Bank or Western Union? The Cheaper Way to Sending Money

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I had to send a few thousand dollars to the Philippines and wanted to find out whether sending through Western Union or a wire transfer with a bank saves me more money.

I know that a lot of people would like to know because some of you want to send a large amount of money for investments, paying for large purchases, or even for family support.

When you’re sending over a thousand dollars, the Western Union’s website (at least the Canada Western Union one) does not provide clear details on how much exactly the fees are. The fee varies depending on the amount of money you are sending – but it isn’t clear as to how much.

Also, they use two different sites depending on whether you are sending more or less than a thousand dollars (Equal/less than $999.99 dollars to quote them exactly).

Western Union: Sending Money Equal or Below $999.99 Canadian Dollars:

I noticed that Western Union charges more expensive fees if you send money online as compared to sending through an agent location.. It is definitely cheaper to send through and agent location than WU online. In the Western Union website, https://www.westernunion.com/ca/en/send-money/start.html.html

I tested how much they would charge for sending $900 Canadian dollars, and it said that the fee was $68 dollars.

Fee for Western Union Online
Fee for Western Union Online

If I sent that amount of money to an agent location such as Cash Money or Money Mart, it would be much cheaper – about 75% cheaper.

Western Union: Sending Money 1 Thousand CAD ($1000) or More:

When you try to send more than one thousand Canadian dollars, Western union will direct you to a different website: http://onlinefx.westernunion.com/lp/Personal/WU-HPT-Money-Transfer/LP04-Send-over-1000-CA?t=ca-daf-wucomsendmoney

The problem is, this website does not let us calculate the fee online. They first ask for you to sign up, complete your profile, give your personal information, then later, send them proof of who you are with a scan of IDs etc. – I guess they’re making sure it’s secure and that you are not a money launderer (im not sure just a guess hehe).

WU FX Sending Larger Amount Sign Up
WU FX Sending Larger Amount Sign Up

The do provide an exchange rate calculator though. Following link: http://onlinefx.westernunion.ca/currency-calculator/

Knowing the exchange rate is good because at least you’ll be able to estimate how much the Western Union exchange rate is for when you send the money. Western Union also makes money with currency foreign exchange. For example, when you send Canadian money, and the receiver receives the money in US dollar or pesos, Western Union makes money off of the exchange too.

Anyway, I decided to go to an agent location to find out how much the fee is for sending money to the Philippines. (Sending money online I presumed was more expensive – just look at how much they are charging for sending 900 dollars!)

Western Union rates at Agent Location (not online):

  • For sending $2000 Canadian dollars to the Philippines, Western Union charges $25.65.
  • For sending $2500 dollars from Canada to the Philippines, Western Union charges $32.10
  • For sending $3000 dollars from Canada to the Philippines, Western Union charges $38.45.
  • and, for sending $5000 dollars from Canada to the Philippines, they charge $64.29

The receiver will get the money you send and will NOT be charged for anything else. For example, if you sent 5000 dollars, you will have to pay $5064.29 including the fee, but the receiver will receive 5000 dollars. You can specify whether you want the receiver to get the money in US dollars or in Pesos.

The receiver has to show valid IDs and the MTCN – a 10 – digit code number. (Also they would have to know the answer to your secret question if you did add a secret question.)

I regularly use Western Union to send smaller amounts of money. Usually, to send around $300 dollars, they charge $9.45 dollars for that. I think that is how much they charge for sending money up to a little less than $1000. That is much cheaper than how much they quoted online (sending $900 = $68 fee).

Here are three of my Western Union receipts when I sent money from Canada to the Philippines:

I sent 10000, 90000, 95000 pesos respectively:

Send Money throughWestern Union Send Money receipt
Western Union Send Money receipt
Send Money Western Union fee
Send Money through Western Union fee

As you can see, the receipt shows you the amount of money sent, the fee, the exchange rate, the sender and receiver name, the expected payout location, and also whether they get the Money in Minutes or the next day. It also shows the MTCN – the number they will need to give to the location where they are receiving the money.

The second picture shows two receipts, one is from Cash 4 You and one is from Money Mart. I don’t think it matters where you send it (as long as it’s not online), because Western Union dictates the exchange rate, and not the agent location.

Also, before I forget, the reason I had to split sending $5000 CAD into two, is because in the Philippines, sometimes the Western Union agents don’t have enough cash on hand.. so my relatives would have to go around looking for a Western Union agent that has a large amount of cash on hand which is so inconvenient. There is only a little difference when you split the money you are going to send. For example, they told me that the charge for sending $5000 is  $64.29, and sending $2500 is $32.10. So for a difference of .09 cents, It is much wiser to split the money so that the receiver will have an easier time finding a place to receive the money. Also, I should say that my relatives received the money no problem. Money in minutes means they can get the money you send after about 15 minutes.

When you send the money, the charges wouldn’t exactly be the same as I have shown here, but it will be similar. If you noticed, when I asked the agent location how much it was to send $2500, they quoted $32.10 but when I actually sent around $2500, I was charged $31-32 dollars (see receipt). Even so, you would be able to estimate how much the fee would be.

