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At H&T, we offer a wide variety of financial services — including travel money for when you're making planned trips abroad. But did you know you can also find a full range of Western Union services in our branches?

Western Union is used by millions across the globe to transfer money internationally, including people who are sending cash gifts to loved ones, and those who need to make payments overseas.

Sending and receiving money from country to country can often seem complicated, but with Western Union, it can be very straightforward — and quick, too! You can even send physical cash from one country to another in a matter of minutes, without needing a bank account.

In this guide, we'll explain everything there is to know about Western Union, including what it is, how it works, and how much it can cost. We'll cover:

  • What is Western Union?
    • Western Union key statistics
  • How does Western Union work?
  • How to use Western Union: a step-by-step guide
    • How to send money through Western Union
    • How to receive money from Western Union
  • How much does Western Union cost?
    • From the UK to India
    • From the UK to Pakistan
    • From the UK to the USA
    • From the UK to China
    • From the UK to Nigeria
    • From the UK to the Philippines
  • Western Union FAQs
    • Which countries can I send money to with Western Union?
    • Do I need a bank account to send or receive money with Western Union?
    • How much can I send with Western Union?
    • How long does Western Union take?
    • How long does Western Union hold your money for?
    • What happens if Western Union money is not collected?
    • Where is my nearest Western Union?

What is Western Union?

Western Union is best known as an international money transfer service. The company was founded in Massachusetts in 1851, as a communications company that sent transcontinental telegrams between North America and Europe. It has since gone on to become a leading name in global financial services.

Practically anyone can send and receive money quickly using Western Union money transfers in a variety of convenient ways to suit all kinds of circumstances. It's particularly popular among people who need to make or receive payments while travelling or staying in another country, or people who are supporting friends and family overseas who may not have access to a bank account. And, as Western Union's services are quick and easy to use, it's a popular option for sending and receiving emergency cash too.

Western Union makes use of other businesses to offer these services on its behalf, known as 'Western Union agent locations'. To access Western Union services, for example to make international cash transfers in person, you can look up Western Union agent locations near you, or simply pop into your local H&T branch. You’ll find us in over 250 locations nationwide and all our stores offer the full and complete range of Western Union money transfer services.

Western Union key statistics1

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How does Western Union work?

Western Union's international money transfers allow you to send or receive money from one country to another. So, for example, if you are a tourist, foreign worker, or international student, if you have friends or family to support abroad, or if you need to buy property or make a payment to a business in another country, you can move your money through Western Union — sometimes for a lower up-front fee than other money transfer methods.

If either you or your recipient don't have access to a bank account, or if you'd simply rather pay or collect your payment in person, you can do this by transferring cash.

International money transfers can be expensive, so it's understandable you want to get the best deal possible when sending or receiving your money. If you're wondering exactly how much Western Union costs compared to other money transmitters, the answer will vary. Mostly, it depends on whether you'll be making or receiving your payment via cash, using a debit or credit card, or a bank transfer. It also depends on where you're moving your money to and from, plus the exchange rates either way and for each method.

However, transferring money in person using Western Union can be very fast, convenient, and uncomplicated, and you can use it almost anywhere in the world.

Did you know that you can also use Western Union for domestic transfers, too? You might have to pay a slightly higher fee upfront (to make up for the lost revenue, as Western Union make most of their profit from currency exchange rates). However, the process is usually very quick, so you or your recipient can access the money anywhere in the UK within just a few minutes.

How to use Western Union: a step-by-step guide

To send or receive money with Western Union, you can:

You can also choose whether to send or receive your money in the following forms, depending on your location and whether you are in-store or using the service online:

  • Cash
  • Debit or credit card
  • Bank transfer
  • Pre-paid card
  • Mobile wallet

You'll find the widest variety of options if you visit a Western Union agent location. Typically, moving money this way is much quicker than doing it online, too. Though you might occasionally pay lower fees for bank and online transfers, it can take up to three or even five days for a digital transaction to process, depending on when, where, and how you complete the transfer. For cash transfers, you can potentially do this in a matter of minutes, though again it's conditional on the circumstances of your transaction.

