Top 5 Multi-Currency Accounts (From an Industry Insider)

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February 29, 2024
9 min read
Constantly converting one currency to another is going to cost you in both fees and, predominantly, the currency exchange markup. Sometimes, this currency conversion is simply not necessary.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of options which allow you to open accounts in multiple currencies.

Banks are one option, but they’ll still probably charge you the most in fees and currency markup.

With a specialist multi-currency bank account, you can get a much better rate of exchange and pay minimal fees.

Perhaps most importantly, you can also open overseas accounts, allowing you to make and receive transfers like a local.

In this article, I’ll give you our top 5 multi-currency account providers with their pros and cons.

Some are geared towards business money transfers, and others accept both private and business clients.

I’ll also talk about safety, rates and features and what to look out for with a multi-currency account.

Quick Look: My Top 5 Multi-Currency Accounts

Company No. Local Accounts No. IBAN Accounts Personal/Business
Wise 10 40+ Both
Revolut 2 25+ Both
Payoneer 9 9 Business
WorldFirst 11 20 Business
HSBC 1 15 Personal

Footnotes: 

Local accounts are accounts held in the country of their respective currency.

For example, an Australian Dollar account with Wise allows you to make and receive local transfers within Australia.

The benefits of this are self-evident.

An IBAN, or international bank account number, allows you to make and receive international transfers.

For example, an Argentine Peso account with Wise, is held in London. So, to trade with Argentina, you’d need to make or receive an international payment. 

To receive money into the account you’d provide the sender a GB IBAN.

As you’ll likely know, international transfers are more costly and more cumbersome.

What is a multi-currency account?

A multi-currency account offers the flexibility to hold, manage, and exchange money in various currencies within a single account.

Multi-currency accounts mainly come in three varieties:

  • eWallets
  • International bank multi-currency accounts
  • Digital multi-currency accounts

Electronic wallet Multi-Currency Function

eWallets, like PayPal, allow you to easily manage a number of currencies. 

The catch is, you can only send or receive money to your wallet with other users in the PayPal ecosystem.

To get money out, you then need to convert foreign currencies to your base currency and make a withdrawal.

I’ve received money through PayPal myself and lost 8-10% in fees.

International Foreign Currency Accounts

International banks, like HSBC and Chase, offer multi-currency accounts of their own. 

Their solutions are the closest to fully-fledged bank accounts.

But, they typically have higher maintenance requirements and are more expensive to run.

Their exchange rates are much worse (than of non-bank competitors).

Plus, the accounts tend to be opened all in one country, so you don’t get the benefit of local transfers.

Quasi-Banks (Digital Providers)

Digital multi-currency accounts, like Revolut and Wise, offer competitive exchange rates and low fees. 

They’re similar to fully fledged accounts but you can’t pay cheques into them.

You can however, set up things like direct debits.

In some cases, based on your nationality, you can get a multi-currency debit card.

Even more so, to complete the quasi-bank experience, some of them are offering savings and investment accounts.

For payments, the major plus of some digital accounts is the fact they’re local to the currency they represent. 

If you’re travelling to, or doing business in, a foreign country, a local account is a game changer.

The downside is you download an app, sign up, and spend some time and energy setting those things up (especially if you are moving larger sums).

Why you should use a specialist multi-currency account (and not your bank)

Essentially, banks offer little in way of advantages over specialist providers.

A fully-fledged current account in the countries you plan to visit, live or trade?

Sure, that would have a lot of benefits.

But, opening a full bank account overseas is difficult.

It might be next to impossible without having a local address.

If you’re a business, you’d might even have to register a local entity.

A digital currency account through a specialist provider requires none of that.

For example, providing Wise can onboard customers from your country (say the UK), you can then open a local currency account in any of the ten countries they offer them.

Opening an account in Europe, USA or Australia? It’s easy.

A multi-currency account with a bank will see all of your currency accounts located in one country. You’d have to pay more expensive international payment and international receiving fees. 

Not to mention the added hassle.

