If you know me…
You’ll know that I hate paying huge foreign transaction fees. It’s one of the reasons we started using Wise.
We’ve been using Wise (formerly TransferWise) for over 3 years.
It offers many features that will benefit any digital nomad, traveler or expat. On the surface, it looks almost too good to be true.
But what is it really like when using Wise for everyday transactions and transfers?
Here is my complete Wise Review as a full-time digital nomad.
Wise Review – Global International Bank Transfer
Wise has quickly become a big player in the digital banking world.
Wise has about 12 million customers worldwide that send over $8 billion a month. That’s quite a lot of money to manage.
Wise saves customers about $4 million per month compared to using a regular bank. You can see why lots of people and businesses have jumped onto the Wise train.
All of this is done at well-above industry transfer times.
What Is Wise?
Wise is an online digital bank that allows you to easily make international transfers and transactions at the international mid-market rate.
A mid-market rate is a middle point between the buy and sell prices of any two currencies. Because this changes constantly, Wise also updates its exchange rates in real time.
Wise used to be called TransferWise but in 2021 changed its name to simply – Wise.
Based in London, Wise was founded in 2011 with the goal of making international transfers cheaper. Now they have evolved into offering debit cards and even business accounts.
But Wise isn’t actually a bank…
It’s a financial technology (fintech) company that operates as a bank. Being a fintech company allows them to offer market-rate transfers with very low fees.
How Does Wise Work?
The key to Wise success is transparency.
You can always go directly to their website to see the current exchange rate for any currency. Wise also includes a small fee on top of this, which they will show you.
You create an account, choose the currency you want to transfer in, and add your recipient’s bank details. Once you complete the transfer, Wise will send the money in your chosen currency directly to the recipient’s bank.
The benefit here is that Wise doesn’t hold onto your money.
Traditional banks tend to hold money for 1-2 business days before transferring. This is especially true for international transfers.
Any money you send or receive through Wise is immediately deposited. What does this really mean?
The other day I changed my AUD to EUR to pay a deposit for a Coliving space in Lisbon, Portugal. Within minutes of sending the money, it was deposited directly into the account of the Coliving space.
My traditional Australian bank would have taken 4 to 5 business days to do the same thing. Not to mention…
They would have charged about 5 times in Fees and offered a worse exchange rate.
Wise Review Of Top Features
Considering signing up for wise?
Here is a review of the top wise features.
Wise Money Transfers
Wise was initially launched to compete against companies like Western Union, XOOM and PayPal.
But after blowing them out of the water, Wise evolved into a digital bank and expanded its services.
There are tons of digital banks out there such as Revolut and N26. So what makes Wise different?
Two words – Money transfers.
While most digital banks offer money transfers in tons of different currencies, Wise is one of the fastest and most transparent. There are no hidden fees and they give you accurate estimates as to when the money will arrive.
Here’s what I mean:
When you make an international money transfer in Wise, they will tell you approximately how many “hours” (or even minutes) it will take for the money to arrive. This is different from most banks, where they give you a blanket 1 to 3+ business days.
Another huge benefit when making international transfers is how Wise details exactly where your money is. You’ll see how the transfer is going at each step of the process.
The transparency that Wise offers is second to none. It takes the scariness out of international bank transfers!
Wise allows you to make maximum transfers of up to $1,000,000 per day. The minimum transfer amount is just $1.
Real Exchange Rates
Do you make a lot of foreign transactions?
The truth is that regular banks love it when you make transactions in foreign currencies.
Because they make a small fortune from it. You have to pay a:
- Foreign transaction fee
- Currency exchange fee
- Exchange commission fee
You end up paying an extra 4%-5% in fees for every foreign transaction you make. They can also charge the vendor you pay a 1%-2% fee to facilitate the transaction.
The worst part?
These fees are usually hidden. Traditional banks are not very upfront about the amount of money they make from international transfers.
But don’t be fooled…
The cost that banks charge you doesn’t accurately represent the cost they incur to facilitate the transaction. International transfers are very profitable for most banks.
Ready for some good news?
Wise doesn’t charge a currency exchange fee or take a commission from currency exchanges. They only charge a small (usually a few cents) fee to make the transaction.
This will save you a ton of money when making transactions overseas or direct depositing money into foreign bank accounts.
Wise Multi-Currency Account
Another huge feature is the Wise multi-currency account.
Wise gives you the ability to get local bank details in 10 different currencies. This includes:
- British Pound
- US Dollar
- Australian Dollar
- Canadian Dollar
What’s the benefit of this?
You can receive money like a local and then transfer and hold that money in 50+ different currencies.
For example, let’s say you have a client in the US but live in the UK. If they used a traditional bank to transfer you from their US account to your UK account, you both pay significant fees.
