Facts & Figures
What is Wise?
Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, is an online and mobile money transfer app.
Wise is used to send money abroad in different currencies.
They’re known for charging small fees and providing a tight rate of exchange.
They have a largely DIY service, done in 3 simple steps:
- Create an account
- Pick currencies, destination and amounts
- Agree trade with one click
After you’ve paid, Wise will then send the currency to your designated account.
Wise is what’s known as a “FinTech” (Financial Technology) company.
Since their launch in 2010, Wise has received heavy investment from individuals and companies all over, including Richard Branson.
In July 2021, Wise became the first FinTech company to float on the London Stock Exchange.
This took its market value to over £11billion.
Is Wise a Bank?
To put it simply, Wise is not a bank.
They are classed as an e-money institution.
However, they’re still required to protect your money.
They just do it differently to the banks.
Your UK bank will protect your money using the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
With the FSCS, you can only recover up to £85k if your bank goes bust.
You might not be able to recover any more.
Wise, on the other hand, “safeguard” your money.
This means that you should get all of your money back.
I’ll explain what safeguarding means in more detail here.
Wise used to be called TransferWise.
They removed the ‘Transfer’ in 2021.
They believe they are now more than just a money transfer service.
Below are the expanded range of features they provide:
Wise International Money Transfers
This is Wise’s primary feature.
You can convert money into over 50 currencies and send it to over 80 countries.
They provide mid-market rates with a small fee.
This makes them a very cheap option for international transfers.
You can book a deal either on their online platform or mobile app.
Wise Multi-Currency Account
This is exactly what it says on the tin.
It’s an account that holds multiple currencies.
Wise will open a bank account in the currency of your choice in its designated country.
If you want a USD account, they will open an account in the US.
Do you want NZD? You’ll get an account in New Zealand.
And so on and so forth.
You can have as many currencies as you need.
Wise will provide you with the country’s standard account details for each account.
This could be an IBAN and BIC, account number and sort code, etc.
You can convert money between your different accounts using Wise’s transfer service.
This feature is great for frequent travellers and for people who send money abroad often.
Wise Debit Card
With the multi-currency account comes a debit card.
You only get one card, which is linked to all of your currency accounts.
Wherever you are in the world, Wise will know which currency account to debit when you swipe your card.
Pretty smart, eh?
If you don’t have an account for a particular currency, they will just convert it from a nominated account instead.
You can withdraw cash up to 200 GBP equivalent every month, with no charge.
Is Wise Safe?
As a publicly traded company, Wise is very safe and can be trusted with your money.
Not only that, but they’re fully regulated in 14 countries:
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the United Kingdom
- Nation Bank of Belgium (covers the European Economic Area)
- Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC)
- Customs and Excise Department (CCE) in Hong Kong
- Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
- Kanto Local Financial Bureau in Japan
- Bank Negara Malaysia
- Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand
- The Monetary Authority of Singapore
- Central Bank of Brazil
- Bank Indonesia
- Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Financial Services Regulation Authority (FSRA)
If you’re in the UK, you’ll probably have heard of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Wise Payments Limited is authorised as an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) by the UK Financial Conduct Authority with registration number 900507.
This is the same type of regulation that the high-street banks have, and gives you the highest level of protection.
Part of this protection is having the company funds completely separate from client funds.
All client funds are held in accounts that are “ring-fenced and safeguarded”.
This means that if Wise were to become insolvent, you should receive the full amount of funds back that you were holding with them.
However, this small snippet from their website states that you could receive slightly less:
I definitely would not be worried about Wise going under, though.
Wise Rates, Fees and Costs
Wise operates very differently to a traditional currency broker:
- They display all of their rates on their website / mobile app
- They provide the mid-market rate to their clients
- They charge a fee for every transaction
Wise is known for being a cheap option to transfer money abroad.
This is shown in the rates they provide, only charging 0.41%.
This means that if you transferred £1000, you’ll be charged roughly £4.10.
To compare, XE charge between 0.85% and 1.35%.
Remitly and WorldRemit can go as high as 3%.
It’s common in the industry to markup the exchange rate for a bit more profit.
Wise stress that they don’t do this, in turn giving you the actual rate at the time.
Given that the banks could charge you up to £60 for the same £1000 transfer, you could save a lot of money with Wise.
How Does Wise Make Money?
You’re probably thinking…
If they’re charging that little, how do they grow?
Well, until 2017, they didn’t turn a profit.
However, now the figure is growing year on year.
This is due to economies of scale.
The more transfers they perform, the cheaper it is for Wise to operate.
Basically, they’re reducing their costs and increasing customers exponentially.
Wise, as of 2022, have 12 million customers and transfer approximately £6billion per month.
With their 0.41% charge, that’s £24million revenue per month, give or take.
Eventually, they were bound to make a profit.
On Trustpilot, Wise has nearly 150k reviews.
That’s a lot of people, and only a fraction of their customer base.
With XE only having 50k+ reviews, Wise are way ahead of the curve
While 85% of reviews are 5 stars, 5% are one star.
Let’s run through what their customers are saying.
“This is my go to transfer mechanism for overseas transactions. It is very quick, reliable and secure. What more could you want? And you don't get bent over on the fees. I highly recommend.”
Pretty much every review talks about how fast and cheap the service is.
This is what Wise is known for, so it’s no surprise that people love it.
