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17 February, 2020 / Mon, 3:25 am

Date: 02.08.2019.

TransferWise - cheap, fast way to send money abroad

Join over 5 million people who get the real exchange rate

transferwise
transferwise

Pros

  • Easy online account setup
  • No minimum transfer amount
  • Low, transparent fees
  • Offers mid-market exchange rates with no markup
  • Robust transfer funding options
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Slower transfers than traditional services
  • No local cash pickup option
  • Occasional account terminations

Overview

TransferWise is an international money transfer service that was established in 2011 by two Estonians living in the United Kingdom. The company’s main headquarters is currently in London, but they have already announced their intention to relocate to the European continent due to the Brexit decision. TransferWise has US offices in both New York City and Tampa, Florida, as well as other overseas locations that include Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Tallinn, Estonia.

The company grew out of its founders’ need to move money back and forth between the UK and their home country, and their frustration with the expensive fees and high exchange rates charged by the banks and other money transfer services. They offer a unique approach to money transfers that eliminates actual currency conversions and minimizes the cost to send or receive money.

Let’s say you need to send a payment from the United States to a vendor in the European Union. The payment from your bank will, naturally, be in US dollars, but the vendor needs to receive payment in Euros. Traditional money transfer services will first deduct a service fee, then use a bank to perform the currency conversion, and then finally deliver whatever is left to your intended recipient. In addition to possibly being charged a wire transfer fee by your bank, you also won’t get the low mid-market conversion rate that the banks use when transferring money between themselves. Your service provider will also often keep the “spread” (i.e., the difference between the “buy” and “sell” exchange rates) for themselves. TransferWise eliminates many of these fees by simply not converting your funds through a bank. Instead, your funds are deposited into a “pool” of US dollars maintained by the company, and local funds are withdrawn from a similar pool of Euros. TransferWise uses the mid-market rate at the time of your transfer to determine how many Euros your recipient will receive. They don’t profit off the spread or charge an exchange markup fee, and only charge a small percentage fee based on the two currencies you’re converting. Best of all, they use an online calculator (available on their website and mobile app) that provides a complete breakdown of all fees and shows you exactly how much money your intended recipient will actually receive. No surprises!

Needless to say, TransferWise has quickly become a major disruptor in the international money transfer service industry, and they’ve seen explosive growth in their seven years in business. By eliminating currency conversion charges and most other associated fees, they’re able to offer money transfers for significantly less than what you’ll pay through a bank or a traditional money transfer service.

TransferWise’s services are available in 58 countries around the world. They support sending money in 20 currencies, and recipients can be paid in as many as 45 currencies. The company now has over 1 million users and processes over $1 billion in transfers per month.

TransferWise’s most significant selling feature is that you’ll minimize the amount of money you have to pay to send funds overseas. They’re much cheaper than using the banks and, in most cases, they’ll also cost less than competing money transfer services. Additionally, they get high marks for their easy-to-use, fully-transparent website and mobile apps.

At the same time, there are a few minor inconveniences. Their unique approach to processing money transfers is a little slower than going through the banks, and they don’t offer guaranteed same-day or even overnight delivery of funds. While most transfers from the United States will be delivered within 1-2 business days, it could take as long as a week for your funds to be delivered. Consequently, they’re not the best choice if you really need to send your funds in a hurry. Note that you can speed this process up significantly by having your bank send the money to TransferWise using a wire transfer. However, there’s almost always a fee for this service (typically around $25.00), negating much of the savings you would otherwise enjoy. TransferWise also lacks a telephone transfer option, so you won’t be able to use their services if you don’t have an internet connection. There’s also no option for local cash delivery – transfers must be deposited into your intended recipient’s bank account.

Despite these minor limitations, we’re very impressed with TransferWise, and we’re awarding them an exemplary 5 out of 5 stars rating. Whether you make regular transfers or just need to send money overseas every once in a while, they’re the best (and least expensive) service we’ve found so far for this purpose.

