Wise vs Western Union

Not sure whether to use Wise or Western Union for your next international payment?

Check out this full Wise Vs Western Union review to help you decide. We’ll cover all you need to know, including:

  • A full side by side feature comparison

  • Which provider is cheaper?

  • Which is faster?

  • Which is safer?

  • Which gets better customer reviews?

Summary: 

Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) is a specialist in international payments to bank accounts, which can be made online and through the Wise app, often with lower fees than using a regular bank. To learn more about fees, read our full guide on Wise Fees.

Go to Wise

Western Union is a global payment company which operates online and through an app for payments originating in India. Western Union also has agent locations in India where you can receive payments in cash. In our comparison, for payments to a bank account, Wise is more transparent, but which provider wins for you will really come down to the currency being sent and the value of the specific payment. 

Both Wise and Western Union operate with partner banks, under the approval of the Reserve Bank of India, and are regulated globally by the relevant authorities in each country they work in.

Wise Vs Western Union: side by side

FeatureWiseWestern Union 
Send payments to40+ countries50+ countries 
Mid-market exchange rateYN
Cash payout available in IndiaNY
Safe and reliable providerYY

So, to summarise: 

  • Both Western Union and Wise allow payments made from India online and through an app

  • Western Union supports payouts to more countries compared to Wise 

  • Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate for currency conversion - Western Union does not

  • Western Union  offers payouts for cash collection in India from overseas - Wise does not

  • Both providers operate legally and under the relevant regulators in each country they work in

If you’re choosing between Western Union and Wise, you’ll want to look at the overall costs of each provider to see which is the best option. Wise uses the real exchange rate with transparent upfront fees, while Western Union often offers transfers for low fees - or even with no upfront fee at all - but does add an exchange rate markup which pushes up costs. If you’re making a payment direct to a bank account, and Wise covers your destination country, you’ll find they offer more transparent overall fees and a better exchange rate.

The important bits


WiseWestern Union 
RatesMid-market exchange rate with no markupExchange rates include a markup on the mid-market rate
FeesLow fees, varies by destinationFees vary by destination, pay in and pay out method
Speed40% of payments are instant, 80% arrive in 24 hoursCash collection payments can be instant, payments to a bank account may take 5 days
ServiceOnline, in app and by phoneOnline, in app and in person
SafetyFully regulated and licensedFully regulated and licensed
Reviews (TrustPilot)Trustpilot score: 4.6/5, Excellent rating, from 140,000+ reviewsTrustpilot score: 3.4, Average rating, from 21,000+ reviews

Rates: Wise uses the mid-market rate, whereas Western Union adds a markup to the exchange rates used

Fees: Both providers have variable fees which are based on the destination country. 

Speed: Western Union cash collection payments may be ready in minutes - bank transfers depend on destination and may take up to 5 days. Wise payments can be instant, with 80% arriving in 24 hours.

Service: Both providers offer multilingual service in a range of languages, online, in-app and by phone. Western Union also has a broad agent network for in-person support.

Safety: Both providers are fully licensed and regulated. 

Reviews: Wise scores an Excellent review rating on Trustpilot, Western Union has a lower, Average rating, with fewer posted reviews.

Pros and cons


Wise Western Union 
Pros 
  • Mid-market exchange rates with no markup

  • Low, transparent fees

  • 40+ countries covered, with payments delivered directly into bank accounts for convenience


  • Send money online or in-app from India to 50+ countries

  • Extensive global branch network

  • Cash pay out available for incoming payments to India


Cons 
  • No branch network - online and mobile transfers only

  • No cash pay in or pay out

  • Fees vary by destination

  • Exchange rates include a markup

  • Overall cost can be on the high side compared to alternatives

  • Not all services are available in all destinations

Send money with Wise

Wise  Vs Western Union : The verdict

Whether Western Union or Wise is best for you will depend on the country you’re sending to, and the value of your payment.

Western Union’s overall costs for transfers to bank accounts can be less transparent compared to competitors because a variable markup will be added to the exchange rate available.

Wise international transfers come with better rates and more transparent overall costs compared to Western Union. 

About Wise  and Western Union 

Wise was launched as TransferWise back in 2011 as a low-cost international payment provider. These days, Wise has upwards of 10 million customers. 

With Wise you can send payments to 40+ countries from India. 

Send money with Wise

Western Union has been in business since 1861. 150 million personal and business customers trust Western Union to make international payments.

Western Union allows transfers to 50+ countries from India.

How do they work?

Wise international transfers are made through Wise’s network of local bank accounts. That’s cheap and efficient because no money actually moves across borders.

