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Wise Review

9 Things You Should Know Before You Sign Up!

In the next few minutes, you will find out if Wise, formerly TransferWise (in 2021) is the right choice for your needs (or not).

In many situations, Wise is a clear leader but in some circumstances Wise may not be the right choice and we want you to know when that happens!

But wait, there’s more 🙂

Real Reviews

We dig deep into the wise reviews from real people to see how it might impact you – this means we analyze the good, the bad and yes, even some ugly.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

1. What is Wise Now (since rebranding in 2021)?

First, when Wise started in 2010 (called TransferWise) the big problem they tried to solve still remains one of the main reasons you would choose to use them.

Low – transparent fees, backed up by a great online experience.

While many services have improved over recent years, Wise is still a leader in many ways and is truly a way to transfer wise.

Here’s the best bit:

Before you get too excited about using Wise, it is a good idea to check the fees you will be charged (as they change based on the amount and currencies).

Fortunately through 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.

In a moment I will show you if these fees are good or bad relative to other services.

The truth is, that while others claim “no fees” and 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.

The reality of using Wise is you feel like you can trust them.

But are they the right service for you?

For that we need to go deeper.

If transferring money inexpensively (up to 8x cheaper than a bank), is all you need to do (or want to go for now) skip down to How Wise Works for Money Transfers (and When it Doesn’t).

The truth is, international transfers may not be the best bit.

Solving Problems for International People (beyond Wise transfers)

Wise has focused on solving the problems of individuals and businesses who buy, sell or travel in multiple currencies.

Here is what Thomas said,

Transfer Wise (or now Wise) is perhaps the best online bank / transfer service I have ever come across to. It’s fast, reliable, supports answers quickly, and it’s cheap. Compared to my physical bank in Europe this is miles ahead, and it is even better than competitors … A big shout out to Wise, that I now use as my everyday bank: receive my salary, pay in stores, pay online, send money to friends…

Trustpilot

However they are not a bank and that comes with limitations. But first, let’s focus on what they can do.

Potential Game Changers?

  • Multi-currency account – 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.

Essentially, Wise enables a more international lifestyle for individuals and for small and medium companies.

Here’s the deal:

You can sign up for their Multi-Currency account here from 50+ countries, hold 55 currencies in your multi-currency account, and send money internationally to 60 countries.

And once you have that you can get a really handy card.

The MasterCard Debit card enables spending online or while overseas.

The real power of the card is the way it automatically deducts money from the same currency (with no fees) and then automatically uses other currencies you hold based on the least expensive fees.

You also get free ATM withdrawals up to £200 GBP/month.

Their multi currency account makes moving and living abroad seamless with local bank details in many currencies (See “Wise Multi Currency Account” below).

The Wise app also gets top marks for its user friendly interface and functionality.

Wise also has a dedicated business account which makes it easy for companies to reduce their costs on large payments, invoice in multiple currencies, set up mass payments, and even integrate Wise as a payment provider in online stores.

Learn more about Wise Business below.

It all starts with what you want:

  1. How Wise Works for Money Transfers (and When it Doesn’t)Up Next
  2. Their Multi-Currency Account
  3. Business

2. How Wise Money Transfers Work (and When it Doesn’t)

2.1 When Wise Works

2.1.1 Signing Up

Initial sign up for a Wise money transfer (formerly TransferWise) is very straight forward.

It can be done in two ways:

2.1.2 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.

2.1.3 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.

2.1.4 Who You’re Sending Money To

Next you enter bank details of where you want the money to go.

2.1.5 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.

2.2 When Wise Doesn’t Work

Wise has been making a move into larger transfers recently.

They seem to be working hard at addressing the important issues.

But no service is perfect.

The challenge is that regulations get much more stringent around the $7000 USD (£4500 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD AUD) mark as Anti-terrorism and Money Laundering laws start to mean more regulations need to be applied.

What this means in practice is that different services tend to be designed for you depending on if you are transferring smaller or larger transfers.

There are three very good practical reasons for this:

  1. Sign up is easier for services that focus on smaller amounts.
    • Conversely, sign up is more involved for services that focus on larger amounts BUT they also tend not to ask for more information (like more ID) at critical moments of the transfer process.
    • Unfortunately frozen accounts and delays can and often do happen regardless of who you use. The key here is to try to minimise this.) Wise has a guide for the types of information they might need.
  2. Fees are designed around smaller or larger amounts.
    • In most cases, you will pay less simply using a service designed for amounts you are sending.
    • Larger transfers mean that the service can usually reduce the percentage fee they charge the larger the amount gets. Wise also is working hard on fees for larger amounts.
  3. Larger transfers often require human assistance usually by phone.
    • Regulations don’t just affect the money transfer services they also change the way each bank in each country does business.
    • This means that human assistance, ideally from someone in your country who knows your bank’s rules can be invaluable.

The jury (reviews) is out on what this means in practice if you use Wise to transfer larger amounts.

In the same way, Wise was designed from the ground up for smaller transfers, we feel more confident recommending services designed for larger amounts ($7000 USD/£4500 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD AUD).

