- Free account
- International bank details
- 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
Seems like Wise has been around forever but it’s actually been 10 years since its inception. Since this year they rebranded from TransferWise to Wise, we took another look at their offering in our Wise review. But first, here’s our short verdict:
We’re glad to see that Wise is still a solid offering even after its name change. It’s a great account for all the globetrotters and digital nomads out there. With more and more competition cropping up every year, Wise still goes strong against the grain.
Wise is an online money transfer service founded in 2011 by Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus and headquartered in London. The company provides multi-currency accounts and supports more than 1,000 currency routes.
10 years after the company got its start as TransferWise, the beginning of 2021 saw its name change to Wise to tell the world that they offer much more than mere money transfers.
Due to the increase in competitors, the company has upped its game accordingly with some flashy new features alongside its reliably competitive rates.
They raised $1.1 billion in 12 funding rounds and the company is worth more than $5 billion.
How does Wise work?
Wise simply uses the best exchange rate that you can get and ads a really small fee on top. This is in stark contrast to big banks and other money transfer services like PayPal that add a huge markup to their supposedly “free” transfers.
Wise use their technology to link their bank accounts all over the world. In practice, that means that you’re not sending money directly to the recipient but to a Wise account that then transfers money in local currency to its destination.
The sender saves on fees and the recipient gets the money for free in his or her local currency.
How to open a Wise account
Opening a Wise account is easy and straightforward for both personal and business accounts. It’s all done online in a process that takes only a couple of minutes. You can register by using your email address, or Google, Facebook, and Apple account.
You’ll need to select a personal or business account, add a password, and select your home country. You’ll need to have an ID for verification as well.
How to open a Wise business account?
To open a Wise business account, you’ll need to go to their website and enter your email, password, and your country.
You’ll also need to get verified by using a photo ID, proof of address, and a photo of you holding that ID. They’ll also need personal information about you to verify your identity. If you’re not a director of the company, you may need to include additional information to confirm that you are authorized to act on behalf of the business.
The information you’ll need to share about your business is:
- business registration,
- where you’re located,
- the industry you’re in,
- any online or social presence,
- name, date of birth, and country of residence for all legal business owners and directors
If your business is registered in the US, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, or New Zealand, there are other country-specific requirements to verify your account.
It might sound a bit complicated but it’s really no different than opening a business account in any other brick and mortar or digital bank.
Why is Wise so special?
Since its launch in London in 2011, Wise has focused on making international money transfers cheaper and more transparent.
By charging extremely low fees compared with high street banks and other online payment providers and using the real exchange rate when converting currencies, Wise has quickly become a top choice for both personal and business international bank transfers.
With over 10 million customers worldwide, Wise moves around $6 billion each month in over 50 different currencies. While it lacks some traditional bank features, it has launched various accounts to service both business and personal finance.
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
- One time fee of £16/€23/$31 for business accounts
- 65p fixed fee to send money (varies by currency)
- 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
Known as the ‘Robin Hood’ of international payment providers, Wise has drastically lowered the cost of sending money worldwide.
Sending money from your Wise bank account is the cheapest method, and currently incurs a fee of around 0.4% of the amount you’re sending. To use your Wise debit card to send money is slightly more pricey, but not much, at about 0.7% of the amount you send.
A small fee is charged for converting currencies that you don’t hold in your account, set at a low 0.33%-3.56%.
There’s also no margin added to the exchange rate, so you get a cheaper rate than offered by traditional banks and money exchanges. Plus, the same rates and fees apply to all customers.
With Wise, all fees are presented upfront and explained clearly, so there are no unexpected charges or markups that are unfortunately common to users of other online payment providers.
Mid-market exchange rate
This is the so-called real exchange rate that is the halfway point between the buy and sell rates on the global currency transfer market. Wise gets this mid-market rate from Reuters that updates the rate in real-time during the market’s opening hours.
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. You can check the 30-day graph and what the mid-market rate is at any given moment on the Wise website. You can even set alerts to your desired rate.
While personal and business exchange rates are the same, business accounts, allow for a higher maximum transfer amount.
Wise doesn’t mark up the exchange rate like other institutions and that’s the reason why their transfer fees are so low.
Making transfers with Wise
Wise started out by only offering money transfers. This was and still is their bread and butter. The founders recognized that people naturally don’t like to pay fees to banks for simple money transfers and currency exchanges.
The huge fees feel like a punch in the gut when you’re faced with them. Luckily, the Wise process of sending money is easy enough and you can even track your transfer like you would a letter or a parcel.
To transfer some money with Wise, you’ll have to register for an account if you don’t have one already. The great thing about Wise is that the person that’s receiving the money doesn’t have to have a Wise account.
Trying to get someone onboard a new platform is not easy unless they’ve reaped the benefits already.
So, to do the transfer, 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.
Business account holders will sometimes have to prove where their money came from but that’s nothing new for large transfers and they should be used to it by now.
How to track transfers
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?
Due to its advanced technology, the average Wise money transfer takes much less time than the usual bank transfer. Transfers between Wise accounts are instant, and transfers to other bank accounts often take hours.
On the Wise website you can find 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), and
- Security checks (verification can add extra time to your transfer)
There is a range of different accounts offered by Wise. All are free to set up, with no monthly subscription payments, and come with a Wise MasterCard. It takes minutes to apply for a Wise account online.
Wise Multi-Currency (Borderless) account
This is their version of a personal account. It’s ideal for travelers, digital nomads, and those spending time abroad, but also for anyone that’s sending or converting money on a regular basis.
The Wise Multi-currency (Borderless) account allows you to hold over 55 different currencies in your account and convert them using the real exchange rate.
