Which is Better For You?
If you need to transfer money overseas or run a business, PayPal may already be top of mind – for payments or making transfers.
But here’s the deal:
Wise is cheaper, much more transparent, and does a lot of what PayPal does as well as some other things you may not even know existed.
But before you automatically jump to Wise, there are some important things you might want to consider when deciding which is actually better for you.
That’s why we’re comparing them based on 9 different factors, and will uncover everything you need to know about both companies (yes, even the bad stuff).
By the end of this comparison, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision about which is better for you!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and savings on transfers if you use some of the links! For more information, see my disclosures here.
Quick Comparison: The Lowdown on Differences
Wise (formally TransferWise) is an international money transfer service that was founded in 2011, and is known for its low and transparent fees. It also has the potential to help manage your international money better.
PayPal was founded in 1998, and is a well-known name when it comes to online payments — it’s still one of the easiest ways to send money to friends and family. But it usually isn’t the best option for international transfers.
- Fees: Low cost and transparent fees for transfers that you can see upfront using their calculator.
- Safety: Operating for a decade and highly regulated
- Speed: 0-5 days (bank-to-bank)
- Customer service: Excellent online support
- Multi-currency account for individuals and businesses
- Globally accepted MasterCard Debit card (for online shopping, traveling, ATM withdrawals)
- International bank details in major currencies
- Bank-to-bank or card-to-bank transfers only
- Speed: Instantaneous PayPal to PayPal.
- Great for e-commerce businesses including as a merchant payment gateway.
- MasterCard debit and credit cards for domestic and international use
- Fees: Relatively high cost with complex fees
- Customer Service: Average customer service
- No direct transfers to bank accounts
- Limited currency options and high fees for international transfers
|Fees & Hidden Costs||No hidden costs||Many hidden costs|
|Easy to use?||Easy to use||Very easy to use|
|Reviews (Trustpilot)||4.6/5 with over 110,000 reviews||1.2/5 with 18,000 reviews|
|Transfer Limits||Bank to bank transfers only (personal and business) with different limits based on your country of residence.|
For example, in the US it is,
50,000 USD per transfer on a personal account and 250,000 USD per transfer on a business account
|PayPal to PayPal transfers (personal and business) | PayPal to bank transfers with Xoom (personal transfers only) with different limits based on your country of residence.|
For example, in the US it is $60,000 USD maximum,
but may be limited to $10,000 USD in a single transaction when sending internationally
|Transfer Speed||Depends on the currency. On average 2-4 days.||Instantly for PayPal to PayPal transfers, international transfer (through Xoom by PayPal) may take 2-5 days, withdrawing to bank may take 2-4 days|
|Safety||Regulated in the US, UK. Europe, Canada, Australia, India and more. In the US, Wise is registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).||Regulated worldwide in almost every country including the FTC in the US as a money transmitter, on a state-by-state basis, the FCA in the UK, APRA and AUSTRAC in Australia, etc.|
|Cool Extras||-Multi-currency account for individuals and businesses|
-MasterCard debit card that’s handy while traveling abroad
-Virtual cards for safe online shopping (keeps your physical card details safe)
|PayPal MasterCard debit and credit cards (can be used internationally)|
|Business Tools||-Integration with Xero|
-Employee debit cards
-Easy and affordable bulk payments
-Volume discounts on transfers over $1,40,000 USD (or 100,000 GBP)
|PayPal Gateway for online stores, Invoice generation, Business debit card|
|Customer Support||Chat and multilingual phone support||Email, community forums, and country-specific phone support|
In a nutshell
By focusing on what people want, Wise is helping individuals and businesses to save money and manage their international money easier.
PayPal is more focused on being a payment solution, but many people and businesses find themselves using it for managing their international money as well.
If you discover that Wise can do what you need you can save significantly of fees and enjoy a better experience.
1. Fees & Hidden Costs — Wise Has Lower Rates and Greater Transparency for International Transfers
International: Offers mid-market rate with a single low fee on international transfers which amount to about 0.35% – 1.65% of the amount.
Domestic: Small fees may apply (they will show you)
Fees depend on how you fund your transfer, the currency, and the amount.
Paying with a credit card has a 3% cash advance fee.
You can see the exact amount that the recipient will receive without any surprise deductions when it reaches them.
International: Depends on the countries and if it is for personal or business. At a minimum for sending money, PayPal international fees (explained) include a fixed fee and a fee built into the exchange rate. The difference between mid-market rate and exchange rate they give you is between 2.5% and 4.5% (For residents of USA, UK, Canada and Australia – other countries are similar).
