We compare Western Union and bank transfers to see who offers the cheapest and easiest way to send money overseas.
Choosing an international money transfer provider can be a tricky task. Not only do you need to find competitive exchange rates and low transfer fees, but you also need to find a provider that offers a quick and convenient way to send money overseas.
Western Union is one of the oldest names in the money transfer business, allowing you to send money all over the world. But you can also send an international transfer straight from your regular bank account, providing a safe and reliable way to transfer funds overseas.
So, which option is better – Western Union or bank transfers? Let's take a closer look.
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Western Union vs bank transfer: sending money overseas
Sending money overseas is a little more complicated. There are two costs to consider:
Banks and Western Union both charge a transaction fee on international transfers. For example, Commonwealth Bank charges a $22 fee for international transfers issued via NetBank, and a $30 fee for transfers issued via a branch.
Meanwhile, transfer fees with Western Union vary depending on:
- Where you are sending money. Some transfer destinations are more expensive than others.
- How much money you send. As a general rule, the more money you send, the larger the transaction fee.
- How you pay for the transfer. Paying via bank transfer is cheaper than if you pay with a credit or debit card.
- How your recipient will collect the money. Western Union bank account transfers are cheaper than cash pickup transfers
What does all this mean for the cost of your transfer? Sending money from a debit or credit card 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 to your recipient.
Sending money overseas with Western Union so the money can be collected in minutes can also be expensive, but it's a handy option if you ever need to send an urgent transfer.
The exchange rate that applies to your transfer is the other crucial factor that determines the total cost of a transaction. Let's take a look at how Western Union exchange rates compare to those offered by the banks.
Western Union vs bank transfer exchange rates
|AUD||Western Union||Bank Transfer|
|USD||1 AUD = 0.772 USD||1 AUD = 0.7622 USD|
|EUR||1 AUD = 0.6137 EUR||1 AUD = 0.6363 EUR|
|JPY||1 AUD = 86.2456 JPY||1 AUD = 85 JPY|
|GBP||1 AUD = 0.5622 GBP||1 AUD = 0.5621 GBP|
|CHF||1 AUD = 0.7374 CHF||1 AUD = 0.7373 CHF|
|CAD||1 AUD = 0.9337 CAD||1 AUD = 0.9372 CAD|
|HKD||1 AUD = 6.1351 HKD||1 AUD = 5.9296 HKD|
|BRL||1 AUD = 2.4180 BRL||N/A|
|CNY||1 AUD = 5.2027 CNY||1 AUD = 5.0581 CNY|
|CLP||1 AUD = 484.5378 CLP||N/A|
- All rates correct as of 21 September 2017. The exchange rates quoted for Western Union are for a Western Union bank account transfer of AUD$1,000. The bank rates are referencing exchange rates offered by The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and should not be reflective of all banks' exchange rates. Always source a quote for current rates and fees.
As you can see, banks and Western Union offer similar rates across a number of currencies. However, there are sometimes noticeable differences between the rates quoted, such as Western Union's higher USD rate or the higher bank rate for the EUR. While the difference between rates may seem small, if you're sending a large sum of money this can have a huge impact on the overall cost of your transaction.
It's also worth mentioning that the Western Union exchange rate can vary depending on the method of collection, with cash pickup transfers attracting a lower rate than transfers to the recipient's bank account. To find the best exchange rate for your particular transfer, obtain quotes from Western Union and your bank and see how they compare.
Western Union vs bank transfer – which is cheaper?
The answer depends on where you’re sending the money and how you pay for the transaction. For transfers within Australia, bank-to-bank transfers are free and are therefore more affordable than Western Union transfers.
If you're sending money overseas, remember to compare two costs:
- The transfer fee. International bank transfer fees vary depending on whether you initiate the transfer via online banking or in a branch, but often range from $15 to around $30. Remember, too, that the receiving bank may charge additional fees. Western Union transfer fees depend on where you send money, the amount you send, how you pay for the transfer and how the money is collected, so it's worth applying for a quote to see how much your specific transaction will cost. To give you an idea of the broad range of fees possible, sending AUD$1,000 from Australia to the UK could cost anywhere from $4 to $20.
- The exchange rate. While the exchange rates offered by the banks and Western Union and the banks tend to be fairly similar, there can be sizable differences at some times and rates fluctuate all the time. With this in mind, compare your bank's current rates with those offered by Western Union to see who offers the best value.
Western Union vs bank transfer fees
Transaction fees vary depending on the recipient's country, your payment method, and how the money is sent and collected.
|Provider||Western Union Transfer Fees||Bank Transfer Fee (Commonwealth Bank)|
|In person||Cash pickup paid by credit or debit card: AUD$20.00Cash pickup paid by instant bank transfer: AUD$9.00Bank account transfer paid by credit or debit card: AUD$10.00|
Bank account transfer paid by instant bank transfer: AUD$4.00
- 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 cannot be paid by the sender when international money transfers are initiated online.
Western Union vs bank transfer: sending money within Australia
Bank transfers are a clear winner in terms of cost when you need to send money within Australia. Bank to bank transfers within Australia are free, while Western Union charges a fee for sending money.
However, there are more collection options available from Western Union, with the option to send funds straight to your recipient's bank account or cash that can be collected from Western Union agent locations all over Australia. Both services can make the funds available to the recipient almost immediately.
Western Union and bank transfer pick-up options
When you send an international bank transfer, the funds are deposited into your recipient's bank account. Once the funds clear in the recipient’s account, they can be withdrawn or transferred to another account.
Western Union offers 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 transferred to the recipient's bank account.
|Western Union pickup option||Transfer time|
|Bank account||Money can usually be made available within 0 - 3 business days, but the process can take up to 5 days.|
|Cash||Money is available within minutes.|
|Mobile wallet||Money is available within minutes.|
What’s the difference between Western Union and a bank transfer?
The main differences between Western Union and bank transfers are:
- The price of the transfer. Get a quote from Western Union and your bank to see which is cheaper.
- The length of time before the recipient can collect the money. Bank transfers generally take between 2 and 5 days to process. Western Union offers cash transfers within minutes, or bank account transfers that usually take between 0 and 3 days (but can take up to 5 days) to process.
- The method of collection. Bank transfers go straight to your recipient's bank account. Western Union offers cash pickup transfers, mobile wallet transfers and the option to deposit funds into your recipient's bank account.
- Available transfer destinations. Western Union and bank transfers allow you to send funds to most countries around the world. For a full list of transfer destinations, contact Western Union or your bank.
- Transfer limits. Maximum international money transfer limits vary between banks, so check with your bank to find out how much you can send. The maximum amount you can send via CommBank's NetBank platform is $50,000. The highest amount you can send online with Western Union per day is $5,000, but you can send as much money as you'd like from a Western Union agent location.
- Opening an account. You can send an international bank transfer from your regular transaction account. If you want to send an online transfer with Western Union, you'll need to register for a free account and provide an Australian driver's licence, Medicare card or passport.
Western Union vs bank transfer: which should I choose?
It's simply not possible to nominate either Western Union or bank transfers as the clear-cut best choice for all international money transfers. The right money transfer provider for your transaction will depend on where you're sending money, how much you're sending, how your recipient wants to access the funds you send and how quickly you need the transaction to be completed. Get quotes from your bank and Western Union for your specific transaction, and compare them with quotes from other transfer companies to find the best deal.