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Covered in the Article
- What is Wise?
- How Does Wise Work?
- Benefits of Using Wise
- How to Transfer Money with Wise?
- Cost of Using Wise
- Topping Up Wise Accounts
- Wise's Competitors
- Is Wise Safe?
- Bottom Line
What is Wise?
Wise is a payment service company founded in 2011, known until 2021 as TransferWise. Wise's speciality is international money transfers, with the company's mission to offer affordable, fast, and easy payments to all people across different borders.
Wise makes it possible to hold money in different currencies, and exchanging money from one currency to another is easy and cheaper than with traditional banks. Initially, the company is from Estonia. Today, the head office is in London, Great Britain.
Wise's original operating idea is to make it easier to transfer money across borders and reduce the costs of the transfer at the same time. The money transfer service is precious, especially for immigrants who regularly send money to their home country. Also, employees receiving salaries from abroad will benefit from Wise money transfer services. Wise's operating concept and target customer group have expanded. At present, Wise is no longer just a money transfer service. It is more likely a multi-currency bank for nomads and travellers.
The basis of Wise's service selection is a Wise application, which at present supports 54 different currencies. Having Wise bank accounts, allows you to send and receive money easily, quickly, and cheaply in any supported currency. In addition, Wise's product range includes also a debit payment card which makes using and spending foreign currencies practical.
How Does Wise Work?
Wise offers its users the opportunity to transfer money internationally quickly and at low costs. Money can also be spent with a debit card.
If you are unfamiliar with Wise, you might be wondering what is Wise's operation based on, and how is this company able to offer its customers cheaper and faster international money transfers than conventional banks and its competitors offering similar services.
We briefly explain the operation of the platform and its perks.
Fast Cross-Border Money Transfers
One of the main factors behind Wise's low costs and fast transfers is that Wise's money transfer does not cross borders. But how can a money transfer abroad be successful without the money crossing borders? Wise's speed and low costs are based on the fact that the company has its bank account in every country it supports. When you transfer money to a family member, a friend, or a colleague living abroad, you are not dealing directly with them at any point.
You can also receive traditional bank transfers in the most well-known currencies to your accounts, and you can transfer money from Wise to the accounts of conventional banks. Wise offers modern money transfer services for international transactions where money is transferred across state borders.
Wise Debit Card
The Wise Visa Card is a debit card that can be ordered for about 7 euros. You can still use online your Wise accounts without having a Wise debit card. However, the Wise debit card can be used to make payments in any store and on the internet in almost all countries, with a few exceptions. The money is transferred to the payee from the user's Wise account. If the user does not have the target currency deposited in his account, Wise handles the currency conversion to the target currency much cheaper than conventional banks' fees. Thus, using a Wise debit card abroad is cheaper than using cards issued by conventional banks.
A Wise debit card is especially suitable for those who travel a lot, as its biggest advantage is that, the currency exchange costs using Wise are cheaper than conventional banks' fees. You can even exchange the currencies before the travel.
Spending Abroad with Wise Visa
Wise debit card is a practical travel aid for holiday-makers and nomads. Because you can deposit and hold money in your Wise accounts with many different currencies, it is possible to exchange money when the rate is the best - even before a journey. At the destination, you just withdraw money from an ATM with the Wise debit card or pay directly at the store. This way, you are spending like a local since the currency has already been exchanged earlier.
Example 1: Cheap Cross-border Transfer
Teemu, a Wise user currently residing in Finland needs to transfer 1,000 euros to a family member in London who wants to receive these in pounds. Teemu creates a new transfer in Wise, indicating the desired amount and the currencies in which the amount is to be sent and received. Next, Teemu enters the information of the recipient of the money transfer. Before accepting the payment, Teemu can see the amount he has set, which will be charged to him, as well as an exact breakdown of how much expenses will be charged for this transaction (transfer fees based on the payment method he chose), and how much his brother in London will exactly receive to his account.
When Teemu accepts the transfer, the money goes to Wise's bank account in Finland using the payment method Teemu has chosen. When the money arrives, Wise will send a pre-specified amount of pounds from its UK account to Teemu's brother.
Benefits of Using Wise
The advantages of Wise are realized especially when you use a currency different from your home currency.
Money Deposited in Different Currencies
Money can be deposited into Wise in almost any currency. For certain currencies, the user also receives a genuine bank account number for receiving bank transfers from outside Wise. Standard bank transfers can be received in EUR(€), GBP(£), USD($), CAD (Can$), AUD (AU$), NZD (NZ$), HUF(Ft),SGD(S$), RON (Romanian leu) and TRY(₺). When holding money in the aforementioned currencies, the user receives a bank account number in that country for receiving and sending standard bank payments. Only account transfers out of Wise are possible for other currencies.
Money can also be deposited in jars where they are locked out from spending. This is a way to separate daily needed money and saving.
Money in a Wise account does not normally earn interest. However, with euros and pounds, you can choose to hold your money as regular currency or government-backed assets via a fund. If you select the latter option, you will earn about 2 to 3 per cent interest on your money while you still can spend the money normally. The exact interest rate is variable. This benefit comes with a drawback. Your capital is at risk even though it is low.
