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International money transfers: Western Union vs bank transfer

Information verified correct on December 8th, 2016

Find out whether Western Union or a bank transfer can send money cheaper and for less.

Western Union is one of the oldest names in the money transfer business and everyone has a bank account. But which one do you use when you want to send someone, or something money? The answer: it depends. Both bank transfers or Western Union transfers let you send money next door or over the other side of the world. Each method has pros and cons and is suited depending on what it is you’re looking to do.

Sending money within Australia

It’s a no brainer if you want to send money to another bank account in Australia. Bank to bank transfers within Australia are free. Western Union charge a fee for sending money, but there are more collection options. Both services can make the funds available to the recipient almost immediately if the sender initiates the transfer in person.

Sending money overseas

Sending money overseas is a little less straightforward. International bank transfers are expensive. Financial institutions charge a flat fee for sending money to an international account. Western Union also charge a flat fee, but this fee depends on how you plan on sending the money. For example, sending money from a debit or credit account is going to cost you a comparable amount to an international bank transfer. Initiating a Western Union international transfer from a bank account is cheaper than an international bank transfer; however, it may take a few extra days before the funds are made available.

Sending money overseas with Western Union so the money can be collected in minutes can be expensive too. But there are times when it’s more important for the funds to be ready on the same day than to save on fees. In this Western Union vs. bank transfer analysis, we put the two money transfer options side by side.

Western Union vs bank transfer exchange rates

AUDWestern UnionBank Transfer
USD1 AUD = 0.7095USD1 AUD = 0.6883
EUR1 AUD = 0.6308EUR1 AUD = 0.6340
JPY1 AUD = 86.5974JPY1 AUD = 84.8000
GBP1 AUD = 0.4705GBP1 AUD = 0.4534
CHF1 AUD = 0.6978CHF1 AUD = 0.6807
CAD1 AUD = 0.9266CAD1 AUD = 0.9282
HKD1 AUD = 5.5467HKD1 AUD = 5.3121
BRL1 AUD = 2.6432BRLN/A
CNY1 AUD = 4.6183CNY1 AUD = 4.5104
CLP1 AUD = 500.3309CLPN/A

Banks and Western Union offer similar rates. Unless you’re transferring a considerable sum of money, the different in foreign exchange rates between the two options is negligible. Western Union make a small margin on the exchange rate offered; however, the rates are still slightly better than what you may be able to get from the bank. Western Union also offer a different rate depending on the method of collection. The bank transfer and cash collection rates are different.

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Western Union vs Bank Transfer – which is cheaper?

The answer: it depends where you’re sending the money and how you plan on paying.

Bank to bank transfers to accounts in Australia are free. There’s a fee for International bank transfers. The fee for sending money via a branch is different for the fee for sending money overseas via internet banking  and the receiving bank may charge fees as well.

Western Union is upfront about international transfer fees. Western Union charge a service fee for each transfer as well as applying a small margin to the foreign exchange rate. Some Western Union transfers can be expensive. Transfer fees depend on how the money is sent. The ways money can be sent to the recipient vary depending where the money is going. For example, a international transfer to Colombia allows payment by credit or debit card and cash pickup only. This method of international payment is more expensive than sending the funds from a bank account. Using Western Union transfer to send money to a bank account in France and paying with a debit or credit card is cheaper than a bank transfer.

Western Union vs bank transfer fees

Fees vary depending on the recipient's country, how the money is send and collected.

ProviderWestern Union Transfer FeesBank Transfer Fee (Commonwealth Bank)
In personCash pickup and paid by credit or debit card: $20.00 AUD$67.00*
Online$22.00**
  •  Sending USD to US
  • * This figure includes the correspondence fee. The charge from intermediaries and receiving banks.
  • ** Additional fees and charges apply. The correspondence fee can not be paid by the sender when international money transfers are initiated online.
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What’s the difference between Western Union and bank transfer?

The main differences between Western Union and bank transfers are as follows: The price of the transfer, the length of time before the recipient can collect the money, the method of collection, available destinations and transfer limits. Western Union can send money to more countries and offers more collection options. Western Union can also make funds available within minutes after the transaction has been payed for and processed. Registration is required to send money too, it’s free to become a member.

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Western Union and bank transfer pick up options

Bank transfers are simple. The money must be sent to a personal or business account either in the same country or internationally. Once the funds clear in the recipient’s account, the funds can be withdrawn or transferred to another account of their choosing.

Western Union gives more options for receiving money. Funds can be made available as a cash pickup from a Western Union agent, deposited to a mobile wallet or the recipient's bank account.

Western Union pickup optionAvailability
Bank account Money can be made available within 1 - 2 business days.
Cash Money is available within minutes.
Mobile WalletMoney is available within minutes.

Jacob Joseph

Jacob is a writer and video journalist with finder.com.au. Credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts are his bread and butter, and he likes nothing more helping people understand the sometimes overly complex world of personal finance.

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4 Responses to International money transfers: Western Union vs bank transfer

  1. Default Gravatar
    Manoj | September 13, 2016

    is western union is better than banks?

    • Staff
      Clarizza | September 14, 2016

      Hi Manoj,

      Thanks for your question.

      The answer will depend on a number of things such as how fast you want your money transferred, the method, fees and exchange rate. On this page, you can find a comparison between Western Union and Banks on the areas mentioned. For example the exchange rate offered by Western Union is stronger than banks which means your money will be worth more once converted. Also Western Union charges a flat $20 fee transfer fee whether it is online or in person, whereas with the bank we’ve listed as an example, the fee will depend on the method of transfer.

      We recommend weighing up your options based on your goal. Please note, we are a comparison site and can provide general advice only.

      Regards,
      Clarizza

  2. Default Gravatar
    Alton | March 21, 2016

    which is the safest way to send money internationally from the Bahamas to Japan

    • Staff
      Shirley | March 22, 2016

      Hi Alton,

      Thanks for your question.

      Using an international money transfer service that is regulated by a Government body in your local country could be a safe option.

      Alternatively, bank transfers are generally considered safe too.

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