Wise Review (Previously TransferWise)

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Do you need to send money overseas?

If so, you can avoid the high fees your local Western Union or Moneygram agent charge by trying an online alternative. Perhaps your best option might be Wise.

It’s possible to complete international money transfers for almost any country in the world. Plus, you can use the platform for personal and business reasons. 

This review of Wise, you will see how much you can save on transfer fees and exchange rates.

wise logo
4.2
Overall Rating

Summary

Wise may charge fewer fees than competitors if you send money directly to a foreign bank account. Their borderless account gives you local bank details in six major currencies. You also get a debit card that makes it easy to make purchases in almost any corner of the world.

  • Free to use

    4.5

  • Low fees

    4.5

  • Transfer limits

    3.5

Pros

  • Free
  • Low transfer fees
  • Debit card

Cons

  • Slower large transfers
  • Not all currencies
  • Transfer limits

How Wise Works

Wise lets you send money to over 80 countries across the globe. Your money transfer funding options include:

You can also receive money as you get free bank details for six different currencies. Some transfers can finish the same day, although many take several days.

In extreme cases, it can take over a week to transfer funds. A prime example is transferring cash into Moroccan dirhams.

Instead of walking to your local money transfer agent, Wise lets you complete the process online. You can see real-time currency exchange rates to calculate your transfer costs quickly.

You can use Wise for personal or business money transfers.

Transfer destinations from the United States include most regions:

  • Africa (i.e., Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa)
  • Asia (i.e., Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea)
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Europe (i.e., Bulgaria, Great Britain, Eurozone, Norway)
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Latin America (i.e., Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica) 
  • Russia

It’s not possible to transfer money to every country in the world. If Wise doesn’t support your desired country or currency, you can place a request. 

For instance, Wise doesn’t serve the Caribbean or Latin American countries like Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti or Honduras. 

You also won’t be able to transfer funds to small nations in Oceania like Papua New Guinea or the Maldives. And your selection in Africa is limited to a handful of currencies.

Supported Currencies

As of August 19, 2021, Wise supports over 50 different currencies. 

With 22 currencies, you can send or receive funds. In other instances, you can convert US dollars into a foreign currency but not the other way around.

Some of the most popular currencies on the platform include:

  • US dollar
  • Euro
  • British pound
  • Indian rupee

The Australian and Canadian dollars also support sending and receiving. Plus, you can make same-currency transfers if you wish.

For the other 30 currencies, Wise only lets you send money but not receive funds. For instance, you can convert US dollars into Chilean pesos.

However, Wise won’t convert Chilean pesos into US dollars. You also cannot transfer Chilean pesos to another person in Chile.

The quickest way to see your transfer options is to look at the transfer details for a single currency. You can view which transfers that Wise supports and what recipient information you need.

Sending Large Amounts of Money

If you’re transferring a lot of money overseas, the platform may have you verify your identity to complete the transfer. This procedure is standard for investing apps and cryptocurrency exchanges too.

Multi-Currency Account

Wise Multi-Currency account

To get the most value from Wise, consider opening their Multi-Currency Account.

This free borderless account lets you hold over 50 currencies at once. World travelers can benefit the most from this account and avoid fees.

Wise Debit Card

You get a Wise debit card that works at any merchant accepting Mastercard and Visa payments. The card can also make ATM withdrawals.

Perks of a Wise debit card include:

  • Convert funds at the real exchange rate
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • First 2 ATM withdrawals of $100 or less are free per month (then $1.50 per withdrawal)
  • ATM withdrawal fees above $100 cost 2%
  • No annual fee

You will need to pay $9 USD for the initial debit card purchase. A replacement card costs $5. However, you won’t pay an annual fee.

International Bank Accounts

Leisure travelers and business people may also appreciate getting local bank details in ten currencies. 

You will get local banking access for these currencies:

  • US dollar. ABA routing number and account number
  • Canadian dollar. Institution number, transit number and account number
  • British pound. Account number and sort code
  • Euro. SWIFT/BIC and IBAN
  • Hungarian forint. Account number
  • Romanian lei. SWIFT/BIC and account number
  • Turkish lira. Bank name and IBAN
  • Singapore dollar. Bank code, bank name and account number
  • Australian dollar. BSB code and account number
  • New Zealand dollar. Account number

Having these various accounts makes it easy to transfer money and avoid fees.

For example, friends or customers can make a deposit directly into one of these six accounts fee-free. Then you can instantly spend or convert to a different currency.

You will likely pay a conversion or purchase fee. But at least you have access to your cash in nearly any world currency.

There are no fees when making debit card purchases or using a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay when you have the local currency in your account.

The currency conversion fee can be between 0.3% and 3% depending on the new currency. You pay this fee when you don’t have the local currency to complete a payment.

Sending Money

Most people use Wise to send money to friends. This process is pretty straightforward using the online site or mobile app.

Your money transfer quote includes these details

  • Current exchange rate
  • Transfer fees
  • Estimated transfer time

Some transfers complete on the same business day, but most take one or two banking days. Others may take as long as a week if you fund the transfer from a bank account.