Cheaper Currency Conversions
Banks usually charge a fee of about 2 per cent for currency conversions. Wise charges less than 0.5 per cent for several currency pairs, which is less than banks. Wise is an affordable way to exchange currencies.
Money Transfers to a Foreign Account
Through the Wise application, you can send money abroad even in those currencies where money cannot be held in Wise. In this case, it is sufficient that the recipient has a bank account in the country to which the money is to be sent.
Money Transfers from Abroad
You can receive normal bank transfers in the most well-known currencies to your Wise account. You get genuine bank account numbers to which money transfers can be directed.
Example2: Lower Travel Costs
Especially, when we are travelling outside the Eurozone, we always travel with our Wise Debit Visa cards by which we make payments like a local with the already exchanged money on our Wise account. For example, a few months before our travel to Indonesia, we have been monitoring the daily exchange rates of the Euro to the Indonesian Rupiah. We top up our Indonesian Rupiah account whenever the exchange rate is good. The money in the local currency will be then available in our multi-currency account ready to be spent even before we arrive at our destination in Bali.
How to Transfer Money with Wise?
When TransferWise was established in 2011, the company's mission was to enable cheap, easy, fast, and fair international money transfers.
Even after the company changed its business name from Transferwise to Wise, the company mission remains the same. International money transfers are one of the most central features of the platform.
In the next chapter, we will give a short instruction on how to make a money transfer with Wise.
Step 1: Select the Amount and Currencies
After you first log in to your user account, you can start transferring money in Wise by clicking the green Send button found at the bottom of the service's front page. Next, a view similar to the picture below will open in front of you.
Choose whether you want to transfer money in the same currency of your chosen account, or do a currency conversion at the same time. After choosing the option you want, you will see a calculation of how much expenses will be charged for this money transfer. You will see at which exchange rate the calculation was made and the exact amount of money to be deposited to the recipient's account.
Step 2: Choose a Recipient
After setting the desired amount and currencies for the transfer, the next step is to select a recipient. You can choose between a transfer to yourself, a transfer to another individual, and a transfer to a company or charity. If you have already made transfers before, your previous recipients will be readily available from your list of recipients.
You are prompted by the Wise app to review your transfers before confirming and continuing with the transaction. You will also be asked to tick the box saying, I may have to pay a higher fee on future transfers if I cancel.
Step 3: Fill in the Recipient's Information
Next you should provide the account details of the recipient. This includes the email address, bank details (full name of the account holder, bank name, account number), and the recipient's address.
Step 4: Choose Your Payment Method
The costs and the speed of the money transfer are affected by the payment method you choose. We describe the different payment methods and the related costs later in this article. In general, the cheapest and fastest is to make an online payment using Trustly or a regular bank transfer.
Cost of Using Wise
Installing the Wise application, creating a user account and opening bank accounts are free.
Currency Conversion Fees
Wise supports currency conversions between 54 different currencies. The costs of currency conversions vary between different currency pairs. At its most affordable, the currency conversion costs only 0.41 per cent of the amount to be converted. You can check the latest currency conversion costs with the calculator on Wise's website.
Paying with a debit card is free of charge. However, if there is a currency conversion involved, it may cost extra. In rare cases, also a merchant charges for card payments.
With the Wise debit card, you can withdraw cash from your Wise accounts up to 200 euros per month without any cost but withdrawals in no more than two instalments. The third withdrawal or excess of the monthly limit of 200 euros will cost 1.75% of the amount exceeding 200 euros and a fixed fee of 0.50 euros per withdrawal. Wise's payment card automatically uses the local currency in your account, if possible. Otherwise, the card performs an automatic currency conversion at the real rate, at a low (from 0.41%) cost.
Prefer paying directly at a store rather than withdrawing money from an ATM since the ATM limit is low. Reserve your cash for payments in places where only cash is accepted.
Transferring money from a Wise account to your regular bank account is free of charge if there is no exchange involved. Quite often, it is also free to transfer money to other Wise account users.
There are fees if the transfer requires a currency conversion or when you top up/add balance to your wise account.
Topping Up Wise Accounts
Wise charges a fee when a Wise account user deposits money in one's Wise account. Wise categorizes the payment methods into three: Low-cost Transfer, Fast Transfer, and Easy Transfer.
From the word low-cost alone, Low-Cost Transfer is the most affordable among the three payment methods of Wise. This method can be chosen to make an online bank payment using Trustly. Customers transferring money from Spain, Finland, and Estonia can select money transfer in Wise via Trustly. Often, the money is immediately available at a Wise account.
In addition to using Trustly, Wise users can opt to manually transfer the money from his/her bank to avail of the Low-Cost Transfer as a payment method. The third option is to use iDEAL. iDEAL offers a familiar, secure and convenient way of paying online.
Fast Transfer includes immediate payment methods such as debit cards, credit cards and PayPal. Fast payments are charged a percentage cost, the percentage amount of which depends on the amount you deposit or transfer.