If you have any questions or need more information about the options available to you, you can always pop into H&T or your local Western Union agent location and speak to them in person.

How to send money through Western Union

There are a few different ways you can send money through Western Union, depending on how you prefer to make your payments.

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Sending cash can be as simple as going into your nearest Western Union branch, filling out a form, and providing the details of person you’ll be sending money to (such as their name and location), then handing over your cash.

If you need to send money quickly, you can start this process early and fill out your forms using the Western Union app, before you pop into your local branch.

Remember you'll need to bring some extra cash with you to pay for fees and costs. For domestic transfers, this can be as much as 10%, but for international transfers it will usually be less.

You can also send money in branch using a debit or credit card, but you should remember your card issuer (usually your bank) may charge additional fees. You’ll be able to choose if your recipient will receive cash, which they can collect in-person, or whether the amount will be paid into their bank account.

If you're paying into someone's bank account (or transferring money from one bank account to another), bear in mind you'll need to know the recipient's details, such as their international bank code and account number.

Whichever method you choose, you'll receive a tracking number known as a MTCN from Western Union once you pay, which you and the recipient can then use to keep track of your transfer. Your recipient may also need to provide this number in order to collect their payment.

How to receive money from Western Union

There are a few different ways a person can send you money through Western Union, depending on how you prefer to receive it.

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If you want the sender to pay money directly into your bank account rather than having to collect the cash in person, you'll have to provide with them your bank details, including your international bank code and account number. They won't be able to pay with cash if you want to receive your money this way.

To collect cash from a Western Union branch, you'll need to bring with you a government-issued form of ID that can confirm your name matches the name given by the sender, as well as the MTCN tracking number that was given to the sender when they made the payment (you'll need to ask the sender to give you this).

Accepted forms of ID can include (but are not limited to):

  • Photographic ID, such as your passport or driving licence
  • Your EU national identity card or UK residency card
  • A formal letter dated within the last 3 months, such as a bank statement, utility bill, tenancy agreement, or tax document

When you arrive, you’ll be asked to give the sender’s full name, the country where the money was sent from, and the approximate amount that was sent.

You should note, some Western Union agents in certain countries might ask you to register before you can collect your cash. This may be the case if the amount you're receiving exceeds a certain limit, or you have sent or received multiple payments within a certain time frame.

In certain locations, registering with Western Union when collecting money is standard practice for all transactions, regardless of the amount being received. Countries that might require this one-off registration include:

  • China
  • Argentina
  • Colombia
  • Jamaica

If you're not the recipient but the sender, and the person you're sending money to is in any of the above countries, it could be worth reminding them they'll need to register to receive their cash.

How much does Western Union cost?

When making a transfer through Western Union, there are a few different things you have to consider if you want to know how much it will cost. The first is how much you want the other person to receive, taking exchange rates into account. The second is any upfront fees or costs charged by Western Union to process the transfer. Then, you may have to pay additional fees if you're paying by bank card or third-party finance app. Note that a lower transfer fee does not necessarily mean a better exchange rate, and vice versa.

WU rates of exchange are independent and updated daily. These can be provided before the transaction is completed and may differ to H&T and other individual bureau rates. Different countries and territories will also have their own rules and costs, but you can enquire in-store or check rates online before you go to get an estimate of how much you'll have to pay. You may find that transfer fees are slightly lower once you go in.

We've used the WU rates calculator above to give six examples of how much it could cost to send money from the UK to the following countries: India, Pakistan, the USA, China, Nigeria, and the Philippines. These examples should be used as a rough guide only, as they were calculated using the current exchange rate for each currency, which changes on a regular basis. All fees and rates were accurate and up to date as of October 2021.

From the UK to India

To send cash for collection in India, it could cost roughly the following amounts, depending on how you pay:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash 4.90 GBP 1004.90 GBP 102549.41 INR Minutes
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 3.90 GBP 1003.90 GBP 101776.42 INR Minutes
1000 GBP Bank transfer 3.90 GBP 1003.90 GBP 101931.02 INR Minutes


When sending cash to be collected in India, there is a cash limit of 50,000 INR for Indian residents and nationals. For payments exceeding this amount, the recipient will receive a cheque. This does not apply to tourists or foreign nationals.

