International travelers and expats have to deal with multiple currencies, but converting money can be costly. The fees and exchange rates can be complex and confusing. It shouldn’t be so difficult.
After I moved to England from the US, I knew that I needed to find a better way to exchange dollars and pounds. While it’s not perfect, I think the Wise multi-currency account is the best solution.
Let me share my review of the Wise multi-currency account and explain why it could be a good option for you too.
- What is Wise?
- What is a Multi-Currency Account?
- What Can You Do with a Multi-Currency Account?
- Who Can Benefit from a Multi-Currency Account?
- Examples of Ways to Use a Wise Account
- What Kind of Fees Does Wise Charge?
- Limitations of Wise Multi-Currency Account
- Is a Wise Multi-Currency Account Worth It?
- How to Open a Wise Multi-Currency Account
- Tips for Using Your Wise Multi-Currency Account
What is Wise?
Wise is the new name (as of February 2021) for Transferwise. Transferwise was founded in 2011 by Taavet Hinrikus, from Skype, and financial consultant Kristo Käärmann. Both were Estonians living in London, who were frustrated with how much it cost to exchange pounds and euros.
They knew there must be other people that felt the same way, so they hired a team to build the best way to send money between countries. Over time the company evolved and began to offer more services than just transfers. They want to help people manage their money internationally more cheaply, quickly, and transparently.
Over 10 million people use Wise to move more than £5 billion every month and save £3 million in bank fees every day. They partner with banks and companies like Monzo, Bolt, and GoCardless, to provide better international banking services. Wise customers can hold balances in over 55 currencies and use their debit card to spend at home and abroad.
All these innovations have helped the company grow and they now have 17 offices with over 2,400 employees around the world. High-profile investors like Richard Branson and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, among others, are backing the company.
What is a Multi-Currency Account?
It’s an account where you can hold, receive, send, and spend money in different currencies. They offer both personal and business multi-currency accounts. In most cases, there is no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement. It was previously called the Transferwise Borderless Account.
I use a Wise multi-currency account because I get paid in dollars, pounds, and euros.
What Can You Do with a Multi-Currency Account?
A multi-currency account comes in very handy when you are dealing in different currencies. Wise makes it quick and easy to convert money. You can access your account through the Wise website or a mobile app.
It’s also one of the cheapest options as they give you a mid-market exchange rate and offer low fees. You see the exchange rate and fee amount before you confirm the transaction. If you want to track an exchange rate, it’s easy to set up an alert.
If you need to pay someone, whether it’s the same currency or a different one, it’s easy to initiate a transfer. Once you enter information about the transfer, you will find out the fee and applicable exchange rate. Approve the transfer and the money is sent almost instantly.
You can also get a multi-currency debit card. This helps avoid the dreaded foreign transaction fee charged by many credit cards. It lets you spend anywhere in the world (or online) at the real exchange rate, with low conversion fees, and zero transaction fees. You also get two free ATM withdrawals up to £200 each month.
Who Can Benefit from a Multi-Currency Account?
Anyone that deals with more than one currency will benefit from a multi-currency account. We live in a global world so this is becoming more common.
If you travel internationally, live in a different country (i.e. an expat), or earn money in a different currency, you will save money with a multi-currency account. It will also make your life easier.
A multi-currency account can also enable those who are not U.S. citizens to have a US dollar account. (Most traditional US banks require you to be a US citizen or resident to open a USD bank account.)
Examples of Ways to Use a Wise Account
There are many times when a Wise multi-currency account will come in handy. Here are a few examples.
When Traveling Internationally
Your Wise debit card can come in handy when you are in another country. You can use your card in more than 200 countries and withdraw money from 2.3 million ATMs. It lets you spend in the local currency, wherever you are, and get a better exchange rate and lower fees than your bank.
Gift for Someone in Another Country
If you have a friend or family member that lives in another country, you can use your Wise debit card online to make a purchase from a local business. It will give you a better exchange rate than your bank (or paypal for that matter).
Getting Paid in Another Currency
If you have an international business or work for an international company, you may be paid in a different currency than the country where you live. With Wise it is easy to receive the money in another currency and then convert it at your convenience with their low fees.
What Kind of Fees Does Wise Charge?
One of my favorite things about Wise is that they are very transparent about their fees. They have a list of all the fees on their website.
Whenever you want to convert money, Wise tells you the exchange rate and applicable fees before you confirm anything. You can always check other currency conversion options to make sure you are getting the best price. I did that the first few times I used Wise and spot check it now and then, but have never found a better option.
Other fees for Wise personal accounts include:
- Fixed fee to send money which varies by currency, but direct debits for GBP, EUR, and AUD are free.
- $7.50 to receive USD wire transfers, but receiving USD through ACH is free
- .50 per ATM withdrawal after the first two each month
- 1.75% fee on ATM withdrawals after the first £200
- £5 to order your first Wise debit card, £3 to replace cards that have been lost
- 0.40% fee annually to hold more than €15,000 in EUR balance
Limitations of Wise Multi-Currency Account
There are some limitations of a multi-currency account when compared to your more traditional bank account. With a Wise Multi-Currency Account you:
- Do not earn any interest. (Given the current interest rates this doesn’t have a significant impact.)
- Cannot use overdraft or get a loan.
- Cannot deposit paper checks or cash.
- Have limited customer support after hours. I’ve had only good experiences dealing with Wise Customer support over chat, email, and the phone, but you may have to wait if it is outside of normal business hours.
- Must pay other people using a bank transfer or debit card, you cannot write a check.
- Can’t hold certain currencies (but it does allow 50+ currencies)
- Have limits on how much you can transfer (but the limits are pretty high i.e. 200,000 USD for example)
- Are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) or another compensation scheme like you would be with a bank. (Wise does not lend out customer money like traditional banks. Your money is kept in separate accounts which are not used to run the Wise business.)
Is a Wise Multi-Currency Account Worth It?
After reading the cons of a Wise multi-currency account, you might be second-guessing whether or not you should open one.
For me, I feel like the savings that you get on currency conversions outweighs the limitations of the Wise Multi-currency account. It doesn’t have to be the only bank account you have. There are no monthly fees (unless you hold more than 15,000 in a personal euro balance) or minimum balances to worry about.
I have other bank accounts that earn interest and allow checks, but when I need to do any kind of currency exchange, I always use Wise.
How to Open a Wise Multi-Currency Account
It’s quick and easy to open a Wise multi-currency account, and there is no fee!
Sign up online here (or use the mobile app). All you need is an email address, or a Google, Facebook or Apple account. To receive money, you will need to upload a photo of a government-issued ID (passport, driving license, etc).
Once your account is approved (which can take up to five days), log on and activate accounts for the currencies of your choice (USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, RON, HUF, or TL). It just takes one click and then you can see the local bank details for each of them.
You can add money to your Wise account using another bank account, Apple Pay, credit, or debit card.
You will probably also want to get a Wise debit card. They don’t charge an annual fee, instead it’s a one time fee of £5 to order it. If you lose the card, a replacement costs £3.
For security purposes, you should set up the two-step log in. You can use a phone number to receive a security code by SMS or voice call or use the Wise app.
Do you have a Wise account?
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