You can fund most transfers with a credit card, debit card or bank account debit.

Bank-funded transfers are the cheapest but can take longer.

What’s Needed

You will need to provide these basic details to send money:

  • Your personal information (can start with a Facebook, email or Google account)
  • Full name and address of the recipient
  • The recipient’s bank account information

Wise can request the recipient’s bank details if you don’t have them. Make sure the recipient’s information is correct to avoid transfer delays.

This process can be similar to getting a money order.

In most cases, you will need to send money to the recipient’s bank account. If this isn’t an option, a traditional transfer agent like Western Union can be a better fit.

Transfer Limits

Each currency has transfer limits. Lesser-used currencies tend to have lower limits.

United States dollars can have some of the most generous limits. When transferring from US dollars, you can transfer up to $1 million for personal or business in most states. Although your daily checking account withdrawal limit may only be $15,000.

Here are the current daily transfer limits for send US dollars abroad:

  • Wire Transfer: Up to $1 million US dollars (USD)
  • ACH bank transfers: $15,000
  • Debit or credit card: $2,000 per 24 hours and up to $8,000 per 7 days

It’s easy to see the transfer limits for each currency. Simply select the originating currency to view the limit.

Regardless of the Wise limits, your bank may have smaller daily withdrawal limits. For instance, your bank may only be able to withdraw up to $5,000 per day. 

Exchange Rate

One of the most annoying traits for money transfer services is that each one might use a different exchange rate.

If you compare the rates between an airport currency booth and a local ATM, you’re familiar with this variable rate.

Speaking from experience, try and get local currency from a local ATM first. You will usually get a better rate than the currency booth. You “spend less” to convert your cash and get more money in your wallet.

Wise uses the mid-market rate to reduce transfer fees.

This rate is the average of the “buy rate” and “sell rate” other platforms may use to determine your exchange rate. These two rates increase the transfer costs and mean less money is converted.

If you invest in stocks, buy and sell rates are similar to the bid and ask price for stocks.

The mid-market rate is the same rate you see when googling exchange rates. One example is “USD to Euro.”

When getting a quote on Wise, you will see the exchange rate. It is usually guaranteed for at least 24 hours. As long as Wise receives your cash within that time frame, the exchange rate won’t fluctuate.   

Fees

Each transfer quote lists your potential fees upfront. You will also see how much funds the recipient will receive based on what you pay.

Other transfer services might add the amount to the transfer amount. Instead, Wise deducts the fee from the balance.

Let’s pretend you send $1,000 US dollars, and the transfer fee is $11. Wise keeps the first $11 for fees, so you actually send $989.

The exact fees you pay is dependent on the transfer method. The cheapest option is funding your transfer from a bank account. Paying by credit card is the most expensive option. Wise also charges a fee to cover transfer costs and operating expenses.

Sample Transfer

Here are the fees you can expect to pay when sending $1,000 US dollars to a friend in Spain. Wise doesn’t charge your friend anything. But you will pay two different charges.

The first amount you’ll pay depends on your funding source:

  • Bank account debit: $3.49
  • Wire transfer: $5.34
  • Debit card: $12.35
  • Credit card: $36.61

The second charge goes to Wise to pay transfer fees and other costs. For this transfer, you will pay between $5.38 and $5.53.

Wise withholds both fees from the starting balance. This means your friend will receive the equivalent of $990.98 US dollars. With a mid-market rate of 0.898950, your friend will get 890.84 euros in one business day.

If you pay for the transfer by credit card, your friend can access the funds sooner. But since the fees are roughly $30 higher, your friend would only get 861.30 euros instead. 

Transfer Times

How long it takes to deliver your money mostly depends on three factors:

  • Your funding source (i.e., bank account, debit card or credit card)
  • Transfer amount
  • The recipient’s country of residence

Transfers funded by credit or debit cards are the fastest yet most expensive. These transfers can complete within one hour in some cases.

Bank account debits and wire transfers are cheaper but can take between one or two days for most currencies.

Larger transfers take longer to complete than smaller ones. Transfer speeds are something to keep in mind for time-sensitive purchases like buying real estate.

Wise also requires you to verify your identity for large transactions. The verification process takes two days. You can do this before scheduling your first transfer. Also, you may need to show proof of how you earned or received the money you want to send.

Receiving Money

It’s also possible to use Wise to receive money for yourself. Although your receiving options are limited to a borderless account. But this is an easy way to avoid transfer fees.

You get local bank details to receive deposits in the following currencies:

  • British pound (GBP)
  • Euro (EUR)
  • Romanian lei (RON)
  • Hungarian forint (HUF)
  • Turkish lira (TRY)
  • Singapore dollar (SGD)
  • Australian dollar (AUD)
  • New Zealand dollar (NZD)
  • Canadian dollar (CAD)
  • US dollar (USD)

People who live in the Eurozone can send funds directly to your Euro currency account to avoid fees.

Wise probably isn’t the best PayPal alternative to pay for purchase or send money to friends. But it can be a fee-free way to get funds at a local level.

Also, the transfer fees can be less for international money transfers.

