Having bank accounts in multiple currencies can be messy and expensive for international people or business.
But the worst part may not be the inconvenience or extortionate costs.
Not spending your money freely and accepting payments in many different currencies (easily) often leads to missed opportunities for you and your business (perhaps you haven’t even considered).
But is Wise the solution?
The reality is that Wise is focused on what you need without the fluff.
Which is mostly awesome, but simplicity means limitations. For example, what does it mean that Wise is not a bank?
Sometimes, Wise may NOT be right for you. We will uncover the alternatives as well.
First things first – can you get one?
The easiest way – is check here by selecting the dropdown.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
1. What the Wise Account?
The online account is one of the best multi-currency accounts. It lets you keep over 50+ currencies, but the biggest perk is that you can convert them at the real exchange rate whenever you need and it whatever currency you need.
This means no more waiting for funds to clear between banks.
It also means fees are far less. They say, “6x cheaper multi-currency account. For international people.”
But it gets better.
Having a Wise account automatically means you can accept payments with local bank details in USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD, SGD (Singapore dollars), TRY (Turkish lira), RON (Romanian lei), and HUF (Hungarian Forint).
You will then be able to use these details to receive direct payments from friends, businesses, or customers from around the world.
You can also order the optional Wise debit card (review) which means you can pay for things in any currency and get cash around the world without the crazy fees. (get multiple cards if you are a business)
The debit Mastercard means:
- No fees for payments made in any currencies you hold in the account
- Free ATM withdrawals up to $250/£200 per 30 days
- Small conversion fees between 0.35% and 2.85%
As you can expect, you can use the debit card in all places where Mastercard is accepted.
You can still use this money transfer feature (and send money at the mid-market rate) to small amounts below $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU.
2. When Wise Works (and When it Doesn’t)
When it Works
- Receiving payments in multiple currencies
- Making purchases in multiple currencies
- Inexpensive, fast and stress free money transfers
People who love Wise: international people, frequent travellers, digital nomads, freelancers and small to medium business
When it Doesn’t
- Holding cash
- Loans and other bank products
- Sending large amounts (Over $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU)
2.1 When it Works
If you haven’t already – see if you can get their Multi currency account services here.
The Wise multi-currency account (opens a new tab) has lots of bank account like features but in many ways it can be better than a bank.
That said, it does not replace having at least one other bank account as we will show you.
With a multi currency account you can:
- Receive salary, pension, tax payments and other income.
- Pay your utility bills or mortgage overseas or at home
- Get paid like a local with international bank details in 10 currencies (USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD, SGD (Singapore dollars), TRY (Turkish lira), RON (Romanian lei), and HUF (Hungarian Forint)
- Spend online in (almost) any currency
- Hold over 50 currencies and spend like a local when relocating or travelling abroad
- Wise is 6 to 8x cheaper for conversions within the account compared to a bank account.
- Get a MasterCard debit card for ATM withdrawals, online shopping, as well as contactless payments for in store payments (Use in 200+ countries)
- Money transfers in 70+ currencies to 40 countries – inexpensive, fast and stress free. Awesome below $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU
- Multilingual customer support
Just to be clear:
Not only will you be able to hold multiple currencies (and save yourself from market fluctuations), you can also get bank details in 10 major currencies like the USD, GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, NZD, SGD, TRY, HUF and RON to receive money without conversion fees (if you’re working abroad) or spend like a local (when you’re staying a while) through ATM withdrawals or for in-store and online payments.
But there are things you can’t do:
2.2 When it Doesn’t Work
Wise is Not a Bank
Which means you don’t get deposit protection on the money you hold. In fact, you have to pay a fee for holding amounts above certain thresholds.
How much can you hold before paying a small fee?
- AUD — $23,000
- EUR — €30,000 (new accounts)
- GBP — £13,000
- USD — $18,000
- Your money is not guaranteed under government financial protection schemes (it is safeguarded in other ways).
- You can’t get an overdraft or a loan
- You won’t earn interest
Details of holding money with Wise can be found here
Wise can do a lot when it comes to e-commerce (as we show in the next section), but connecting with multiple sales platforms and accounting software while providing integrated reporting can be complex and require specific solutions.
Wise has some great functionality, but ultimately there maybe better end-to-end solutions if you run a business that requires an international integrated solution. Payoneer (review), PayPal International (Fees), and Airwallex all provide different services.
Large Money Transfers
As we discuss in more detail in our Wise Review, transfers above $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU are best done through services designed for larger amounts.
There are a few reasons for this, but one of the biggest one is simply that beyond these amounts regulations make transfers potentially a little more tricky. This means 24/7 phone support can be very helpful and although Wise has excellent online based customer service we would prefer to use a service that make it easy and stress free as possible to resolve any potential holdups.
Alternatives with phone based customer service
Want to send large amounts abroad?
These three are our top picks when transferring large amounts based on service and fee structure designed for large amounts.
3. Game Changers (Debit Card & Businesses)
Apart from the multi currency account and money transfers (we cover in our Wise Review), the debit card and business account could be game changers.
3.1 Wise Debit Card
You can apply for the Wise debit card in most countries, but not the whole world.
