- No monthly fees
- Really cheap transfers
- Spend anywhere with no hidden fees
- Mastercard debit card
- Receive and hold 55+ currencies
- Receive payments like a local
Wise loves to confuse its customers by changing the names of the company and its accounts. What was TransferWise before, is Wise now. And what was the Borderless Account before, is now called the Multi-Currency Account.
So let’s revisit Wise and see what its newly named account has to offer. But first, here’s our short verdict:
Even after the name change and rebranding, Wise still knows what is the most important thing to international users – to not pay extortionate fees. The Wise Borderless or Multi-currency account is great for anyone sending or receiving money in different currencies, spending it with a fee-free Mastercard, and sticking it to the banks.
Launched in 2011, TransferWise has quickly become a globally recognized and trusted transfer solution. It is licensed and regulated by the official financial authorities like FCA in the UK.
Since 2011, the company added many more functionalities on top of their well-known money transfers and even rebranded in 2021 into Wise to communicate that they’re more than a money transferring service.
The Wise Borderless account is now called the Multi-Currency account but it retained all of its features and even added some more.
You can get a local bank account for transferring GBP, USD, EUR, and AUD, and there’s no requirement to have proof of local address to these countries.
With a Wise account, you can get a contactless debit card that allows for spending in any currency at the real exchange rate, avoiding the normal fuss of changing currencies on the move.
How does Wise work?
You might be wondering how Wise can have such low fees for money transfers. In fact, according to Wise, they have from seven to 19 times cheaper fees comparing to other banks and platforms, including PayPal.
Wise started uprooting old banking systems more than 10 years ago with its no-fuss money transfers. Founders Taavet and Kristo, both originally from Estonia decided that they’ve paid enough fees to big banks for money transfers and exchanges.
They used a “loophole” to get the money in the currency that they needed almost instantly and without huge fees.
From their website: “Taavet put his euros into Kristo’s Estonian bank account, and Kristo topped up Taavet’s UK account with his pounds. Both got the currency they needed almost instantly, and neither paid an extra cent on bad exchange rates or unreasonable charges.”
They founded Transferwise to do the same on a global scale to help other folks out as well.
Over 10 million people now trust Wise to move more than £4.5 billion every month, which saves them £3 million in bank fees every day by bypassing banks and transferring money through Wise.
Wise also has a dedicated account for businesses. Find more about it in our review.
How to open a Wise account
Opening a Wise Borderless multi-currency account is free for both personal and business customers, and can all be done online in a few minutes using your email address, or a Google, Facebook, or Apple account. You can choose your default currency during sign-up. Verification of your ID will take up to two days.
You can then add money using your bank account, Apple Pay, credit/debit card.
Why is Wise so special?
The Wise Borderless or Multi-currency account is a global electronic money account that allows users to send, receive, and hold money in 55 different currencies. While it lacks many of traditional bank account features, it gives users local bank account details without requiring a local address. It could be ideal for businesses, frequent travelers, and those living abroad.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Send money to more than 70 countries, always with a low and transparent fee
- Direct Debits in the UK, Europe, and the US
- Spend in local currency with your card
- Receive your salary, pension, and more
- Pay at the real exchange rate
- Pay online securely with instant notifications
- Use your card in more than 200 countries and withdraw money from 2.3 million ATMs
Pros & cons
- No recurring fees
- Transparent money transfers
- Charges as low as possible
- Spend in any currency
- 3-D Secure authentications
- Easy to signup
- 2% fee for ATM withdrawals above £200
- Debit card not free and not available in many countries
- Deposits not insured
- Free account setup
- No monthly fees
- 0.40% annually to hold more than €70,000 in EUR balance
- €7/$9/£5 to order a debit card
- 0.33%-3.56% to convert a currency using your card
- Free ATM withdrawals up to £200/30 days, after that 2%
- $7.50 to receive USD wire transfers
If you’re a freelancer or do work as a sole trader, read about Wise for freelancers here.
Limits and Restrictions
Adding funds to a Wise Borderless account has to be done online using a Wise account, electronic bank transfer, or international wire. There is no method for adding funds over the phone or by cash.
For ATM withdrawals; 2 free withdrawals up to 200 GBP total (or whatever currency is equivalent) per month, after that a 2% fee applies.
Your Wise card comes with default and maximum limits and you can always choose either one in your Wise app, or turn off a specific type of payment completely. See other limits on their website.
Mid-market exchange rate
Banks and other money transfer services and institutions use the mid-market rate when they trade between themselves, but they rarely pass it on to you.
This is the “real” rate that is in the middle of the asking price and the selling price. It’s the fairest rate out there since that’s the rate the market naturally sets.
This is also the rate that Wise gives you when sending and receiving the money to and from people or businesses. Wise pulls this rate from Reuters, which updates it in real-time while the trading market is open.
To check what the mid-market rate is at any given moment and its 30-day graph, see the Wise website. You can even set alerts to your desired rate.
Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate for all its transfers, whether personal or business, which means you can expect the rate to match most high street banks and other transfer services.
While personal and business exchange rates are the same, business accounts, allow for a higher maximum transfer amount.
Making transfers with Wise
This is what Wise got famous for, transferring money fast, cheap, and reliably across the globe. To think that other platforms or vendors charge up to 19 times more for the same thing is really mindboggling. No wonder that big banks are losing customers left and right.
To make a money transfer with Wise, you’ll have to register for an account if you don’t have one already. The person that’s receiving the money doesn’t have to have a Wise account.
Next, you’ll have to tell Wise the amount that you’re sending as well as fill in the details of your recipient’s bank account. To keep your money safe, Wise might ask you to verify your identity. You then need to pay for your transfer with a bank transfer, direct debit, or a debit or credit card.
Only the person sending the money can track its progress. Not even customer support can help you if you’re not the sender.
To track the transfer:
- Log in to your account
- Go to Activity
- Find the transfer and see where it’s at
If you’re on the receiving end, the only way to track the money is by contacting the person that has sent the money to you.
How long does a transfer take?
This depends on different factors and the more information that you give to Wise, the more accurate the prediction will be. You can use the handy calculator on their homepage to get a better picture of your transfers.
Wise notes four different reasons for the amount of time that it’ll take for the money to transfer:
- How you pay (some payment methods are quicker than others)
- The countries you’re sending from and to (every currency and country is different)
- What time you pay for your transfer (outside normal working hours and national holidays add extra time)
- Security checks (verification can add extra time to your transfer)
You can get notified in three different ways from Wise. Via email, push notifications to any device that you have installed the app on, and inbox message (you’ll see an alert on the homepage when you log in to your account).
There are a few different types of notifications:
- Your transfers and balances
- Notifications about your card transactions
- Currencies, features, news, and tips
- Interviews, reviews, surveys, and invites to test new products and share your thoughts
- Wise campaigns
Use your card in more than 200 countries to withdraw money from more than 2 million ATMs. Generally, you can pay with your Wise card in most places where debit cards are accepted. To order your Wise card, you have to be a resident of the UK, the US, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and most of the EEA.
Wise might charge you a fee to order the card, depending on the country. The card should arrive in 3 working days if you’re in Singapore, in 2–6 days if you’re in the UK, within 2 weeks if you’re in Europe and Japan, and up to 3 weeks if you’re in the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
Once you get your card, go to your Wise account in the app or website and enter the 6-digit code that’s on the card to activate it. You’ll find your PIN there as well.
How is Wise regulated?
Wise is regulated as an e-money institution in various countries around the world where they do business. For instance, in the European Economic Area (EEA), Wise is regulated by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) as an Authorised Payment Institution, with passporting rights across the EEA.
In the United States, Wise is registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and in the UK it’s authorized as an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.
Is my money safe with Wise?
There are some caveats to being registered only as an electronic money organization. The major one is that your deposits aren’t protected by your, or any other government. Wise isn’t FDIC or FSCS insured.
While this fact might turn off some people from using Wise, they do take care of your money by safeguarding it in separate big-bank accounts that they do not have access to. Also, unlike big banks, Wise doesn’t gamble or speculate with your deposits.
To conclude, although your deposits aren’t insured by government institutions, the money is kept safe and safeguarded in other ways.
I’m using PayPal almost every single day as it’s easy to use, it’s widespread, and to be honest, it’s often the only way to pay and be paid oftentimes. There are no fees if you’re not converting currencies, but when you are, hold on to your wallets!
Revolut has become another household name in a short period of time. It’s a digital bank that’s easy to sign up for and has different tiered accounts that offer you more or less features. And those range from investing in stocks, commodities, and crypto, Junior accounts, Vaults, group bills, and donations, to travel and device insurance.
Read more about Revolut in our review.
If you’re a UK resident and are looking for a better banking experience, you should consider Monzo bank. You’ll get around the clock customer service, deposit protection, a cool app loaded with features, and a debit card available for use. Monzo is great for the spending, saving, and budgeting of your funds.
Read our Monzo review here.
If you’re looking for a quick, effective, and affordable way to access international currency transfer, then CurrencyFair is for you. CurrencyFair is using a peer-to-peer exchange. By cutting out the middleman, users can avoid costly fees, and get their hands on currency at a far more attractive rate.
Find out more about this Wise alternative here.
The bottom line
We recommend Wise to anyone looking for a banking alternative or a digital bank that allows you to hold, send, and receive money in various currencies, while letting you seamlessly spend worldwide, online or in-store, without extortionate fees.
Although Wise dropped the word “transfer” from its name, transferring money is still a breeze and makes big banks and even PayPal look like a dinosaur.
Adrian Volenik is a fintech enthusiast who loves testing and reviewing digital banking apps and financial products in general. How many digital banking accounts can one man have? Not enough, if you ask Adrian. As his wallet will soon explode if he doesn’t cut back on the number of cards.