For many people, Wise (was Transferwise) is an excellent way to save money on international transfers.
They say, “Up to 8 X cheaper than banks”
But here’s the deal:
As we show from analyzing thousands of real reviews – a money transfer company needs to do far more than cut costs.
Safety, speed, hidden fees and customer service (especially if something goes wrong) are super important too.
Also Wise does much more than money transfers which could be really helpful for you – like their multi currency account and cards (we will show you).
In many situations, Wise will be the right choice for your needs, but I am also going to uncover situations where Wise may NOT be your best option and point you in the right direction to who might be.
Here is the good, the bad and even the ugly, so that you can decide.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
1. Low Down
If you have money in more than one country – you’ve come to the right place!
Originally Wise was called TransferWise (since 2010) and they focused on money transfers.
Today they have an excellent multi currency account and Mastercard debit card – more about these in a moment.
The important things about transfers are low – transparent fees backed up by customer service (if required).
They are leaders in money transfers below $7000 USD (£4500 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD AUD) and have continuously improved over the years.
See for yourself:
With the Wise calculator (opens new tab) you can see the fees you pay without signing up for the amount and currencies you want to transfer.
The truth is, that while others claim “no fees” and then build healthy fees into the exchange rate, Wise avoids the usual smoke and mirrors.
Instead they use the mid-market (or interbank rate) and then show you the fees upfront.
But Wise can do more:
International person or business?
Wise goes beyond transfer to help individuals and businesses who buy, sell or travel in multiple currencies.
- Multi-currency account (review) – Hold 55 currencies and exchange them inexpensively at your choosing.
- Give bank details 10 popular currencies as if you had a bank account in those countries.
- Wise card (review) Mastercard debit card for online shopping and international travel anywhere in the world.
We summarize Other Wise Goodness below.
2. When Wise Works (and When it Doesn’t)
- Sending relatively small amounts (generally less than $7000 USD or equivalent) inexpensively, easily and quickly.
- International person or business
- Sending relatively large amounts (generally more than $7000 USD or equivalent)
- Business where payment gateways or point-of-sale may be required
2.1 When Wise Works
First things first – See if you can use their money transfer services here.
Amounts Below $7000 USD
Wise is an excellent choice when it comes to transfers below $7000 USD.
Fees are low and the service was designed for transferring lower amounts quickly, efficiently and with the best possible experience in mind.
Beyond money transfers their multi currency account and Mastercard debit card can be a game changer.
2.2 When Wise Doesn’t Work
Amounts Above $7000 USD (£4500 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD AUD)
For larger transfers however more regulations (Anti-terrorism and Money Laundering) have to be followed by financial institutions including banks and money transfer companies.
This typically means more ID is required.
In the meantime your account can be frozen or transfers delayed.
To help avoid these issues, we think it is best to use services designed for larger amounts. In practical terms, this may mean they require more information when you sign up.
We believe services best for larger transfers have telephone support.
This can be important as sending or receiving banks usually have may be funding limits and other requirements associated with sending large amounts. Bank limits in particular can mean holdups and this is where we have found 24/7 support (ideally telephone) to be extremely helpful.
Finally, fees for services that handle large amounts tend to reduce in percentage terms as the amounts increase.
To be clear – Wise can make large money transfers and they even discuss the extra requirements here.
In our experience, which is backed up by 3rd party reviews (see below), it is better to use a service designed for larger amounts.
OFX (review) has been our top pick (for years) for it’s combination of online and offline service they offer. From initial sign up designed for larger transfers, to phone based support right from the outset and at every step regardless of the amount.
But that is not all:
Because OFX is designed for larger transfers, this means that the fees reduce in percentage terms the larger the amount gets.
OFX is not the only one:
2. Transfer Speeds – Uncovered
When it comes to transfer speeds for bank-to-bank transfers, we have found Wise is top of its game.
But speeds vary considerably.
They are pretty vague on their website here because international transactions can literally take “1-5 business days”.
One thing is for sure though, they are dedicated to speeding up transfers and we have noticed improvements over the years. As they said in a recent update “45% of all transfers arrived instantly”.
But how fast are your money transfers?
It can help to understand what causes so much time because there are things you can do to speed things up.
- The way you fund the transfer
- Country you are sending to
- Time of day you transact
(1) The way you fund the transfer has a big impact on speed. Most money transfer services are pretty limited in this regard but where possible Wise offers a number of options, which for a small fee can speed things up.
These options vary based on the sending country but you can see the options available to you here. (See A in image)
(2) The country you are sending money to is usually not something you can change, but this does make a big difference because regulations differ from country to country and the receiving banks can range from instantanous to 2 days.
