Western Union Global Pay for students - Review and alternatives

TransferWise content team
08.13.19
6 minute read

Western Union Business Solutions Global Pay for students works in partnership with universities and educational institutions all over the world, to make it simple for students to pay their tuition and other fees online. This is a service aimed at international students who may need to pay their fees using a foreign bank account to cover the costs. That might mean you’re an overseas student here in the US, or you could be an American student headed off to university abroad.


Western Union makes it easy to make an overseas payment to your university no matter where in the world it is. However it’s worth checking out the overall price of the payment through Western Union and comparing it to other providers before you decide which to use.

This guide will cover how to use Western Union for students, as well as highlighting a few alternatives you might look at to make a final decision. Don't forget to take a look at the price comparison in the end.


Western Union Global Pay basics

Western Union Global Pay basics

Western Union is a global business specialising in international money transfers. In some countries it’s possible to send and receive payments in cash, so you may have seen Western Union signs outside of their agent locations near you. You can also make online payments around the world, and WU work in partnership with businesses and institutions globally to offer business services linked to international payments and currency conversion.

The WU offering for students is a way to make a payment to your university or educational institution to cover tuition fees, accommodation or any other invoice you receive. Depending on your university, you may also be able to pay for meals or books using Global Pay. The system is set up to mean that you can pay your invoices yourself, or have someone else pay on your behalf - handy if your family are helping to cover your costs as you study.¹ ²


How does WU Global Pay work?¹ ² ³

If your university or school accepts Western Union payments, you’ll need to take the following steps to use the system:

  • Visit the Global Pay for students website and confirm which university you want to make a payment to
  • If your university is covered by the system you’ll be asked which currency you want to use to pay, and how much your bill is in the local currency used by your university
  • You’ll then get a quote for the costs given in your home currency. There may be several different prices given which are based on different methods of payment, such as bank transfers and card payments
  • Enter the student details and the payer details when prompted on screen, and make payment to WU
  • The payment will then be converted to the required currency by Western Union, and sent on to the university. You’ll be able to track your payment online so you know when it arrives

When you set up your payment, you’ll be shown the cost, the length of time it will usually take for the payment to be received, and how long the quote if valid for. Using a bank transfer you’ll typically find that the exchange rate is valid for 72 hours, to give you time to make the payment to Western Union.

This system is designed to make sure your university receives the exact amount they should. You can be sure the exchange rate won’t change before the payment goes through, and there should be no recipient bank fees either.


Western Union Global Pay fees and exchange rates

When you visit the Global Pay website you’ll get a quote for the cost of the specific payment you need to make. **This is the price you’ll pay in your home currency, to ensure the correct amount is delivered to your university. **

Let's say you’re attending a university in the UK and need to pay some of your tuition fees. You’ve been given a bill in British pounds, and want to pay direct from your US dollar account. You’ll enter the amount in pounds which must arrive safely at your university, and WU will give you a price, in US dollars of how much it’ll cost you.

It’s important to remember that this quote may include any fees or charges levied by Western Union. WU states that there is no transfer charge, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the payment is free. Western Union is a business and needs to make a profit, after all.

Instead, the fee they charge may be rolled into the exchange rate they use for transfers. That means WU will take the mid-market exchange rate** and add a markup or margin to it before they pass it on to customers.** This is not uncommon, but because it’s not a separate upfront fee, it does make it a little tricky to work out the true cost of making your international payment.

The best way to check whether or not Western Union Global Pay is the most cost effective choice for you is to compare the price you’re quoted with the cost of making the same payment with other providers and your own bank. There are some ideas below of some companies you might consider looking at as a comparison. Because life as a student is never cheap, you may be making some high value payments over the years - which means it’s essential to get the best available deal every time.


Western Union Global Pay alternatives

Western Union Global Pay alternatives

If you need to pay your university or school costs, you’ll want to invest a bit of time in researching the best option in terms of cost and convenience. You may want to talk to your regular bank about their fees and exchange rates for international payments, but it’s worth knowing that traditional banks are not necessarily the best choice for cross border transfers due to their high fees and poor exchange rates. Instead, many customers are turning to different services like Western Union, or these alternative modern payment providers:


Xoom

Xoom is a PayPal company, and offers international transfers all over the world. You can send money online direct to bank accounts based overseas. In some countries you can also send money for cash collection at an agent location. To make a payment you’ll need to register with Xoom online and model the transfer you want to make to see the fees and exchange rate applied.


TransferWise

If you’re making international payments to cover your university or school costs, you’ll find you can get low cost, fast and simple payments through TransferWise. You can make payments all over the world, or open a TransferWise borderless account to make it even easier to send and receive payments all over the world. TransferWise offers cross border payments which use the mid market exchange rate with no markup. You’ll just pay a transparent upfront fee for the transfer you want to make, which makes it easy to see the true cost of the transaction - and can often work out cheaper than other providers, too.


Here’s a quick comparison to show the costs of making the same transfer using different providers. In this case we have to pay a bill issued by a university in the UK, which comes in at £1,500.

Provider Cost in USD to send GBP1,500 to the UK
TransferWise 1874.86 (cheapest at time of research)
Xoom⁴ 1905.49
Western Union Global Pay¹ 1917.45

*costs are correct at time of research - 17 July 2019, 15.10 BST. To understand where the best deal is for your transfer, you will need to check the amounts at the time of making your payment.

As exchange rates change all the time, you’ll need to visit a few different providers websites yourself to model the payment you want to make. This will give you everything you need to find the best deal for the specific payment you have to make.


Going to school or university abroad is a great experience, but can come with a large price tag when you take into account the costs of tuition, accommodation and travel. It’s definitely smart to find ways to cut the costs, and limit or avoid the charges associated with international payments. Using a specialist payment service like Western Union Global Pay for students is one way to cover your fees, but you’ll also want to compare the overall costs of your payment with WU with the price on offer from other alternatives to make sure you get the best deal for your needs.

Sources:

  1. https://student.globalpay.wu.com/#!/landing
  2. https://globalpay.westernunion.com/Default.aspx
  3. https://finance.princeton.edu/how-to/tuition-student-billing-l/tuition-student-billing-b-1/viewing-paying-your-bill/Info-Sheet-Princeton-US.pdf

All sources checked 17 July 2019


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.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more