Additionally, when you are using the Wise mobile app, under Fast Transfer you can also send money in Wise via Google Pay or Apple Pay. All the payments are expected to arrive in 43 minutes having selected Fast Transfer as your payment method. This is the fastest but also the most expensive payment transfer among the three Wise payment methods.
Easy Transfer in certain European countries can be selected as a payment method in Wise via Klarna Sofort. Wise customers can pay using Klarna Sofort if and only when they are making payments in euros, and they must be located in any of these countries: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, or Spain.
Aside from Wise, there are competitors in the market offering similar services. We have tried using other remittance companies like Western Union online banking, Worldremit, and Remitly. Honestly, Wise stands out among the rest. The better exchange rate and lower transfer fees of Wise mean some savings.
Wise vs. Curve
Wise offers the same quality of service as Curve does but they have somehow different benefits for cardholders. Both cards are our top choices while travelling.
Wise allows you to withdraw foreign currency abroad up to 200 euros free of charge. Transferring money to another Wise account in the same currency is also free of charge and the transaction is completed instantly. This is useful when travelling together with someone and you need to split the amount of your spending. You can use a Wise debit card free of charge while abroad only if you choose to pay in the local currency from which the transaction will be deducted from the held money in your account.
Curve is a payment card that allows you to add different credit and debit cards to your Curve account and easily switch from one payment card to another where you want the transaction to be charged. Unlike Wise, Curve has 4 different subscriptions and depending on your subscription, Curve allows withdrawal of up to 200 euros/pounds from your credit cards each calendar month. This applies to the basic Curve subscription. The upper withdrawal limit from foreign ATMs free of charge for better subscriptions can be as high as 400 - 600 euros/pounds. The card user will be charged a 2% fee for any more withdrawals. It is important to understand that while adding/linking your payment cards to your Curve account, it is important to be aware of fees from these card issuers when making cash withdrawals. The benefit of free-of-charge withdrawals from foreign ATMs with a Curve card will be realized only if the underlying card issuer does not charge for ATM withdrawals. For ATM withdrawals and purchases made abroad with a Curve card, Curve does the currency exchange for you at a wholesale rate and Curve does not add any additional fees. Hence, even if your credit card allows withdrawal from foreign ATMs free of charge, card issuers ask for commission fees for currency conversations which is not the case with Curve, with no commission fees.
Both Curve and Wise offer cheap currency conversions. Despite that, cards complete each other. Curve card has many nice features for travellers and Wise is a perfect application to hold money in different currencies and receive bank transfers. We recommend having them both but they are not advised to be used together.
Is Wise Safe?
The answer is yes. Since Wise is not a bank, it has no government guarantee for the money. Wise keeps funds in traditional banks but these funds are separated from Wise's own money. Therefore, even if Wise declares bankruptcy, customers' money would still be kept in custodial banks in separate accounts. The money can only be lost if the banks holding the money become insolvent which happens very rarely.
Since the Wise Visa card is a debit card and not a credit card, you can never spend more money than what you have in your Wise accounts. This is why the Wise Visa Card is very safe for anyone as there is no risk of overspending more than the money you have in your Wise accounts.
In this Wise review, we rate Wise as a 5-star application for travellers. The service is affordable and does not have recurring fees. Currency conversions are cheap, exchange rates are better and you can hold money in different currencies in your Wise bank accounts and spend them later. In addition, you can spend money easily with a Wise debit card.
- What is Wise?
- Wise is a service to make cross-border money transfers, hold money in different currencies and spend it with a Wise debit card.
- Is Wise only a money transfer service?
- No, it is not. See the previous answer.
- Is using a Wise debit card free?
- Paying with a Wise debit card does not cost anything. However, if a currency conversion is needed, there is a small fee.
- Can I hold different currencies in a Wise account?
- Yes, you can exchange currencies whenever the rate is good and hold the money in your Wise accounts.
- How does Wise make money?
- There are fees to add money to your Wise accounts. Also, currency conversion costs.
- Why use Wise?
- There are two natural reasons: It is practical and the fees involved are really low. The fees involved are clear and transparent.
Having tried different international money transfer companies, Wise's exchange rate has always been the best in the market while currency conversion fees are lower than that of conventional banks. We use Wise Debit cards always when we are travelling and whenever there is a need to make a money transfer to a foreign account, we do the money transfer via Wise. The Wise app which is available on Google Play and Apple Store is very user-friendly for managing your Wise account. One can open for free a multi-currency Wise account which you can top up for future use or accept payments with different currencies. Therefore, we highly recommend using a Wise Debit Visa Card for travelling as it has low conversion fees and zero transaction fees while paying in the local currency of your destination from your multi-currency account.
Curve is another practical card for travellers. Both Wise and Curve card gives benefits to travellers and nomads in different ways so we highly recommend having them both.
Are you already using Wise? Share your thoughts below.
We have been following the travel industry for years, while travelling in Finland, in various regions of Europe and Asia. Our multicultural background with the extensive travel experience gives us a diverse perspective. We encourage individuals embark on high-quality yet sustainable journeys. Furthermore, we are thrilled to introduce the captivating beauty of our homeland, Finland.