To transfer money into their bank account instead, it could cost around:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash n/a n/a n/a n/a
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 2.90 GBP 1002.90 GBP 102755.54 INR Real Time
1000 GBP Bank transfer Free 1000.00 GBP 102755.54 INR Real Time


There is a limit to how much money you can send online to India from the UK, which is £50,000.

From the UK to Pakistan

To send cash for collection in Pakistan from the UK, it could roughly cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash 19.90 GBP 1019.90 GBP 230235.45 PKR Minutes
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 3.90 GBP 1003.90 GBP 231790.29 PKR Minutes
1000 GBP Bank transfer 3.90 GBP 1003.90 GBP 232866.72 PKR Minutes


To transfer money into their bank account instead, it could cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash n/a n/a n/a n/a
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 2.90 GBP 1002.90 GBP 237770.43 PKR 1 day
1000 GBP Bank transfer Free 1000.00 GBP 237770.43 PKR 1 day


There is a limit to how much money you can send online to Pakistan from the UK, which is £4,000.

From the UK to the USA

To send cash for collection in the USA from the UK, it could roughly cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash 29.90 GBP 1,029.90 GBP 1216.38 USD Minutes
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 4.90 GBP 1,004.90 GBP 1346.78 USD Minutes
1000 GBP Bank transfer 4.90 GBP 1,004.90 GBP 1346.78 USD Minutes


To transfer money into their bank account instead, it could cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash n/a n/a n/a n/a
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 2.90 GBP 1002.90 GBP 1356.44 USD Next day
1000 GBP Bank transfer Free 1000.00 GBP 1357.82 USD Next day


There is a limit to how much money you can send online to the USA from the UK, which is £50,000.

From the UK to China

To send cash for collection in China from the UK, it could roughly cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash 24.90 GBP 1004.90 GBP 8183.85 CNY Minutes
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 4.90 GBP 1004.90 GBP 8369.04 CNY Minutes
1000 GBP Bank transfer 4.90 GBP 1004.90 GBP 8369.04 CNY Minutes


Many Western Union agents in China are located in banks, and they require the receiver to have an account with that bank to collect cash. If your receiver does not have an account with that bank, they can open one onsite.

To transfer money into their bank account instead, it could cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash n/a n/a n/a Real Time
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 2.90 GBP 1002.90 GBP 8730.61 CNY Real Time
1000 GBP Bank transfer Free 1000.00 GBP 8730.61 CNY Real Time


There is a limit to how much money you can send online to China from the UK, which is £5,000.

From the UK to Nigeria

To send cash for collection in Nigeria from the UK, it could roughly cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash 34.90 GBP 1034.90 GBP 1362.00 USD Minutes
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 0.90 GBP 1000.90 GBP 1373.00 USD Minutes
1000 GBP Bank transfer 0.90 GBP 1000.90 GBP 1373.00 USD Minutes

To transfer money into their bank account instead, it could cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash n/a n/a n/a n/a
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 2.90 GBP 1002.90 GBP 1364.00 USD Same day
1000 GBP Bank transfer Free 1000.00 GBP 1364.00 USD Same day


There is a limit to how much money you can send online to Nigeria from the UK, which is £10,000.

From the UK to the Philippines

To send cash for collection in the Philippines from the UK, it could roughly cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash 4.90 GBP 1004.90 GBP 67074.10 PHP Minutes
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 3.90 GBP 1003.90 GBP 68545.95 PHP Minutes
1000 GBP Bank transfer 3.90 GBP 1003.90 GBP 68405.77 PHP Minutes


To transfer money into their bank account instead, it could cost:

Amount Payment method Transfer Fee You pay… They get… Time
1000 GBP Cash n/a n/a n/a n/a
1000 GBP Credit or debit card 2.90 GBP 1002.90 GBP 69807.53PHP 1 day
1000 GBP Bank transfer Free 1000.00 GBP 69807.53PHP 1 day


There is a limit to how much money you can send online to the Philippines from the UK, which is £15,000.

