Western Union UK international transfer: An overview

TransferWise
09.09.20
5 minute read

If you need to send money to the UK, you can do it through Western Union. As it’s a global network with around 500,000 branches worldwide¹, you can also use it if you’ll be visiting the UK and need to make a payment to another country.

Western Union is a good option for tourists and travelers, people with family overseas and in some cases, for businesses and freelancers wanting to send and receive money internationally. But is it the best or even the cheapest option around?

Here, we’ll look at how to use Western Union for sending to and from the UK, along with alternative options which could save you money.

For example, with TransferWise people can often benefit from lower fees and a better exchange rate on international transactions.

See if you can save with TransferWise

TransferWise for sending money

Western Union UK fees

When sending money internationally, there are two key costs to take into account. The first is the upfront transfer fee charged by the provider, and the second is the exchange rate.

The transfer fee when using Western Union varies depending on where you’re sending money to and from, and the amount. It also depends on whether the receiver will pick up the money in cash or have it deposited in their bank account, and how you’ll fund the transfer (i.e. credit/debit card, bank transfer).

To give you an idea how much it’ll cost you to use the service, let’s take a look at a couple of simple examples.


Sending to the UK

Let’s say you want to send £1,000 to the UK from the US. You’ll be using a bank transfer to send money straight to the recipient’s bank account.

Here’s what it could cost you to use Western Union, compared to another provider, TransferWise:

Fee to send $1,000 USD from US to UK Exchange rate Total received
Western Union² $0.00 USD Mid-market rate + mark=up1 USD = 0.7647 GBP £764.70
TransferWise³ $9.04 USD Mid-market rate 1 USD = 0.7226 GBP £765.58

*Rates and fees accessed on September 9, 2020 at 10:21 UTC


Sending from the UK

Now, let’s see how much it’ll cost with each provider to send money from the UK to the US:

Provider Fee to send £1,000 GBP from UK to US Exchange rate* Total received
Western Union² £0.00 Mid-market rate + mark-up 1 GBP = 1.2791 USD $1279.06 USD
TransferWise³ £4.44 Mid-market rate (1 GBP = 1.2942 USD) $1288.46

*Rates and fees accessed September 9, 2020 at 10:32 UTC

As you can see from these two examples, the provider with the lowest fee doesn’t always offer the cheapest way to send internationally. If the exchange rate has too high a mark-up, it could end up costing you far more than an upfront transfer fee.

It’s always, always worth doing an extra check – and keeping an eye on that mid-market exchange rate – to compare costs before you send money internationally. Your bank balance will thank you.

Remember that exchange rates change all the time, so different rates than the examples given here may apply to your transfer.


Exchange rates

Many people forget about the exchange rate when comparing prices, but this can make the biggest difference to how much your transfer actually costs.

Some providers such as Western Union offer lower fees but a poorer exchange rate compared to alternative services. They add a mark-up to the mid-market exchange rate, which is the one you’ll see when you do a Google search or look on currency sites like XE.com. This effectively means an extra fee is hidden within the exchange rate, so it’s not a ‘low fee’ or ‘fee-free’ transfer after all.

Not all international payment providers do this, however. Send money with TransferWise and you’re always guaranteed the mid-market rate.


What transfer and payment methods are available?

Western Union offers a couple of ways for your lucky recipient to get hold of their money. These include bank account transfer and cash pick-up, where they need to go to a Western Union branch to receive the payment in cash.

Payment methods

You can also fund your payment in lots of different ways. These vary slightly depending on whether you’re sending to or from the UK.

If you’re sending to the UK, you can pay by²:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Bank account
  • Cash in-store.

If you’re sending from the UK, choose from the following payment methods²:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Online bank transfer with Klarna
  • Bank transfer with Faster Payments
  • Cash in-store.

How long does my transfer take?

The time your transfer with Western Union will take depends on the sending and receiving country, as well as how you pay for the transfer. Some transfers are completed in just minutes, while others take up to 5 business days².

Cash pickups tend to be the quickest. For example, if you send money to the UK using a card payment and your recipient will pick up the cash in person, it’ll arrive in a matter of minutes². Do the same transfer to the recipient’s bank account, and they may have to wait up to 4 business days².

Available currencies

With Western Union, you can send money to over 200 countries and territories⁴. Across its global network, the service carries out transactions in nearly 130 currencies⁵.


Western Union UK limits

Western Union has limits on how much money you can send per transaction.

If sending to the UK, you can send between $1 and $5,000 USD at once⁶. However, this can vary depending on your location, which service you use and how you make and fund the payment. However, if you’re sending from your bank account to the recipient’s bank account, you can send up to $50,000².

If you’re making an international transfer from the UK, you can send up to £799.99 in one go without having to verify your ID. Once you’ve confirmed your identity, you can send a max of £4,000 at once.

If you’ll be making a bank-to-bank transfer from the UK, you should be able to send up to £50,000².

Frequently asked questions

What kind of customer support does Western Union offer?⁷

Western Union has a number of helpful guides on its website for using the service, but you can also get customer support by email or phone if you need further assistance. You can also go into your local Western Union branch to speak to someone.

How many locations does Western Union have in the UK?

There are over 5,200 Western Union branches across the UK², so it should be relatively easy to find a local branch near to you.

How can I track my transfer?

When you arrange a transfer with Western Union, you’ll be given a Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN)

Another way to track your transfer is via the Western Union app, available for Android and iOS devices⁹.


So, that’s you all clued up on using Western Union to send money to and from the UK.

It can be quick, easy and inexpensive in some circumstances, but not all – remember to do a few quick checks before hitting ‘send’ on that international transfer. It could be that another provider such as TransferWise could save you money.


Sources used:

  1. Finder - Western Union Fees
  2. Western Union - Send money
  3. TransferWise
  4. Western Union - Home
  5. Western Union - Corporate
  6. Finder - Western Union international money transfer
  7. Western Union - Customer Support
  8. Western Union - Track transfer
  9. Western Union - Money transfer app

All sources checked on September 9, 2020.


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.

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