I’m writing this TransferWise Multi-Currency Account review based on more than 18 months of personal experience using the account and TransferWise debit card that goes with it. If you are looking for reliable customer feedback, I’m your man.
When I wrote this review, in February 2020, the account was called a “Borderless Account”. Five months later, I discovered TransferWise had ditched the name and were referring to it as a multi-currency account instead. I have amended this review accordingly.
You may be reading this review because you have heard TransferWise can save you money on currency transfers when you need to send money abroad. I can confirm that it’s true. I use my account every week to make cheap currency transfers and it’s amazing how quick and easy it is to do.
You may also be here because you’ve heard using a TransferWise debit card can save you money while travelling. I can confirm that’s true as well. I’m a constant traveller. My TransferWise debit card has been in and out of ATMs in 14 different countries. I never pay for withdrawals and my debit card also saves me money when I’m making card payments in shops.
It’s a relief to have found a way to avoid paying greedy banks for the privilege of accessing my own money. If you want to get cheap currency transfers and access your money while travelling without paying ridiculous fees, the TransferWise multi-currency account should be right up your street.
There’s nothing complicated to worry about. You can manage your TransferWise multi-currency account by logging into the TransferWise website or using the TransferWise app on your mobile phone.
How successful is the company? According to a News article published in September 2018, it’s handling $4 billion worth of transfers a month. That was a while ago so there’s a good chance it’s now a lot more.
I want to provide you with plenty of information. That means this review is a little longer than most of the posts on this blog so I’ve added a table of contents. It will make it easier if you want to skip to a specific section but, if you really want to understand what a TransferWise multi-currency account is and how it works, it’s probably a good idea to read the entire review.
Table of Contents
- How TransferWise Began
- Is TransferWise a Bank?
- The multi-currency account in a Nutshell
- Who Is the Account For?
- How I Use the Account
- A Look at the TransferWise Fees
- How Good is the TransferWise Debit Card?
- Do I Recommend the TransferWise multi-currency account?
- What Makes this Review Different?
How TransferWise Began
Like many of the best ideas, TransferWise was created to answer a problem— transferring money internationally between banks without paying excessive fees.
The company was founded in 2011, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus. They are both Estonian and, at that time, they were living in London, England.
Taavet was the first Skype employee and he got paid in euros. That meant he got hit with a lot of currency exchange fees when he tried to withdraw British pounds in London.
Kristo had a similar problem but it was the other way around. He got paid in British pounds and had a mortgage to pay in Estonia. That meant he was losing money every month when he converted pounds to euros.
Apart from being expensive, moving money in the traditional way was also slow. The two men decided to help each other out and their idea was both incredibly simple and incredibly clever at the same time.
They checked the exchange rate every month, using Reuters to get the correct rate. Then Taavet transferred euros from his Estonian bank account to Kristo’s bank account. No currency conversion was necessary so there was no charge.
Meanwhile, Kristo transferred the same value in pounds out of his British bank account into Taavet’s British bank account. Again, there were no fees and everything happened very fast.
Taavet and Kristo are a couple of smart guys. They knew there were other people in similar situations. Not just in Britain and Estonia but all over the world so they created TransfereWise. This is the small seed of ingenuity that has grown to be a $3.5 billion company.
Is TransferWise a Bank?
TransferWise isn’t a bank. It’s a British company that offers a multi-currency electronic money account.
Although it’s not a bank, the company is authorised and independently regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). That means the company has to adhere to the same regulations as the British banks do and play by the same rules.
So, if you are wondering if TransferWise is safe, the answer is yes. You also may be interested to learn Sir Richard Branson is one of the company’s biggest investors.
Although he wasn’t part of the start-up, Sir Richard made a sizeable investment in June 2016. The fact that such a respected businessman is willing to put money into TransferWise says a lot. Especially when you know he still owns a 35% share in his bank, Virgin Money.
The TransferWise Borderless Account in a Nutshell
TransferWise launched its multi-currency account in 2017. It allows you to hold funds in multiple currencies.
The account gives bank details for Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Poland. It also provides you with details for a European Bank for accepting payments in Euros. When I first began using TransferWise, I got German bank details. There have been some changes since then. Now I have Belgian bank details.
In addition to having all these useful bank details at your disposal, as a TransferWise customer, you can also maintain balances in more than 40 currencies.
You can access your account and send or convert money via the TransferWise website or use the TransferWise app on your mobile phone. I find it easiest to use the app, but both options are quick and easy to use.
Who Is the Account For?
TransferWise is available to people in most countries of the world. The Borderless Account is good for travellers, ideal for digital nomads, and very handy for anyone who needs to transfer money to a foreign country or receive money from abroad.
Many people may only need their account when they are on vacation or travelling on business. It’s a handy thing to have and will be there when you need it.
If you are a digital nomad or another kind of constant traveller, you will probably use the account and debit card a lot. Especially if you are like me and get paid in one currency, bank in another, and sometimes have to spend in a currency that’s different to the other two.
A TransferWise multi-currency account is also handy for anyone who needs to transfer money internationally between banks and wants the benefit of cheap currency transfers. This could be someone who is working abroad or a parent who has one or more children studying at a foreign education establishment. When your kids need money it’s nice to know you can get it there fast.
How I Use the Multi-Currency Account
This review is based on my own experience using the TransferWise Multi-Currency Account so I think it’s important to give you an idea how and when I use TransferWise.
I use my account in several ways. Clients pay me in US dollars but my main bank is in the Netherlands and I sometimes need to send money to my banks in the UK. TransferWise makes all of this easy for me and saves me a lot of money on currency conversions. It also allows me to hold money in the currency of the country I am living in, be it Romania, Hungary, or anywhere else.
