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What’s The Difference Between PayPal vs. Western Union?

Paypal vs Western Union
September 29th, 2014

In a way, both PayPal and Western Union provide you with a way to send and receive money from anywhere. But there are numerous differences between the two.

  • Western Union is an ancient company with its origins dating back to the 1850s. PayPal, in comparison, is fairly new and it was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.
  • In general, PayPal allows you to send money (usually to a seller) online. There’s no option for you to go to some brick and mortar PayPal office and send money from there. You create a PayPal account online, and then you enroll your bank account or credit card to that account. You transfer money from your bank account to your PayPal account, so you can send money to your recipient.

With Western Union, you can send money through the Web, your phone, or in person by going to a Western Union location. However, you will still need to confirm your identity, and online transfers require telephone confirmation of the sender’s identity.

  • Receiving funds. With PayPal, the email address of the recipient is used to send money, although in some cases their mobile number may suffice. The recipient then gets instructions through email or text as to how to retrieve their funds. Usually, they will need to set up a PayPal account of their own before they can transfer the funds to their own bank account.

With Western Union, there’s no need to set up a bank account at all. The recipient only needs to go to the nearest Western Union location and bring proof of Identification. In some cases, a secret password may suffice in lieu of the ID. The recipient can then get the amount in cash, although if the location does not carry enough cash then a check may be issued.

In some countries, it is possible for the money to be deposited in a “mobile wallet account” or a bank account.

  • Both PayPal and Western Union charge fees for their services. Western Union fees are not exactly clear, and they depend on a lot of factors. It depends on whether the money is sent online or through a counter location, where the sender and the recipient are located, and the type of money transfer involved.

With PayPal, the fee is usually a percentage of the amount involved.

  • Length of time. For PayPal, the transfer of funds from one account to another is pretty much instantaneous. However, transferring money from your PayPal account to a bank account may take as long as three business days.

With Western Union, the sender can choose to send money in a matter of minutes, although this will cost more. Other options (for US residents) include a “Next Day Service” and a “Three Day Service” which are cheaper.

  • In terms of reach, it, both Paypal and Western Union can be used anywhere. However, PayPal may have a slight edge. PayPal can be used in 203 countries while Western Union has locations in approximately 200 countries.



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