Perhaps more importantly is the markup on the currency exchange, whether that be in making or receiving payments, or when you’re spending with a debit card and making cash withdrawals abroad.

Banks tend to charge 2-5% in currency exchange markup. Wise charges around 0.5%.

One advantage that banks in the UK do offer is the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). 

If your bank were to go bust, your money is guaranteed up to £85k.

Other countries have similar schemes which provide a guarantee on your money, up to a certain value.

Specialist money transfer companies and digital account providers don’t lend your money so they don’t participate in the FSCS. 

Instead, in the UK, digital account providers must hold an e-money licence with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). 

When your money is held with an e-money institution, it’s protected under the safeguarding scheme. 

I’ll explain more about the protections that safeguarding offers later.

Who is the largest multi-currency account provider?

In terms of company size and value, PayPal is the largest provider.

from https://www.businessofapps.com/

However, they don’t actually provide you with an account you can use in the ‘real world’.

Being honest, I wouldn’t recommend them to you regardless. 

Not for international transfers anyway. They’re a great option for domestic transfers (free in the UK) but simply too expensive for international transfers.

You’ll get some of the worst exchange rates on the market.

Out of the companies I’d recommend, Wise is the largest.

They’re valued at over £8.5bn and they hold some £12.3bn in customer deposits in their multi-currency accounts.

What to look for in a multi-currency bank account

When choosing a provider, consider these key metrics and decide which is most important to you.

Then, compare each one and rank them to your needs accordingly.

Security

As I said before, any provider you work with should be regulated by the FCA or their countries' equivalent.

But, you still need to check.

If you go with a company that isn’t regulated, there’s no recourse if any issues arise.

Just take a look at the bottom of their website and check the FCA register to be doubly sure.

When you hold money with an e-money institution it's protected under the safeguarding scheme.

That means your money is kept separate from company funds and readily accessible whenever you need it.

If the provider were to go bust, your money cannot be used to pay off the company's own debts or that of any other creditors.

Plus, there’s no limit on the amount you can get back under the safeguarding scheme.

There’s just one scenario where your money could be jeopardised. 

If the liquidator's costs of redistributing client money exceeds the cash held by the provider, they’re entitled to recoup this cost from the pool of client money.

Cost

There are a few fees to consider when it comes to multi-currency bank accounts.

Firstly, there’s the accounts themselves. Are there any costs to open a new currency account and are you charged a monthly or annual fee to keep it open?

With Wise, there are no fees for opening a new account as a personal customer but businesses are charged a one-off £45 fee per account.

With HSBC, there are no fees for personal customers but businesses are charged an annual fee ranging from £96 to £180 per account, depending on the size of the business.

If you’re a business that wants a free solution to open and manage currency accounts, use WorldFirst.

Beyond these fees, there are more important costs to consider.

That’s the costs for making and receiving payments, and for using your debit card to spend overseas or withdraw cash from an ATM.

Out of all multi-currency account providers, Wise offers the best rates on the market. 

Capped at 0.75%, WorldFirst also offers competitive exchange rates, but they provide a business currency account solution only.

HSBC exchange rates are quite a bit worse and from my experience, tend to be between 1.5% and 3% of your total transfer amount.

Availability

When I say availability, I mean transfer options and available destinations.

If a company cannot open the currency account you require, then obviously they aren’t suitable.

If you can’t open a local currency account then an international currency account held in the UK is better than nothing.

With 11, WorldFirst offers the highest number of local currency accounts, but again the service is for businesses only. They offer 20 currency accounts in total.

Wise is not far behind with 10 local currency accounts, all of which are available to personal customers. 

They also allow you to open a whopping 40+ currency accounts.

Revolut allows personal customers to open just 2 local accounts - GBP and USD. Although 25+ currencies are available by IBAN for receiving SWIFT transfers.

How important is it to compare providers?

To put it briefly, it's extremely important.

No two providers are the same.

Each comes with its own set of fees, transfer speeds, services, and coverage.

The differences often hinge on the specific currency requirements, where you’re paying and who you’re receiving money from.

