If you need to send money abroad, you have a number of different options.
Using a bank may mean a steep fee, and there’s a high chance your transfer will be processed using the SWIFT network, which can mean extra charges, too. Alternatively, choose an alternative provider, such as PayPal, Western Union or Wise.
If you’re thinking of making an international transfer with Western Union, here’s all you need to know.
|📑 Table of Contents|
How does Western Union work?
Western Union is one of the largest money transfer services in the world. You can send a payment online, in the Western Union app, or in a Western Union branch location.
You’ll also be able to select how you want your recipient to get their money, with options including direct bank deposits, and cash for collection or delivery.
The exact options you have with Western Union will depend on where you’re sending money to — but you can easily model your payment online or call into a local branch to check which services are available in your destination country.
What information do you need to send money through Western Union?
If you’re wondering how to use Western Union, the first thing you’ll need to do is register a Western Union account.
You can do this online or in a store, and depending on the transfer type you’re making you might need to also complete a verification step. This usually involves showing or uploading an ID document.
If you’re sending a payment for cash collection you’ll normally only need to enter the recipient’s full name as shown on their government issued ID document, and confirm where they will collect the payment.
If you’re sending a transfer to someone’s bank account you’ll typically need the following:
Can you Western Union money to yourself?
Yes. You can send a Western Union payment to yourself, which can be handy if you’re traveling somewhere without access to ATMs and don’t want to carry too much cash, for example.
This service is designed mainly for people who are traveling.
Online commentators have noted that if you’re sending a payment to yourself, and the send and receive cities are the same, the payment may not be processed smoothly.
How to send money through Western Union: step by step
Making an international transfer with Western Union is fairly straightforward. You can go to a local location to process the transaction if you need some help and want to deal with someone face to face².
The costs and fees vary, depending on both how you pay for the transfer and how you want it to be received.
Step 1: Be wary of fraudsters and scams
Before we begin, it’s important to know that there are many scams which ask people to send money via Western Union. Make sure you’re confident that you’re sending money to the right person, and for a genuine reason.
For example, if a third party contacts you to say that a friend or family member has had an emergency and needs cash quickly, you should always verify the details directly with the person involved.
Similarly, Western Union isn’t intended for online shopping like a service such as PayPal, and so it doesn’t have the same levels of buyer or seller protection as a service specialized in this area.
This means it’s not usually a good choice for online shopping or buying products through a service like Craigslist.
Step 2: Check all the details of your transfer
Once you’re sure that the person you’re sending money to is genuine, you have to collect and verify some details to make sure the process goes smoothly.
We covered the answer to the question: what does Western Union need to send money, earlier — so scroll up for the lowdown on what’s required according to the payment type.
Step 3: Set up the transfer
Process the transfer in a Western Union branch
Now you need to decide how to process the transfer — in a branch, online, or on the phone².
If you’d rather deal with someone face to face, you can send money via a Western Union office, using cash or sometimes a debit card, depending on the location.²
Process the transfer online or with the Western Union app
If you want to process your transfer online you’ll need to first create a profile to do so.
Once you have a profile, either on the website or app, you just select Send Money and follow the steps set out.
You can pay with cash by later visiting a Western Union office, or online by using a credit or debit card, or a bank transfer².
Process the transfer on the phone
Some transfers can be carried out on the phone using a credit or debit card.
However, this option won’t be available for all transfers, so check the availability in your particular circumstances².
Whichever route you choose, you must complete a form — either online, on the phone, or in hard copy — giving the details of both the payment and recipient.
Step 4: Choose how you want to pay
You’ll be asked how you wish to pay for the transfer, and in most cases, you can choose between cash if you’re in a branch, while online you can use credit or debit card, or a bank transfer.
The charges and fees for these different payment methods vary widely. We’ll cover these in more detail below.
Step 5: Pass the details of the transfer to the recipient
When you place the transfer, you’ll get a MTCN reference number. This is used by the recipient to collect the cash³.
