receive securely in 150+ countries, with fast settlements & competitive rates. Simplify book-keeping & manage everything in one place.
TorFX Business Transfers
24 hours
$0
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
OFX Business Transfers
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
WorldFirst
24 hours
From $0
Open bank accounts in Australia, the UK, US, Canada, Japan and Europe. Send and receive funds with zero fees for large sums, including same-currency supplier payments.
Send business
24 hours
$0

Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
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