But if the client transfers to your Wise US account, it costs you and them nothing. It’s like it was a local bank transfer.
You can then simply exchange the USD for GBP. All of this is done by Wise and you save a ton of money – so does your client!
It’s important to note these aren’t actual bank account details.
Being a fintech company, Wise deals with real banks in specific countries. The bank provides account details and Wise handles the transfers. But the benefit is your local bank details operate like real local accounts.
We personally take advantage of Wise to make direct deposits for monthly rentals as we travel as digital nomads. This often gets us a better price for the month.
We also have a Wise Business Account to pay contractors in other countries. We use the Wise Business Debit card to pay for tools and software online that’s in a foreign currency.
It’s fast, simple and saves us lots in fees!
Spend Money In Any Local Currency
As digital nomads, we make many transactions every day in foreign countries.
This can be anything from buying a coffee at a local cafe to paying for a week’s groceries. Depending on the location, we make about 90+ transactions per month!
We would pay a considerable amount in fees and exchange rates using our traditional banks back home.
Wise allows you to spend money on their debit card in over 175+ countries at the real exchange rate. You can pay in the local currency with minimal fees.
You’ll also get instant notifications every time you spend which helps you track each purchase as well as increases security. I love that the notification displays both the local currency you paid in and your home currency as well!
It’s super easy to add money to your Wise account and start spending wherever we happen to be.
This alone makes it a no-brainer.
Wise Debit Cards
Wise Debit Cards are only available in a handful of countries/regions.
While Wise accounts are available in over 60+ countries, the debit cards are only available in:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- European Economic Area (EEA)
- Australia & New Zealand
- Singapore & Malaysia
If you come from one of those countries/regions, you can open a Wise account and get a free debit card. The card usually arrives within 5-7 business days.
What are the features of the card?
First of all, it looks pretty cool!
The Wise debit card comes in a neon green which makes it stand out. We often see someone using the card as we travel around.
Second of all, it comes with some essential features such as:
- Contactless payment (PayWave)
- Apple & Google pay
This makes it an excellent debit card for almost anything, including online transactions.
Wise is accepted pretty much everywhere. Although in some cases we haven’t been able to use the card.
You usually get a little notification that says something like – “Wise can not be used at this location.”
Sometimes the card isn’t compatible with the merchant’s payment platform. At this point, you’ll have to use another card which is why we have a second digital bank in Revolut.
If you are interested in learning more about Revolut, check out our full Revolut Review.
As digital nomads, we sometimes end up in locations where debit and credit card isn’t widely accepted.
This was especially true when we spent a couple of months as digital nomads in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Only a couple of Lake Atitlan restaurants accepted cards for payment, but they often waked a solid fee on top, which made it not worth it.
That meant we had to regularly head to the local ATM to withdraw cash.
If you know me, you’ll know that I hate paying ATM fees…
Wise allows you to Withdraw from over 3 million ATMs worldwide for free up to a specific limit depending on where your card is issued.
These are the Wise free ATM Withdrawl limits:
- UK – Up to £200 per month
- Europe – Up to €200 per month
- United States – Up to $100 USD
- Australia – Up to $350 AUD per month
- Canada – Up to $350 CAD per month
After reaching your ATM withdrawal limit, you’ll have to pay a fee of 1.5% to 2%, depending on your home country. There is also a fixed fee between $0.5 to $1.50 per ATM withdrawal.
The limits aren’t that high, but you will still be saving money compared to a traditional bank – even with the fee.
It’s completely possible to change the maximum withdrawal amount per day and month. This is a simple security feature that is easily updated within the app itself.
Note: ATMs usually charge their own fees on top. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do about that.
If you’ve ever been to Thailand…
You’ll know how painful they can be!
Wise Customer Service
Customer service is important for any bank.
It’s even more important for digital banks that don’t have a physical location.
Wise has a few ways to get in contact with them. Wise customer support is convenient and they make it super easy to talk with their team.
You can contact Wise through:
- Phone – Monday to Friday
- Email – 1-day replies
- Live Chat – Limited times through the Wise app
I have used all methods and depending on the time pressure of the situation, usually, live chat through the Wise app works best. The customer support team will respond within 3-5 minutes which is pretty efficient.
After getting locked out of my account one time (my fault) I had to talk with the customer service team on the phone. They helped verify my account and get me back in quickly.
Overall I would say that their customer service is pretty good. In my experience, they solved issues efficiently and were very polite.
Wise Pricing, Rates And Transfer Fees
Opening a Wise account is completely free and getting the Wise debit card delivered is just $9 one-time.
