Looking for an easy way to receive funds, spend in other currencies, and withdraw cash without big currency transfer fees? Wise has a solution. I’ve been using the currency transfer service to beat the market exchange rate for years so I figured it was high time I wrote a review of the Multi-currency Account (ex-Borderless account). If you’re a digital nomad or you travel a lot, this review will help you decide if the service is for you. Hint: I’m a fan and I use it every month.
The Wise.com (formerly Transferwise) Multi-currency account lets you send and receive money in multiple currencies around the world.
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Note: this product used to be called the Wise Borderless Account but was renamed in 2021. And Transferwise is rebranding to Wise.com ahead of an IPO in 2021
Who can get a multi-currency account?
Accounts are open to everyone but thanks to laws and international regulations. Only some people can apply for accounts in United States Dollars. All European Union or European Economic Area countries are eligible, plus around another 30 countries.
Who would want an account?
The account is aimed at freelancers, travellers, digital nomads, and holidaymakers.
Do you charge clients in a currency other than your bank’s currency? You can save a lot of money with the multi-currency account’s core features.
There’s no catch. You pay a conversion fee, but they are cheaper than with banks and other currency transfer services
Which currencies are supported?
AUD, USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, HUF, RON, SGD, and TRY have full bank account details (account number, address, sort codes, etc). You can hold all of these currencies in your account at the same time.
Fees, Setup Charges, Monthly Charges
The account is free to set up and maintain. Zero maintenance charges.
The exchange rates are very competitive and fees are minimal. In fact, you’ll struggle to find a better deal with other companies. There are no monthly fees to maintain an account.
How to get set up
- Create an account with Wise
- Select a currency (or multiple currencies) and get your bank details
- Add money to your account (via bank transfer or debit card)
Wise and Multi-Currency Account differences
The first is for sending money overseas. The second is a way of holding bank accounts in world currencies in the cloud. You can use these accounts as you would with a regular account in your own country. Pay bills, receive wages, receive client payments, pay for services online with the debit card, and withdraw cash at ATMs at the real exchange rate.
Wise’s flagship product is a currency transfer service that has become one of the most popular in the world. It’s my personal favourite.
The system works like this. Most people use a bank or money transfer service like Western to send money abroad. Fees for doing this kind of transaction are high because international transfers cost a lot of money. At least that’s what they tell us.
Wise offers low-cost fees and better rates because it uses mid-market exchange rates and two-step process. Two transactions happen for each transfer, one currency transaction in each country. In effect, two local transfers – one in your country and one at the receiver’s country.
Local transfers are cheaper than international and they are free in many countries. The savings pass on to you, the consumer.
Wise Multi-currency lets you send and receive money in many currencies around the world.
The two main parts to the service are:
- Currency Conversion
- Sending and receiving money using your currencies.
It’s like your own personal bank accounts around the world.
Banks, for me, are out of touch with the modern world of work. People travel more and expect to collect money in different currencies, charge clients anywhere in the world, and pay fewer fees.
Wise is answering these demands with cloud-based banking technology.
Financial institutions charge us high fees because:
- Fraud protection is expensive
- international banking is expensive
- they can..
Multi-currency Benefits for digital nomads
For Travellers: Exchange money in the app or on the Wise website and use the international debit card to take out local currency without the exchange rate fees. Change what you need and avoid the banks and money changers.
For digital nomads: Imagine having bank accounts all over the world that clients could use to pay you. Instead of requesting that a client pay via international bank transfers or use a credit card, give them your multi-currency account bank details which appear as a local bank to your client. All your client has to do is transfer money to a local bank account. It’s simple. You pay low transaction fees, no currency exchange fees, and nobody gets hit with international money transfer levies. You can open accounts in multiple currencies in multiple countries.
I save time by avoiding banks and worrying about exchange rates (Wise has the best rates 90% of the time in my experience). And I can do everything inside the app on my phone.
As of September 2018) the service offers 40 currencies but this number is increasing.
Want a UK bank business account but live in the US? No problem?
Need a Euro account but living in the UK? It’s as simple to set up as clicking a button.
Let’s say you want to open a bank account in Australia. Might be difficult if you don’t live there, right? Wise lets you open an account in Australia for free. It’s an online account only, but for most of us, that’s sufficient. I can’t remember the last time I went into a physical bank.
Using the Bank Card
Once the funds are in your account, you can spend online using your debit Mastercard. You can also exchange currencies right there in the app.
The mobile app can also be a two-step security device for logging into the service from a desktop. Whenever you log into the app with a desktop browser, your mobile phone app will ask for a verification. This can be as simple as a thumbprint scan on an iPhone or a finger scan-enabled phone.
I have clients in Australia, New Zealand, the US, and the UK. My bank account is in the European Union. But I can receive payments in local currency from each of these clients. If I want to withdraw Euros, I have to exchange the currency. But if I want to use the funds in the target countries (which I do, regularly) Wise charges me nothing (or if anything, very low fees)
I can also withdraw the cash at ATMs anywhere and just pay the withdrawal fee (instead of the exchange fee plus the ATM fee).