Since there are always changes, click here to see if the card is available in your country.
Since the Wise debit card is a MasterCard it means that in combination with your multi currency account you can make purchases in 200+ countries get free ATM withdrawals worldwide up to £200 GBP/ $250 USD or equivalent per month (over that amount, you’ll pay a 2% fee per withdrawal).
Spending money in the same currency is free.
And if you’re spending in a different currency, you’ll pay a small conversion fee between 0.35% and 2.85% when you convert money.
The best part?
The card automatically converts from the currency with the lowest exchange fees. For common currency conversions, fees are usually at the low end below 1%. However, we recommend using the convenient Fee Checker – simply choose the “Multi-currency Account” tab.
We also cover the Wise Debit Card Review if full.
There are many debit cards available and if features are important to you like travel insurance and flight lounges you might like or our Revolut Vs. Wise comparison.
3.2 Wise Business Account
The Wise Business Account is great for:
- Receive payments from clients
- Paying employees overseas
- Debit cards for spending in any currency
- Integrate into your online store
Receive payments from clients
Wise makes it easy to get paid while looking established and professional with international account numbers, IBAN, and sort codes
Pay employees overseas
You can pay your employees in any currency without extortionate fees (they say they are 19x cheaper than PayPal) and even process mass payments (1000 people at a time – just upload a spreadsheet) without the extra admin work.
Of course you can have multiple team members to make payments.
Debit cards for spending in any currency
You can get cards for teams as well as individuals for online and in-store payments. All payments can be tracked from your Wise Business Account dashboard or mobile app.
Integrate Wise in your online store
If you run an ecommerce business, Wise can be integrated on your online store so you can accept payments in multiple currencies. Wise also integrates with platforms like Shopify, Stripe etc. for this purpose.
Integration with accounting software like Xero and Quickbooks
End to end reporting on all sales, purchases in multiple currencies is made simple.
The Business account has a one time low set up fee.
The cost to get access to business accounts in the Eurozone, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain is just $31 USD, £16 GBP, $42 CAD, € 21 EUR, $22 AUD or $40 NZD respectively.
Wise is changing the way international business is being done. By focusing on the needs of individuals and businesses they are making it easier to do more.
Now you can focus on what is important for you or your business.
4. Real Costs
4.1 Multi-Currency Account Fees
- Currency conversion fees of 0.35%-1% on currencies you hold
- A small, location-specific fixed fee is applicable for withdrawing money from your Wise account to a bank account.
- Holding money up to a limit is free in 50+ currencies.
4.2 Card Fees
- Location-specific card issuing fee: $7 USD / £5 GBP/ €6 EUR/ $10 SGD/ $10 NZD and free in AUD
- You can withdraw money free twice a month up to 200 GBP/EUR for cards issued in the UK and Eurozone. Fees are applicable over this limit.
- For US-issued cards, fees are applicable if you withdraw more than twice or withdraw more than $100 USD in a month
4.3 Money Transfer Fees
- Transfers at the mid-market or interbank rate with no markup
- Pay a fixed fee of 0.35-1.5% of the amount, which is very competitive
- Hidden fees like sending and receiving fees removed by local bank accounts in most cases
- Transfers funded by credit cards are more expensive (3% cash advance fee)
Wise has excellent transparency and a strong track record or passing on cost savings to their customers.
Over the years of covering Wise they have continually reduced fees and added value.
5. Making Wise Work for You
Step 1. Sign Up and Get Verified
Go to Wise’s website, choose business or personal, and set up your account. After this you’ll go through their eKYC (Know Your Customer) process, which can take a couple of days to a week.
This is mandatory for licensed financial institutions like Wise who need to vet every potential new user to comply with anti-fraud and anti-money laundering laws.
To get verified, you’ll need to upload residential and address proof (or equivalent documents for businesses).
Heads up: This is not the only time Wise may ask for document verification. For any unusual activity or transaction (for example, transferring or converting a larger amount than usual), Wise may ask you to upload verification documents like bank statements to keep your money and personal information safe.
After this, you’ll be set up with a Wise account with your local currency (you can add other currencies later).
Step 2. Setting Up Multiple Currencies
You can add money to your account in 21 currencies: You can add money to your account in 21 currencies: AUD, BGN, BRL, CAD, CHF, CZK, DKK, EUR, GBP, HRK, HUF, JPY, MYR, NOK, NZD, PLN, RON, SEK, SGD, TRY and USD.
You can also set up international receiving accounts in the following currencies to receive money from respective local bank accounts. Just share your account details with your friends, family, or employer to receive money in these currencies.
|USD||for receiving money from local accounts in the US (or by SWIFT transfers)|
|CAD||for receiving money from local accounts in Canada|
|GBP||for receiving money from local accounts in the UK (or by SWIFT)|
|EUR||for receiving from any bank account that’s denoted in EUR|
|AUD||for receiving money from local accounts in Australia|
|NZD||for receiving money from local accounts in New Zealand|
|SGD||for receiving money from local accounts in Singapore|
|MYR||for receiving money from Malaysian Personal Accounts|
|RON||for receiving money from local accounts in Romania (only available if you’re a resident in the EEA, Switzerland, the US, Canada, Australia, or Japan.)|
|HUF||for receiving money from local accounts in Hungary|
|TRY||for receiving money from local accounts Turkey|
Step 3. Order Your Card
The Wise card is currently available in the UK, the US, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and most of the EEA.
