Western Union (WU) Money Transfer Review
Quick FactsPros and Cons
International Clients: ✓ Globally.
Trading via: Telephone, via branches and online.
Offices In: Headquartered in the US, with service locations all around the world
Regulation: ✓ Numerous regulatory agencies around the world, including: Financial Market Authority (Austria), FSRA (Ireland). USA: State by State Authorization.
Fees: Calculated relatively to transfer – High Fee Warning
Promotional Code: None
Client Reviews: Hundreds over a few platforms
Client Rating: Over 80% of reviews are complaints
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Both bank to bank and cash pickups
Deals with regions that other companies won’t
Archaic and messy
Hundreds of bad service complaints
Our Rating: 42%
“Use if you must, use others if you can”
🔎 View Rating Breakdown
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Company Information and Credibility
Western Union is a massive company, with service offices dotting the globe. As a currency transfer provider (among their other various services), the company is perhaps the oldest. Founded in 1851, for most of its history Western Union was a telegram service. As its brand and infrastructure spread across the globe, they became the most widespread channel by which to send and receive funds.
Today, their methods are antiquated and deeply flawed, showing the company for what it is: an old, broken model retrofitted to operate in the modern world, but failing on all fronts. For instance, the company requires codes and lots of documentation on both sides of even the simplest transaction, and charges enormous fees when it comes to remote destinations. This kind of hassle is absent from nearly every currency transfer company founded in the new millennium.
It’s only saving grace is the extent of its coverage. With service locations in hundreds of nations and many third-world countries, most superior currency exchange services simply don’t have the global reach of Western Union. In a pinch, Western Union may be your only option. In all other cases, avoid Western Union like as you can.
Numerous regulatory agencies around the world, including: Financial Market Authority (Austria), FSRA (Ireland). USA: State by State Authorization.
Western Union’s erratic service and surprise fees are a nightmare to users around the globe every day. While it is possible to have a smooth transaction, Western Union is the worst choice for currency transfer, except in the most dire of straits.
Still, it is the largest money transfer company in the world and we have to give them a passing grade for that, in this category.
We have chose to focus on two platforms when we skimmed through the reviews. There are plenty more platform where Western Union’s different services are covered in, and from what we saw, it’s all generally negative.
We chose TrustPilot with 80% of the reviews being complaints (65% are one star). Only 30 reviews but this gives some UK representation to this review (and this is where the majority of our audience comes from).
For the American side of things, we chose the respectable consumer affairs. Very helpful reviews with an average score of 1 star out of 5.
Among the negative reviews we identified a few positive ones that discussed
- Better rates than banks
- Easy transfer tracking
- Accessible offices
Among the negative reviews (we had plenty to select from) we read the following:
- Horrible service
- Lost transfers
- Rude client support
- Expensive (sometimes unbelievably expensive even)
- Archaic company structure
Western Union users write with a characteristic frustration and hopelessness that is evident from thousands of reviews you can find all over the internet. Western Union gets its customers around the world, from a huge range of backgrounds, income rates, and education levels. As such, widespread reports of exploitative service are the norm, as users discover exorbitant fees or rates and abusive, incompetent service.
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Exchange Rate & Fees
Fees are variable and often come by surprise. Western Union’s website admits that “Fees start at $4.99 to send up to $20 online.” But they never explain what the full range of fees is. With the base fee being at least 25% of the transferred total, this fee structure should be considered unusual and usurious. For mobile transfers, the fee is more reasonable but still very high: $1 for up to $10 sent.
Our research, and the feedback of hundreds of users, indicates that Western Union’s quoted exchange rates are often very poor. It is possible to get cheaper rates even from banks in certain cases and currency pairs, while it is sensible to believe companies like Currencies Direct will beat their quote consistently.
$1 to $50,000, or currency equivalent. But depending on what currency you are sending where, there could be one of dozens of other limits that emerge, as with standard web transfers which cap the amount at $20 before charging higher fees. Because there is no universal standard, these limits are unreasonably complex.
High unclear fees (complaints about hidden fees are common). Starting from a whooping 25% of the transfer, and 10% for mobile phones. The rate calculator for cash-to-cash and bank-to-cash shows very high rates surpassing the 5% in many cases.
From everything we researched, and through client complaints, we have concluded WU fees are outrageous.
Example: Charging twice as much as Azimo on transfer from UK to Philippines.
Companies like Transfast (USA) aren’t particularly cheap and even them offer quite a large saving in comparison with WU.com.
Exchange Rates & Fees Rating
Global Reach & Service
- Dedicated Dealer: Yes (only for bank to bank).
- Offices: Worldwide, really. 7,000 employees and agents.
- Ways to approach: Email, Telephone, Multiple branches.
- Translations: Yes.
- Accepts clients: Worldwide.
- Currencies Handled: 143, more than anyone else.
- Client reviews: Claim service is horrible.
On one hand Western Union is the most global company we tested. With offices operating throughout the globe since the 19th century, Western Union had their role in expanding world economy, and still do.
On the other hand the service is extremely bad, and the bad rates they offer for one of the world’s weakest demographics (work immigrants) is infuriating.
Global Reach Score
Western Union offers forward contracts, spot contracts, and perhaps others (it’s very hard to tell from their web copy). But these are generally made available only to business clients. Western Union generally does little to lighten the financial load of their biggest customer base: poor remittance senders.
Western Union’s currency transfer app may be their brightest facet. While it’s still expensive to use, and plenty of users complain of failures, it appears to work more often than not.
Western Union doesn’t supply property purchasers the option of Forward contracts, which is very bad, and also to its business client it seems its offering is very standard.
As far as the app go – it’s no doubt a positive change which allows more flexibility for those sending remittances but unfortunately, a very expensive way of doing so.
Special Features Score
- Credibility Score - 70%
- Client Feedback - 20%
- Fees, Exchange Rates - 20%
- Global Reach, Availability, Service - 50%
- Added Values - 50%
Western Union is hands down the largest company in the currency transfer, travel money, and remittances world; It is also the least appreciated company in the vertical, boasting thousands of negative reviews across the board:
✖ Wildly erratic service
✖ Lost funds, delayed transfers
✖ Rude abusive service
✖ Surprise/Variable Fees
Our advice is to avoid Western Union and seek for better companies that have stronger focus on client relationship and fair practices.
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