Those focused on larger amounts tend to ask for more information when you sign up, which means you can avoid a lot of potential issues later in the transaction.

As we saw (below) in the excellent reviews for Wise, a large percentage of negative reviews come from Wise requiring more information and freezing accounts.

Now this can can happen with pretty much every good service, but we wonder if these potential issues are set to increase if Wise chooses to make it easy to signup for smaller amounts.

Time will tell.

And you want to transfer money now!

We recommend OFX (review) as our top pick (and have 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.

Other great options are TorFX (review) (UK, Europe and Australasia) or Currencies Direct (review) (USA and Canada but not Quebec) if you value each-step-of-the-way personalized customer service.

You might also like Wise Alternatives or Wise Vs. OFX

Review of OFX

All that said, if you were a customer of Wise already and wanted to do the occasional large transfer, but simply don’t want to sign-up with someone else – more information can be found on large amounts here and with their getting started guide.


3. Real Transfer Speeds

When it comes to transaction speeds for bank-to-bank transfers, Wise is at par with the best.

The truth is banks at either end are a much greater part of the time equation, and everything is done in business days.

In theory, Wise could hold onto your funds for a while (while they sort out everything) but from our experience using them and the reviews, Wise is excellent in this regard.

Also Wise does something others don’t.

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.

Real Speeds

Wise is pretty vague (understandably) because bank-to-bank international transactions can literally take 1-5 working days.

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).

They also say, “And how quick your transfer arrives depends on how quickly your recipient’s bank can process your money, as well as the ways you’re able to pay in the country you’re sending from.”

This is the same for every money transfer company focused on bank to bank transfers.

Wise does however have a trick up its sleeve (for a price)!

Speed of Money Transfers

Transfer speeds can be significantly improved if Wise receives your funds through a credit or debit card. This means the whole funding process (A in diagram) goes from days to practically instantaneous.

Perhaps the fees Wise passes on will make you happy to wait a day or two extra, but this option can significantly speed up the process if you’re in an emergency.

But don’t forget the receiving bank (C) will also take its sweet time regardless.

Generally this varies between countries.

If you use a card (credit or debit), Wise can be one of the fastest services around but because of the additional costs associated you might choose to use the bank-to-bank option.

Also, large transfers can only be funded with a bank transfer or a wire transfer.

The reality is that most services swap the currencies very quickly and the speed of the whole transaction has much more to do with the banks at both ends than anything else.

How long it takes to arrive in your account will often come down to your bank/s (A) and (C) and not the service provider itself.

That said, Wise realises there is a lot they can do to speed things up and thankfully they give you the options to do so.


If you need instantaneous speed at any cost you might like Wise Vs. PayPal or our Money Transfer Speed page.

4. 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.

Good news!

The answer is at hand.

Simply open the Wise, formerly TransferWise widget (opens in a new tab) and select the cost and speed:

4.1 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:

As we see the Wise rate of 0.39% is extremely competitive.

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.

4.2 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.


5. Is Your Money Safe with Wise?

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.


6. What Wise Reviews Really Say (Incl. 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 114,000 reviews.

Having used them personally (for years), we are very confident that this high score is genuine.

Wise Transfer Reviews

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.

Most bad reviews relate to these things:

  • Accounts Deactivated After a Transfer (Approx. 1%)
  • Money Transfer Delays (Approx. 1%)
  • Better Rates Elsewhere (Less than 0.5%)
  • Customer Service (Less than 0.5%)
  • Problems With Card Service (Less than 0.5%)
  • Other (Less than 0.5%)

Only two stand out and they only represent about 1% each of total wise reviews, but the first one is a big one.

6.1 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.

For the vast majority of people, this will not be an issue.

Regardless, we recommend using alternative services over $7000 USD (£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD AUD). 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.

6.2 Money Delays / Lost

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.


7. Wise Multi-currency Account

The Wise multi-currency account has lots of bank account like features plus much of the the usability of PayPal minus many of the expensive and complex fees PayPal and banks can charge.

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 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.


8. 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).

For comparison Wise says, “Prepaid travel cards, depending on the provider, can come with different fees such as initial load fees, ATM fees, reload fees and inactivity fees. The Wise debit card allows you to add money to your card without fees.”

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.

We have a review of the Wise Card you might like or our Revolut Vs. Wise comparison.


9. 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;

  1. Pay your overseas employees
  2. Receive payments from clients
  3. Get debit cards for spending in any currency
  4. Integrate Wise in your online store
  5. Get debit cards for spending in any currency

They say, “Everything you need to grow your business and operate internationally — without the high fees, hefty admin, and headache of a local bank.

Get all the features you need to bank in another country — regardless of where you’re located. With zero hassle and a one-time fee…”

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.

9.1 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.

9.2 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.

Just make sure you give

9.3 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.

9.4 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.

9.5 Get debit cards for spending in any currency

Debit cards can be issued to team members for online spending or in-store.

Final Word

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 two 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 providers 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.

Happy Money!

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