Which is Cheaper for Wire Transfer – MoneyGram or Western Union

When you send money via a wire transfer to family or friends, you’d like to choose the least expensive choice – Western Union and MoneyGram. Is one generally better priced than the other?

Which is Cheaper for Wire Transfer - MoneyGram or Western Union

If you need to transfer money to friends, family, or businesses outside the US, you can choose between a range of money transfer services.

In truth, international money transfers are no longer a game for only tried-and-true players like Western Union and MoneyGram.

Neither Western Union nor MoneyGram is the cheapest or fastest option out there — but they are the most visible. Which one is best for you depends on how much you’re transferring and how fast you need the money to arrive.

Western Union

Western Union is the world’s largest provider of money transfers. The company has more than 500,000 agent locations worldwide, including more than 44,000 in the U.S. alone. It operates in more than 200 countries and in 130 currencies.

Western Union offers many different transfer options. Each involves a trade-off of speed vs. the fee you will pay. For example, below is the transfer of $1,000 within the U.S. by credit card to a cash pickup location.

It’s nearly $100, but the transfer is instant. It may be necessary if funds are needed as soon as possible.

The list of potential transfer options includes:

  • Credit/debit card to cash pickup with immediate transfer – $99.99 (shown above).
  • Pay in-store to cash pickup with immediate transfer – $10.00.
  • From bank account to cash pickup with 4 business days transfer – $21.00.
  • Credit/debit card to a bank account with 2 business days transfer – $45.00.
  • Bank account to bank account with 6 business days transfer – $0.99
  • Pay in-store to bank account is not available.


MoneyGram operates in 200 countries and has a network of 347,000 agent offices, including more than 30,000 in the U.S. alone. They are the world’s second-largest provider of money transfers, after Western Union.

For most countries, you can send up to $6,000 per online transfer, and up to $6,000 every 30 calendar days. If necessary, you may send additional funds from a MoneyGram agent location.

MoneyGram also offers different sending and receiving methods. For a transfer from a bank account or a credit or debit card to a cash pickup location within the U.S. the fee is $49.99 for $1,000.

But when you send the same amount of money from a MoneyGram location to a cash pickup by the recipient, the fee is just $20 for $1,000.

Both methods allow the money to transfer in a matter of minutes, so it will really come down to the inconvenience of driving to a MoneyGram location to save $29.99 with a transfer from a bank account or credit card.

MoneyGram offers several different ways to send and receive money, though in most cases they don’t provide details on either the cost or the time frame of the method:

  • Credit/debit card to direct cash pickup.
  • From location to cash pickup – $20 (screenshot above).
  • Bank account to bank account available same or next business day.
  • From bank account to direct cash pickup.
  • Credit/debit card to a bank account.
  • From location to bank account.
  • Credit/debit card to a mobile wallet.
  • From location to mobile wallet.

How they Work

The way you go about a transfer with Western Union is nearly indistinguishable from the same process with MoneyGram.

So much, in fact, that we can describe them both in one shot: You go to their sites, enter how much you’re transferring and to where and see how much you’ll pay for the exchange.

With either service, you also have the option of visiting an office, calling or using a mobile app to initiate a transfer. And once complete, they convert and deliver your money to a bank account or for cash pickup at locations worldwide.

Comparing Costs Between Western Union and MoneyGram

Based on the transfer of $100 and $1,000 sent online from a checking account to a cash pickup location (payment by debit/credit cards have higher fees), the fees for both transfer companies are in the table below.

We’ve used bank transfers (checking accounts) to cash pickup since online transfers have become the most common and convenient method for transferring funds and making payments.

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Western Union vs. MoneyGram Money Transfers

Destination/Service Western Union $100 Western Union $1,000 MoneyGram $100 MoneyGram $1,000
United States (New York or California) $9 $21 $7.99 $49.99***
Australia $11 $26 $10 $25
Brazil (Sao Paulo) $6 $6 $5 $5
Canada (Toronto) $7.99 $19.99 $7.99 $19.99
China $11 $26 $10.99 $25.99
France $11 $26 $10.99 $25.99
Germany $11 $26 $10 $25
Mexico (Mexico City) $5 $5 $4 $4
Russia $12 $36 $11 $35
United Kingdom $11 $26 $10.99 $25.99

***Sent by cash at the location or credit/debit card – no bank account option offered.

Who Offers Better Exchange Rates?

Who Offers Better Exchange Rates?

To understand who offers better exchange rates, you’ll need to first look at the mid-market rate.

This is the true exchange rate that averages the buying and selling rate of a global currency — and the rate banks and transfer services use when they trade among themselves.

Western Union

Depending on the country you’re sending money to, a typical exchange rate at Western Union could be up to 6% above the mid-market rate.

If you’re sending a large amount overseas, this means hundreds of dollars that go straight into Western Union’s coffers.

We’ll use the example of a transfer to euros (EUR):

  • If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR
  • Western Union’s exchange rate might be 1 USD = 0.86 EUR


MoneyGram also skews exchange rates for a profit. Depending on where you’re sending your money, the exchange rate could be 5% or more above the mid-market rate.

Like Western Union, this means hundreds of dollars on a large transfer diverted to MoneyGram’s pockets.

So if you’re sending money to Europe:

  • If the mid-market rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR
  • MoneyGram’s exchange rate may be 1 USD = 0.91 EUR

Who’s Faster?

Western Union

Delivery speeds vary with transfer options. At an agent location or by phone, your transfer could be delivered in minutes (at higher costs). Your cheapest options could take five days or longer, depending on the country.


Like Western Union, the delivery speed with MoneyGram to varies by transfer option, with cash transfers in person or by phone delivered in minutes (again with higher costs). MoneyGram’s cheaper options take two to four business days for receipt.

MoneyGram tends to be slightly cheaper, almost across the board. But it’s never an exact comparison. It may be that a Western Union is quicker than MoneyGram to a certain destination, or with a certain transfer method.

Before deciding which to use – or to use your bank or PayPal – it’s best to use the estimator tools for each to help you choose.

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