Wise vs Western Union: A Full Comparison 
Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) is a specialist in international payments to bank accounts, with multi-currency account products for individuals and businesses.
Western Union has a global agent network and allows payments in cash, to mobile wallets, and direct to bank accounts.
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.
Wise (formerly TransferWise) vs Western Union: The Important Bits
Safety: Based in the UK, LSE listed, licensed and regulated globally
Rates: Mid-market rate (real exchange rate)
Fees: Percentage based fee
Speed: Over 50% of payments arrive instantly
Currency conversion: Instant
Trustpilot rating: 169,000+ reviews. Score 4.5/5 – Excellent
Safety: One of the largest payment companies in the world
Fees: Fees vary depending on payment type and destination
Speed: Cash payments often instant, bank transfers take a day or two
Service: Offer online, app and in-store support
Trustpilot rating: 33,000+ reviews; 3.9/5 (Great)
Wise and Western Union features in more detail
|Send payments to||80+ countries; 50+ currencies||200+; countries and territories|
|Payment limits||High transfer limits, vary by country||5,000 NZD every 3 days online, higher limits offered via agents|
|Multi-currency accounts||Available for 50+ currencies, Wise Multi-currency Account||No|
|Debit card available||Yes, Wise Debit Card||No|
|Cash payout available||No||Yes|
|Mobile money payments available||No||Yes|
|Fully licensed and regulated||Yes||Yes|
|Business services available||Yes, Wise Business Account||Yes – via Convera|
So, to summarise:
- Western Union supports payouts to more countries compared to Wise
- Western Union has a very low online payment limit compared to Wise – for higher value transfers you’ll need to visit an agent in person
- Wise has a multi-currency account and Wise debit card to support 50+ currencies – Western Union does not have the foreign currency account option
- Western Union offers payouts for cash collection and to mobile money accounts – Wise does not
- Both Wise and Western Union offer business solutions
If you’re choosing between Western Union and Wise, the way you want your payment to be received may be the deciding factor. If getting a cash payment to your recipient is crucial, Western Union may be the better option.
However, if you’re making a payment direct to a bank account, and Wise covers your destination country, you’ll probably find they offer a faster delivery time and a better exchange rate.
- It’s really easy to open an account, and you can get one in minutes
- Great range of digital services
- You get a linked debit card, for easier spending
- Money transfers are normally fast, simple, and cheap
- They provide the “Interbank” mid-market foreign exchange rate, which is the best you can get
- Online and mobile service only
- Transfer fees vary by destination and payment method
- International transfers can’t be made in cash, or for cash collection
- Accounts are not interest bearing
- Large and established payment provider
- Global network of hundreds of thousands of agents
- Send payments all over the world with a good choice of pay in and pay out methods
- Cash payments via agents are available
- Exchange rates include a markup
- Low maximum transfer limit for online payments
- Fees vary by payment method and destination
- Personal multi-currency accounts are not available
- Services can vary by destination country
Wise Vs Western Union: The verdict
Whether Western Union or Wise win for you will depend on the specific services you need.
Western Union services cover almost every country on earth, with an extensive range of pay in and pay out options, and a strong agent network. However, the fees and exchange rates available vary between payment types and may not be the very best on the market.
Wise is a specialist in transfers direct to bank accounts, and offers the mid-market exchange rate with low, transparent fees. Wise also offers a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card.
Which is better for your payment will depend on where you’re sending money to, and how you want it to be paid out. Wise has more transparent fees and a faster delivery time for transfers to bank accounts. However, Western Union has a huge global reach and can get cash payments delivered in minutes. In our comparison Wise was cheaper for the payments we looked at.
Wise vs Western Union: Features conclusions
Wise was launched as TransferWise back in 2011 as a low-cost international payment provider. These days, Wise has upwards of 13 million customers, and also offers personal and business accounts to hold and manage currencies, accept payments and spend using a linked debit card.
Western Union was founded in 1861, and has an agent network covering almost every country on the planet. As well as in-person payments, Western Union processes an average of 34 digital transactions every second. You can send payments in 130+ currencies with Western Union.