Fortunately, Wise has a trick up its sleeve.
Wise reduces the time transfers take by having local bank accounts around the world which means it can make many transfers as fast as possible and sometimes instantaneous. (See C in image) The alternative banks and many others use, often involves the SWIFT system – which usually takes days.
(3) The time of day you transact and the time of week can greatly affect when money arrives. The banks at either end of the transfer don’t work on weekends, holidays and they tend to close around 4pm or 5pm each day.
Wise is about as good as it gets in making transfer speeds fast – sometimes within minutes.
Although not directly helping speed, just like when you are in an airplane stuck on the tarmac and the captain continually reassures you and updates you on the situation, Wise sends quite a few helpful emails so you know exactly what is going on.
They say, “Every currency and country is different. Converting your money can take a maximum of 2 working days, but it’s very rare that it takes this long.”
But the “2 working days” mentioned, is just the conversion side (B shown in the diagram below).
After using them multiple times, for their part they transact in minutes or hours not days, but then again we are working with major currencies like (USA, GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, NZD, SGD).
When it comes to relatively slow bank-to-bank transfers, Wise has an edge on their competitors.
If you need your transfer to go faster Wise also allows you to use credit or debit card which can more than halve transfer times.
3. Real Transfer Costs (+ Hidden Fees?)
Wise is incredibly transparent about exactly what you pay, which means that you can see what you will pay very easily at each step.
The trouble is, different amounts, different currencies and different countries all lead to different costs.
The answer is at hand.
Simply open the Wise, widget (opens in a new tab) or use widget below:
3.1 3 Simple Steps to See What You Pay (and Compare)
Step 1) See Your Fees
With your opened widget, specify the currency you wish to convert and the currency you want to convert it to.
Step 2) Calculate Percentage Fees
Divide the “fee” by the amount “You send” and multiple by 100 to get the percentage of fees you pay.
In my example,
Percentage Fee = (£7.73/2000) X 100 = 0.39%
Step 3) Compare
To find out if the Wise rate offered to you is competitive you need compare it with other alternatives you might be considering.
Here are some rates from wire transfer providers and other providers:
- Banks – 3%-7%
- PayPal – 6%-8%
- Other International Money Transfer Services – 0.4%-1.8% (variable on the amount and currencies involved)
As we see in our example, the Wise rate of 0.39% is extremely competitive.
According to a recent mission update, the average fee dropped to 0.6% which is also excellent.
However, this percentage will change depending on a number of factors, which is why we recommend following all 3 steps ↑↑↑ above for your transfer.
What else should you know?
As I hope we have made clear, Wise offers the mid-market exchange rate (essentially the best exchange rate anyone can get) and is transparent about the exact fees including any flat fee you pay.
You are off to a great start, however Wise does something else which can be super important.
Guaranteed Exchange Rates
When you set up a transfer, Wise guarantees your rate for a certain period of time, after you lock in a transfer.
Wise guarantees the rate for 2 to 72 hours. The time depends on the country you are sending from and is based on how quickly it takes for funds you are sending to arrive at Wise from you bank. Weekends or public holidays when banks don’t transact are added to the time the guarantee the rate.
Some services do not guarantee the rate they offer you. This means you are at the mercy of exchange rate fluctuations which can go either way quite easily by 1% or more each day.
This gives your bank time to get the money to them.
They say, “If your money doesn’t reach us in time, we’ll still convert and send it as soon as possible. But we’ll use the mid-market rate instead.”
But in real world transfers, we found that Wise is more than good on its promise.
For example, I once transacted Saturday morning knowing my bank would take at least 48 hours from Monday morning to send them the money. In the 4 days or so it took for them to get the money, the exchange rate had moved slightly against them, but they gave me the rate we originally locked in.
3.2 Hidden Fees
When it comes to smaller transfers one the easiest ways you stand to lose the most money is to not be aware of the fees banks charge at each end.
I call these hidden fees because while you may think money transfer companies are powerless to do anything about these fees they can!
Although it is expensive to have local bank accounts in almost every country in the world, this is exactly what the best services do to avoid (as much as possible) banks hammering you on wire transfers with fees of $10 – $50 USD at each end.
Example: Moving $1000 from USA to the UK.
- Low Cost Fee of Money Transfer Service = 1%
- $10 Fee from sending bank
- $20 Fee from receiving bank 15 GBP $20
Total Fees = $50 or 5% of $1000
From this example, you can see that while the money transfer companies fees are around 1% of the total (this is a very competitive fee) the fees banks charge are relatively horrendous.
