Easily compare the pros and cons of Western Union and PayPal money transfers.
Both PayPal and Western Union allow you to send money internationally, but which one is better for your transfer? We take a look at the fees, exchange rates and other features of both services in this guide so you can decide.
You can use the table below to compare Western Union with other dedicated money transfer services. Simply enter your transfer amount and your destination to see the most relevant options for you.
Money transfers made easy: Instantly compare your options
What is PayPal?
PayPal is an online service for paying merchants, sending money to friends, family, or anyone with a PayPal account. You credit funds to your account from your bank account, credit or debit card and then send the money to another PayPal account. The receiver then transfers the money to their own bank account to access cash.
What is Western Union?
Western Union is a household name for international money transfers. Money is sent straight to the recipient's bank account or funds are available to collect as cash in person from a Western Union agent. Both services charge fees.
Western Union exchange rates
|Currency||Western Union exchange rate|
|USD||1 AUD = 0.7682 USD|
|EUR||1 AUD = 0.6357 EUR|
|JPY||1 AUD = 85.3979 JPY|
|GBP||1 AUD = 0.5796 GBP|
|CHF||1 AUD = 0.7168 CHF|
|CAD||1 AUD = 0.9449 CAD|
|HKD||1 AUD = 6.0896 HKD|
|BRL||1 AUD = 2.3817 BRL|
|CNY||1 AUD = 5.3100 CNY|
|CLP||1 AUD = 501.9470 CLP|
*Rates correct: 21/7/2017. You should always source a quote for current rats and fees.
Western Union apply a margin on top of the market foreign exchange rate (known as the interbank rate) as well as charge fees for international transfers. Western Union publish their exchange rates and even let you calculate the cost of a transfer online, which is really convenient.
PayPal exchange rates
Unlike Western Union which allows you to calculate the cost of a transfer with up to date fees and exchange rates, PayPal is less transparent. PayPal uses the market rate plus a currency conversion fee, which changes depending on the the method to send the funds and the recipient's country. This makes it more difficult to calculate the cost of a transaction , without signing up for a PayPal account and seeking a quote.
- To US or Canadian dollars. PayPal’s rate is 3.5% above the exchange rate.
- To all other currencies. PayPal’s rate is 4% above the exchange rate.
- Within your PayPal account (not as part of a purchase) to any currency. PayPal’s rate is 2.5% above the exchange rate.
Western Union vs PayPal - which is cheaper?
PayPal transfers within Australia and free. PayPal charge a percentage of the total transfer amount for international transfers, this fee varies depending on whether you’re using your available PayPal balance or paying with a credit or debit card. Western Union have a varied approach to fees depending on how the money is sent and collected and where the funds are being sent. Both services are secure, although Western Union is little more anonymous.
Western Union transfer fees are high, and can be a significant portion of the total transfer, which makes Western Union a good idea for transfers of a certain size only. PayPal’s approach to transfer fees, charging a percentage of the transfer amount can be more cost effective for smaller transactions. For example, sending $100 using Western Union can cost you as much as 10%; while PayPal transfers can come in around 3-6% of the transfer amount. Transfers to accounts in Australia are a little more clear cut; PayPal offers free transfers to other Australian PayPal accounts whereas Western Union charge a fee for this service. However, if the receiver doesn’t have a bank account, a Western Union transfer may be better option.
Western Union vs PayPal fees
The PayPal fees and charges disclosure statement is a heavy read. PayPal charge a currency conversion fee, which can be as much as 4% of the transaction amount for transfers made between different currencies. The charges for international transfers are much higher if the transaction is funded by a card payment. Western Union are more transparent with their fee structure; however, Western Union transfers cost more.
Sending $1,000.00 to India using Western Union
|Credit or Debit Card||Bank account||$4.00|
|Credit or Debit Card||Cash|
|Instant bank transfer||Cash|
Sending $1,000.00 to the Philippines using Western Union
|Credit or Debit Card||Bank account||$10.00|
|Instant bank transfer||Bank account|
|Credit or Debit Card||Mobile Money|
|Credit or Debit Card||Cash|
What’s the difference between Western Union and PayPal?
Besides the fee structure, there are some key differences between the two services in how money is received. PayPal is an online service, unlike Western Union it doesn’t offer the option to collect funds in person. The receiver needs to have a PayPal account to transfer the money to a linked bank account and make withdrawals.
Western Union works differently. Money can be collected at a Western Union agent without prior registration. The sender provides a secret password or the receiver shows identification to collect the money from an agent, or the money is sent right to the recipient's bank account.
Western Union and PayPal pick up options
To get cash from a PayPal payment, the money must be transferred to a bank account first. Western Union offer cash collection as well as online transfers.
Western Union collection options
|Collection Option||Payment Option||Transfer Time|
|Cash in person||Cash in person||Funds are available within minutes|
|Cash in Person||Credit or Debit Card||Funds are available within minutes|
|Bank account transfer||Credit or Debit Card||1 - 4 days|
Sending $1,000 from Australia to the USA
It is also worth comparing additional providers, such as MoneyGram, in addition to Western Union and PayPal. The most effective way to compare MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal is to look at a case study such as the one below. Please note this is a fictional case study with the rates correct in July 2017. You should always source a quote for current rates and fees.
Malcolm sends money to the USAMalcolm wants to send $1,000 from Australia to his aunt on the west coast of the USA for her birthday. MoneyGram, Western Union and PayPal all offer handy online calculators that estimate the cost of the transfer, so he punches in the details of his transaction to see what each company has to offer. The details of his comparison are shown in the table below:
|Exchange rate||1 AUD = 0.714588 USD||1 AUD = 0.7341 USD||1 AUD = 0.7334*|
|Transfer fee||AUD$65||AUD$20 (credit or debit card) or AUD$9 bank transfer||AUD$10 (fee is 1% of transaction amount if funded by PayPal balance or bank account)OR AUD$39 + fixed fee (fee is 3.9% of transaction amount plus a fixed charge if transfer is funded by your credit card)|
|Transfer method||Cash pickup||Cash pickup||Transfer to PayPal account|
|Processing time||10 minutes||Within minutes||Usually within 24 hours|
*Based on wholesale exchange rate of 1 AUD = 0.760 USD as at 7 June 2017. PayPal charges a currency conversion fee of 3.5% above the wholesale exchange rate for transfers to USD – this was used to calculate the exchange rate quoted in the table above.
As you can see, Western Union offers the best exchange rate of the three providers and allows Malcolm to send more US Dollars for the same amount of Australian Dollars. But if he sent the transaction via PayPal and paid using his bank account or PayPal balance, the smaller transfer fee charged (AUD$10) actually makes this a more affordable option.
The fees involved and the complexity of fee structures for this type of transaction shows that the values may vary depending on how much you want to transfer and what options you choose. This means you may need to take a closer look at each provider to work out which one offers the best deal for your circumstances.