Whether Western Union or Wise is best for you will depend on the country you’re sending to, and the pay in and pay out methods you prefer.
Western Union has an impressive network of around 600,000 agents worldwide, allowing for fast and convenient payments in cash. However, when it comes to transfers to bank accounts the overall costs can be less transparent compared to competitors because a variable markup will be added to the exchange rate available.
Wise is a specialist in transfers direct to bank accounts, and offers a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card. Wise international transfers can come with better rates and more transparent costs compared to Western Union. If Wise supports payments to the country you’re sending to, and you want your transfer to be delivered to a bank account, compare both to see which is your best bet.
How each provider works
To use Wise you’ll need to create an account, and depending on the type of payment you want to make you might need to provide some ID for verification.
Once your account is up and running make payments online and in the Wise app:
- Log into your account
- Type in how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get
- Enter the recipient’s details – bank account number or email
- Check over the details
- Fund your payment using a card or bank transfer
- Confirm and your money will be on the move
Wise transfers are made through Wise’s network of local bank accounts, so they arrive faster and don’t incur intermediary fees. When you want to pay for your transfer in NZD you’ll send the money to Wise’s local account in New Zealand. Then Wise will make a payment of the equivalent amount in your preferred currency, from their account in the destination country.
You can send a Western Union payment in person by visiting an agent location. You’ll need to take along a government issued ID, and can usually only pay in cash.
Or, you can send money online or in the Western Union app:
- Log into the Western Union desktop site or open the app
- Select the country you want to send to and enter the payment amount
- Select the services you require, and check the fees and rates
- Follow the prompts to enter the required information
- Select payment method, confirm and fund your transfer
Wise Vs Western Union: Fees and exchange rate
All Wise personal accounts are free to open. There’s a one time fee of 40 NZD to open a Wise business account.
Wise has low transaction costs for the services you use – currency exchange is from 0.41%, and international transfer charges vary by destination and currency.
Western Union fees and exchange rates vary by brand, channel and location. That means you may be quoted a different fee and rate if you pay online or in the app, compared to at an agent – and one agent may charge you more or less than another.
Fees with Western Union can include:
- Transfer fee
- Exchange rate markup
- Third party charges – if you pay with a credit card for example
In general, transfers where there’s a cost of labour will be more expensive than digital payments. Sending a payment in person at an agent, or having the money collected or delivered in cash will probably mean more fees and a less favourable exchange rate compared to sending online to a bank account.
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 GBP and AUD. The table shows the cost in NZD to fund several different payment values:
|Amount & Currency||Wise||Western Union||Winner?|
|NZD>1000 GBP||2,004.51 NZD||2,027.72 NZD||Wise|
|NZD>5000 GBP||10,016.50 NZD||Payment not available online||Wise|
|NZD>1000 AUD||1,136.03 NZD||1,147.23 NZD||Wise|
|NZD> 5000 AUD||5,678.58 NZD||Payment not available online||Wise|
You’ll notice that for the higher value payments, Western Union can’t help. There’s a limit to how much you can send online with Western Union, so you can only send up to 5,000 NZD every 3 days. For higher value payments you’ll need to visit an agent location, which tends to push up the costs.
Can I open a business account with Wise or Western Union?
If you run a business with customers, clients or suppliers around the world a multi-currency account and business foreign currency services can help. Both Wise and Western Union have business operations which offer accounts and smart solutions to New Zealand based businesses trading globally. The Western Union business service provider operates under a different branding now – Convera. Here are some key details:
- Hold 50+ currencies and send payments around the world
- Payments can be 6x cheaper than regular banks and 19x cheaper than PayPal
- 50%+ of payments are instant or arrive in an hour
- Local receiving accounts in 10 currencies
- Batch payments and integrations with QuickBooks or Xero accounting software
- Team member account access available
Convera (formerly Western Union business)
- Global business payments in 140 currencies, to 200 countries and territories
- Solutions are tailor made to your business needs
- Industry options for travel agents, banks, legal companies, royalty based sectors and more
- Advanced FX management tools for different business sectors
- Time saving options like mass global payments to cut admin
Wise vs Western Union: which is faster?
