In today’s interconnected world, one aspect of our lives that has remained remarkably stagnant is banking. Banking is typically very localised, and moving money between countries and financial institutions has always been challenging. In Europe, where UK residents might go on holiday in France or take a contract job in Germany, the ability to spend, send, and receive money in other currencies, like the Euro, is crucial. Launched in 2011, Wise’s mission is to make international money transfers cheap. Have they created the ultimate multi-currency money management tool? Let’s find out in our Wise review!
Wise Review: What Does Wise Provide?
As noted earlier, Wise started as a way to make money transfers cheap. It still does that today. However, along the way, it has become so much more than a money transfer tool.
Wise essentially provides a multi-currency account. It acts like a bank account, but it’s not technically one (we’ll get more into that distinction later in this review). You can hold account balances in any available currency – 53 to date. You can have all the major currencies in your account, like the Euro, US dollar, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, British pound, and Swiss franc. However, you can also hold other currencies, like the Thai baht, Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Nigerian naira, and many more.
The nice thing about Wise is that, unlike some systems, your account balances are independent. As we’ll see later in this review, if, for example, you need to be in New Zealand for work, you can transact exclusively in New Zealand dollars from your account. You can tell your company’s payroll department your account details, and they can pay you in New Zealand dollars. Then, when you’re ready to return to the UK, you could convert all those to pounds and continue back here.
Their multi-currency support is compelling, as no other platform makes it easy to switch back and forth between so many currencies!
Personal accounts also get a debit card. You can use that debit card to purchase anything in those 53 currencies. There are no exchange fees if you have a balance in that currency – the purchase simply deducts from that balance. Suppose you don’t have enough of that particular currency. In that case, the system will automatically find the cheapest conversion path from anyone and initiate the conversion for you to complete the purchase.
The debit card is remarkably freeing. If you frequently travel to other countries, you can buy things without needing to pay the hefty currency conversion fees that traditional banks charge. On a trip to France or Germany, for example, having Wise could save you a significant amount in fees!
One of the sometimes-overlooked features of this debit card is that it’s also compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay. So, when you travel to Germany, you won’t need to switch to a German card on your phone to spend euros. Instead, you can use the same card in your Apple Pay or Google Pay wallet, and it will instantly deduct the transaction from your euro balance!
Although simple, the debit card’s power is quite remarkable!
You can also get “bank details.” These details are like you would have for your local chequing account, except you get these details in 10 different countries. You’ll get your standard UK sort code, account number, and IBAN in the UK. But you’ll also get a routing number and account number for US payments. And you’ll get an institution number, transit number, and account number for Canadian ones.
These details look like traditional financial institutions in those countries. Once you have the US bank details, for example, if you have a job in New York, you can give the payroll department your routing and account number, and they can make deposits to your Wise account in USD. Similarly, if you have kids going to school in Canada, you can use your Wise account to send your kids Canadian dollars at impressively low rates. You could even use your bank details to have them transfer funds directly into their bank account.
Who Should Use Wise?
Traditional banks are not particularly well-equipped for today’s financial world. Especially in the post-COVID era, living and working within one country is not always the norm. People love taking extended vacations. People are also more into freelancing than ever, and sometimes clients aren’t always in the same country. If you freelance from London and have a client from Guildford, having them pay you is trivial. If you got a client from Germany, those payments become a lot more challenging – especially if you’re getting larger contracts (e.g., receiving a 2-month retainer for €20,000 is not something most will put on their credit card!).
Wise makes collecting those payments easy. You can request your bank details, and the client can make the €20,000 transfer to your account! Then, you could convert what you need to convert to pounds to withdraw it. Or, suppose you have subcontractors in France. You could leave the €5,000 required to pay them in euros (avoiding all currency conversion fees!) and withdraw the remaining €15,000 in pounds for yourself.
For families with kids, parents, grandparents, and other relatives residing in a different country, having Wise is invaluable. It makes transferring money cross-border so much cheaper and more accessible!
And, if none of that appeals to you, you can still use Wise like a traditional bank account. You’ll get a debit card and bank details here in the UK for your day-to-day expenses and banking. If you decide to go on holiday, you’ve got an inexpensive and effortless way to pay for goods and services in your destination’s currency!
Wise Review: Fees
Part of what makes Wise such an attractive platform is that it is pretty low-cost overall.
There are no fees to open an account. Getting your bank details is free, and receiving money into any of your bank accounts is also free. You can hold 40+ currencies in your account for free, too.
There are only select times when you pay.
Any Wise account holder will pay fees primarily because they are transferring from one currency to another. Even then, the costs are low, starting at 0.41%. However, it is worth noting that fees do vary quite a bit depending on what currencies you are exchanging. For example, it is only 0.41% to convert GBP to euros. However, converting GBP to Rupees has a 0.56% fee. Converting to a less-common currency, like the Argentinian Peso, has an even higher cost of 1.35%. It can add up, though the prices are often much lower than what you pay with traditional banks.
Wise also charges a one-time fee of £5 to mail out a debit card. Given that one of the most incredible features of Wise is that you can use your debit card to pay with multiple currencies, most people will likely want to pay this relatively low one-time fee.
Finally, ATM withdrawals below £200 per month are free. However, withdrawal amounts above £200 monthly will incur an additional 1.75%. While not too bad, this fee is somewhat unfortunate as another one of the benefits of Wise is that you can use it to receive money in another currency and then withdraw in that currency to spend it. For example, if you’re a freelancer temporarily working for euros, paying an additional 1.75% on those earnings adds up.
All in all, though, the lack of fees on these accounts is remarkable. Wise has to make money, and they make it on ATM withdrawals and currency conversions. But, if you want to receive GBP into your account and buy products in GBP from the store, you can have a Wise account and pay zero fees!
The Wise App
Another reason to use Wise is the app itself. The developers behind the product did a remarkable job, making it remarkably easy to check your card’s balances, get account details, and send and receive money. Of course, you can also convert your currencies all within the app.
Like most apps, it’s available on both Google Android and Apple iOS devices. It is truly a pleasure to use!
Wise Account Review: Sign Up Today!
If you live, work, and travel exclusively in the UK, signing up for a Wise account is probably not essential (it’s a nice-to-have, though, because of the perks). However, as you can see from this Wise review, having a Wise account is almost a no-brainer if you’re planning on living or working abroad or travelling to other countries. Not only does it offer some of the lowest currency conversion fees of any platform, but the debit card (which you can add to both Apple Pay and Google Pay) makes it so easy to switch between one currency and another seamlessly.
And, since the account is free, there’s minimal downside to signing up and paying the £5 for a debit card. You never know when it will come in handy, and having the account open and easy to fund will make things so much easier if you ever find yourself taking a trip to a place that requires a different currency.