Do you use Upwork for freelancing work? Looking for an alternative to Paypal for getting paid in US Dollars? Connect your US dollar account to Upwork and get paid in the local currency.
This isn’t perfect for everyone as some people will want to withdraw most or all of the money they make on Upwork in their own currency. But if you pay for services in dollars and like to hold some cash in that currency, this is a way to do it. Direct deposits to US bank accounts are free so this is another benefit of withdrawing cash in USD.
Of course, you can get paid by Upwork in your local currency via your local ball account. But will you get the best rate? In my experience, it’s a lot better to perform the exchange inside your Wise account. That way you have more control and I guarantee you’ll get better rates.
What the Card is not
It’s not a bank account. It’s an electronic currency account. A place to store money online in various currencies.
Customer service is better than most traditional banks I’ve dealt with and it’s easy to see what you will pay for your “banking” and transfers.
There are no hidden fees or charges. The company isn’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Transparency and simple pricing structures seem are the goals of the company
- It’s free
- Get free banking accounts for major currencies and lots of countries
- Free ATM withdrawals of up to around $250 USD per month
- Some of the best conversion fees around
- Pay online using your Wise debit card
- Hold more than 40 currencies in one account
- Simple to use app that beats anything the banks can offer
- Safe and regulated by the FCA in the UK. Funds are stored in low-risk funds in major financial institutions (banks) separate from the funds Wise uses to operate.
- Send and receive money at the touch of a button. Get paid or receive money from friends and family.
- Offers an API to developers and entrepreneurs for integrating low fee currency exchange rates into their software.
1. You don’t earn interest on money deposited
2. A small fixed fee applies to every withdrawal from a multi-currency account to a non-Wise account.
Debit Mastercard & Security
Wise set the bar high for the competitors with the debit card. A card that can be used anywhere that MasterCard is accepted (almost everywhere) but with multiple currencies is the work of genius.
You can enable and disable features of your ATM card from the app or in your web browser.
Click a button to freeze your card so it can’t be used.
Features of the debit card that you can enable or disable as desired:
- ATM withdrawals
Enable for use in any ATM worldwide. Disabled if you want that extra security when travelling
- Contactless payments
If you’re worried about someone stealing and using your card in stores, disable the contactless payments option.
- Online transactions
Turn off online payments if online credit card fraud is a concern.
- You can also enable or disabled Chip and PIN payments and Magstripe Payments on the card.
The phone app lets you freeze your ATM card with the touch of a button. You can also reveal your PIN in case you’ve forgotten it and edit your spending limits.
You can set 24-hour limits or 30-day limits for withdrawals, general card usage and limits for all the features listed above. The app shows how much you’ve got let to withdraw that month before fees are charged.
Wise received a 280 Million dollar investment at the end of 2017. And the business is profitable. So I expect the company to be around for a long time. Your money is stored in a regulated financial institution in the UK that is not connected to Wise’s operating funds.
If I could invest, I would.
As a digital nomad banking solution, nothing really touches the service. Alternative services include Revolut. My experiences with Revolut have been all negative and I cannot recommend the service as an alternative.
There’s PayPal, but I have a love/hate relationship with the service. My love for the originality of PayPal’s product turned to hate (too strong?) over the years thanks to their eagerness to block my funds, take large fees, and provide one of the worst customer service systems on the internet. I try not to use PayPal, but in a pinch, I use it.
N26 is another “alternative”. I use the word in inverted commas because many people compare the services and recommend one as an alternative to the other. But I think you can use N26 and Wise together. The former is a bank and the latter is a currency transfer service with some banking facilities. You can transfer money with N26 and in fact you do this directly in the N26 banking app using Wwise. They work well together. Sign up fr N26 in Europe, USA, and Brazil here.
Give Wise a try. It’s free and easy to set up. You’ll love it once you see the money you save.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Wise a bank?
Wise is not a bank. The multi-currency accounts that you can open inside the platform are based on virtual addresses for your main accounts. They are not real bank account numbers although they perform in exactly the same way.
Is it safe to use Wise?
It is safe to use the service as it falls under the same regulations as other banks and financial businesses. The Financial Conduct Authority in the UK authorised Wise to issue electronic money in 2011. It is not a scam (as some internet trolls have alleged). It’s a legitimate fintech company valued at over $5 Billion dollars thanks to investment in 2020. The business has its headquarters in London, UK and is one of the most valuable fintech companies in Europe. The company must follow the rules of financial conduct or face suspension from trading. It now was over 10 million customers (2021).
Is it safe for large amounts?
Yes, it is. The financial backing of the platform means that large amounts of money can be safely transferred without incurring huge fees and has the same protection as regular banks.
Does Wise offer direct debit payment options?
If you have accounts in EURO or GBP, you can set up direct debits. Customers in the United States cannot avail of this service as of yet.
What is customer support like?
In my experience, customer support is really good. There’s a live chat option in the help centre and you can email support anytime. Expect a reply in 24 hours.