Domestic: Free between family and friends (but only when it’s funded by your PayPal balance or bank account)
Using a credit (or even a debit card) to fund your transfers will attract a percentage fee (depends on your location – for example, it’s 2.9% in the US and 2.60% in Australia, ).
Withdrawing balance (standard 3 days) to your bank account is free. But you’ll need to pay a 1-3% (depending on your location) transfer fee for instant withdrawals to your local bank account.
When it comes to international money transfers, Wise is the obvious winner with its lower rates and transparent fees.
Even when we compared it to other companies that specialize in international money transfer, Wise still has one of the best rates in the market.
So if minimizing cost is your #1 concern, you are on a winner with Wise.
If you’re only planning on sending payments locally (funded by your balance or bank account) then PayPal is a great option — it’s free!
While you can perform local transfers with Wise, there are certain restrictions and some small charges involved.
2. Ease of Use — Both are Equally Easy to Use
You can choose a personal or business account. And in either case, it’s best to verify your identity right off the bat so your transfer process is smoother with them. (it only takes a few extra steps) The user interface for this is simple to use.
From your account, you can easily check exchange rates, set up and track transfers, add money to your multi-currency account, create virtual cards, or block your physical card if it’s lost or stolen.
Setting up PayPal can be very fast because you may not have to verify your identity (however, “if you want to keep money in PayPal or use other features that rely on a balance, in addition to confirming your identity with PayPal, you will need set up a balance account“).
Main account page gives you a snapshot of your account activity and easy-to-locate options to send money or request payment.
If you have a business account, you also get an option to easily set up your PayPal checkout page (including the option to receive Venmo payments).
PayPal’s mobile app interface is also super simple to navigate.
Both Wise and PayPal have desktop and mobile apps that are intuitive and easy to use.
PayPal may be slightly easier to set up because you’re not required to do any identity verification.
However, it’s better to go through these steps if you’re doing any international money transfers for security reasons.
Plus, it only took a few extra steps with Wise.
Overall, there was never a point where we felt lost or didn’t know where to click next when navigating both transfer systems.
So it’s a tie for this one.
3. Safety — Technology Equally Safe (But Beware of PayPal Scammers)
Wise is registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and renews its registration annually.
They are also regulated in many other countries they operate in – the FINTRAC in Canada; FCA in the UK; ASIC, APRA, and AUSTRAC in Australia, etc.
Wise is required to hold your money separate from their operating funds. For example, in the US, Wise holds your money with established institutions like JP Morgan, Chase, and Barclays.
They also keep your money and data secure with “industry-leading encryption” on their website and mobile apps.
The downside here is that Wise isn’t a real bank so the money you hold in your multi-currency account isn’t FDIC (US) or FSCS (UK) insured.
PayPal is regulated by the FTC in the US as a money transmitter, on a state-by-state basis.
In the UK, they’re regulated by the FCA and by APRA and AUSTRAC in Australia.
They also keep your money safe by not sharing your financial information and by using “industry-leading encryption technology” on all their platforms and gateways.
Because PayPal makes it so easy to make payments and they are such a big name in this world they are the target of money transfer scams but this is not a fault of the service.
When it comes to safety regulation is a good thing and both are highly regulated.
While we are not security experts but both claim very good security.
Also the size of these companies and the importance safety and security has for their business is comforting.
So for this reason, we’re making it a tie for this section.
However, we did find several PayPal customer reports online saying that they were scammed by other users on the platform (jump to the reviews section (6. – below) to find out more).
While this isn’t directly a fault of PayPal’s security system, it still impacts the safety of the user’s money.
4. Currencies & Limits — Wise More
Apart from local transfers in your own currency, Wise lets you send money to 60+ countries worldwide.
Wise has country-specific limits on how much you can send locally and internationally from your location. For example, you can send up to $1 million USD per local transfer and about $1.6 million USD internationally.
Now while Wise may let you send these extra-large transfers, chances are your bank or regulations of the receiving country will restrict it.
Note: Beyond about $7000 USD we think that OFX (review) is a better option due to their easily accessible phone support and service designed from the bottom up to handle larger amounts. You might also like Wise Vs OFX.
Currently, PayPal only supports 25 currencies for international transfers (both personal and business transfers) and you can only send PayPal to PayPal.
