PayPal and Wise two of the largest and best known money services. In this post we’ll take a closer look into which one is best in different situations.
I started using Wise (was TransferWise) as an alternative to PayPal about 5 years ago.
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. For example, PayPal does a lot Wise can’t do.
That’s why we’re comparing them based on 7 different factors, and will uncover everything you need to know about both companies (yes, even the bad stuff).
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and savings on transfers if you use some of the links! For more information, see my disclosures here.
30 Second Comparison
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 can be 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 for transfers – see for yourself with calculator
- Needs focus: Over time, reduced fees and increased transfer speeds while improving services
- Speed: About half instantaneous
- Customer service: Excellent online
- Multi currency account for individuals and businesses
- No cash transfers
- Not our first choice for larger transfers
- E-commerce: integration including as a merchant payment gateway.
- Speed: Instantaneous PayPal to PayPal.
- Safety: One of the safest ways to send money (below)
- Fees: Relatively high and complex
- Customer Service: Average customer service
- No direct transfers to bank accounts or cash
- 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|
1. Fees & Other Costs
When it comes to international money transfers, Wise (was Transferwise) is the obvious winner with its lower rates and transparent fees.
Even when we compared it to other companies that specialize in international money transfers, Wise still has one of the best rates in the market.
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.
*Case Study – USD Money Transfer
One of the best ways to reduce currency conversion costs is being paid in the currency you spend in.
PayPal Vs Wise have very different results for business.
With PayPal you enter the amount you want to send and then the fees (sometimes unknown to the sender) are deducted. Also with PayPal your USD are still in the PayPal account.
With Wise you enter how much you want to arrive and the fees are added on. How you fund the transfer can change the amount of total fees.
**Case Study – International Money Transfer
For international transfers comparing Wise (was Transferwise) Vs PayPal produces some interesting results.
When comparing a bank-to-bank transfer for Wise and a PayPal-to-PayPal transfer we found if you transfer $500 USD to Canada with Wise you will receive $640 CAD compared to $616.37 for PayPal.
For both services, fees will change depending on how you fund the transfer.
Additional fees also apply to transfers from PayPal to a bank account if you want this money instantaneously they do have a free (slow) option.
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.
You can also discover more How Wise Works.
As far as we can reasonable tell Wise and PayPal are both safe due to their regulation, public listings and focus on safety, security and scam reduction.
However neither Wise or PayPal are banks and therefore the money you hold in these accounts does not have deposit insurance (wiki). But they do have other safeguards in place.
Wise is registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the USA, National Bank of Belgium (Europe) Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Canada), FCA (UK), ASIC (Australia). It is also regulated in Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UAE.
Wise is required to hold your money separate from their operating funds. For example, Wise holds your money with banks like JP Morgan Chase (USA), Barclays (UK) and many others based on your country of residence.
They also keep your money and data secure with “industry-leading encryption” on their website and mobile apps.
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 they are the target of money transfer scams but this is not a fault of the service.
While PayPal is very well known, you might like Is Wise Safe?
3. Currencies & Limits
Wise enables you to transfer in more currencies compared to PayPal and has higher limits on the amounts you can transfer.
Apart from local transfers in your own currency, Wise lets you send money to over 160 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 as reviews show 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 Transfers Vs OFX Transfers.
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.
4. Transfer Speeds
PayPal transfers within the PayPal network are basically instantaneous. This assumes you have the money in your PayPal account and your recipient has a PayPal account ready to accept funds.
If you compare Wise with PayPal for bank-to-bank transfers, Wise will be hard to beat because once the transfer is set up in many cases they are instantaneous (source 2022: In Q1, 49% of our transfers were instant). Meanwhile with PayPal you will need to manually send the money to or from a bank account.
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)
5. Real Reviews (including Negatives)
Wise scores 4.5/5 on Trustpilot, while PayPal scores 1.2/5. However direct comparison for money transfers are tricky however because PayPal does many other things which have attracted negative reviews.
Wise is rated 4.5/5 on Trustpilot with over 111,000 reviews (Over 95% 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 approximately 22,000 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.
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.
6. Cool Extras
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 or live outside of the US, Wise may be the best option.
But for everyone else (most people), Wise is a winner because you can get the card which goes hand-in-hand with the simple yet useful Multi Currency Account (review).
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, while Wise caters to those who want to be able to spend in different currencies — great for frequent travelers or expats living overseas.
With a Wise multi-currency account, you can:
- Hold money in over 40 currencies
- Get international bank details in 10 currencies so you can spend money and get paid like a local while traveling abroad
- Get a Visa 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
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 freelancers and small business that deal with multiple currencies PayPal and Wise are an excellent comparison.
For example, 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.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a payment gateway or e-commerce alternative to PayPal, check out our Revolut Vs Wise for business comparison.
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 over 40 currencies.
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 option 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
If transfers to friends and family in the US (from 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 overseas with PayPal can be expensive. (Plus, we discovered some poor reviews (above) which makes us worry about money transfers).
Wise is a different story.
As we showed above, their fees are one of the most transparent in the industry and they let you convert into 60+ 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.
Why use Wise instead of PayPal?
For international bank-to-bank transfers in most cases Wise is hard to beat in terms of speed, fees and customer service.
Why use PayPal instead of Wise?
PayPal can do a lot that Wise can’t like integration with e-commerce and invoice creation / management. For domestic transfers, PayPal is free and easy in many cases.