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​TransferWise Money Transfer Review: Not Fastest, but Cheap

Banking, Money Transfer
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TransferWise
NerdWallet’s rating: 4.0 / 5.0

4 stars out of 5

TransferWise logo
  • Cheap transfers from one bank account to another
  • No same-day or next-day delivery
  • Operates in 58 countries
Learn more at TransferWise

TransferWise brings a streamlined approach to international money transfers. Started in 2011, the United Kingdom-based company combines low overall costs with a convenient web experience for sending money between your bank account and another in a different country.

Using TransferWise’s website or mobile app, you can send money from the United States to 58 countries. Transfers tend to be cheap because the company’s foreign exchange rates are among the best available, but slow delivery speeds can be a drag.

>>MORE: Compare money transfers

The bottom line

We rated TransferWise 4 out of 5 stars based on its transfers from the U.S. to seven benchmark countries.

  • Bank account-to-bank account transfers only
  • Easy-to-use and informative web platform
  • No same-day delivery option
  • $10,000 transfers to Philippines aren’t available because of a currency limit

Where the provider shines: Cheap costs because of no rate markup.
Where it falls short: Slow delivery.

Country overall ratings
Average rating for all countries4.0 stars out of 5
Mexico4.0 stars out of 5
China4.0 stars out of 5
India3.5 stars out of 5
Philippines4.0 stars out of 5
Germany4.0 stars out of 5
Canada3.5 stars out of 5
United Kingdom4.0 stars out of 5

Overview

For each country, we analyzed TransferWise’s money transfers based on four categories: transfer costs, speed offerings, transfer methods and customer experience. We took the average of all countries’ category ratings to get TransferWise’s overall ratings:

Overall Ratings
Transfer costs4.0 stars out of 5
Speed offerings3.0 stars out of 5
Transfer methods and options4.0 stars out of 5
Customer experience4.5 stars out of 5
Overall4.0 stars out of 5

Transfer costs

No rate markups, fees vary by amount
4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

Unlike other providers, TransferWise doesn’t charge an exchange-rate markup on its transfers. It aims to match the mid-market rate, which fluctuates minute-to-minute.


The mid-market rate, also called the interbank 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 mid-market rate plus an additional percentage, or markup, to make profit on the transfer.

Example: If the mid-market 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.

TransferWise’s fees vary according to sending amount. For transfers up to $10,000 to the benchmark countries, fees range from $3 to $99. The two exceptions are India and the Philippines, which have fees starting at $2.70 and $5, respectively.

TransferWise has some of the cheapest transfers for less than $10,000, regardless of destination. But if you’re sending more, digital currency platforms like OFX and World First can send money more cheaply.

Speed offerings

No same-day delivery option
3.0 stars out of 5
3.0 / 5.0

Transfers from the U.S. can take more than a week. First, a bank transfer using direct debit takes one to five business days to reach TransferWise. Then the conversion of your money into the destination currency can take up to two business days, and delivery abroad typically tacks on another day or two. You can speed up the first step by sending TransferWise a domestic wire transfer from your bank instead, but there’s generally a fee. Banks charge $25 on average.

Delivery speed isn’t one of TransferWise’s strengths. Some other providers like Xoom and MoneyGram can wire money between bank accounts internationally within the same business day, but you pay more for those faster transfers.

Transfer methods and options

Bank account only for payment and delivery, high amount limits
4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

  • Sending channels: TransferWise’s website and mobile app
  • Payment options: Bank account only
  • Delivery options: Bank account only
  • Transfer limits: No minimum; maximums for Americans in nine states are $10,000 per transfer if you let TransferWise direct debit your bank account and $49,999 per transfer if you wire money from your bank to TransferWise; maximums in the other 41 states are $10,000 for the first transfer using direct debit ($15,000 after that) and $1 million per transfer when wiring money from your bank

Customer experience

Guaranteed rates, thorough FAQs, weekday customer service hours
4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 / 5.0

TransferWise presents its cost calculator upfront on its homepage and before you start a new transfer in the app. There’s a clear breakdown of the fee, exchange rate and amounts being sent and received.

Three features also make TransferWise stand out:

  1. Exchange rates are guaranteed for all transfers from U.S. dollars. Some providers like Western Union give you fee and rate estimates before you make a transfer but don’t guarantee them.
  2. You can cancel a transfer by simply clicking a button, whereas many other providers require you to call customer service.
  3. You can register for TransferWise by using an email address, or syncing up your Google or Facebook account. Other providers require you to fill out your personal information from scratch, as well as data such as which countries and currencies you’ll be dealing with.

The FAQs online are well-organized with sections for transfers from and to any currency TransferWise works with. You can also get information about the mid-market rate, which not all providers explain. If you need to ask a question, you can start a live chat with a customer service representative.

TransferWise’s mobile app receives 4.6 stars on the Google Play store and 5 stars on iTunes for the current version.

But outside the web experience, you’ll run into a downside. You can reach customer service by phone only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET on weekdays.

Great rates, quality web experience

Transferwise
Learn more
at TransferWise
TransferWise offers some of the best exchange rates for transfers on a web platform geared for easy setup and use. If cost is important, this provider can serve you well.

But if you need transfers that are same-day or next-day delivery, you should look at other options.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.

Updated March 15, 2017.


METHODOLOGY

We analyzed 11 top money transfer providers that work in the U.S., including major players and smaller, innovative companies in the international money transfer industry, based on market research, experts, cost analysis and U.S. internet traffic. Providers considered: MoneyGram, OFX, Placid Express, Remitly, Ria, Transfast, TransferWise, Western Union, World First, WorldRemit, and Xoom (owned by PayPal).

What the ratings mean:

5 stars out of 5 — Excellent
4 stars out of 5 — Above average
3 stars out of 5 — Average
2 stars out of 5 — Below average
1 star out of 5 — Poor

How we rate money transfer providers