Remitly vs Western Union: Which is the better option for you

Money know-how
22 Apr 2024
11 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

Key Takeaway





Supports bank transfers and mobile wallet transfers

Limited to personal remittance transfers

Fast cash transfers

Low maximum transfer limit

Good exchange rates compared to traditional banks and other remittance companies



Western Union




Extensive coverage, allowing money transfers to 200+ countries

Considered one of the most expensive money transfer companies

Bank transfers and mobile wallet transfers are also supported

Bank account transfers may take longer, averaging three to five business days

Online and offline transfers



In this post, we’ll look closer at Remitly and Western Union’s transfer speeds, fees, exchange rates, safety and more. Find out which service suits your preferences and ensure a smooth-sailing money transfer experience!

Remitly vs Western Union: An Overview

Before we delve deeper into their differences, we’ll take a step back to trace the brief histories, origins and fundamental concepts of Remitly and Western Union. Explore them further below:


Founded by Matt Oppenheimer in 2010, Remitly is an international money transfer app focusing on remittances. Their mission is to make the remittance process much faster, more hassle-free and affordable, helping immigrant communities support their loved ones back home.


The company operates in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. They also provide thousands of pick-up locations, a website and a mobile app where customers can send money using debit cards, credit cards and bank transfers.

Western Union

Western Union provides an extensive network of 550,000 locations spanning over 200 countries and territories, ensuring a secure platform for sending and receiving money. It was founded in 1851 and dominated the American telegraph industry until the 1980s.


The company was known to pioneer wire money transfer and other telegraph-related services. This is why Western Union became a household name in the money transfer market, continuing to innovate and adapt to market demands.


Moreover, it offers a wide range of money services, including next-day services, fast transfers within minutes, payments to mobile phones and even the option to send money to an inmate. You can use a debit card or cash for money transfers, with round-the-clock agents ready to assist you whenever needed

Remitly vs Western Union: Fees 

When it comes to money transfers, the first thing you’ll want to consider is the fees. Which provider is more cost-effective for international transfers: Remitly or Western Union?


Of course, this will depend on several factors. Let’s break down their fee differences below:

Remitly Fees

For Remitly, the fees for making transfers mainly depend on:


  • How much money you’re sending
  • The speed of the transfer
  • The provider will also provide you with the flexibility to choose between two methods: Express and Economy. The Express service allows you to send money within minutes but at a higher fee. Conversely, the Economy option lets you transfer money from your bank account at a lower cost, and you can expect to receive the funds within three to five business days.


For example, if you’re planning to send from USD to MAD (Moroccan Dirham), the fees are:


  • Economy: US$1.99
  • Express: US$3.99
Western Union Fees

Western Union’s charges vary depending on:


  • The amount of money being transferred
  • The destination for your transfer
  • Your preferred payment method (debit/credit card incurs higher fees than bank transfers)
  • Receiving method
  • The mode of sending money (online vs. at an agent location)


There are also additional fees for money transfers like cancellation fees and correspondent bank fees, among others. You can use Western Union’s cost calculator to get a true picture of the total charges you should expect.

Verdict: It’s a Tie

It’s difficult to say which one is the better option because each provider has extremely variable fees that depend on several factors. Both Remitly and Western Union also apply a markup on the exchange rate, so deciding which service is right for you depends on your needs.

Remitly vs Western Union: Exchange Rates

The upfront fee is important but always look at the exchange rate you’re getting when comparing international transfer providers. Keep in mind that this can significantly add to the total expense of your transfer, so tread carefully.

Remitly Exchange Rates

Remitly typically includes a margin of 1% to 3.7% on the exchange rates, and this margin depends on the currency. This also varies depending on the transfer time you select.


What makes Remitly more attractive is that they often extend promotional rates for new customers. They provide a better exchange rate compared to the mid-market rate for your first transfer on certain currencies.

Western Union Exchange Rates

Western Union also applies a margin on the exchange rates, but it tends to be quite higher than competitors. The margin ranges from 1% to 6%.


Although Western Union generally boasts better exchange rates than banks, they often fall short when compared to other money transfer providers that charge lower markups on the mid-market rate.

Verdict: Remitly Wins

With exchange rates and policies constantly changing, the best money transfer option today might not be the best tomorrow. It means that the rate you get fluctuates all the time, making it crucial to stay informed about the market’s dynamic nature.


However, when it comes to Remitly vs Western Union, Remitly tends to offer more competitive exchange rates, especially for first-time users.

Remitly vs Western Union: International Transfer Limits 

For both Remitly and Western Union, how much money you can send is determined by your account verification level and the preferred transfer method.

Remitly International Transfer Limits 

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

24 Hours




30 Days




180 Days




Western Union International Transfer Limits

Unverified Account Limit

Verified Account Limit

Additional Information

Max Transfer Amount

Up to US$3,000

Up to US$50,000

Higher value payments may be available via agents

Remitly vs Western Union: Pickup Locations

When it comes to choosing a reliable international money transfer provider, you have to consider its pickup locations. This is especially important if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account.


In this case, your recipient can visit the physical location of the transfer provider in person to collect their money in cash. They will be required to present some form of identification along with transfer details, including a reference number.


Luckily, both Remitly and Western Union offer cash pickup. It will just depend on the destination you’re sending money to.

Remitly Pickup Locations

While Remitly does not currently have physical branches, they have a network of partner locations, including supermarkets, convenience stores and banks for cash pickup. The number of pickup locations also varies by country.


You can use their pickup locator for each country and find the nearest one for your recipient. These countries include:


  • India
  • Colombia
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • Guatemala
  • Dominican Republic
Western Union Pickup Locations 

Western Union offers more than 500,000 cash pickup locations worldwide, making cash pickup extremely accessible. They also allow you to send money to every country on Earth, except Iran and North Korea.