Products & Services

TransferWise offers all the basic services you’ll need to manage your overseas money transfers. Here’s what they provide:
  • TransferWise accounts: You can sign up for a TransferWise account on their website in just a few minutes. Options include either using your email address and creating a password, or simply using your existing Google or Facebook account. Note that while you don’t need to provide any bank account information to create an account, you will need to provide this information as well as proof of your identity before you can make an actual transfer. Unlike many other similar services, you don’t need an account to access current exchange rate data. You can use their online transfer calculator to find out exactly how much a transfer will cost you without an account.
  • Transfer funding options: As we’ve noted, TransferWise only processes bank account-to-bank account transfers. However, they’re much more flexible in how you fund those transfers than many of their competitors. You can send money directly from your bank account using a wire transfer, make an ACH payment, or use either a debit or credit card. Fees vary for each option, so use the online calculator to find the best method. Note that funding a transfer with a credit card is particularly expensive, as you’ll have to cover the cost of processing the transaction in addition to paying TransferWise’s per-transaction fee.
  • Mobile app: TransferWise offers a free mobile app for both iOS and Android. With it, you can initiate transfers, manage your account, and access their online calculator for determining transfer charges in advance. Both versions of the app have received mostly positive feedback from users and are your best option if you need to make transfers from just about anywhere.
  • Borderless account: This is a multi-currency account that allows you to hold money in over 40 supported currencies and convert them at the mid-market exchange rate. Your borderless account also includes a TransferWise Debit Mastercard. You can manage this account from the TransferWise mobile app. Borderless accounts are particularly valuable for businesses that frequently need to send or receive money in multiple currencies.
  • Business features: TransferWise also offers additional features for freelancers and businesses that need to provide payroll support to overseas employees. The most useful feature is a batch payment tool that can process up to 1000 payments at a time. Payments should arrive within 1-2 days in most cases, making this option faster than the normal timeframe for individual users.
  • Transfer cancellations: TransferWise is more flexible at accepting transfer cancellations than most other providers. If you need to, you can usually cancel a transfer from either their website or their mobile app.

As we’ve noted, TransferWise doesn’t offer a telephone transfer option, so you’ll need to have an internet connection to use their services. They also aren’t designed to be used for currency trading, so you won’t find options for spot contracts, forward contracts, or market orders.

Fees & Rates

TransferWise has one of the most transparent websites we’ve seen when it comes to disclosing your costs, but they don’t provide a standard schedule of fees or rates. Instead, their site features an online calculator. Simply type in the amount of money you’d like to transfer, the currency you’ll be sending, the currency to be paid to the intended recipient, and how you’ll be funding the transfer and the calculator will crank out a complete breakdown of all costs associated with the transfer. You’ll see how much you have to pay TransferWise for their service and how much your recipient will receive. Note that the calculator doesn’t include wire transfer fees, as these are charged by your bank and vary widely from one bank to another.

You don’t need an account to use TransferWise’s online calculator, so feel free to play around with the options and get a good idea of which funding method will be the most cost-effective. TransferWise guarantees the rates shown on the calculator as long as they receive your funds within 24 hours.

Although TransferWise doesn’t charge an exchange rate markup fee, they will charge you a small percentage of the amount transferred, as well as costs based on the method you use to fund the transfer. Their fees generally range between 0.4 and 1.4% of the amount transferred, based on the type of currency being sent and received. Again, the online calculator will do the math for you, so you’ll know exactly how much you’ll have to pay for a transfer before you initiate it. Additional costs based on the method you select for funding a transfer are also disclosed as part of this calculation.

Unlike most other money transfer services, TransferWise doesn’t impose a minimum transfer requirement. This feature makes their service particularly useful for individuals who only need to transfer a small amount of money at a time. For US customers, your first transfer is generally limited to a maximum of $10,000 if using direct debit from your bank account. Subsequent transfers using direct debit are limited to $15,000 in most states. While most US states will allow you to transfer up to $1,000,000 when using a wire transfer, be aware that a few jurisdictions limit this amount to under $50,000. Obviously, you’ll want to consult with TransferWise’s customer service before making such a large transfer.