If you want to send directly to a recipient’s bank account, you have to go via Xoom (review) (an international money transfer company owned by PayPal) that supports 100+ currencies but is only for personal transfers.
So your options are limited for both personal and business transfers if you want to send money internationally with PayPal.
Also, their limit in the US is about $60,000 USD per transfer, but you may be limited to $10,000 USD in a single transfer for both domestic and international transfers.
Wise is the obvious winner because it has many more currencies and higher transfer limits.
5. Transfer Speed — Both are Fast
Your transfer speed on Wise depends on the amount, the currency, how you fund your transfer, and when you set up your transfer.
If you set your transfer on a weekday during banking hours with a bank transfer, money will often reach Wise in a couple of hours.
For popular currencies, conversion can take less than a day. And your money will be on its way to your recipient’s bank account in 1-2 days.
However, you can expect slower transfer speeds when you set up your transfer over the weekend, on a bank holiday, or have chosen an exotic currency.
In such cases, it can take 2 days for your money to reach Wise’s bank account, 2 more days to be converted, and a couple of more days to reach your recipient. So about 3-5 days.
Card-to-bank transfers are faster – usually completed in a few hours to a day. However, these transfers are also more expensive.
PayPal to PayPal transfers are instant when funded by your PayPal balance.
For PayPal to PayPal international transfers, it can take a couple of hours to reflect in your recipient’s account depending on the currency.
For PayPal to bank account transfers via Xoom (PayPal’s international money transfer service), it can take between 3-5 days for the money to be received.
When you’re withdrawing your PayPal balance to your bank account, it may take 2-3 days, depending on your bank. For instant withdrawals, a fee is applicable (1-3%, based on your location)
Bank-to-bank both have similar transfer speeds of 1-5 days for international transfers although Wise is the winner due to it highly evolved ways to fund transfers based on speed and cost.
6. Reviews — More Satisfied Users on Wise
Wise is rated 4.6/5 on Trustpilot with over 110,000 reviews (85% of which are positive).
People love Wise for their transparent rates, easy-to-use app, well-rounded service, and helpful customer service.
However, 4% of the reviewers rated the service 1 star and we were keen to find out why.
The top two issues we uncovered (Unexpected account blocks and identity verification requests) which are closely related.
As a regulated financial services provider, Wise may need to verify your identity.
Sometimes this means that they may need to audit and block unusual activities from accounts.
Usually, Wise’s customer service team is quick to respond to these requests and the issues are resolved in a few days.
PayPal is rated 1.2/5 on Trustpilot with only 18,000 reviews.
A few positives:
Users liked the simple app and ability to make safe online purchases with PayPal (Its buyer protection policy is pretty robust).
However, over 85% of the reviews are negative and can be narrowed down to 3 top causes:
Many e-commerce sellers were locked out of their accounts and were told to wait over 180 days before they could withdraw their money from sales made in their online stores.
While PayPal is a regulated money transmitter who needs to audit transfers on their platform regularly, 180 days is a long time for a dispute to be resolved.
Poor customer service
Many reviewers were frustrated with PayPal’s customer service because they either provided generic responses to their problems or were simply difficult to reach.
Scammed by other users
While this isn’t directly PayPal’s fault, it does seem that there are scammers lurking on the service. And we saw that once the transaction has been completed, getting your money refunded in these cases may not be easy.
In fairness, it is hard to compare these two directly because PayPal is focused on payments and money transfers are not really their core business.
But for you, Wise was the clear winner here, as they have a happier customer base compared to PayPal and it must likely translates to a much better experience.
7. Cool Extras — Wise (But US has benefits)
With a Wise multi-currency account, you can:
- Hold money in 50+ currencies
- Get international bank details in 10 currencies so you can spend money and get paid like a local while traveling abroad
- Get a MasterCard debit card that can be used for ATM withdrawals (in the US and globally) and contactless payments
- Set up virtual cards for safe online shopping
Learn more about the Wise multi-currency account.
You can get a PayPal MasterCard debit card or credit card if you live in the US.
These cards let you earn rewards and get cashback that can be converted into PayPal balance or cashed in for vouchers with select partners.
In the US, they also offer interest-free payment plans at many online stores, which lets you split your payments into 4 smaller installments and gradually pay them off (one payment every two weeks). This is available for approved purchases between $30-$600 USD.
Alternatively, you can opt for a digital line of credit for all approved purchases above $99 USD. In this case, you won’t need to pay any interest if you pay back the entire amount within 6 months of your purchase.