That said, even if you used an inexpensive service like Wise and got hammered at each end by the banks you would still be ahead of the banks which charge 2 – 4% instead of the 1% and do not have local bank accounts!
Wise is excellent at having local bank accounts.
If the finding the absolute lowest fees is your priority you might also like Wise Vs. CurrencyFair where CurrencyFair enable Peer-2-Peer transfers.
Wise starts with showing the fees you pay upfront and delivers on its promises with guaranteed rates, no hidden fees and local bank accounts.
Fees vary based on the speed of the transfer, currencies and amounts. Using the calculator (above) is the best way to see if you are getting a good deal.
4. How to Use Wise
Simply follow these steps:
Initial sign up for a Wise money transfer (formerly TransferWise) has a couple options.
It can be done in two ways:
- Sign up using Google or Facebook
- Register on their site starting with their super useful currency guides
1.1.2 Mobile and Email Verification
As part of the authentication process for making your first transfer, Wise will send you a text with a security code and an email.
Once these are verified by entering a security code and clicking the email link, you can login and set up your first transfer.
1.1.3 Setting up the transfer
This is where you finalize the amount you want to transfer with Wise.
As a bonus, you will see an estimate of when the amount will arrive.
They also will guarantee the rate they give you for 2 hrs to 72 hrs (which is highly valuable) depending on the country you are sending from.
1.1.4 Who You’re Sending Money To
Next you enter bank details of where you want the money to go.
1.1.5 Verify Identity
Wise will ask you to upload images of your ID or a photo of you holding up your ID to verify your identity.
(This can easily be done with photos taken from a smartphone, shared with your computer and uploaded to their site.)
Although they say this could take 2-3 days, in our experience we found this step instantaneous.
Here is a short video on how to sign up and send money!
5. What do Wise Customers Say (including Negative Reviews)?
No matter which review site you look at, you will find the majority of wise reviews are very complimentary.
For example, Trustpilot averages the reviews and finds Wise to be “excellent” with a 4.6/5 rating based on over 150,000 reviews.
Having used them personally (for years), we are very confident that this high score is genuine.
But, nothing is perfect and it is in the poor reviews where a lot can be learned. The trouble with reading individual reviews however is that it is easy to find yourself caught up in the individual stories.
So we analyzed 100s, so that you can learn from it. It is important to keep the negative reviews in perspective, as they account for about 5% of customer reviews.
- Easy of use
- Fast transfers
- Low fees
Here’s what 2 users had to say on Trustpilot:
“I have a personal & business account on Wise.
– easy to use
– Fees are transparent
– Smooth general experience
– Simple way to hold multiple currencies
– Jar functionality is extremely useful !”
“I use it all the time, easy, fast and trustworthy.
The conversion rates are always the best i can find and the fee is reasonable
There are also many many ways to pay which is great”
- Accounts Deactivated After a Transfer
Wise can and sometimes does deactivate accounts with money inside or during transfers.
No doubt this is related to meeting regulations, but can understandably be very upsetting and frustrating.
Truth is, this is a challenge faced by all money transfer services and you will almost always get your money back.
The bigger issue is that in order to get your money back it seems that telephone based customer service for troubleshooting could be a challenge.
However it must be said, for the vast majority of people, this will not be an issue.
- Money Transfer Delays
A significant number issues relate to the money being delayed. Some believe the money has been lost and some even think Wise might be a scam or fraudulent.
This seems like a big problem but in almost all cases what we found has nothing to do with Wise at all, and is more about the banks at both ends who take time to process transactions.
For example, on public holidays and weekends banks at either end of the transaction will usually wait until the next business day.
As we discuss above in “How Wise Works for Money Transfers (and When it Doesn’t)” using a service set up for large transfers is our recommendation for smooth transfers and phone based customer service. Smaller transfers typically do not run into as many issues.
A rating of 4.6/5 on over 149000 reviews is icing on the cake for what we have found to be an exceptional service over the years.
But the negative reviews do uncover some important issues.
To minimise potential issues, we suggest limiting transfers to smaller amounts and limiting the amounts held in your multi-currency account (it is not a real bank).
6. Is Wise Safe?
Wise claims 10 million customers transacting £4.5 billion every month and there is no doubt their business is growing like crazy.
But that does not mean they can’t lose or mismanage your money, even accidentally.
However, because of its presence in many countries Wise is heavily regulated.
Each country it operates in has its own regulatory framework that Wise must abide by.
This means that it 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.
In practice, one of many measures Wise takes is to manage funds using separate accounts.