Verdict: Western Union Wins

Given that Western Union is a veteran in the money transfer industry, it’s not surprising that they have a wider reach than Remitly and other competitors.

Remitly vs Western Union: Accessibility and Ease of Use 

One of the reasons why online money transfers have gained so much traction is because of the convenience and ease they offer. You don’t have to deal with piles of paperwork, skip long lines at the bank and do international money transfers in the comfort of your home.


Let’s discuss the accessibility and ease of use of Remitly and Western Union:

Remitly Accessibility and Ease of Use

Remitly’s website caters to a wide range of audiences, supporting different languages like English, French, Spanish and Mandarin, to name a few. They also have a free mobile app for easy money transfers—available on iOS and Android.


When using its service, the platform provides easy-to-follow instructions. It has dedicated screens for choosing both delivery options and transfer speed (the Express or the Economy option). Additionally, both the website and app offer the same features like checking your transfer status and viewing exchange rates.

Western Union Accessibility and Ease of Use

Like Remitly, Western Union services can be accessed through their website or mobile app—available for both iOS and Android. Their app is available in English, Spanish and Mandarin, along with country-specific content.


Another feature Western Union offers is the option to set preferred exchange rates and scan cards for payment, avoiding manual entry and reducing errors. You can also find the nearest agent locations in your area and view exchange rates in real time.

Verdict: It’s a Tie

Remitly and Western Union offer user-friendly experiences with website access and mobile apps. Both platforms have wider language support, useful features like viewing live exchange rates and tracking transfer status, as well as apps to make money transfers more convenient.

Remitly vs Western Union: Security

Most people are switching to digital money transfer services, thanks to their efficiency and convenience. Unfortunately, this technology comes with security challenges, including card data security, fraud and data breach.


When it comes to financial services, you should always consider safety features. What kind of protection do Remitly and Western Union provide their clients? Let’s discuss them below:

Remitly Security

Remitly is a fully licensed and regulated international remittance service, committed to safety and customer protection. They are registered with the US Department of Treasury as a Money Service Business and licensed to operate in all Canadian provinces including Quebec.


They use high-level data security to protect customers from fraud and other cyber crimes. Both the mobile app and website use Transport Layer Security (TLS) and modern encryption protocols to keep your private information safe.


And to keep your money safe at all times, they conduct thorough account verification. For example, if your recipient retrieves the fund from a cash pickup location, they will need to provide ID, proof of address and other details.

Western Union Security

Regulated by the FCA (UK), FinCEN (USA), and the FMA (Europe), Western Union adheres to the highest standards across its global operations. The security measures they implement online ensure anti-fraud and anti-theft policies, which include:


  • End-to-end encryption
  • TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Identity verification


A dedicated fraud team will perform a manual confirmation process on the phone for suspicious account activities. For large transfers, their team will also ask for additional verification with documents to verify identity and source of funds.

Verdict: It’s a Tie

Money transfer services are a constant target of cybercriminals and scammers. This is why both Remitly and Western Union work tirelessly to ensure safe and reliable transactions worldwide.


They employ industry-leading measures, the latest security technology and topnotch verification processes for online transfers and cash pickups.

Final Verdict: Remitly vs Western Union—Which Is Better? 

Choosing between Remitly and Western Union can feel challenging. Since both services offer similar features, secure money transfers and great accessibility, which is better? Both of them allow you to track transfer status, view exchange rates in real-time and send money within minutes through debit card payments.


Your choice boils down to your needs and preferences. For instance, if you feel more comfortable with doing international money transfers online, Remitly is the better option. It’s also more convenient for overseas workers to send money using Remitly to support their families back home.


However, if you need more assistance with your transfers or pay for your transactions in cash, you should opt for Western Union. This provider will also allow you to send money to more locations compared to Remitly.


Whichever you choose, prioritise what you need.


The good news is, that Remitly and Western Union aren’t the only providers out there. Other alternative money transfer providers include Instarem. Instarem offers a currency conversion feature to show you the cost upfront—no hidden fees, no unexpected charges.


At Instarem, international money transfers are fast, secure and low-cost. Download the app or sign up today!


What is the difference between Remitly and Western Union?

The main differences between Remitly and Western Union include transfer options, fees and exchange rates, availability in certain countries and transfer speeds, among others.

Is Remitly or Western Union cheaper?

In many cases, Remitly tends to offer lower fees and competitive exchange rates compared to Western Union.


Just keep in mind that the total transaction cost varies depending on the amount sent, the destination and the transfer method. We advise you to compare current rates and fees before choosing a provider.

Is Remitly or Western Union faster? 

Both Remitly and Western Union offer fast transfer options, with some transfers taking minutes for specific routes and payout methods. However, specific transfer speeds can depend on various factors like the destination, chosen transfer method and processing times.

Can I use multiple money transfer providers?

Yes, you can use multiple money transfer providers for your international money transfers. This will allow you to compare rates, fees and transfer speed. Your options may even include Instarem which can help you find the best deal for your transfer needs.


*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products.

About Instarem

Instarem stands at the forefront of international money transfer services, facilitating fast and secure transactions for both individuals and businesses. Our platform offers competitive exchange rates for popular currency pairs like USD to INR, SGD to INR, and AUD to INR. If you're looking to send money to India or transfer funds to any of 60+ global destinations, Instarem makes it easy for you. We are dedicated to simplifying cross-border payments, providing cutting-edge technology that support individuals and businesses alike in overcoming traditional fiscal barriers normally associated with banks. As a trusted and regulated brand under the umbrella of the Fintech Unicorn Nium Pte. Ltd., and its international subsidiaries, Instarem is your go-to for reliable global financial exchanges. Learn more about Instarem.