TransferWise calculates how much money your recipient will receive based on the mid-market exchange rate. This rate is the one that banks charge each other when transferring money between themselves and is the lowest exchange rate available. Mid-market rates will fluctuate during the day when the currency markets are open, but you can lock in your rate for up to 24 hours for transfers in US dollars. Unlike most other money transfer services, TransferWise doesn’t make any money from the exchange rates since they don’t actually exchange your funds into a different currency. Their only source of profit is the small percentage fee that they disclose through their online calculator.

Overall, TransferWise offers some of the lowest rates available anywhere for transfers under $10,000. For larger transfers, you might want to shop around and compare rates, as other providers might be able to offer you a better deal in some circumstances.

Contract Length & Early Termination Fee

Signing up for an account with TransferWise is completely free. There are no monthly or annual fees, no long-term contracts, and no early termination fee. That does not mean that there’s no contract at all, of course. You’ll still be bound by a set of Terms and Conditions, which is a legally binding contract. However, TransferWise’s contract is unlike – and much better than – anything we’ve seen in the fintech industry. The US version is written in plain English and avoids all of the obtuse legalese that makes most contracts nearly unreadable, except by lawyers. It’s posted on their website for easy access, and each section is hyperlinked so you can find exactly what you’re looking for quite easily. While it still might put you to sleep due to its length if you try to read the entire document at once, we encourage you to become familiar with it if you’ve signed up for an account.

TransferWise’s Terms and Conditions allow you to close your account at any time by simply contacting customer service. There’s no fee or penalty for doing so, although you’ll want to transfer any remaining funds out of your account as soon as you can. Likewise, the company reserves the right to close your account unilaterally under certain circumstances specified in the agreement. They’ll give you two months’ notice before doing so. Unless you’re actively using your account to launder money or for another fraudulent purpose, you don’t have anything to worry about. Unlike some other money transfer services, they don’t appear to close accounts for prolonged periods of inactivity.

Sales & Advertising Transparency

As you would rightly expect from a tech-focused company, TransferWise has an excellent website. While most financial services companies see their website as merely a marketing vehicle, TransferWise goes very light on the sales pitch and instead offers an extremely thorough explanation of how their services work and how much they’ll cost you. There are no sales gimmicks or misleading claims, and the information they provide is both clear and easy to navigate. Overall, it’s one of the most transparent websites we’ve ever seen.

The company’s website functions as both its primary sales vehicle and the functional heart of their services. If you’ve examined their site and decided that TransferWise is for you, you can quickly and easily set up your account and start making transfers without ever leaving the site. With this kind of convenience, there’s no need for sales agents. If you contact someone from the company on the phone or via email, rest assured that they’re functioning in a customer service role and aren’t trying to sell you anything.

While you’ll obviously need an account to make an actual transfer, TransferWise is unique among money transfer providers in that you can access their live exchange rate data without one. Although most of their competitors will allow you to set up a free account, they usually hide their live exchange rate data until you’ve done so. That’s because they make their money off the difference between “buy” and “sell” exchange rates, and possibly charge an exchange rate markup fee as well. TransferWise has a completely different business model, merely making transfers between existing pools of currency based on the mid-market rate at the time of the transfer. Because your costs are predetermined, they’re able to fully disclose them via their online calculator and eliminate any unpleasant surprises that might occur when the transfer is actually processed.

As you would expect from a cutting-edge technology company, TransferWise has an active social media presence. Their Facebook page is particularly useful in that it allows you to sign up for an account directly, rather than through their website. While we think you’re better off using the website to educate yourself on their services and costs first, it’s still a handy option. Their Twitter account is frequently updated with company news and educational features. They also have a LinkedIn account that posts much of the same content found on their other social media sites and is a handy reference if you’re looking to apply for a job with the company. Finally, their YouTube account includes 150 videos covering everything from marketing promotions and educational resources to testimonials from both customers and employees.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Like many other tech-focused companies, TransferWise has attempted to automate their customer service function as much as possible, lowering (but not quite eliminating) the need to talk to an actual human being. The Support Center on their website is a remarkably in-depth online knowledgebase and can provide answers to just about any question you might have. If you’re not sure about how something works or think you might have run into a problem, it should be your first stop in trying to resolve the situation. Best of all, you don’t need a TransferWise account to access the Support Center.