The transfer speed depends on the amount and type of currency, country of transfer and turnaround time of your bank to clear payment.
Western Union payments may arrive in minutes for cash collection, or take up to 5 days to bank accounts. You’ll see a delivery estimate when you arrange your payment online, or you can ask the agent for an estimate if you’re sending in person.
Wise transfers can arrive in just a few minutes – especially if you pay with a card.
- 50%+ of payments are instant
- 90%+ of the total arrive within 24 hours
- Exact delivery time will depend on where you’re sending money, and your own bank’s processing speed.
- You’ll see an estimated delivery time when you arrange your. payment.
Which is the safest? Wise or Western Union
Both Wise and Western Union are fully licensed and regulated – making them safe and trustworthy providers. As big global businesses, they’re covered by regulators in many countries around the world, and comply with both local and international guidelines to keep customers and their funds safe.
With Wise you can send money to 80 countries and hold and convert 50+ currencies in your Wise account.
Western Union transfers can be made to almost every country in the world with the exception of Iran and North Korea, where sanctions prevent payments being made.
Wise services are available to users in most countries around the world. There’s a handy tool on the Wise website which lets you select the country you’re in and check exactly what types of accounts and transfers are available there.
Western Union has an impressive global network and offers its services either in person, by phone or online in almost every country in the world.
Ease of use
Creating an account:
- Wise accounts are opened and operated online or using the Wise app.
- Western Union accounts can be set up online, in the app, or by visiting an agent location.
Making a transfer:
- Wise international payments can be made online or in the Wise app.
- Western Union payments can be made online, in the app, or by visiting an agent location.
Ways to send money:
- Wise transfers can be funded by bank transfer, credit or debit card.
- Western Union transfers can be funded by bank transfer, credit or debit card, or cash at agent locations.
- Wise offers global support in a range of languages, online, using the app, and by phone.
- Western Union has phone and online support – as well as an agent network of 600,000+ locations to offer help when needed.
Minimum & maximum amounts:
- Wise limits depend on which currencies you send to and from, and how you pay. However, you can make several smaller transfers if your ideal transfer amount exceeds the limit for the specific payment.
- Western Union allows customers to send a maximum of 5,000 NZD every 3 days online, higher value payments must be made via an agent location
While Wise and Western Union have some overlapping services, they probably suit different customer needs. Wise is a specialist in international bank transfers, and also offers multi-currency accounts. Western Union’s stand out factor is its agent network which gives it a truly global reach.
If you want to make a low cost bank transfer, and Wise covers your destination country, that’s probably your best bet. However, Western Union has a broader range of countries covered, and also offers cash pay in and pay out services, which Wise can not. If what you’re looking for is a fast transfer to cash the Western Union global agent network may well make this the right service for you.
Is Wise or Western Union cheaper?
In our comparisons, Wise was cheaper for international payments to bank accounts. However, Western Union also offers cash pay in and pay out services, which are not provided by Wise. These are typically more expensive than transfers to and from bank accounts, but can arrive instantly.
What is the difference between Wise and Western Union?
Wise is a specialist in transfers direct to bank accounts, and offers a multi-currency account with a linked international debit card. Western Union on the other hand has an impressive network of around 600,000 agents worldwide, allowing for fast and convenient payments in cash, as well as international payments arranged online and in-app.
Is Wise or Western Union faster?
Wise payments can arrive instantly, with most being delivered within 24 hours. Western Union cash collection payments are usually instant, 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 80+ countries, and hold and manage 50+ currencies in their Wise accounts. Western Union allows customers to send payments to 200+ countries and territories – all around the world with the exception of Iran and North Korea.
Is Wise or Western Union better?
Whether Wise or Western Union is better will depend on the type of payment you’re making. Wise can often have more transparent fees because there’s no variable markup on the exchange rate applied. However, which offers best value for your payment will depend on the transfer value and destination.