You’ll need to give the MTCN number to the recipient if they’re planning on visiting a local Western Union outlet to collect their cash³.
Optional step: Trace the transfer
The MTCN (Money Transfer Control Number) is a tracking number given when you place your transfer and can be used if you need to trace the payment³.
You can do this online, or by visiting a branch for help³.
Step 6: Recipient collects the payment once processed
Processing time can vary from a few minutes to several days, depending on the payment method and whether the recipient is collecting in person or not.
The estimated processing time is shown at the point you place your transfer, and you can then track the progress of your transfer using your reference number if you need to.
Once the transfer is processed your recipient can collect it in a Western Union office, or draw it directly from their bank account if you opted for a bank transfer instead.
How does Western Union work to receive money?
If you’re receiving a Western Union payment to your bank account you won’t need to take any action at all.
The funds will simply be deposited into your account once the payment has been processed.
However, if you’ve agreed on a payment for cash collection, you’ll need to head to a Western Union agent near you with your government issued ID and the MTCN that the sender has given you.
Show your ID and confirm the MTCN to receive your payment in cash from the agent.
Western Union fees and exchange rate
The costs to make a transfer will vary, depending on where you’re sending money, how the payment is funded, and how the recipient receives the money.
Let’s take a look at an example of the fees you might see, sending 600 USD to a friend in the UK:
|Payment type||Western Union fees|
|Arrange online, pay cash in store|
|Not sure Western Union is the best option for you? Check out how Wise compares and make a fast, cheap and secure international transfer:|
When you’re calculating the costs of a transfer on the Western Union website, you’ll find the following disclaimer in the footnotes:
“Western Union also makes money from currency exchange. When choosing a money transmitter, carefully compare both transfer fees and exchange rates. Fees, foreign exchange rates and taxes may vary by brand, channel, and location based on a number of factors.” ¹
So how do you compare the exchange rates used by different money exchange and transfer services?
Firstly, find the mid-market rate for your currency online. That’s the rate used by banks and financial institutions on the open market — however, it’s not often passed on to customers.
Instead, services roll up their profit into the exchange rate they apply. This isn’t transparent and can mean that customers pay more than they need to.
Some services like Wise use the mid-market rate, and apply only a small transparent fee to each transaction. That makes it much easier for customers to understand and compare the true cost of the transfer — and can be much cheaper, too.
🚀 Get a Wise Account
Western Union conversion rate vs bank
The exchange rates used by both Western Union and traditional banks typically include a markup on the real exchange rate. However, the amount of this markup varies depending on the currency pairing involved.
That means that a good way to check which is the best value is to call into your bank to get their rates and then compare them online with the rate for your currency pairing offered on Western Union.
Don’t forget to compare both rates with the mid-market rate, too. And if you don’t think they offer a fair deal, try a different provider entirely, like Wise.
WU payment methods and limits
You can choose to make a payment in cash, by visiting a branch in person — or using a credit or debit card, or bank transfer.
The fees applied vary depending on the payment method, with credit or debit card payments usually costing more than a bank transfer, for example.
You can check WU limits below⁴:
|Send from an unverified account|
|Send from a verified account|
Making an international transfer with Western Union isn’t too complicated. Just a few simple steps and you’ll be on your way. However, before you start, it’s well worth checking out other methods of making the transfer to see if there’s a cheaper way to transfer your money.
You might find that using an alternative provider which offers the real exchange rate and specializes in international money transfers, such as Wise, might be a better option.
Set up yourWise account
- Western Union
- Western Union FAQ - send money online
- Western Union FAQ - MTCN
- Western Union FAQ - limits
Sources checked on 06.15.2022
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
- Register. online. Fill-in online. registration. form. Get started.
- Verify. email. Visit the nearby GraceKennedy. location and provide the same ID. you used for online registration. ...
- Enjoy sending. money. After you receive a profile. verification email, you can start. sending money online.
