Planning a trip is without a doubt one of the most exciting parts of travel.
Although, it’s no secret that people tend to ignore the financial side of things.
However, if you want to make the most of your money while you’re abroad there are a couple of things you can do.
The most efficient has to be applying for a travel card, or a financial account that offers the same kind of features.
We’ve been using Wise (formerly Transferwise) now since 2017 and I think it’s an amazing tool.
Considering we’re still using the platform six years later, I think it’s safe to say that we’re big fans.
However, it certainly has it's limitations and isn't for everyone.
To help you decide whether this company is for you, this Wise review is going to go through everything you need to know.
That includes the plans available, additional features, and the pros and cons of using this travel card.
Let's get straight into it ...
Wise is a financial technology company that was established in the UK in 2011. It was founded by two Estonian brothers; Taavet and Kristo, who both lived and worked in London at the time.
Taavet got paid in Euros and Kristo had an Estonian mortgage back home that also needed to be paid in Euros. After being subject to expensive fees and bad exchange rates with their bank, they knew there had to be another way.
That’s where Wise came into the picture!
Today, over 13 million people use Wise making it an extremely popular option when it comes to both personal and business accounts. Back in 2021, the company was thought to be valued at around $11 billion although it’s probably a lot more than that now.
Unlike traditional banks, Wise is an online financial technology company. It offers digital services, so everything is done through an app or online. There are no branches available for you to visit.
Although it’s not a bank, Wise is regulated by the FCA (The Financial Conduct Authority) in the UK, and similar regulators in other countries so you know your money is in good hands.
Also, thanks to strict e-money regulations, there are intense safeguarding procedures so you don’t need to worry about the security of using this company.
Like other traditional banks, Wise offers debit cards, ATM withdrawals, and the ability to send money abroad. However, thanks to its multi-currency account, you’ll save so much money when it comes to transfer fees and currency exchange rates.
Wise are constantly offering new features and incentives too, so it’s worth keeping up to date with what they offer.
So how does Wise work?
Wise can save you lots of cash when traveling abroad, especially when it comes to ATM withdrawals and exchange rates.
To give you an idea of what they offer, I’m going to detail the key ways in which Wise will save you money…
If you’re not careful, this can become a big expense when traveling. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there when it comes to not taking enough money with us on holiday!
With a traditional bank, you’re in for hefty ATM fees and currency conversions. Luckily, Wise allows you to withdraw £200 fee-free from ATMS while abroad.
Just keep in mind that the no-fee monthly amount will differ depending on the region. The screenshot above may prove helpful when it comes to this!
After you’ve withdrawn the limit, there’s a variable rate of 1.75% (2% if you’re in the US).
Compared to traditional banks, Wise has excellent exchange rates so you’ll get to make the most of your cash.
In fact, with the Wise travel card, you can save up to 88% when spending money abroad. This is thanks to the low fees and great exchange rate, so what are you waiting for?
To make this process even easier, Wise has an online currency converter that you can use to see what you’ll get for your money. You can even track the exchange rate, to see the fluctuations.
Typically, we find that Monzo and Revolut often have better exchange rates than Wise. However, this digital platform is still a fantastic option if you’re looking to save money.
If you’re looking to send money internationally, then you’ll benefit from no hidden fees with Wise. Typically banks add markups to their exchange rates, which means you’ll be charged more.
Unfortunately, many banks and transfer services don’t disclose these markups or hidden fees. Luckily, you won’t have this problem with Wise as they always give you the real rate, which has been provided by Reuters.
In fact, Wise tends to work out 6x cheaper when sending money abroad compared to traditional banks. On their website, you can also check the alternative rates so you know the differences between other providers.
When it comes to international money transfers, you’re going to save a lot of money with this company!
One of the best things about having a Wise debit card is that you’ll have a multi-currency account. You can hold 50 currencies in your account and convert them in seconds, so you’ll always be able to make the most of your money.
Not only that, but you’ll be able to use your Wise card in 175 countries. This means you’ll save money in the majority of the world’s holiday destinations.
As you use your card abroad, Wise will automatically default to the local currency if you've got it. If not, they’ll convert it for a small fee so you can still make the most of the exchange rate.
Here are some other awesome features of Wise:
There’s only one personal plan with Wise and it’s free to open. You won’t have any monthly charges, and this platform prides itself on having no hidden fees.