Simply provide your banking details to the person sending you money. They can direct deposit the funds into your account. Neither of you will pay a fee. 

You can make purchases with your Wise debit card or send money to others. Wise will charge you the mid-market rate when you convert your funds into a different currency.   

Delivery Options

The only way to receive cash from others is via direct deposit into one of your ten Wise bank accounts. How quickly you obtain your funds depends on the bank transfer speeds.

It’s possible to receive your cash the same day or a few days from now.

Fees

You won’t pay any fees to receive funds into your multi-currency account from bank transfers. Receiving wire transfers costs $7.50.

And you will pay a fee to convert funds into a different currency. This fee is between 0.35% and 3%.

Plus, it’s also possible to pay a fee for debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals.

Wise Debit Card

The Wise debit card costs $9 and comes with a multi-currency account. You only need one debit card for all transactions. 

Since it’s most likely a Mastercard, it has near-universal acceptance. It can be used for payments at any merchant that accepts Mastercard.

Some cards may have Visa as its issuer. If so, the card still has near-universal acceptance.

This card has a lot more flexibility than a prepaid debit card

Key perks of using your Wise debit card include:

  • No foreign transaction fees. Other debit cards may charge up to 3% on international purchases. 
  • Two free ATM withdrawals of up to $100 US dollars monthly. You pay a $1.50 fee on all excess withdrawals.
  • No currency conversion fee if you load your card with the local currency. Wise charges an average conversion fee between 0.24% and 3.69% if your account doesn’t have a local currency balance.
  • Can use your debit card for online purchases. Try to make a purchase in one of the ten local bank accounts to avoid conversion fees.

While you will likely pay some fees, this card is a hassle-free way to pay in multiple currencies.  

You also get a virtual debit card to pay for purchases with a digital wallet on your phone.

Wise for Business

Most of this Wise review focuses on personal money transfers. However, this section is specifically for business owners.

You might work from home as a freelance or travel abroad often for a large corporation.

This service is free if you only want to send money to others across the world. The free version integrates with accounting software too.

However, for the full international banking edition, you pay a one-time $31 setup fee.

Some of the premium perks include:

  • Direct debits
  • Receive third-party payments
  • Withdraw money from payment platforms
  • Integrates with Xero and other accounting platforms
  • Local bank details for up to 10 countries

Unfortunately, United States business customers cannot get a Wise debit card.

Recipients don’t need a Wise account to receive cash or pay invoices. By providing your local bank details, it’s possible to avoid fees other payment processors charge.

The funds are deposited into the recipient’s bank account when you send money. Like a business checking account, you will receive monthly banking statements for tax purposes.

Is Wise Safe to Use?

Sending money to the other side of the world might seem unsafe. Most of us are familiar with wire transfer scams and various banking schemes.

One way Wise limits risk is by only supporting transfers for the largest and most stable currencies.

Wise also has 12 local offices across the globe. You can contact their customer support team within your Wise account for live support. 

Partner Banks

Your Wise cash is stored at some of the world’s largest banks. For example, US local bank details are for a Wells Fargo account. Barclays is their go-to bank for the United Kingdom and Eurozone.

While no bank or Wise is immune from failing, these banks are widely-recognized for the large cash reserves.

Regulatory Agencies

When possible, Wise registers with national regulatory agencies for oversight. In the United States, it is the US Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

Wise is also regulated in these countries:

  • Australia
  • Belgium and the European Economic Area
  • Canada
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • United Kingdom and the European Economic Area
  • United States

Customer Reviews

Wise currently has a Trustpilot score of 4.6 out of 5 stars. There are plenty of positive reviews, but you will see negative reviews too.

Some of the reasons verified users like Wise include:

  • Transfer fees can be cheaper than PayPal
  • Transparent transaction fee
  • Transfer speeds can be fast
  • A local address isn’t needed to get foreign banking details

The most common complaints against Wise are:

  • Do not ask for all your personal details at signup. Additional verification can delay transfers from completing on-time.
  • All transfers are final and cannot be canceled or recalled.
  • Some users report having their account closed without reason

Overall, Wise is a legit way to send money overseas. You can also use it to send money to yourself if you have a bank account with a different currency. But Wise only offers bank access for six currencies at this time.

Wise Positives and Negatives

There are some pros and cons of using Wise.

Pros

  • Free multi-currency account to send or receive funds
  • Transfer fees can be less than other bank and transfer agents
  • Wise debit card lets you spend money in over 50 currencies

Cons

  • Transfers must deposit into a recipient’s bank account
  • Large transfers can take several days to complete
  • Cannot send money to every currency

Who Should Use Wise?

The following people can benefit the most from using Wise:

  • People who need to send money overseas to friends and family
  • Freelancers and businesses with international clients
  • International travelers needing instant access to multiple currencies

When to Avoid Wise

You might avoid Wise in these instances:

  • The recipient doesn’t have a bank account
  • When Wise won’t support a local currency

Summary

Wise makes it easy to send money to others in the same currency or another one. The transfer fees are easy to understand.

It’s worth considering Wise if you currently send money directly to a bank account and want to pay fewer fees.

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