That is, your money is managed separate from their operational funds in financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase and Barclays (varies based on your location).
On top of that, Wise claims to have “bank level” data security and while we are not security experts it makes sense that Wise will have top notch security.
Wise appears to be as safe and secure as you could expect.
Ultimately, their business relies on the security of your funds and multiple regulators also helps boost confidence.
7. Other Wise Goodness
- Wise Multi Currency Account
- Wise Debit Card
- Wise Business Account
7.1 Wise Multi-currency Account
With their multi currency account you can:
- Receive your salary, pension, tax benefits, etc.
- Hold over 55 currencies and spend like a local when relocating or travelling abroad
- Pay your utility bills or mortgage without the currency conversion fee
- 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 without foreign exchange fees
- Get a MasterCard debit card that can be used in 200+ countries
However, unlike a bank account, Wise is 6 to 8x cheaper for conversions within the account, but there are things you can’t do:
- You can’t opt for an overdraft
- You won’t earn interest on money you’ve stored in Wise multi currency account’s “Money Jars”
- Your money is protected and safeguarded, but not guaranteed under government financial protection schemes
- Accounts are subject to regulations which can cause accounts to be frozen.
Also, the account number and sorting code you receive for your multi-currency account are “electronic destinations” (think reference numbers) for your money and not actual, full service current or savings bank accounts.
Generally these “electronic destinations” work just fine, but they do introduce potential for human error which can result in delays.
The reality for many people is that these are small drawbacks compared to the benefits.
The multi-currency account could be a game changer for your international money.
Although they can almost do everything a bank account can do (and more), we think these accounts should be used in combination with bank accounts to minimise the possibility for frustration.
7.2 Wise Debit Card
You can apply for the Wise debit card in most EEA countries, the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore – which covers about 70% of the countries they serve.
Click here to see if the card is available in your country.
The Wise debit card is powered by MasterCard and can be an inexpensive tool for travel or simply buying goods and services in 200+ countries. You also 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).
The card can save a small fortune in fees if you’re travelling or have moved abroad or for online shopping.
Of all the fees a bank issued card can load on the biggest is often the currency conversion fees.
With a Wise card connected to your multi-currency account, 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.
For common currency conversions, fees are usually at the low end below 1%. If this is very important to you, use the convenient Fee Checker – simply choose the “Multi-currency Account” tab.
The Wise debit card can be a valuable addition to the multi-currency account but stands alone as a solid choice for international people who want a great card for travel or spending in multiple currencies.
7.3 Wise Business Account
You can sign up for the Wise business account from pretty much anywhere in the world, which is extremely convenient for expanding your global footprint.
With the Wise business account you can;
- Pay your overseas employees
- Receive payments from clients
- Get debit cards for spending in any currency
- Integrate Wise in your online store
- Get debit cards for spending in any currency
The cost to get access to the international bank details in the Eurozone, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain for example is just $31 USD, £16 GBP, $42 CAD, € 21 EUR, $22 AUD or $40 NZD respectively.
Pay your overseas employees
This means, you can pay your overseas employees without hefty fees (they’re 19x cheaper than PayPal) and even process mass payments (1000 people at a time – just upload a spreadsheet) without the extra admin work.
You can also add team members to your account to help with payments.
Receive payments from clients
With your international account number, IBAN, and sort code, Wise makes it easy to get paid while looking established and professional.
Get debit cards for spending in any currency
With Wise, you can get multi currency MasterCard debit cards for teams as well as individuals for online and in-store payments. You can also easily track all payments made with the card 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.
Get debit cards for spending in any currency
Debit cards can be issued to team members for online spending or in-store.
Seeing the fees you pay on Wise for overseas transfers, upfront without signing up is a good sign of what Wise is all about.
For small transfers, Wise is our top choice (and has been for many years running) but nothing speaks louder than the fact that we use them ourselves personally for personal transfers and business.
And Wise is like a box of chocolates.
Like their Multi-currency account and debit card could be game changers.
However, as we discussed in When it Works (and When it Doesn’t) ↑↑↑, if you need to speak to human at critical times, or want to transfer larger amounts we think other services may be better.
Check out our other recommended services for larger amounts or more telephone based services.
But if you are like most people, with Wise you might find your whole world of managing money just got a lot better.
Why is Wise so cheap?
Wise is often far cheaper than banks and (depending on a few factors) many of its peers because they have a track record of passing on savings created through efficiencies and partnerships.
Why is Wise better than a bank?
Wise does not replace banks completely, but by focusing on being excellent at money transfers, multi currency accounts and prepaid debit cards they are solving many challenges that international people and businesses face.