Unlike Revolut and Monzo who have several plans to choose from, Wise has kept things simple. There’s no extra cost for the services and features they offer, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Their plans are also extremely easy to open. It’s a simple process, and as soon as your account is verified, you’re free to use their services.
Like the personal plan, there’s only one Wise business plan available and it’s free to open. Personally, our main use for Wise has been business as we receive payments from companies all over the world.
Until recently, we’ve used Wise for most of our business purposes as it’s we’ve found it to be the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to receive and convert foreign money transfers.
Now, Revolut seems to have taken the top spot for us, but that’s not to say we still don’t use Wise. In fact, we still believe it’s a fantastic option for frequent travelers who are self-employed and digital nomads.
There are so many reasons to open a free Wise account if you’re a frequent traveler. For starters, as I’ve previously mentioned, you can use your debit card in 175 countries.
Not only that but having a multi-currency account will allow you to hold money in 50 currencies. You can then convert between the currencies for a low fee and will benefit from a great exchange rate.
Another reason to have a Wise card is that you’ll more than likely have to pay for services or accommodation abroad at some point. For security purposes, you can opt for a virtual card which will protect your original account details.
Last but certainly not least, you’ll benefit from £200 of no-fee ATM withdrawals while abroad. Even better, your card can be shipped out to you across the world (for a fee). Just keep in mind, this can take between 2-21 working days depending on where you are.
Any balanced review has to show both the positives and negatives in my opinion. I think the benefits of having a Wise account definitely outweigh the negatives, but you’ll need to make that decision for yourself.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of using Wise…
Before you sign up for a Wise account, it’s important to research the company yourself. As it’s money we’re talking about, you can’t just take the opinion of someone else.
What works for them may not necessarily work for you, so just keep that in mind!
Here are what other users think of Wise.
First of all, what scores have they achieved on app stores?
Now let’s take a look at some of the user reviews!
The negative customer reviews seem to be centered around technical issues, and problems getting in touch with customer service.
Although we’ve never had any real issues, it’s important to do your own research. This way, you can decide on your own back, rather than just going off our experiences.
Signing up for Wise has never been easier, so I’ll quickly take you through it:
You can find the Wise app here.
You can either register online or simply download the app. You’ll then be asked for some information including your date of birth and email address.
Make sure you have a form of ID at hand too; this can be a passport, national ID card, or driver’s license. Once your account has been verified, you’re then free to set up payments.
Once your account is sorted, you can then order a physical card for a one-time fee of £7. You don’t have to wait to start spending though, as you’ll be given a digital card straight away.
And there you have it, the process is super easy, and better yet, personal plans are free to open.
Wise also offers a virtual card that essentially does the same thing as your debit card. It’s only available on your phone, yet is fully authorized by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.
These virtual cards can be used for both online and in-store purchases, and the main reason for them is security purposes. This type of card will have different details than that of your physical card.
This means there’s no risk of your card being compromised as it can be frozen straight after each purchase if you wish. Even better, many travel cards require you to have a paid plan for this feature, but with Wise, that’s not the case.
To get a virtual card, you’ll first need to order a physical card through your account. However, you don’t need to wait for that card to arrive in the post. In fact, you can actually start spending right away!
Monzo is one of the best alternatives when it comes to Wise. It’s currently one of the stand-out travel cards on the market thanks to its excellent exchange rates and additional features.
With Monzo, you can apply for an overdraft, have joint accounts, and sync up your salary. They also have plenty of awesome features like saving pots.
Although considered an alternative, we have a Monzo card as well as a wise account. This allows us to benefit from each company’s features.
However, we’ve written an in-depth ‘Wise Vs Monzo’ guide if you’re looking to compare the differences.
In all honesty, Revolut is one of our favorite travel cards as they offer one of the best exchange rates on the market. This means you’ll save plenty of money when it comes to transfer fees and foreign currency fees.
Revolut also has lots of awesome additional features including cashback on some purchases, the ability to share bills, cryptocurrency trading, and even credit cards.
It’s also a fantastic option for frequent travelers as the paid plans include travel insurance. Some of the more expensive paid plans offer FREE airport lounge passes too!
Starling Bank is another alternative, as it offers fully-regulated bank accounts. These are protected by the FSCS and you can apply for one in minutes!
The best thing about having a Starling bank account is that there’s no cap on free monthly withdrawals. If you travel abroad frequently, you’ll know how much of a bonus this is, as it’s not something that’s offered by many banks.
Although they do have a lot going for them, unfortunately, I’ve just never been a big fan of Starling Bank.