Of course, not all problems can be solved without human intervention, and for unique issues or problems with transfers that haven’t gone smoothly, you can contact TransferWise via telephone, email, or chat. For customers in the United States, support hours are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. You’ll need to log into your TransferWise account to access the chat function. Also, remember that while you can initiate a transfer 24/7, support won’t be available after hours or on the weekend, which might lead to further delays in getting your money delivered if you encounter a glitch.

Feedback from customers regarding TransferWise’s customer support is mostly positive. Most customers, however, don’t seem to have needed to contact them very often.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

The New York office of TransferWise is not accredited by the BBB, but nonetheless has an A+ rating. Their BBB profile currently shows eight complaints from within the last three years, with three of those complaints being filed within the last twelve months. Customers have also posted four negative reviews, with no neutral or positive reviews being received. TransferWise has responded to every complaint, and has been able to resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction in four out of eight complaints.

There were no relevant complaints against TransferWise on Ripoff Report. The most significant source of feedback on the company is found on TrustPilot, where reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Only 3% of the reviews posted there rated the company as below average.

While TransferWise enjoys very strong positive feedback from its users and a low complaint volume relative to its size, there was one common issue that featured prominently in the negative reviews. A few customers have had their transfers canceled and their accounts subsequently deactivated with no warning. According to TransferWise, this can occur because of “security concerns, detection of multiple accounts, and conflicts with our Acceptable Use Policy.” Obviously, if the company believes that you are using your account fraudulently or for an illegal purpose (i.e., money laundering), they will shut your account down immediately. It’s also obvious that customers who complain about this happening are not going to admit that they were doing anything wrong. While we’re inclined to believe that at least some customers who’ve had their accounts shut down are innocent of any wrongdoing, we have no way to determine how often this has been the case.

TransferWise also occasionally receives negative feedback from customers who were unhappy about the length of time it took for their transfer to be delivered. As we’ve explained above, the company’s unique method of moving money among different currency pools rather than converting it can result in transfers taking longer than they would if handled by a bank or traditional money transfer service.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

TransferWise showcases a number of video testimonials from their customers on both their website and their YouTube channel. These testimonials are generally short, but come across as very authentic.

The company also has nearly 44,000 reviews posted on TrustPilot, with more coming in just about every hour. Of these, 88% of customers rated the company as Excellent, while another 8% rated them as Good. This overwhelmingly positive feedback from users is very impressive for a young company that has undergone such rapid growth during the time it’s been in business. Customers praise TransferWise for their low overall costs, fast and efficient transfers, and excellent customer service.

Final Verdict

The term “disruption” has become so overused in the tech world that it’s in danger of becoming a cliché. Every new startup that comes along announces its intention to disrupt whatever industry they’re in. Nonetheless, it’s entirely fair to say that TransferWise has disrupted the international money transfer services industry in much the same way that Square (see our review) has disrupted the merchant accounts industry. Their low per-transaction fees, use of mid-market exchange rates, and fully transparent pricing make them a much more affordable option than banks or traditional money transfer services for most individuals and small businesses.

If you’re living in a new country and need to send money back home, TransferWise is, in most cases, going to be the least expensive option you’ll find anywhere. Likewise, businesses that need to pay their overseas employees in their own currency will find the company’s business features invaluable. At the same time, the company’s services aren’t quite as economical for customers who need to move very large sums of money on a regular basis. They’re also not suitable for FOREX trading or other attempts to dabble in the currency exchange market.

TransferWise earns an outstanding 5 out of 5 stars rating, and our highest recommendation. If you’re tired of paying exorbitant fees to the banks for your transfers and getting ripped off on the exchange rates, give them a try today!

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