When you take the time to compare different providers, you're not just seeking the most cost-effective option; you're also finding the service that best aligns with your unique requirements.

Take a moment to sit down and create a shortlist of potential companies for a thorough comparison before you finalise your choice.

Top 5 Multi-Currency Accounts

Here is my top 5, complete with some helpful knowledge and pros & cons.

1. Wise

Wise (formerly known as TransferWise), is an online and mobile money transfer app and multi-currency account.

Dubbed ‘the Wise account’ they’re the only real provider to offer an extensive multi-currency account solution for individuals.

They’re known in the industry for being one of the very cheapest there is. 

The Wise account is used by individuals, freelancers and businesses across the world to spend on the go and receive money from abroad.

They IPO’d on the London Stock Exchange in 2021, being the first of its kind to do so.

IS WISE SAFE?

Being a publicly traded company, Wise is very safe.

They’re also fully regulated in 14 countries.

Over 200k customers have left reviews for Wise on Trustpilot, and the company enjoys an impressive 4.2/5 rating.

WISE RATES & FEES

Wise is one of the cheapest options for transferring and receiving money from abroad.

This is shown in their prices, only charging 0.41% on some major currencies. Technically, they offer interbank rates with the 0.41% being the fee.

So if you transferred £1000, you’ll be charged roughly £4.10.

There’s no cost for receiving money into your multi-currency account either.

WISE AVAILABILITY

Wise offers a debit card to pair with their multi-currency account.

I’ve personally used this feature and I must say, it is brilliant for travelling.

You can top up any currency at any time, using only one card for all currencies. Wise will know which currency to debit based on where you are in the world.

However, be aware, they don’t offer trading options like forwards or limit orders.

IS WISE FOR ME?

If you’re sending and receiving money digitally, then yes.

If you’re travelling or going on holiday and want your currency on a debit card, then also yes.

If you have a requirement to cash cheques, visit a branch or set up a direct debit, then no.

Wise do not offer that possibility.

For these activities, use a bank instead.

Wise Pros Wise Cons
Very cheap service Customer service isn’t the best
Accompanying debit card Account opening fee for business customers
Earn interest on account balances No overdraft

2. Revolut

Revolut has been one of the fastest growing companies of the 21st century.

Founded as recently as 2015, they surpassed a mammoth 30 million users worldwide in 2023, with 6.8 million of these in the UK.

Known as the ‘financial super app’, Revolut has aimed to take on a much broader range of financial services than purely currency exchange. 

Nowadays, you can take out insurance with a revolut partner, invest in a select number of stocks and even trade crypto.

Still, it started life as a multi-currency account and travel card service, offering near mid-market exchange rates, and this remains one of its most popular products.

IS REVOLUT SAFE?

Revolut is regulated by the FCA as an electronic money institution, and with millions of users worldwide, plus investors like Visa, Revolut is considered safe.

But, it’s not all rosy.

The firm’s value, once estimated to be as high as $33bn (it’s still a private company), is now said to be at least 40% lower.

The company has also been late filing its accounts twice and is still yet to be granted a full banking licence - something it applied for in Jan 2021.

Saying all this, I’ve used Revolut to make local transfers in the US, receive money in the UK, spend throughout Europe and Asia, and never had a problem.

REVOLUT RATES & FEES

Revolut offers 5 types of accounts.

First, there’s the entry-level, no-monthly fee standard account.

Then, there are 4 other paid accounts:

  • £3.99 - Plus 
  • £7.99 - Premium
  • £14.99 - Metal
  • £45 - Ultra

Naturally, you get more perks the more you pay. 

‘Standard’ users get a currency exchange limit of £1,000 per month. Then a 1% fee applies to any additional exchange.

‘Plus’ users get an exchange limit of £3,000 per month. Then a 0.5% fee applies to any additional exchange.

Premium, Metal and Ultra accounts are not capped.

The Revolut exchange rate is very competitive. This is roughly 0.15% - 0.75% off the mid-market rate depending on the currencies involved.

