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Western Union is a union organization that allows its members to make money transfers worldwide. Members can send and receive money through Western Union and earn points while they do so. Points can be redeemed later for transfer fee reductions at a later date. Western Union is known for its fast, easy money transfers and is a useful tool for many Canadians. Let’s explore the details of transferring money with Western Union below. 

How Much Money Can You Send with Western Union? 

The minimum amount you can send with Western Union is $1 and the maximum amount is $999, in Canadian currency. The maximum is much lower than the amount you can send through banks which can be thousands and thousands of dollars. 

Western Union Money Transfer Fees

While it is free to join Western Union, it isn’t free to send money. That being said, banks charge a fee to complete money transfers as well. The cost of the transaction fee depends on how the transaction is being processed (credit card, debit, or cash), amount of money being transferred, transfer method (cash or bank to bank transfer), the destination country, and originating country among other considerations. 

If you’re sending cash to the United States or the United Kingdom, Western Union will charge you $30 whereas a Canadian bank would charge between $30 and $80. As you can see, Western Union charges the minimum threshold that Canadian banks offer which means you’re guaranteed to get the lowest transaction fee possible on the market. Different destinations can have varying fees, some lower than bank fees and some higher, but it’s worth comparing Western Union’s fee to a Canadian bank’s fee to ensure you’re getting the best deal. 

Find out if a wire transfer is faster?

Does Western Union Charge an Exchange Rate? 

Yes, Western Union will charge an exchange rate on your transaction on top of the money transfer fee. Keep in mind that banks will do the same, but the rate that Western Union charges tend to be less favourable and fluctuates more frequently. In fact, Western Union typically charges 5% more than the mid-market exchange rate. While you might save on the actual transaction fee, you’re usually losing on the exchange rate. 

How to Transfer Money Using Western Union

Money can be transferred with Western Union online, by phone, through an agent, through your bank account, through a money transfer app, at a physical location, via cash transfer, or via international money order.

Keep in mind that these options vary depending on the currency you’re sending and the money’s destination. In addition, money can be sent using your credit card, debit card, or cash. Online transfers are the fastest option, regardless of payment type, especially if you’re sending cold hard cash. 

Check out these secrets your bank doesn’t want you to know. 

Transferring Money With Western Union versus a Bank

When you need to transfer money overseas, you’ll be faced with the decision of going with your bank or Western Union. The main differences between the two options is the transfer price, the amount of time before the recipient will receive the money, the recipient collection method, available money destinations and transfer amount limits. Let’s look at these differences in depth.

Banks

A bank can send money virtually anywhere around the globe but will charge a hefty fee and less competitive exchange rates in return. In addition, many banks will not send cash, they will only send bank to bank transfers. It can take up to two to five business days for a bank to bank transfer to be fully complete. However, you can typically send larger amounts this way. 

Western Union

Through Western Union, you can transfer money to 550,000 and more agent locations with 100,000 ATMs in over 200 countries around the world. In addition, Western Union can facilitate bank transfers and make funds available in cash within a couple of minutes. Fees tend to be costly, but the sender benefits from more transfer methods and faster delivery. 

What is the difference between a bank and a credit union? Click here.

Pros and Cons of Transferring Money with Western Union

As with all financial decisions, there are advantages and disadvantages involved with all your options. To summarize the contents of this article, let’s explore the pros and cons below. 

Pros

  • Receive Money Faster. Bank to bank transfers are available within one to two business days, cash and mobile wallet money is available within minutes. 
  • Larger Global Network. You can basically send money anywhere with Western Union.
  • More Transfer Options. Funds can be sent as a cash pick-up, deposited into a recipient’s bank account, or be sent to a mobile wallet, these are very versatile options for sending money abroad. In addition, you can finance the money transfer using cash, credit card, or debit cards. 
  • Recipient Does Not Need a Bank Account. If you’re sending money abroad, the recipient having a bank account is not a requirement to send with Western Union. 
  • Safe to Use. Western Union is safe to use as it complies with all of the laws in the countries in which it operates. Furthermore, Western Union is regulated by provincial and territorial consumer affairs offices in Canada.

Cons

  • Unable to Send as Much Money. With a bank transfer, you can essentially send as much money as you’d like. Western Union limits transfers to be between $1 and $999 in Canadian currency. 
  • High Fees. Even though you appear to be getting a deal on the actual transaction fee, there are other hidden fees that usually end up being more expensive than other transfer providers. 
  • Unfavourable Exchange Rates. Western Union charges a lot more than the mid-market exchange rate, around 5%, which means that you’ll be paying more when compared to other transfer providers. 

When Is Using Western Union the Right Choice?

Sending money with Western Union is best when you don’t need to send a lot of money and are willing to sacrifice cost for high speed. In addition, one might choose to use Western Union over a Canadian bank if the destination is remote, the recipient does not have a bank account at the destination, or they would like to take advantage of ample transfer methods. Either way, its ideal to compare banks and Western Union options before finalizing your transfer. 

Veronica Ott avatar on Loans Canada
Veronica Ott

Veronica is a writer who specializes in creating unique and educational personal finance content. She has extensive experience writing blog posts for companies in the financial sector. Veronica's background is in accounting as she graduated from Western University in 2017 with a degree in accounting. She is passionate about using her accounting expertise to help others with their personal finance questions and issues and enjoys using her writing to educate Canadian readers. When Veronica is not writing, she enjoys film, reading, travelling, going to the gym, and listening to music.

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