Wise Money Transfer Review: Low Fees, Great Service

Written by Jordan BlansitUpdated: 29th Sep 2021
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Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, is an international money transfer service that specializes in currency conversions.

Currently, the service supports around 80 countries and more than 50 conversions, and you can add money to your account in 19 supported currencies.

Plus, Wise offers some of the best exchange rates on the market, making it quick and inexpensive to send money internationally.

Wise Money Transfer Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Low-cost international transfers and currency exchanges
  • Delivery within minutes when using debit or credit cards
  • No exchange rate markups. Wise targets the midmarket rate, which is the exchange rate that big banks use when swapping currencies amongst each other
  • Full-featured Apple and Android mobile apps
  • Usually cheaper than other payment or currency conversion services

Cons:

  • Bank account-funded transfers can take 7+ business days
  • Wire transfers may incur additional bank charges
  • Limited phone support
  • No cash or checks allowed
  • Recipient must have a bank account (or Borderless Account) to receive funds

What is Wise (Also Known as TransferWise)?

Wise is a peer-to-peer money transfer service built for speed, simplicity, and transparency.

It was founded by two friends in 2010 who were frustrated with the lack of transparency in money transfer charges – and has since grown into a company worth over $13 billion.

Wise offers easy transfers, multiple ways to pay, and a top-notch mobile app that lets you control every step of the conversion process.

The website is clear-cut and straightforward, with a calculator smack-dab on the front page to help you determine various conversion rates and fees.

Add to that a comprehensive FAQs section that’s both well-organized and informative, and you have everything you need to make an informed decision on where to convert your funds – and how much will arrive at its intended destination.

How Does Wise Work?

Wise lets you transfer and convert currencies across international borders with just a few clicks.

After you’ve signed up for an account, it’s just a matter of entering your details, calculating the cost, and funding your transfer.

Wise also guarantees your rates from USD to other currencies once you finalize your transfer – and even lets you cancel wire transfers in progress, so long as the funds haven’t been converted or paid.

When you set up a transfer, you can fund it with a bank account, debit card, or credit card. In fact, Wise lets you set up a variety of payments and conversions, including:

  • Sending funds from your Wise balance
  • Paying with your bank account via ACH, SWIFT, or wire transfers
  • Funding transfers with your debit or credit card, or even Apple Pay or Google Pay

Of course, each payment method comes with its own charges and fees.

And if you fund your account with a credit card, your provider may opt to charge your card as a cash advance rather than a service payment, which can lead to higher interest rates.

Typically, bank payments will have the lowest fees, while debit cards toe the middle.

And keep in mind that Wise only supports receiving funds in a checking or savings account direct deposit, with no cash pickup option available.

How to Send Money with Wise

Sending money with Wise is fairly easy, but the verification process can take a few minutes even after you’ve set up your account. To get started with Wise:

  • Set up an online account at wise.com
  • Initiate a transfer and confirm how much money will arrive in your recipient’s account using their built-in calculator
  • Submit copies of your ID for verification
  • Add in the bank details of the person receiving funds, such as a sort code or routing number and account number
    • Depending on the countries or currencies involved, Wise might ask instead for a SWIFT code or IBAN instead
  • Double-check the summary and confirm your transfer request
  • Pay for your transfer
  • Use Wise’s transaction tracking tool to keep an eye on your money

Note that if you don’t know the bank details of the person receiving money, you can use the Wise “Money to Email” service, which lets you enter your recipient’s email address so Wise can contact them directly.

Wise Money Transfer Features and Benefits

Robust Privacy and Security

Wise is regulated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States, as well as other regulatory agencies around the world.

Plus, it uses up-to-date encryption for your peace of mind – and financial security.

Easily Send Money Internationally

As a service designed to send money internationally, Wise simplifies the process. All you need is your login, identification, and recipient’s banking details to initiate a currency conversion and transfer.

Receive Payments in Local Currency

Wise lets users convert payments from their currency into the recipient’s currency before initiating a transfer.

As such, if you’re on the receiving end of a Wise transaction, you’ll receive money in your local currency, without having to pay for an exchange yourself.

Low, Low Fees

Wise offers some of the lowest fees in currency exchange. And because they only charge the mid-market exchange rate, you don’t have to worry about paying excessive margin costs.

Wise also lets you know upfront how much you’ll pay to convert currencies before you agree to the transfer.

Moreover, rate shoppers can use their Fee Calculator to see the real cost of using the service without needing an account.

Multi-Currency Account

The Wise Borderless Account is a multi-currency account that lets you hold up to 40 different currencies in one place.

Here, you can convert currencies, receive payments, send transfers, and even open local bank accounts in 8 countries spanning the globe.

Best of all, the Wise Borderless Account comes with no foreign transaction fees, monthly, or annual fees for regular use, nor charges to spend currencies already in your account.

That said, you will incur between 0.35% to 3% fees for converting between currencies in your account or sending money overseas.

And if you hold more than 15,000 euros in your EUR balance, Wise charges 0.40% annually.

Convert and Hold Currencies

The Wise Borderless Account also lets you easily exchange and hold currencies in your Wise account.

You can convert between dozens of currencies at the real exchange rate, including the Euro, British pound, Japanese yen, and United States, Australian, and New Zealand dollars, to name a few.

Wise Spend Card

Additionally, Wise offers a debit Mastercard that links to your Borderless account.

You can spend money anywhere that Mastercard, Apple Pay, or Google Pay are accepted with no foreign transaction charges.