- Write the payee name. Write the name of the person or business you are addressing the money order to in the “PAY TO THE ORDER OF” field first. ...
- Fill out your information in the purchaser fields. The purchaser is you. ...
- Sign the front of the money order. ...
- Keep the money order receipt.
- Government-issued ID to confirm your identity.
- Cash, credit or debit card to pay for the total – including any transfer fees and currency exchange rates.
- Your receiver's full name (as on their ID), country and address (where requested)
- Log in. Don't have a profile? Learn more.
- Start your transfer. Enter the destination country. ...
- Enter your receiver's details. You'll need your receiver's bank details: bank name, code, and account number1. ...
- Pay and hit send. Make sure to check your details before hitting send.
- Decide on the money order amount. ...
- Go to any Post Office location.
- Take cash, a debit card, or a traveler's check. ...
- Fill out the money order at the counter with a retail associate.
- Pay the dollar value of the money order plus the issuing fee.
- Keep your receipt to track the money order.
Money in Minutes service for pick up at an Agent location – generally delivered within minutes*. Next Day service for pick up at an Agent location is generally available the next day*. Direct to Bank deposit typically takes between 2 to 5 business days, but could vary, depending on country.How much does Western Union charge to send $100? ›
To send $100 from your bank account to their bank account still carries a significant fee of $14.00. Sending the same amount from your credit card as a cash pickup will cost you $20.50. The maximum you can send in one day is $5,000 which would cost you $243 with a credit card and $50 via bank transfer.What do I need for a money order? ›
- Know how and who you'll pay: Be prepared with cash or a debit card, the name of the payee and the amount you want to send. ...
- Fill it out: In addition to the payee's name, you'll need to add your name (and maybe your address) and sign the money order.
A money order is a certificate, usually issued by a government or banking institution, that allows the stated payee to receive cash on demand. A money order functions much like a check, in that the person who purchased the money order may stop payment.How can I send money to someone? ›
- Cash App.
- Apple Cash.
- Google Pay.
- Samsung Pay Cash.
Up to $30 per transfer for domestic transfers. Varies for international transfers. Up to $16.00 per transfer. Before initiating a transfer, use a bank or transfer service's online calculator (if available) to estimate your money transfer fees and international money transfer fees.How do I send money through Western Union in the US? ›
- Register for a free Western Union profile, or log in.
- Next, choose 'Send now'.
- Enter United States as your location and the amount of money you want to transfer.
- Choose 'Bank account'.
- Enter your receiver's details4 and pay by cash or card.
Google Pay: Fastest for domestic transfers (tie with Zelle). PayPal: Most popular online. Walmart2Walmart: Best for nonbank transfers. Bank wire transfer: Best for sending $10,000 or more within the U.S.How do I verify a Western Union money order? ›
Call the Western Union automated help line at (800) 999-9660. The automated help line will give you a series of menu prompts. Make sure to select "Check the Status of a Money Order" when prompted. You should see an 11-digit serial number on the upper right corner of your Western Union money order record stub.Do money orders clear immediately? ›
Many recipients prefer money orders because, unlike a personal check, a money order can't “bounce” and clears almost immediately; therefore, they provide a fast, risk-free form of payment.Why do they need ID for money order? ›
Because a money order is valid only for the specified recipient, you'll need to present a current form of ID to cash it. That means a driver's license, passport, state ID or military ID that matches the name on the money order.How long does Western Union take to verify? ›
We may take around 4 hours to verify your identity. Once your identity verification is successful, we'll send you a confirmation email.How many minutes does it take to receive money from Western Union? ›
Domestic money transfers are typically completed within 24 hours and sometimes faster. If you're transferring between accounts at the same financial institution, funds may be available immediately.How many days it takes to transfer money through Western Union? ›
The initial transfer may take up to five days pending Receiver registration, with subsequent transactions to the same Receiver bank Account number occurring within minutes. First time Receivers must register.Which is cheaper MoneyGram or Western Union? ›
MoneyGram has slightly better rates than Western Union. That said, the difference in Western Union and MoneyGram exchange rates is very small, and since exchange rates fluctuate a lot, both companies are very competitive when it comes to the best rates.