Here’s how it works. When you want to pay for your transfer in INR you’ll use a bank transfer to get the money to Wise’s local Indian account. Wise will then make a payment of the equivalent amount in your preferred currency, from their account in the destination country. 

Here’s how to make payments easily online and in the Wise app:

  1. Log into your account

  2. Type in how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get

  3. Enter the recipient’s details - bank account number or email

  4. Check over the details

  5. Fund your payment using a card or bank transfer

  6. Confirm and your money will be on the move

To send a payment using Western Union online or in the mobile app you’ll need to follow the onscreen prompts to add the amount you want to send and the recipient’s details. Exactly what details you need will vary depending on the country you’re sending to, but usually include:

  • Your receiver’s bank name and code

  • Their account name and number

If you’re sending a payment through Western Union the delivery time will depend on the destination country and the recipient’s own bank’s processes. 

Wise vs Western Union Fees

Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate with no hidden costs. Instead, the amount you pay for a Wise international transfer will depend on the value of your payment and the way you pay for it. Wise uses a variable fee which depends on the value of your transfer, and which is clearly shown when you calculate your payment. 

Western Union fees can include an exchange rate markup and a charge based on the way you fund the transfer. Exchange rate markups vary according to the currencies involved, and can be the most expensive fee you pay - even though they’re not always obvious. 

You’ll always see the transfer fee before you confirm your Western Union payment. You’ll also be shown the exchange rate you’ll get - but to see the markup that’s added here you’d need to compare it to the mid-market rate yourself.

Wise vs Western Union: which is cheaper? 

International payment providers are usually cheaper than using a traditional bank for your crossborder payment. However, the overall costs, and the exchange rates you can access do vary from one service to the next, so it’s still worth shopping around. 

Here are a few examples so you can see how Wise and Western Union payments measure up. Here we’re assuming you’re making a transfer from your bank account, direct to a bank account overseas, in USD and EUR. The table shows the cost in INR to fund several different payment values:

Amount & CurrencyWiseWestern Union Winner?
INR>1000 USD80,901.09 INR80,250.38 INRWestern Union
INR>5000 USD404,201.43 INR401,251.91 INRWestern Union
INR>1000 EUR

81,930. 37 INR

81,679.33 INRWestern Union
INR> 5000 EUR409, 405.22 INR408,396.63 INRWestern Union

*Rates and fees correct at time of research - 11 July 2022

As you can see, in this comparison, Western Union came out on top. However, it’s still a good idea to compare providers before you make your transfer - whether Wise or Western Union are best for your payment will depend on the destination and amount being sent. 

Wise Vs Western Union: which is faster?

Wise payments can arrive in seconds on some currency routes, and most transfers arrive within a day. You’ll see the estimated delivery time when you set up your transfer, and can always track it online or in the Wise app.

Western Union also provides an estimated delivery time when you set up your payment. If you want to send a payment to a bank account this can take around 24 hours on major routes, and up to 5 days to other destination countries.

Safety

Both Wise and Western Union operate with the approval of the Reserve Bank of India - often using partner banks in India. They also hold the required licenses in other countries they operate in. 

Read our full safety guide about Wise: Is Wise Safe?

Ease of use

  • Creating an account: Wise and Western Union accounts can be set up online, or in the provider app.

  • Making a transfer:  Wise and Western Union payments can be made online or in the app.

  • Ways to send money:  Wise and Western Union transfers can be funded by bank transfer.

  • Languages:  Wise offers global support in a range of languages, online, using the app, and by phone. Western Union has phone and online support.

  • Minimum & maximum amounts:  Wise customers can send up to 650,000 INR for education, or 325,000 INR for other reasons. Western Union allows customers to send up to the equivalent of 10,000 USD for education purposes, or 5,000 USD for other eligible reasons.

Supported currencies

With Wise you can send money to 40 countries from India.

Send money with Wise

Western Union transfers can be made to 50+ countries from India.

Conclusion

Wise and Western Union both offer similar services for payments originating in India, with online and in-app payments to a range of countries, which you can pay for using a bank transfer. To see which is best for your specific transfer you’ll need to compare both the fees and exchange rates provided by each.

Visit our comparison page to compare provides to send money internationally: Send Money Overseas Online

FAQ

Is Wise or Western Union cheaper?

In our comparisons, Western Union was cheaper overall, but Wise offered better exchange rates with transparent charges. Compare the costs and exchange rates for both providers to see which is best for your transfer.

Is Wise or Western Union faster?

Wise payments can arrive instantly, with most being delivered within 24 hours. Western Union bank transfers can take up to 5 days for some destinations.

How many currencies do Wise and Western Union support?

Wise customers can send payments to 40+ countries from India. Western Union allows customers to send payments to 50+ countries.

By Seyma Mektepli
Updated 19 August 2022