Sending Money Using a Canadian Bank Wire Transfer:

I actually decided not to use wire transfer with the bank after my research and here are my reasons why:

  1. You might need all the banking information of the receiver. Some banks would accept just IDs (for people with no bank accounts) because when you send through the bank overseas, they give the option of “Money Transfer to Bank Account” or “Pay Upon ID.” So, if the recipient has no bank account, you have to make sure that the receiving bank will allow Pay Upon ID (receiver gets the money just by showing a valid ID even if they have no account with the bank).
  2. The bank takes a few days (they said 2-5 business days) and if you encounter a problem because it was sent to the wrong person, or a number was wrong, you would have to wait a few more days and you would have to fix it by calling the bank – who knows how sorting that out will work.
  3. They charge more. Their exchange rate is not as good as western union, and they charge a fee on top of that. Also, some recipient banks charge when the receiver takes out the money.

I only used Royal Bank of Canada to test the fee. (RBC is a popular bank in Canada). I was thinking they would have similar terms as other Canadian banks.

Here are the requirements for Sending Money through Wire Transfer in the Bank:

  • a chequing or savings account
  • be enrolled in the RBC Mobile app or RBC Online Banking
  • the recipient’s bank account number /IBAN/CLABE (for Mexico) or the Business Identifier Code (SWIFT BIC/ABA) for the bank/branch where the funds are to be sent to or picked up.

Here are Royal Bank’s International Money Transfer terms:

  • send up to $10,000 CAD per day to almost any bank
  • the receiver usually can access the funds within 2-5 business days
  • the fee is $ 13.50 per transfer

Sounds cheaper right? So I logged in to my online bank account, and clicked on International Money Transfer and here is the screen I was presented with.

Royal Bank International Money Transfer screen
Royal Bank International Money Transfer screen

The Get Started page says:

International Money Transfer:

Send up to $2,500 CAD per day to almost anywhere in the world for just $13.50 per transfer. If you add your Canadian mobile phone number to your Online Banking profile, you may be able to send up to $10,000 CAD per day. Your recipient might be charged an additional transfer fee from their bank or an intermediary bank, depending on that bank’s rules.

All you need is the recipient’s name and address, their  account number  (if applicable) and the name and location or  SWIFT BIC/ABA Routing Number of the destination bank. Your transfer usually arrives within 2 to 5 business days.

Notice that you may or may not be able to send more than $2500 at a time – which means you might get charged $13.50 more than once.

okay so I clicked on Get Started:

Here is the next window:

Wire Transfer Bank Details
Wire Transfer Bank Details

When I clicked on Add Recipient, I was presented with this screen:

Add Recipient Info for Bank Transfer
Add Recipient Info for Bank Transfer

Enter the Recepient’s name and address exactly as they appear in the Destination bank’s records (for “Money Transfer to Bank Account”) or identification documents (for “Pay Upon ID”).

Before selecting “Pay Upon ID.” please confirm with the destination bank that this service is available. Otherwise, your transfer may be rejected (and you could be charged a fee) by the Destination bank.

If a search by bank name, ABA routing number or SWIFT BIC code returns more than one result, please confirm the information with your recipient or the destination bank.

Notice that you still might have to call the receiving bank to confirm what their code is in case more than one shows up.

… Filled out first name, last name, country, reason for transfer etc… then clicked Continue.

When I tried to check how much the fee and exchange rates are by inputting the amount and clicking CALCULATE, the bank said 180,000 Pesos = 5140 Canadian Dollars. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a screenshot of that).

So, sending 180,000 pesos, would have cost me $5140 (exchange) + $13.50 (fee) = $5153.50.

Comparing Western Union and the Bank:

As you can see in the Western Union receipt above, sending 90,000 pesos, I was charged exactly $2480.85. That was $2449.01 for the 90000 pesos exchange and $31.84 for the fee added together. Multiplied by two including the fee (180,000pesos + fees) = $4961.70.

Bank vs Western Union Fee:

  • Sending 180,000 pesos through Western Union, you pay $4961.70

(that’s including all the fees – where the receiver gets exactly 180,000 pesos)

  • Sending 180,000 pesos through the Bank (RBC specifically), you pay $5153.50

That’s a difference of 191.80 dollars. And we didn’t even take into account the possibility that the receiver bank might charge the recipient a fee.

So in conclusion, sending through Western Union is cheaper than sending through bank wire transfer.

The difference in their fee increases and decreases depending on the amount you will send. If you send small amounts, the difference is small. If you spend bigger amounts, the difference gets bigger. But I like Western Union because it is efficient and fast. You don’t have to wait 2-5 business days, and you don’t have to know all the specific bank details – just the exact name of the recipient as it shows on their valid IDs.

I haven’t tried other ways to transfer Money. There are other companies that offer this service. So, if you have time, please share your experience about sending money so our readers can save even more money.

Here’s the website link I went to for the Royal Bank International Money Transfer in case you need it: http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/international-money-transfer/index.html

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