They’re one of the cheapest on the market and it’s worth comparing their rates with Wise to see who comes out on top.

REVOLUT AVAILABILITY

Just like Wise, Revolut offers a debit card to pair with their multi-currency account.

You can also make transfers to some very exotic currencies, practically anywhere in the world.

As for their multi-currency account, you can open over 25 IBAN accounts but, for individuals, only its GBP and USD accounts are local.

While EUR is not technically ‘local’ it’s held in the UK and can be used to make and receive SEPA transfers

Just watch out for fees at some European banks as they charge more for SEPA transfers with the UK than within the EU.

IS REVOLUT FOR ME?

If you’re travelling or going on holiday and want your currency on a debit card, then yes.

If you’re looking to make and receive international transfers at low fees, then also yes.

If you’re wanting to make and receive local transfers in a number of currencies around the world, then no.

If you have a requirement to cash cheques, visit a branch or set up a direct debit, then also no.

As a personal user, you get more local accounts with Wise.

As a business, you get more local accounts with WorldFirst. 

For things like cashing cheques, you need to find a bank.

Revolut Pros Revolut Cons
Good FX rates across most currencies Low fair-usage limit on free accounts
Accompanying debit card Costly ongoing fees for business
Good benefits on paid accounts Questions over company culture

3. Payoneer

Payoneer is a global fintech company headquartered in New York, with a history dating back to its founding in 2005 by Yuval Tal and other private investors.

It’s probably the only provider listed here that started with the aim of making it easier to receive money as opposed to just sending.

They’re a well-known name and have partnered with companies like eBay and Mastercard.

Payoneer's global presence has grown significantly, and today they provide solutions to businesses and individuals worldwide.

IS PAYONEER SAFE?

Payoneer is a publicly traded company with a market valuation of around $1.8bn, it is very safe.

They also partner with some of the world’s largest financial services companies like Mastercard.

Once upon a time, there were a few question marks raised about Payoneer’s onboarding policies but as the firm grew and went public these dissipated.

PAYONEER RATES & FEES

It’s free to open a Payoneer account and gain access to any of its 9 local currency accounts.

There’s no ongoing fees, provided you use the account, but an annual fee of $29.95 applies if it’s not utilised. 

It’s free to receive payments from other Payoneer accounts and free to receive local wires (for example an Australian customer sending you AUD).

There’s a 3% fee if your customer pays you by credit card and a 1% fee applies if customers pay by ACH debit in the US.

Currency transfers are quite expensive and can be anywhere up to 3%.

PAYONEER AVAILABILITY

Payoneer is predominantly a business offering but sole traders can also register providing they want to get paid by clients.

However, if you’re receiving a bank transfer from someone new for the first time, you have to get them approved with Payoneer first. 

You don’t have to go through this extra hassle with Wise or Revolut.

One positive, completely unique to Payoneer, is that you can receive credit card transactions into your account. 

You can’t do this with any other digital currency account provider.

IS PAYONEER FOR ME?

If you’re a business or sole trader that’s primarily looking for a solution to get paid, as opposed to making payments, then yes.

If you’re an ecommerce seller and want to get paid directly into your account by credit card, then also yes.

If you want to make payments from your account, there are better solutions out there.

Payoneer Pros Payoneer Cons
Get paid by credit card Only 9 accounts available
Great solution for freelancers to get paid Costly markup on currency exchange
Publicly traded on NASDAQ Must get sender’s approval before receiving money

4. WorldFirst

WorldFirst, founded in 2004 and headquartered in the UK, has evolved from a traditional currency broker to a global fintech. 

It specialises in currency exchange and multi-currency accounts for ecommerce businesses and SMEs. 

In fact, it was pretty much the first non-bank provider in the market to launch a digital currency account solution.

Receiving payments from online marketplaces is easy but it’s similarly easy to get paid by international customers, particularly when it’s B2B.

Asia & Oceania is a big focus for the firm, and in 2019, WorldFirst was sold to Chinese conglomerate Ant Financial for $700m.