I also find the account is very handy for receiving affiliate earnings from Amazon.com. Amazon offers its affiliates several payment options but the best way is to have the money paid into a US bank account. My TransferWise account gives me US bank details.
Now when Amazon pays me the money goes straight to my USD balance. I have the choice of leaving it in dollars, which would be handy if I were travelling the States, or changing it to another currency.
I’m not planning on visiting the US any time soon so I convert my dollars to the currency of the country I’m in. It’s quick and easy to do. I usually use the app on my phone but it’s also easy to handle your currency conversions on the TransferWise website.
I love this company and the service it provides and I’m sure I’ll find many more uses for it in the future. However, for me, the best thing about TransferWise is it allows me to avoid paying stupid bank fees.
When I left the UK in July 2015, all I had was British bank cards. I lived frugally and never had to withdraw more than €80 each week.
If I remember correctly, Nat West was charging me around £5 for each withdrawal. That’s money for nothing for the bank and a lot of money for me. Even if you only make one withdrawal per week, it mounts up quick when you are constantly abroad.
Later, when I got my Dutch bank account, if I wanted to convert euros to pounds and send them to Nat West, my Dutch bank hit me with a €7 fee.
These days, if I need to shuttle money from one bank to another I use TransferWise as a middle man, avoid excessive fees, and get the benefit of the most up-to-date currency exchange rate.
A Look at the TransferWise Fees
It will cost you nothing to open a TransferWise Borderless Account. The debit card is optional and TransferWise will send it to the country you are living in instead of the country you are from. There are a few exceptions though. For instance, they won’t send cards to Ukraine.
Opening a TransferWise multi-currency account is free and for a lot of actions, there is no cost at all.
Any fees that do apply are minimal, as you will see.
If you are adding money in one of the 40+ supported currencies, there is no fee at all.
For instance, using a British bank account to top-up with pound won’t cost anything. Using an American bank account to to-up your dollars won’t cost anything. The same applies if you want to use a Hungarian bank to add Hungarian Forint.
Moving Money Between Currencies
Now we get some fees, but that’s okay. TransferWise is a business, not a charity and the fees are a lot lower than you normally get from banks. The currency conversion fees are only 0.35%-3%.
For example, the last time I converted euros to British pounds, it cost me 41 cents. So, after the conversion, I had £83.37.
Using the TransferWise Debit Card in ATMs
If you already have a balance in the currency you are taking out, the money automatically comes from that balance. There are no conversion costs. If your balance is in another currency, it will take from that one, convert at the most recent rate, and then apply a small charge.
For instance, at the moment of writing this review, If my balance was in euros and I drew £100 out of a British ATM, TransferWise would convert €119.96 including a fee of 49 cents.
However, as I mentioned earlier in this review, there is a limit to how much money you can withdraw from your TransferWise multi-currency account via the debit card without getting a charge. With the normal account, it’s £200/€200/USD 250. After you reach the limit, there is a 2% charge.
How Good is the TransferWise Debit Card?
It’s a Mastercard. If the ATM you are using bears the Mastercard symbol, you are good to go and most retailers accept Mastercard payments.
Bearing in mind the fact TransferWise is flying blue colours, you’d expect the debit card to be blue too. It’s not. The TransferWise debit card is green. Dare I say it… lime green. I like it. You may not but there’s nothing you can do about it, green is the only choice.
Do I Recommend the TransferWise Multi-Currency Account?
Unless you’ve skipped a lot of this review, you won’t be surprised to discover I recommend the TransferWise multi-currency account 100%. It was a real game-changer for me when I opened an account and got my hands on the TransferWise debit card.
If you are a full-time traveller who likes to save money, TransferWise could be your new best travel buddy. If you only need to worry about cheap currency transfers a couple of times a year, when you are on vacation, it’s still a good thing to have. It will cost you nothing to open an account and you’ll have the benefit of a little, green flexible friend when you arrive on foreign soil.
If all you need to do is transfer money abroad, you may not need the debit card, but it’s still hand to have. If a trip opportunity comes up out of the blue you’ll already be good to go.
A Reliable TransferWise Multi-Currency Account Review
When you go on the internet looking for reviews there are two kinds you’ll find and it’s not always easy to tell them apart.
The best reviews are written by people who use the product or service they are writing about. The second type is written by affiliates who want to convince you to use the product or service they are writing about. If they succeed in this and you click through to the desired website, in this case TransferWise, your browser will have picked up a piece of code. This code is hidden in the link and it lets the site you visit know which affiliate has sent you. Then if you decide to use the service/product the affiliate gets a commission.
Affiliate marketing is a business. Most affiliates have no experience with the products they promote. You can only get to know how good something is by using for a long time.
My TransferWise Borderless Account review is based on experience. I opened my account in June 2018. I was living in Granada, Spain at the time. The company shipped my debit card to my temporary address and I’ve been using it ever since.
It’s important that I be open about the fact that I am a TransferWise affiliate. That means if you follow the links on this page and open an account I may get a small commission at no cost to you.
However, even though I am an affiliate, this is an honest review. I never recommend anything unless I currently use it or have done so in the past and am happy it does what it is meant to do.
I opened a multi-currency account because I hoped it would save me money when transferring money internationally between banks. It does.
I also wanted to avoid paying bank fees when withdrawing money abroad. My TransferWise debit card helps me do that too. If it can do it for me it can do it for you.
I’m impressed with the service and would still recommend it even if I were not an affiliate. I often verbally recommend TransferWise to fellow travellers and expats. It’s my way of trying to help. If you explore the rest of this blog you will see I offer a lot of travel tips and advice. Helping people to travel cheaply is one of the things I like to do.
If you want to open a TransferWise multi-currency account or get more information about how it all works, you can do so by visiting the TransferWise website.