The exchange rate doesn’t seem to be as good as other platforms such as Wise, Monzo, and Revolut (in our experience), and they don’t offer many additional features.
To give you an idea of how Wise compares to these alternatives, I’ve included a table below. This will give you a quick idea of the key differences.
Here are some of the key highlights:
As you can see, each alternative has something to offer. For the purpose of this Wise account review, let’s take a look at why you should choose this platform!
There’s no shortage of mainstream banks to choose from, so why would you need to open a Wise account?
Unfortunately, traditional banks don’t seem to offer the same flexibility when it comes to using your card abroad, international money transfer services, and currency conversions.
Also, as everything is done online or through the app, Wise is extremely handy for digital nomads and those who travel a lot. Not only that, but their multi-currency account is a huge hit and it’s something you’ll struggle to find at a traditional bank (if any offer this at all).
However, as Wise is a financial technology company rather than a bank, there are several services that they can’t offer. This includes credit cards, loans, overdrafts, cash handling, and an FSCS deposit guarantee.
For this reason, it’s best to have your main bank account and then have a Wise account too. This will allow you to benefit from your bank’s services, while also being able to use Wise’s features.
We’ve been using Wise since 2017, and over the years, I’m sure we’ve saved tons of money! The multi-currency account is super helpful when it comes to conversions, and of course, it’s free to open.
You’ll also have the use of virtual cards (again for free), which usually requires a paid plan with other companies. Being able to use a debit card in 175 countries is another huge bonus!
Wise also has a fantastic free business plan, although the truth is we’ve started to use Wise less and less now for business purposes. The main reason for this is that we’ve gone for a paid Revolut business account, which has continued to roll out more currency accounts.
This was just a natural progression for us as we have local accounts with them already. Secondly, Wise actually put up their fees back in 2022 and this seemed to increase the cost of our conversions.
Although these fees are still very low, it worked out cheaper for us to convert our money within Revolut Business.
There’s no denying that having a wise debit card will save you lots of cash if you're looking to transfer money internationally and spend while abroad. However, some other travel cards outweigh Wise when it comes to extra features.
For this reason, why not try out Wise as well as an alternative or two?
Going off our previous point, we always recommend having more than one travel card. This way, you get first-hand experience with each one which is the only surefire way to know whether something’s suited to you or not.
Monzo and Revolut are two fantastic alternatives to Wise. However, for the best experience, I’d recommend getting a Wise card and then picking another card from either Revolut or Monzo.
This way, you can take advantage of the different features that each company offers. You’ll also get an increased amount when it comes to fee-free ATM withdrawals.
Even better, you’ll have a backup if one of your cards gets lost or stolen. Just make sure you keep them in separate places, so you’ve got a fallback when it comes to getting money out.
Having more then one travel card is one of our top travel tips!
So is Wise safe?
Although Wise isn’t a bank, it’s regulated by the FCA in the United Kingdom so your money is safe and secure. Like any other financial provider, they have to follow strict rules and protocols.
There's also a two-factor authentication procedure in place when it comes to your account, and Wise has a dedicated fraud team.
In my opinion, Wise is certainly better than Paypal. Although Paypal is more widely recognized across the world, they often have high transfer fees - sometimes up to 4%.
With Wise, you can avoid these high fees and therefore, you’ll get more for your money. Both are reputable companies, but Wise takes the top spot for me.
Personal Wise accounts are free to open, and there’s no charge to receive money to your account. However, if you need to convert it to another currency then there will be a very small fee.
There’s also a small fee if you’re transferring or sending money between different currencies. These rates are often very low and will differ depending on the currency.
There’s no limit on how much money you can keep in your account, but there is a limit on how much can be transferred daily.
This will differ depending on the currency, and there’s a per-day and per-year limit. This acts on a rolling basis, so as soon as your 365 days are up, the limit will reset.
There’s a lot to think about when choosing a travel card, especially as it needs to be suited specifically to your needs. However, Wise is definitely up there with the best!
From being able to hold over 50 currencies to widespread availability when it comes to opening an account, Wise has a lot going for it.
Hopefully, this Wise card review has given you a good idea of what this company offers. Whether you simply need to withdraw money while abroad or you’re looking to send payments, you’re bound to save money with a Wise account.
Wise like many other companies are constantly upgrading their features so it’s always best to do your own research first. This way, you can check whether the card is suited to you rather than just going off my opinion.
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