Wise Money Transfer Review

Wise offers a cheap way to send money from the U.S. to dozens of countries and has some of the best exchange rates.

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The financial tech company Wise, formerly TransferWise, offers a cheap way to send money from the U.S. to over 70 countries. The exchange rates are some of the best you’ll find. You can fund a Wise money transfer in various ways, such as with a bank account or credit card, but recipients need to have a bank account.

Wise Money Transfer

at Wise

The Wise website is straightforward. The homepage has a cost calculator that makes it easy to see fees and rates, and FAQs are well-organized and helpful. Once you finish setting up a transfer, rates are guaranteed and you can cancel transfers that haven’t been converted or paid yet.

Setup and login are easy; you can register for Wise by using an email address, or syncing up your Apple, Google or Facebook account, which isn’t typical for a transfer provider. Users rate Wise’s iOS and Android mobile apps highly.

This overview of Wise is for U.S.-based audiences sending money from the U.S. to other countries abroad only.

» Want more options for sending money abroad? Check out the best ways to send money online internationally

Wise is best for:

  • People who want low costs and a solid web experience when sending money internationally.

Wise pros

  • Delivery within minutes. Quick delivery is possible for transfers using a debit or credit card.

  • Low fees. The fee to send money is a combination of 1) a percentage of the send amount, which differs based on which country you’re sending money to and 2) a fee based on the method of payment. Using an ACH transfer from your bank account or a debit card tends to be cheaper. Credit card fees are higher. If you pay with a wire transfer to Wise, your fee will be similar to transferring via ACH, but your bank may charge you (for more details, see wire transfer fees at over 40 banks).

  • No rate markups. Unlike banks and other money transfer providers, Wise doesn’t charge an exchange rate markup on its transfers. It targets the midmarket rate, which fluctuates minute-to-minute.

Wise cons

  • Money can only be delivered to a bank account. Other money transfer service providers allow various methods of receiving money, but transfers through Wise must be received in a bank account.

  • Slower bank transfer delivery times than other providers. Transfers funded with bank accounts can take over a week, since each step in the process (Wise receiving, converting and delivering money) can take days. But for the four countries we analyzed (India, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom), the average total time is up to three or four business days.

  • U.S. phone support is limited. You can reach customer service by phone only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT on weekdays.

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Wise transfer methods and options

Wise offers a few ways to transfer money. Here's a breakdown of the options and limits:

  • Sending channels: Through Wise’s website and mobile app.

  • Payment options: Bank account (ACH, SWIFT or wire transfer), debit card, credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay.

  • Delivery options: Bank account only. Other providers have cash pickup locations abroad that make it possible to send money to those who don’t have bank accounts.

  • Transfer limits: Minimums vary depending on destination but can be as little as the equivalent of $1 for the countries we analyzed; maximums for most Americans are $15,000 per day using ACH and $1.6 million per international transfer when funded with a bank wire transfer.

» Want to see how Wise stacks up against other options? Compare it with other ways to send money internationally.

Definitions: Money Transfer Rates

There are three rates that determine how much your money transfer will cost and how much money your recipient will receive.

  • Exchange rate: An exchange rate is the price of one currency in relation to another currency. For example, if you want to convert U.S. dollars to euros, you would check what one U.S. dollar is worth in euros.

  • Midmarket rate: The midmarket rate, also called the interbank rate or interbank exchange rate, is the exchange rate that big banks use to swap currencies among one another.

  • Exchange rate markup: Most providers use an exchange rate markup when pricing your transfer. They give customers an exchange rate that’s the midmarket rate plus an additional percentage, or markup, to make a profit on the transfer.

Example: If the midmarket rate for U.S. dollars to Mexican pesos is 20 pesos per dollar, then a 2% exchange rate markup means the provider is giving you 19.6 pesos per dollar. For a $500 transfer with a midmarket rate, you’d send 10,000 pesos, but with a 2% markup, you’d end up sending 9,800 pesos. The higher the markup, the less your recipient gets in their currency.

General advice for international money transfers

1. Know how exchange rates work (and how to find the best). One of the ways money transfer providers make money is through exchange rate markups. Most transfer providers won’t give you the exchange rate you’d find on a currency exchange platform like the one at Bloomberg.com or Reuters.com. Those sites just tell you the price of one currency in relation to another, but they are a helpful starting point to know what the best rate looks like this minute. When you check the exchange rate for an international transfer with services like Western Union, focus on the exchange rate markup by looking at the foreign currency amount. The higher it is, the lower the markup is, and the more money your recipient receives.

2. Compare total transfer costs across multiple providers. There are two types of costs: upfront fee and exchange rate markup (see above). Find the provider that has the lowest fee combined with the best exchange rate you can get. Usually online nonbank providers offer cheaper transfers than banks.

3. Avoid paying with a credit card. It’s an option for some providers, but there might be a higher upfront fee and your credit card issuer may tack on costs such as interest and cash advance fees. A transfer paid by bank account directly tends to be a much cheaper (and much slower) transfer. If you need money delivered quickly, use a debit card, which will also incur a lower fee than using a credit card.

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