But you are limited to $100 in fee-free ATM withdrawals every 30 days.

Capable of Sending Large Sums

Another benefit to Wise is their excessively high transfers limits – though you may pay more in fees when you reach the upper end. Currently, Wise lets you send up to:

  • $2,000 USD per 24 hours and $8,000 per 7 days using debit or credit cards
  • $15,000 USD per day using ACH transfer
  • $1 million USD per local transfer
  • $1.6 million USD per SWIFT transfer

However, some states and territories have different regulations. For instance, if you live in Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, or the Virgin Islands, you’re limited to $10,000 per day using ACH transfers and $250,000 USD annually – and you can’t send via debit or credit card.

Awesome Mobile App & Website Experience

Every single feature and benefit that Wise offers is available on their easy-to-use app.

Convert currencies, manage your Borderless Account, check exchange rates, receive instant notifications on current and pending activities, and more.

Wise Money Transfer Fees Explained

Wise aims to keep fees low by charging a service fee, rather than a margin rate, comprised of a fixed charge plus a percentage of the amount that you send.

Your exact cost will depend on your method of payment – for instance, card payments usually cost more than bank transfers – as well as the currencies you’re converting.

Typically, fees range between 0.5% and 1%, plus a $1 to $2 fixed fee, for non-card payments.

If you choose to pay with a debit or credit card, you can expect to add between 0.2% and 4% to your cost based on your location, whether you’re using a personal or business card, and if you’re depositing funds in your Borderless Account.

Fortunately, you have Wise’s handy-dandy fee calculator to break down the cost of every transaction before you start.

How to Set Up a Wise Account

Setting up a Wise account is a quick affair. Simply go to the Wise signup page and enter your desired email address and a secure password.

Alternatively, you can use your Apple, Google, or Facebook account to sign up. Then, it’s just a matter of verifying your email and following the instructions on the page.

Note, however, that Wise may ask for identifying documents at two points: when you first sign up and when you make a transfer.

Typically, you’ll need to provide a photo ID and a proof of address, such as your:

  • Photo passport, driver’s license, or state ID
  • Immigration ID or residence permit
  • U.S. military ID

Depending on the ID you provide, you may also need to include a bank or credit card statement, utility bill, or piece of government mail to prove your address, too.

How Does Wise Compare to Other Money Transfer Services?

#1. Wise vs. PayPal

Compared to Wise, PayPal is a larger company with a more complicated fee structure.

Additionally, some types of PayPal transfers are slower and more expensive, as the company uses a retail exchange rate instead of the live exchange rate.

But like Wise, PayPal’s fee structure varies slightly depending on the type of transaction and where you’re sending funds.

#2. Xoom vs. Wise

Xoom is a money transfer specialist acquired by PayPal in 2015. You can send funds to 159 countries across the globe, giving it twice the reach of Wise.

Additionally, Xoom offers multiple payout options and comparable or lower fees – though it also charges an exchange rate markup.

#3. OFX vs. Wise

OFX works similarly to Wise: you can exchange around 55 currencies and fund your account via transfers or linked bank accounts.

While there are no fees on transfers, OFX’s third-party bank partners might deduct extra fees.

Additionally, OFX doesn’t reveal upfront how much you’ll pay for international transfers and maintains a high minimum limit of $1,000 USD.

#4. Wise vs. Western Union

Western Union offers faster transfer speeds, more delivery methods, more countries, and more currencies than Wise.

But their fees range from $5 to $45 per transfer with an exchange rate markup up to 6% over the midmarket rate.

#5. MoneyGram vs. Wise

MoneyGram is the world’s second-largest money transfer company.

They offer mobile, online, bank, and deposit transfers, though exchange rates of 1-5% above average market prices make them one of the most expensive in the business.

That said, MoneyGram serves more rural communities and offers transfers in just minutes.

TransferWise Review FAQs

Is It Safe to Use TransferWise?

Yes! Wise is regulated by a multitude of local and international agencies around the world and uses up-to-date encryption to safeguard your financial security.

Will My Bank Charge Me for Using TransferWise?

Your bank won’t charge you for using Wise’s services. But you may have to pay extra bank fees through Wise if you have to use a SWIFT transaction.

Is It Free to Use TransferWise?

Nope! Wise charges fees for converting currencies, receiving wire transfers, holding large balances in your Borderless Account, and ordering a debit card.

Do I Have to Tell My Bank I Am Using TransferWise?

Nope – unless you plan on making a large transaction, that is. It’s always best to inform your bank when you send or spend amounts over a few hundred dollars to ensure they don’t lock your account.

Bottom Line: TransferWise Review

Wise is a peer-to-peer money transfer and currency exchange service built on transparency and low fees. Even as a new company, Wise has emerged as one of the best ways to send money.

While a few competitors may offer faster transfers, more market exposure, or lower upfront fees, they also tend to use an exchange margin rate to increase their profits – or pass your funds through third-party banks that bilk your funds.

And while it’s not a fully comprehensive service, as it doesn’t serve the majority of markets or currencies, Wise does offer easy transfers, multiple ways to pay, and a top-notch mobile app to fund transfers on the go.

Jordan Blansit
Jordan Blansit

Jordan Blansit is a Senior Writer, Researcher, & Product Analyst for SimpleMoneyLyfe with an inexplicable predilection for mortgages, investing, and personal finance. When she’s not click-clacketing from the comfort of her living room, you can find her in the California Redwoods or Oregon Siskiyous. Jordan’s areas of expertise are mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, and investing.