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.
Nov 15, 2021

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The financial tech company Wise, formerly TransferWise, offers a cheap way to send money from the U.S. to about 80 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.

Users rate Wise’s iOS and Android mobile apps highly.

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.

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

Best for:

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

Pros

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

  • Low fees. The fixed cost to many countries is a combination of a flat amount around $1 and less than 1% of the transfer amount. Credit card fees are higher. Using an ACH transfer from your bank account or a debit card tends to be cheaper. If you pay with a wire transfer to Wise, your fee will be similar to transferring via ACH, but your bank will likely 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.

Wait, what’s the midmarket rate and what’s a rate markup?

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. Most providers 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% markup means the provider is giving you 19.6 pesos per dollar. For a $500 transfer, that’s the difference between 10,000 pesos from the first rate and 9,800 pesos from the second. And the higher the markup, the less your recipient gets in their currency.

Cons

  • 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) 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. ET 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 sending and receiving options, as well as transfer 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. Note that 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.

How does Wise stack up against other options?

Wise's online and mobile services generally make sending money abroad easy and cheap but it's not always the fastest. Compare it with other ways to send money internationally, especially if speed for bank transfers is important to you.

General advice for international money transfers

1. Compare transfer costs across multiple providers. There are two types of costs: upfront fee and exchange rate markup. Find the provider that has the cheapest combination of a low fee amount and the best exchange rate you can get. Usually online nonbank providers offer cheaper transfers than banks.

2. Know how exchange rates work (and how to find the best). 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. 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, but a currency platform can be 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 foreign currency amount. The higher it is, the more money your recipient receives.

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. If you need money delivered quickly, use a debit card instead. A transfer paid by bank account directly tends to be a much slower transfer.

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