You can avoid these fees by using a debit card. * Western Union also makes money from currency exchange. When choosing a money transmitter, carefully compare both transfer fees and exchange rates. Fees, foreign exchange rates, and taxes may vary by brand, channel, and location based on a number of factors.Is it cheaper to send money by Western Union or by Walmart? ›
Given its clear pricing structure, you'll definitely save with Walmart2Walmart. But you're limited to in-person store-to-store transfers of $2,500 or less. With Western Union, you'll pay more — though how much more depends on many factors, but you can send money online and worldwide.Do you need SSN for money order? ›
All you need is your name, address, Social Security Number, date of birth and the number of your photo ID. Filling out the customer portion of a Form 8105-A is also required when cashing Postal Service™ Money Orders for more than $10,000.Do you need ID to cash a money order? ›
To cash a money order, you'll need to first endorse it by signing your name on the back. You will also need to provide identification no matter where you're cashing your money order. If you don't have any ID, you can endorse the money order to someone else, like a sibling or friend, who does have an ID.Do you need an envelope to send a money order? ›
You need to pay upfront for the money order and fee with cash, a debit card, or traveler's check. You also need the name and address of the person to whom you're paying with it, and an envelope with a stamp to mail it.How does Western Union work? ›
You can transfer money directly from your eligible consumer deposit accounts (checking or money market) to any participating Western Union Agent location around the world. The funds can be available in minutes 3, or you can opt for next day arrival. Send a $50 money transfer for a $5 fee within the U.S.How long does it take for a money order to go through? ›
In general, money orders should arrive to the recipient in a couple of days. However, during weekends or holidays this might take longer. For this reason, make sure to wait at least 14 days before expecting some issue with the money order.How do I know if my Western Union money order was cashed? ›
Go to westernunion.com or our mobile app, choose Track transfer and enter your MTCN. If you're already logged in, you can also check the status on the history page.Can I send money through Western Union with my debit card? ›
You can pay with your credit or debit card (Visa, Visa debit, MasterCard or Maestro). Or you can use our more economical payment option and pay directly through your bank account.Can I send cash through Western Union? ›
All it takes is a few bits and pieces to send cash to someone with Western Union. Making a note of them in advance should save you time when you get to your nearest agent location. If you're sending or receiving cash in person at an agent location, you'll need an ID document.
- Log in to your profile.
- Choose the “Send Money Online” service.
- Choose country, amount and delivery method.
- Enter your receiver's information.
- Enter your card details.
- You'll get confirmation by email.
- Share the tracking number (MTCN) with your receiver.
Once verified, you can send up to 50,000 USD. You can verify your identity online or at an agent location.Does Western Union charge a fee to receive money? ›
Receiving money is free of charge unless the receiver chooses to receive the money in a different currency or to a device or an account which was not part of the send transaction. Western Union may make money from foreign currency exchange.Can you send $500 through Western Union? ›
Maximum send limit $500/day/card account. Money is delivered to receiver's home or work via FedEx and arrives on a Western Union® MoneyWiseTM Visa Prepaid Card* the next business day.What do I need to pick up money from Western Union in USA? ›
- Your full name.
- Amount expected.
- Sender's full name.
- Sender's country.
- Money Transfer Control Number – MTCN.
- Acceptable ID document.
- Cash App.
- Apple Cash.
- Google Pay.
- Samsung Pay Cash.
To send $100 from your bank account to their bank account still carries a significant fee of $14.00. Sending the same amount from your credit card as a cash pickup will cost you $20.50. The maximum you can send in one day is $5,000 which would cost you $243 with a credit card and $50 via bank transfer.How long do Western Union transfers take? ›
Funds will generally reach a receiver's bank account on the same banking day for transfers sent before 11 am Eastern Time.