To order your card, click on the Debit card tab of the website or the Account tab in the app, and you’ll see an option to order the card.
They will check personal details like your name and address and may even ask you to add some money to your account.
The time for the card to reach depends on your location. Activate the card once you receive it.
ATM Withdrawals and Spending With Your Wise Debit Card
If you hold a specific currency, Wise will not charge a conversion fee for withdrawing in that amount.
Word of advice: Always load up your account with the local currency and then withdraw from an ATM. (Wise supports 50+ currencies – so chances are it will be supported).
If an ATM asks for a 6 digit PIN, use your Wise card’s 4-digit PIN as you normally would.
Finally, there are limits to how much you can withdraw for free per month, and this depends on where your card is issued. You can track it on your app or website dashboard, but here’s an estimate:
- Cards issued in Europe or the UK — 200 GBP/EUR
- Cards issued in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore — 350 AUD/NZD/SGD
- Cards issued in Japan — 30,000 JPY
- Cards issued in the US — 100 USD
- Cards issued in Malaysia — 1,000 MYR
- Cards issued in Canada — 350 CAD equivalent (note that due to local regulations, you won’t be able to withdraw money from ATMs within Canadian borders using a Canadian card.)
- Cards issued in Brazil — 1,400 BRL
Getting set up on Wise is a simple process, but it is good to know so you can get all the benefits as quickly as possible.
There may also be some waiting to get fully up and running.
6. What do Wise Customers Say (including Negative Reviews)?
After using Wise for years, they have been our top choice for small international transfers and now as a multi currency account.
But don’t just take our word for it.
Wise gets great reviews on all online review sites.
For example, Wise is rated 4.6/5 on Trustpilot with over 150,000 reviews, which is considered “Excellent.”
But what’s the real story here?
Focusing on individual reviews can skew our perspective. That’s why we went through hundreds of reviews – both positive and negative – to give you a balanced view so you can decide for yourself.
- Efficient management of multiple currencies
- Great rates for money transfers
Here’s what 2 users had to say on Trustpilot:
“I started using Wise when I was working abroad but paid into my UK bank account. Wise removed the need for me to set up a bank account where I was living, for which I was very grateful as it would have been less than easy.
Wise allowed me to take local currency out of cash machines and pay in local currency where shops accepted cards. I’ve since used Wise to create accounts in other currency so as to reduce costs for non-UK internet payments.”— PB
“Honestly – I try shop around every month for the best money transfer provider with the best rate to send money between my accounts… and Wise is never beaten. Money is sent in a matter of hours to my bank – what more could you ask for? Keep up the amazing job!”— Justin
- Growing pains?
Since being founded in 2010, Wise’s growth has skyrocketed.
But they’ve always tried to maintain the quality of their service, including customer support.
However, some users complain that it’s difficult to reach Wise’s customer service and when they do, they get generic replies.
The reality is that this is a small minority, and the Wise ranks very well against its’ peers with banks not even close (usually below 2/5 on Trustpilot).
Another cause for concern is related to regulations when doing business interantionally.
Frozen accounts can occur with any service like this. Wise that has to meet the needs of multiple international regulators. This can cause delayed money and other issues.
For its’ part Wise is very proactive but resolution tends to be limited to online communication.
Wise’s multi currency account works very well for most people – from holding and transacting in multiple currencies to accessing your money while travelling abroad, you can do everythins.
However, scaling up seems to have introduced challenges.
Regardless, we always recommend keeping other payment options open (like traditional bank accounts) just in case.
7. Is Wise Safe?
So the golden question – is Wise safe?
Wise is regulated by, authorities such as Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (USA), the UK Financial Conduct Authority (UK), National Bank of Belgium (Europe) as an Authorised Payment Institution, the Australia Securities and Investments Commission (Australia), Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Canada) and Financial Customs and Excise Department (Hong Kong). It is also regulated in India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UAE.
Part of this regulation means the finances of Wise and that of their customers need to be handled separately.
Wise does this by keeping their operating funds separate from their users’ money (which is kept in JP Morgan or Barclays, depending on your location) – so even if Wise shuts down, you will still get your money back.
Apart from that, Wise also has the following security measures in place:
- They have a dedicated fraud detection team and are regularly audited by various financial and IT authorities
- You’ll get real-time notifications for account activities
- Their website has an authentic and valid SSL certificate and their app uses two-factor authentication to keep your money and personal information safe
As far as we can tell it’s completely safe to add money to use Wise.
However, we do recommend only working with relatively small amounts in your multi-currency account so you still have access to your money if your account is unexpectedly on hold.
In most cases, the Wise multi currency account will be a great option for you if you work or live overseas, want to grow your business (or freelance services) or travel overseas a lot.
But this does not mean they are perfect as we discuss above.
So is Wise right for you?
We hope so, but if not we hope we have provided some great options.