Their customers also love how user-friendly the platform and app is.
Given how much investment they’ve had, you’d expect some fancy tech.
It looks great and is very simple to use.
“I've tried to make a transfer, but Wise has blocked the funds and for almost 10 days can neither send a payment nor refund the funds. Support is useless.”
Now, the caveat with the fast and cheap service lies within the level of customer support.
Nearly all of their negative reviews talk about a transfer issue they’ve had, followed up by their “useless” support.
If something goes wrong with a transfer, you are going to struggle to get any kind of decent assistance.
It’s part of why Wise is so cheap; they don’t pay for this kind of stuff.
To be honest, it’s very unlikely that you’ll encounter any issues with your transfer.
But if you do, don’t expect above-and-beyond help from their customer support.
How Do I Open a Wise Account?
- Click sign up
- Fill out a quick form
- Verify yourself
The verification process is to prove that it’s really you signing up.
This means taking a scan of your ID and a proof of address.
For your ID, a passport or driver's licence will do.
A ‘proof of address’ is a document proving that you live where you said you live.
This is usually just a utility bill or a bank statement.
Wise will then ask you to take a selfie while holding your ID, to prove it’s really you.
It can take Wise up to 2 working days to verify you, but is usually pretty quick.
You’re then free to use their services.
Do I Need a Wise Account to Receive Money?
No, you don’t.
But you do need one to send money.
If someone is sending you money from their Wise account, all you have to do is give them your details directly.
However, if you do have an account, they can send directly to it and you can choose where the money goes from there.
How Do Money Transfers Work?
Sending Money to Wise
In terms of payment methods, you can pay via a bank transfer or card.
Bank transfers are almost always the fastest and cheapest.
You should be able to move the money through your online or mobile banking.
However, depending on the amount and who you bank with, you may have to pop into a branch.
Receiving Money from Wise
Whether you’re receiving funds from yourself or someone else’s Wise account, you’ll need to supply a set of details.
In Europe, with a few exceptions, you’ll provide an IBAN and a BIC code.
In the US, you’ll need an account number and routing number.
Wise should prompt you (or the sender) with the details required before the transfer is made.
Wise may or may not decline to send or ask some more questions depending on where the money is being sent to.
Sending to countries like Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Russia will not go through smoothly (or at all).
How Long Do Payments Take to Arrive?
It ultimately depends on where they’re being sent to.
For the US, payments usually take up to 1 working day for wires, and 1-3 days for ACH transfers.
In Europe, some payments are instant with the new SEPA Instant Credit system, and some will take 1 working day.
If you’re sending GBP to the UK, most payments will be instant.
Other currencies will take 1-2 working days.
How Do I Cancel a Wise Transfer?
Whether you can cancel a transfer or not depends on what stage the transfer is at.
There are 5 stages:
- You’ve only set up the transfer
- You’ve paid for the transfer
- Wise has received your money and is processing the transfer
- Wise has paid the money
- The recipient has received the money
If on stage 1 and 2, simply click on the transfer and select ‘cancel transfer’.
Follow the steps through and you’ll have it cancelled.
If you’ve paid, you may have to provide your bank details so Wise can refund you.
If you paid via debit/credit card, Wise will simply refund the card.
If on stage 3, you have limited time to cancel as Wise are very quick at processing funds.
At stage 4 and 5, nothing can be done.
You’ll have to talk with the recipient and ask them to return the money to you.
Wise will not get involved in any disputes and will not recall payments.
How Do I Contact Wise Customer Support?
The quickest way is to log in on your computer or mobile, and click on ‘Help’.
You will be prompted to use either phone, email or live chat.
Although their customer service is criticised, it’s available in multiple languages.
Another option is to send a message via their social media pages, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Wise Mobile App
Wise has a fantastic mobile app, which is free to use.
With it, you can see all of your transfers and recipients.
You can also make transfers and pay via Apple Pay.
You can even ‘repeat’ previous transfers without the hassle of entering all the details again.
The Wise app is available on the App Store and Google Play Store.
Is Wise Right For Me?
In my opinion, it comes down to the level of service you’re after.
This can also differ depending on your transfer volume.
If you’re sending £100 to your Grandmother in Spain, you want it to be quick, easy, and done in a few clicks.
This is where Wise is the best.
However, it’s a different story if you’re transferring £200k to buy a house.
That’s a lot of money.
If there’s an issue, you’ll need an expert to speak to, quickly.
In this case, a currency broker is the better option.
A broker isn’t as DIY as Wise, but you’ll get impeccable customer service.
I would personally say that Wise is best for transfers under £5000.
For larger payments, a broker is better.
I’m not saying that Wise couldn’t perform larger transfers effectively…
I just know that you’ll have a much harder time with their customer support if you have a problem.
With that amount of money, you’ll want the best service possible.
Wise is the largest and most used money transfer provider right now.
And for good reason, too.
They’re simply the best for small, quick and easy payments.
The multi-currency account and debit card combination is super useful.
If you’re a frequent traveller or just need to send money often, Wise is for you.
They’re extremely cheap in terms of exchange rates and fees.
The only thing I’d say is, be wary of their customer service.
Most transfers will go through problem-free, so you shouldn't need to contact them anyway.
For larger transfers (£5k or above), I’d recommend reading our article on our Best Currency Brokers.