IS WORLDFIRST SAFE?

WorldFirst has been in the money transfer business for 20 years. 

In this time, they’ve transferred over $200bn for more than 1,000,000 customers and continue to send over one million payments a year.

Owned by At Financial, the company is backed by substantial financial resources, making it very safe.

WORLDFIRST RATES & FEES

Opening any of WorldFirst’s currency accounts is free, and there are no ongoing fees.

Major currencies like USD, GBP, AUD, HKD and SGD are traded at a maximum of 0.75%, and if your business revenue is €100,000 or more every month, you could be eligible for better rates.

WORLDFIRST AVAILABILITY

Firstly, WorldFirst is only available to registered businesses. 

With 11 local accounts, they offer more local settlement options than any other provider.

Given their footprint and currency capabilities, they’re a particularly good option for businesses trading in China, Hong Kong and wider Asia.

Besides currency accounts, businesses can also book forward contracts and other currency hedging instruments.

IS WORLDFIRST FOR ME?

If you’re a business that wants the best local currency account solution on the market, then yes.

If your business also wants to hedge their currency risk with tools like forward contracts, then also yes.

If you’re a business trading small volumes then Wise offers better exchange rates than WorldFirst on most currencies.

If you’re an individual, then no, you can’t access WorldFirst. You only really have an option between Wise and Revolut.

WorldFirst Pros WorldFirst Cons
Industry-leading 11 local currency accounts Business only
Great option for ecommerce sellers High staff turnover in recent years
Rates capped at 0.75% markup Can’t receive credit card payments

5. HSBC

As one of the world’s largest banks, HSBC needs little introduction.

They serve some 39 million customers across 62 countries including Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Latin America.

Of all the legacy banks, they have, in our opinion, the best multi-currency account solution. It’s known as the ‘HSBC foreign currency account’.

IS HSBC SAFE?

Valued at north of £100bn, HSBC is estimated to be the seventh largest bank in the world. 

When it comes to currency account providers, they’re pretty much as safe as they come.

Your money is protected with HSBC through the FSCS up to £85,000.

HSBC RATES & FEES

For the currency accounts themselves, there are no fees for personal customers.

Businesses are charged an annual fee ranging from £96 to £180 per currency account, depending on the size of the business.

Be aware, you’re charged fees to both send and receive money. 

For example, there’s a $7 fee to make a USD transfer, and there’s a $7 fee to receive a USD transfer. Check HSBC’s fee information documents for a description of charges per currency account.

HSBC exchange rates are not good, with a markup between 1.5% and 3%.

HSBC AVAILABILITY

HSBC has branches in 62 countries but they don’t offer the same products around the world.

The account we’re talking about here is offered to UK customers.

The 15 currency accounts on offer (if you include GBP) is pretty good, but you have to bear in mind they’re all run out of the UK.

You aren’t actually accessing local currency accounts.

The process of opening an account in another country with HSBC is much more complicated. 

This is where you’d need a local address or local business to do so.

A huge barrier for most.

IS HSBC FOR ME?

If you like the security of a mainstream bank and aren’t too worried about cost, then yes.

If you want to have local currency accounts which allow for local settlement, then no.

If you want to find a cheaper alternative, then also no. HSBC is the most expensive of all 5 providers listed in our guide.

Again, Wise tends to be the best for individuals and WorldFirst the best for businesses.

HSBC Pros HSBC Cons
Safe as they come Poor exchange rates
Offline banking activities possible Notoriously bad customer service
Rates capped at 0.75% markup Fees for receiving money

Summary

In this article, I’ve given you some helpful advice on the different types of multi-currency bank accounts and how to choose the best provider for your needs.

Then, I’ve listed my top 5 multi-currency account providers.

In short:

  • Using your bank will most likely cost you quite a bit more
  • Fintechs provide a digital currency account alternative to normal accounts
  • Having a local account is generally advantageous
  • Wise has the best multi-currency account for individuals
  • WorldFirst is best for businesses

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