TransferWise Review

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Updated on Friday, June 12, 2020

TransferWise is an online money transfer service whose key area of expertise is international money transfers. In addition to wire transfers, which are a secure method of electronically transferring funds directly from bank to bank, Transferwise also processes transfers via automated clearing house (ACH), debit cards and credit cards.

The primary goal of Transferwise is to make payments or conversions from one currency to another fast, cheap and accessible. With its dynamic, real-time currency rates and the relatively recent additions of the Transferwise debit card and borderless account features, the company is a strong competitor in the international money transfer space.

What is TransferWise?

Via a variety of services, Transferwise facilitates the movement of money from one country to another, converting the currency along the way. If you’re sending money from the U.S., for example, you can input the amount you want to send in dollars and it could arrive in the local currency of a foreign bank halfway around the globe in a matter of minutes.

Here are the primary features that TransferWise offers:

  • Money transfers via wire, ACH, debit card or credit card
  • International debit card
  • “Borderless,” multi-currency account
  • Business account

The main role of Transferwise is to send international money transfers via a variety of funding sources. TransferWise wire transfers are easy to make either online or via the mobile app.

While international money transfers are fairly self-explanatory, Transferwise’s additional features are a bit unique. Its borderless account allows you to get paid in local currency from over 30 countries, and you can hold over 40 different types of currency in your single account. The debit card that comes with the account, although currently only available in certain regions and countries, allows you to spend in local currency at the current exchange rate.

TransferWise also offers a business version of its multi-currency account, which you can use to buy inventory, pay invoices or handle payroll in over 50 currencies at the current exchange rate.

Is TransferWise a good money transfer service to use?

Your needs as a user will help define whether or not TransferWise is the right money transfer service for you. Here are some of the most apparent pros and cons.

Pros

  • Real currency exchange rate: Some money transfer services shave a fee off of the real-time currency exchange rate, in addition to charging a fee. TransferWise publishes the live market rates for every currency pair and transfers at the current mid-market rate.
  • Multiple funding options: You can transfer money via four options: bank account (ACH) transfer, wire transfer, debit card or credit card. Although fees and transfer speed vary for each option, you can choose the payment method that best suits your needs.
  • Complementary features: In addition to its core money transfer service, TransferWise offers supplementary services that can enhance the TransferWise experience. If you get paid in foreign currencies, for example, the borderless account and debit card are great ways to deposit and access those funds with a minimal amount of conversion or processing fees.

Cons

  • Small transfers can be expensive: Since TransferWise charges a flat fee in addition to a percentage of the amount transferred, the total fee is proportionally more for small transfers. Competitor services that only charge a percentage of the amount transferred may offer lower rates for smaller transfers.
  • No banking or savings component: Although TransferWise does offer a debit card, it doesn’t offer a true bank account. You can’t write checks or earn interest on the account either.
  • Some transfers can take days: Depending on the particulars of your transfer, converting your money can take as long as two business days. The countries you’re sending money to and from, your method of transfer, the time of your transaction and whether or not your transfer requires additional verification can all play a role in the speed of your transfer.

How does TransferWise work?

You can open an account for free and get a TransferWise login either online or via the TransferWise app. Just like when you open a bank account, you’ll have to verify your identity before using TransferWise. Identity verification can take two to three business days. The specific type of verification requested may vary based on the number, type, currency and size of your transactions.

You may have to send or show any of the following:

  • A valid ID document, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • A valid proof of residence document, such as a utility bill, bank statement or vehicle registration
  • Selfie verification, while holding ID

For very large transfers — more than 80,000 GBP, for example — you may be asked for documentation about the source of your funds. Other additional requirements or restrictions may apply; for example, some countries or currencies may require additional identification or proof of identity.

For some transfers below 15,000 EUR, TransferWise may be able to automatically verify your identity, with no ID or address verification needed.

How long does a transfer take?

The amount of time a transfer takes will ultimately depend on factors like the amount of money and where it’s going, though bank debit can be the slowest of TransferWise’s payment methods. For some currencies, bak debit transfers can arrive the same business day, sometimes in a matter of hours. In contrast, transfers funded via credit card may arrive nearly instantaneously.

For example, a bank debit transfer of $1,000 USD to GBP costs $9.04 and can take one business day, while a similar transfer using a credit card costs $42.01 but is funded in seconds. You’ll always receive an estimate from TransferWise before you enter your transfer.

Where can you send money with TransferWise?

TransferWise currently offers funds transfer to 58 countries and the Eurozone. If you want to send money to a country not currently supported by TransferWise, you can vote for a currency you’d like to nominate.

How much money can you send?

Your TransferWise sending limit varies based on the currency you are using. Here are some sample limits, by currency:

  • U.S. dollars: $1 million per transfer
  • Great British pounds: 1 million pounds per transfer
  • Euros: 1.2 million euros per transfer
  • Philippine pesos: 480,000 pesos to bank accounts, or 100,000 pesos to mobile wallets

Some countries may also require additional documentation for transfers of higher amounts — when sending money to Brazil, for example, you may need it to send any amount over $10,000.

TransferWise fees and exchange rate

The strength of the Transferwise ecosystem is that your money is always converted at the then-current market rate. Some other money transfer services not only charge services fees but also shave a percentage off the true market exchange rate. The TransferWise exchange rate is constantly updated on the firm’s website in real time, so you’ll always know the exact rate you’re getting before you decide to make a transfer.