Plus, you can add money in 19 different currencies (AUD, BGN, CAD, CHF, CZK, DKK, EUR, GBP, HRK, HUF, JPY, NOK, NZD, PLN, RON, SEK, SGD, TRY, and USD) and receive money in 11 different currencies (AUD, EUR, CAD, GBP, NZD, PLN, USD, SGD, RON, HUF, TRY).
It comes with a Wise debit card that is accepted wherever the Mastercard logo is displayed. It also works perfectly for withdrawing cash from ATMs with a great exchange rate.
Read the complete review here.
Wise Freelancer account
Freelancers are often getting paid from multiple clients in different currencies. This can make for an accounting nightmare and a loss of a big chunk of money to the banks (or PayPal) along the way.
You either have to charge your client more or take less profit, all due to unfair fees.
Luckily, Wise has an account for freelancers that enables you to receive multiple currencies for free, invoice easily like a local, and spend the hard-earned money directly from a global business Mastercard. All of this without monthly fees for account “maintenance”.
You get your own UK, Eurozone, Australian, New Zealand, and US bank details that you can use to invoice clients or withdraw money from platforms like UpWork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com.
Read our full review here.
Wise E-commerce account
Quick to capitalize on the explosion of new online business, Wise launched the E-commerce account, making it simpler and cheaper to pay clients worldwide and receive free payments via Amazon and Stripe.
You can get bank account details for various countries without the need for a local address, and sign up takes minutes. The Wise E-commerce account comes with integrated invoicing software and like all Wise accounts, a free debit MasterCard designed to make managing the finances for your e-commerce enterprise easier.
To find out more, read our Wise E-commerce review.
Wise Business account
The Wise business account is a great option for companies making transactions around the world and holding money in different currencies. It can save your business plenty of money with its renowned low-fee transfers for paying freelancers, contractors or importing from overseas.
You’ll get Wise business cards that are very much international and can be used worldwide enabling your team or your employees to pay like locals wherever they are and at the real exchange rate with no hidden fees.
It also comes with a handy batch payment tool, enabling you to send multiple payments as one international transfer. You can also automate payments for your business using the Wise open API.
Find out all the ins and outs in the Wise Business account review.
We’ve already mentioned the Wise MasterCards a few times and they work just like any other MasterCard debit card. They’re accepted online or at any store offline where MasterCard is accepted.
This means that you can use your card in more than 200 countries to withdraw money from more than 2 million ATMs. 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.
You can secure your card by setting a spending limit as well as turning on or off contactless, online, and in-store payments.
When your new card arrives, you’ll have to 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 works as an Electronic Money Institution licensed in the UK and other jurisdictions where it operates. It’s not a bank but for its operations, Wise partners with the best and biggest banks worldwide.
For example, 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?
Is Wise safe? Financial institutions must match strict regulatory requirements to be licensed. As an Authorised Electronic Money Institution, Wise is regulated by the FCA and HMRC in the UK, where it’s based, and other jurisdictions where it operates.
Wise reviews were done by Forbes, Nerdwallet, the Telegraph, and Sitepoint, among many others.
It was also reviewed by more than 111,000 customers on TrustPilot, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5. These all mean that it matches a high standard of safety as a financial company.
Using a two-step login process and other verification procedures, Wise follows international security standards and is trusted by millions to send large amounts of money around the globe.
Although Wise isn’t licensed as a full bank in any of the countries, and your money isn’t insured by government institutions, they still go to great lengths to protect your money.
Your deposits are stored in separate accounts in reputable banking institutions and Wise doesn’t have access to them. This is to ensure that you get your money back if anything were to happen to the company.
Limits and Restrictions
Because Wise isn’t a bank and the Wise account isn’t really a bank account, there are some things that are missing. You can’t take a loan out or overdraft, and there are no interest savings rates on your deposits.
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, there are 2 free withdrawals up to 200 GBP total (or whatever currency is equivalent) per month, after that a 2% fee applies.
Wise customer support
Despite lacking physical branches like traditional banks, Wise offers good customer support via a range of methods.
There is live chat, email and phone support, and a reasonably comprehensive FAQ and help pages on the Wise website.
Who owns Wise?
Wise is owned by a group of investors and managed by its founders Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus.
Among Wise investors are IA Ventures, Index Ventures, IJNR Ventures, NYPPE, Andreessen Horowitz, Old Mutual Global Investors, IVP, Sapphire Ventures, Japanese Mitsui & Co, as well as notable individual investors such as Max Levchin, David Yu, Errol Damelin, and Richard Branson.
You probably know about PayPal and there’s a great chance that you already have a PayPal account. It’s widely used and that’s one of its best features. The transfer rates aren’t all that great as the exchange rate can give you a nosebleed. Yet, 87.5% of online buyers use PayPal and it currently has 361 million active users.
Revolut is the new boy in town with all the bells and whistles. You can get a bare-bones account for free but the Metal account is where it’s at. It offers a metal card and travel, device, and purchase insurance. You can hold and transfer many different currencies and spend like a local.
Read more about Revolut here.
CurrencyFair is also a quick, effective, and affordable way to access international currency transfers. CurrencyFair is using a peer-to-peer exchange by cutting out the middleman. This enables users to avoid costly fees, and get their hands on currency at a far more enticing rate.
Read more about CurrencyFair here.
The bottom line
Wise got famous for transferring money in a fast, cheap, and transparent manner across the world. To think that other platforms or vendors charge from 5 to 13 times more for the same thing is really mind-boggling. No wonder that big banks are losing customers left and right.
On top of reliable money transfers, people and businesses can take advantage of many other benefits that a Wise account has to offer.
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.