This alone makes it a no-brainer for travelers, digital nomads and expats. Even if you don’t use it a lot, it’s nice to have on hand!
You’ll only pay fees when you actually make the transfers. And they are very low.
Transaction and transfer conversion fees depend on the country in which you are sending money or spending money. It ranges quite a bit, with more developed countries usually costing less.
Here’s a breakdown of the current fees and conversions rates Wise offers at the moment:
|Money Sent||Money Received||Wise Transfer Fee||Fees Saved (compared to traditional banks)|
|🇺🇸 1,000 USD||🇬🇧 764.41 GPB||$6.50 USD||$9.11 USD|
|🇺🇸 1,000 USD||🇲🇽 19,865.66 MXN||$7.52 USD||$11.60 USD|
|🇺🇸 1,000 USD||🇪🇺 920.87 EURO||$6.40 USD||$9.17 USD|
|🇺🇸 1,000 USD||🇦🇺 1,346.67 AUD||$6.49 USD||$12.14 USD|
|🇺🇸 1,000 USD||🇵🇭 52,039.84 PHP||$7.82 USD||$6.53 USD|
|🇺🇸 1,000 USD||🇮🇳 75,872.36 INR||$7.50 USD||$11.05 USD|
You can see that in most cases Wise saves about $9.93 compared to using a traditional bank. Transferring from the UK, Europe Wise and Australia will save you even more!
Regardless Wise is always going to be cheaper than a traditional bank.
I’ve found them about 5x to 9x cheaper than using my home bank in Australia. Transferring $1,000 AUD from my Australian account to a European bank would cost $42.02 AUD in international fees.
Using Wise would cost less than $5 AUD. That’s a huge difference!
Wise Pros And Cons
Wise clearly offers a lot of benefits, but not everything is perfect.
Here are the pros and cons of Wise:
- Low fees make Wise way cheaper than using a traditional bank
- Transparent fee breakdown so you always know what you’ll receive/send
- Get the mid-market exchange rate on all overseas transfers
- High transfer limits – you can send up to $1,000,000 per day
- Fast and efficient international money transfer service – 40% of transfers are instant and 80% are delivered within 24 hours
- Get local bank details in 10 different currencies and hold money in 50+ currencies
- Spend locally in over 50+ currencies and send money to over 175+ countries
- Charge fees for personal transfers in your home currency
- Small limits on ATM withdrawals (especially for the United States)
- No interest-bearing savings accounts (yet)
How To Get Started With Wise
Getting started with Wise is easy.
You can have your account set up and make your first international wire transfer in less than 10 minutes!
- Head over to the Wise sign-up page
- Sign up for an account using your email and a strong password
- Verify your email by clicking on the link sent by Wise
- Next, you’ll need to verify your identity with a valid ID
That’s it! You should be good to go.
Once you have signed up online, get the Wise app! It’s easy to use and allows you to make payments and transfers from your phone.
Wrapping It Up
Wise is an excellent transfer service.
You get fantastic exchange rates that save you tons of money when spending or transferring money overseas.
Wise cards are an extra bonus as they are accepted in over 190+ countries worldwide. This allows you to pay at the real exchange rates and avoid tons of fees.
Probably my favorite Wise feature is the fact that you can hold money in 50+ other currencies. This allows you to exchange money at a favorable time and avoid exchange rate fluctuations.
The best part?
A Wise account is entirely free. This makes it a no-brainer to have on hand whenever you need to use it. The cost you have to pay is $9 USD to get your wise card delivered.
Wise has been so beneficial that we even signed up for a Wise business account. It connects with Quickbooks and Xero and works as efficiently as a Wise personal account. It’s also free!
Ready to get started with Wise? Sign up for a free account now.
If you are a digital nomad and wondering what are the best banks for you to use, check out a complete review of the 9x best banks for digital nomads.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Wise a good app?
Yes, Wise has a great app. It’s secure and easy to use allowing you to make international transfers from your phone. You can manage your entire account from the Wise app and even contact the Wise customer service team.
Is Wise safe?
Yes, Wise is entirely safe. They have over 12 million customers worldwide that transfer over $8 billion a month. On top of that, Wise is regulated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States and other recognized agencies worldwide. Wise uses the latest security within their platform including 2FA by phone number or registered phone.
Why is Wise so cheap?
Wise is cheap because of the way they transfer money. Wise is a peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer service. This allows them to transfer money almost instantly and with extremely low fees. Wise will save you an average of 80% compared to traditional banks.
Can I trust Wise?
Yes, you can definitely trust Wise. They are used by over 12 million users worldwide and process over $8 billion in money transfers every single month. Wise has partnerships with large banks and financial intuitions all over the world. Wise is independently regulated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States.