FAQs

If you're sending money or waiting for money to come to you through Western Union money transfer, you'll understandably be eager to know whether there are limits to how much you can send and receive, or how long it will take to arrive. Below, we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about Western Union to help you understand the process.

The answers to many of these questions depend on the service you choose, the method of payment, and the countries it's moving to and from.

Which countries can I send money to with Western Union?

Western Union services are available in over 550,000 agent locations across 200 countries and territories, including India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China, the Philippines, the USA, and Canada. So, you can practically send and receive money all around the globe. Not all of Western Union's services are available in every country, but you will at least be able to send and receive cash in most locations.

When sending money internationally, always remember to check the exchange rate first — the amount you send may be more or less than the amount your recipient will receive, once converted.

Do I need a bank account to send or receive money?

You don't need a bank account to send or receive cash internationally with Western Union. In most cases, you just need to bring some ID and the MTCN tracking number. You'll also be asked to provide:

  • the sender’s full name
  • the country where the money was sent from
  • the approximate amount that was sent

The sender can use their bank card or bank transfer to send cash, but they cannot pay cash into a bank account.

How much can I send with Western Union?

The amount of money you can send with Western Union depends which country you're in, but there isn't usually a cap if you're paying in cash in person. This means you can practically pay as much as you like if you visit a Western Union agent location, such as your local H&T branch.

To send money online from the UK, the cap is £799.99 GBP without any additional ID verification. If you want to send more you'll need to digitally confirm your identity. To send up to £50,000, you should consider making a bank transfer with Western Union. Other countries may have different limits for what you can send and receive, so it's always best to check before you make arrangements.

How long does Western Union take?

Cash transfers can be the quickest way to get money from one place to another — in many cases, it will only take a matter of minutes! So, it's worth discussing your options first and deciding how soon you need the money to arrive. Then, check whether your local Western Union agent location has quick options available, or ask the agent which would be the quickest method for your circumstances.

How long does Western Union hold your money?

If you or your recipient can't get to a Western Union agent location straight away to pick up cash, don’t worry. Western Union will hold your money in that location for a time, usually around 45 days.

That means you typically have at least a month to arrange the collection after the money has been sent. After that, the money will be returned to the sender.

What happens if Western Union money is not picked up?

Recipients usually have 45 days to collect their cash from a Western Union agent location.

Once that time is up and the money still hasn't been collected, the money will be returned to the sender — though not straight away. The amount can remain in the system for 90 days, unless the sender requests it be returned sooner.

If you made a payment through Western Union that wasn't collected and you'd like your money to be returned, you can contact their customer services.

Where is my nearest Western Union?

You access Western Union services through a Western Union agent location, such as your local H&T branch. To find your nearest H&T, you can use our store locator tool. All of our stores offer the full and complete range of Western Union services, and we have over 250 locations nationwide.

Alternatively, you can search Western Union agent locations on the Western Union website to see all the options you have in your area.

This guide should answer any questions you may have about Western Union, including, "what is Western Union", and "how does it work". Your options for sending and receiving money internationally, plus how much it will cost you, are dependent on so many things, including where you are in the world and the methods you use to move your money.

However, if you pop into your local H&T branch, we'll be happy to talk you through your options and find the best solution for you and your recipient. We can also provide you with a variety of additional services, including pawnbroking, cheque cashing and buying gold. So why not pay us a visit?

Representative 165.5 %APR.

Pawnbroking Loans are secured on your items, if the loan is not repaid it will be sold to pay the debt.

Please note that Cheque Cashing, buyback, FX, retail purchases and sales are not regulated by the FCA.

1Sources: https://s21.q4cdn.com/100551446/files/doc_financials/2020/ar/2020-Annual-Report-2021-Proxy-Statement.pdf and https://www.westernunion.com/blog/2020-annual-report-ceo-letter/