For Americans, PayPal might be better if you don’t travel overseas, because you can get the PayPal Mastercard with a lot of perks for the US. If you do travel, Wise may be the best option.
But for everyone else (most people), Wise is a winner because you can get the card along with the all powerful Multi Currency Account.
This includes the UK, the US, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and most of the EEA.
Both services have decent perks. But PayPal is more geared towards local spending and small purchases in the US, while Wise caters to those who want to be able to spend in different currencies — great for frequent travelers or expats living overseas.
8. Business Tools — Both Have Good Tools for Different Needs
Wise offers dedicated business accounts for businesses registered in the US, Canada, UK, EEA, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and other regions.
Get a multi-currency account to hold 50+ currencies with a one time 16 GBP fee
Get local bank details in 10 currencies to accept payments and pay for goods and services without currency conversion fees
Get employee debit cards (including virtual cards)
Integrate with business tools like Xero and other payment methods like Stripe
Do bulk payments (pay up to 1000 people at once)
Get volume discounts for large transfers
Overall, Wise is a great partner for growing businesses that want essential money management tools at a fraction of the cost of other enterprise solutions.
PayPal is especially helpful for e-commerce businesses since many platforms like WooCommerce and Squarespace come with built-in PayPal support for accepting payments globally.
If you’re not using either of these platforms, PayPal can be easily integrated with your custom store too. This lets you accept debit and credit cards, PayPal, and 10+ local payment methods in over 100 currencies. You can also accept Venmo payments at no extra cost if you operate a US business.
However, withdrawing payments made from sales does attract a fee (whether currency conversion is applicable or not).
Other than that, businesses can use PayPal to:
Make small PayPal to PayPal business payments locally.
Create invoices and request payments for goods or services
Accept contactless payments at stores with a PayPal card reader
We had to call a tie for this one because both have great business tools. BUT, they’re for very different needs.
PayPal is a logical choice for many e-commerce businesses as it offers a reputable payment gateway system that integrates with many platforms.
However, if you need a local bank account presence in several countries or want better exchange rates for multiple currencies, then Wise is definitely the better choice. For example, if you’ve got an international business that needs to receive currencies from clients in different countries or pay employees located remotely.
9. Customer support services — Wise has Better Support
Apart from its transparent fees, Wise is known for its responsive customer support.
You can easily get customized help on chat or phone (phone support available in multiple languages). They’ll be able to answer all kinds of queries like how to use their app, need help with a transfer, or want to troubleshoot with them for problems with your account.
Other than that, they have an extensive FAQs section, with country-specific transfer guides, information about fees and setting up your account, managing your multi-currency account, and card etc.
If you have a question, it probably has been answered in their FAQs.
PayPal also has an extensive help section and country-specific phone and chat support.
However, their FAQs are a hit and miss. They’re detailed in some aspects, but scratch the surface on others (like the many fees charged by PayPal).
Their customer service team also seems hard to reach and many users have said (on Trustpilot) that their issues remain unresolved for weeks and months on end.
Wise is the clear winner for us here as we read quite a few bad reviews online about PayPal’s unhelpful customer service.
Based on our own personal experience (and looking at other user reports), Wise is generally quite reliable in this area.
Verdict: Is Wise or PayPal Better?
Based purely on the number of wins in each category, Wise comes out on top as the overall winner with 3 wins and the rest are ties.
- Fees & Hidden Costs — Wise
- Ease of Use — Tie
- Safety — Tie
- Transfer Limits — WIse
- Transfer Speed — Tie
- Reviews — Wise
- Cool Extras — Tie
- Business Tools — Tie
- Customer support — Wise
But as with many things, it totally depends on your needs.
If transfers to friends and family in the US is your only requirement, PayPal can be a great option. It’s also easy to shop online with PayPal, especially if you’re shopping in USD from your PayPal balance.
However, funding PayPal transfers with your card or sending money abroad with PayPal can be expensive. (Plus, we discovered some poor reviews (above) which makes us worry about money transfers).
That’s where Wise comes in.
As we showed above, their fees are one of the most transparent in the industry and they let you convert USD into 52 currencies for international transfers at great rates.
This makes their multi-currency account ideal for expats, long-term travelers, or growing businesses who want to save on international transfer fees.
Overall, their online interface is simple and easy to use which makes it ideal for those who want to make international payments with minimum hassle.
Hopefully, you have a better idea of which service is better for your needs now!