Since Transferwise doesn’t take a cut from the market exchange rate, it does charge service fees on transfers. The company prides itself on being transparent about its fees, and indeed, if you enter a sample transfer amount and choose the currencies you’d like to use, the total fee appears on the company’s website.

However, TransferWise rates are not flat across all transactions. The cost of your transfer varies based on the amount you’re sending, how you’re paying and the current exchange rate. Here’s an example of how TransferWise fees vary based on different amounts and different currencies:

TransferWise Sample Fee Calculation
Sending $1,000 USDRecipient Currency: Euro
Fee Amount
Recipient Currency: Yen
Fee Amount
Bank Debit (ACH)$3.49$3.49
Wire Transfer$5.34$5.34
Debit Card$12.35$12.35
Credit Card$36.61$36.61
Transferwise Service Fee$5.53$9.40
Total Fees$9.02-$42.14$12.89-$46.01
Currency Conversion Rate0.92265106.335
Amount Recipient Receives914.33104,984
As of 12:53 a.m. ET May 6, 2020

Although there is no one flat fee for a TransferWise money transfer, it’s easy to manipulate the drop-down menus to choose your type of transfer to see instantly how much your transfer might cost. Since there is a flat fee involved on top of a percentage of the amount transferred, large transfers incur lower costs on a relative basis than smaller ones.

Is TransferWise safe?

TransferWise provides bank-level security and never sells customer data. The service moves over 4 billion British pounds monthly and employs an in-house data security team to comply with regulatory requirements in every country in which it operates, from FCA in the UK to FinCen in the United States. Customers can choose to use two-step login to access Transferwise, in which case an online login must be approved via either the TransferWise app or with a code by SMS or phone call.

As a regulated financial institution, TransferWise does store your data for six years in most countries, and for up to seven years in Australia and up to 10 years in Japan.

TransferWise provides extensive information about every aspect of its service on its website. If you’d like to contact TransferWise support directly, you can either send an email via the site or call. For phone service, you’ll have to use the number from one of 14 countries listed on the website. In the U.S., you can reach TransferWise customer service at (888) 908-3833 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Alternative money transfer options to TransferWise

Western Union

Western Union began sending electronic money transfers in 1871 and is now one of the largest money transfer services in the world, having moved over $300 billion in 2018 alone. Users can send funds online or from agent locations via a number of funding sources. Recipients can pick up transfers in cash at agent locations or receive the funds directly in their bank accounts or mobile wallets.

How long does a transfer take?

Via Western Union’s Money in Minutes or Mobile Money Transfer Services, funds can be available for recipients in a matter of minutes. Direct-to-bank transfers generally take between two and five business days. A next day service is also available.

Where can you send money?

Western Union has over 500,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries.

How much can you send?

Sending limits at Western Union vary based on a number of factors, including:

  • Your transfer history and location
  • The recipient’s location
  • Your method of payment
  • The service selected
  • Agent location limits
  • Country recipient limits

Next-day and mobile money transfers typically have limits of $500. In Minutes, Three Day and WU® Pay transactions carry a $2,999 limit per transfer. Online FX international payments have a $10,000 per-transaction limit, although that can be raised. When using the online transfer money transfer service, some recipients, such as the United Kingdom, show transfer limits of up to $50,000. Phone transactions have a limit of between $300 and $2,500. Agent locations typically don’t have a limit as to how much you can send, although countries may limit the amount that can be received.

How much are fees to send money?

Western Union charges service fees on top of adjusting the current exchange rate to its advantage. Your method of payment, including whether your transaction is conducted online or in a Western Union office, will also affect the fee.

Like TransferWise, there is no uniform fee for all transactions, so you’ll have to enter the particulars of your specific money transfer to determine how much it will cost. For example, sending $1,000 online to the Philippines has no fee for bank transfers, a $2.99 fee for debit card transfers and a $29.99 fee for credit card transfers, in addition to a trimming of the current exchange rate. However, making the same transfer in cash at a store incurs a $12 transfer fee, but boosts the exchange rate.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram is the second-largest money transfer company in the world. It traces its roots back to 1940, although the company formally known as MoneyGram has only existed since 1998. Currently, MoneyGram has approximately 350,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries. Along with Western Union, it is one of TransferWise’s main competitors.

How long does a transfer take?

Money sent to a bank account can be received in as little as one hour in countries such as China or Mexico, while same-day transfers are usually available for Brazil or the Philippines. For most other countries, funds will be accessible by the next business day. Mobile wallet transfers to countries including Romania, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya can be received in a matter of minutes.

Where can you send money?

MoneyGram offers transfers to over 200 countries. To see if your desired country is eligible, either initiate a transfer or estimate fees on the MoneyGram website.

How much can you send?

For most countries, you can send the equivalent of $10,000 online. Limits can be higher at individual agent locations.

How much are fees to send money?

As with TransferWise and Western Union, Moneygram’s fees vary from transaction to transaction based on the amount you’re sending, the payment method used and the destination country. Notably, fees are generally cheaper when sending from a U.S. bank account, while using a credit or debit card costs more. Using the same $1,000 USD to Philippine pesos example above, the MoneyGram fee for an online bank account transfer for cash pickup would cost $4.99, plus a currency conversion fee (in this specific transaction example, at time of writing, it was about 3%), while it could be $14.99 if paid for with a debit or credit card.

Any fees mentioned in the article are accurate as of June 12, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.

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