Those of you familiar with Wise (formerly Transferwise) will know that it is the cheapest way to transfer money between countries. It helps you avoid bank fees and gives you the real exchange rate.
I have written about this service in another post and it's been hugely helpful to other expats who've used the service.
One of Wise's other offerings is the borderless account. This account enables you to send, receive and spend money around the world with the real exchange rate, which saves you money.
I was lucky enough to be one of the people selected to trial the borderless account when it first came out, and I've continued using it since.
In this post, I'll walk you through exactly how the Wise Borderless account works, help you identify whether or not you need one, and run through all the finer details on set-up, fees, and how much you can save in comparison with traditional banking methods.
What is the Wise Borderless Account?
The Borderless account gives you bank account details for the USD, GBP, EUR and AUD currencies.
You also have the option to add your local currency to hold in your balance. So even if you don't live in the US, UK, Australia or Europe, you will effectively have a bank account there. This means you can send and receive money in these currencies.
A Borderless account is a bit like having local accounts all over the world. It’s a multi-currency account that lets you receive money in 10 currencies and hold money in 56 currencies, and convert between them at the real exchange rate whenever you need to.
Holding multiple currencies is completely free, and they use the real exchange rate to convert.
Who Can Benefit from a Wise Borderless Account?
The Wise Borderless account will appeal to those who want to receive, hold and spend money in different currencies, and those who travel a fair bit.
You can use the card in 200 countries, spend with Apple and Google Pay, and withdraw anywhere you like.
I'll explain how it has been useful for me.
I regularly receive payments in US Dollars, and occasionally Euros too.
Historically, payments were made to my PayPal account or my UK bank account.
With PayPal, I have to pay a receiving fee, and then pay another fee to transfer this money to my UK bank account. That final transfer to my bank account means I am also subject to PayPal's horrible exchange rate.
If the money is paid into my UK bank account, then I'm usually subject to a wire fee, and if not a wire fee, I always have to suffer the poor exchange rate given by my bank.
But now, with the Wise Borderless account, I just give my US account number to the person or company paying me and have the US Dollars paid into my account.
I can then spend in US Dollars using my Wise (formerly TransferWise) MasterCard, or I can transfer the US Dollars to my UK bank account at the market exchange rate.
I incur a small fee from Wise for withdrawing to my bank account and converting the currency. However, I save so much money compared with having the money paid into my PayPal account.
Moreover, if I receive Euros or Australian Dollars, I can also keep a balance of these currencies in my Wise account. I can then spend the balances of these currencies in any country I choose, even here in Thailand.
The Borderless account will benefit people who work in professions where they receive money from a source based in America, in Australia, in the UK or in Europe; think people like freelancers, expats, second home-owners, international students, overseas contractors, etc.
You can receive the money into your Borderless account and then spend the money using the debit card, either electronically or through withdrawal.
Or you can send the money on to another bank account linked to your Borderless account.
The Borderless Debit Card (MasterCard)
The debit card is super cool, not least because it is a fluorescent green colour :). When you whip it out in the supermarket, the cashier is always like, ” Oh, what bank is that?”
I don't actually use the debit card that much, though. My main use is having money paid into the account and then transferring money to my bank account in the UK.
I do use it in Thailand when I'm short on funds in my Bangkok Bank account, which, incidentally, I often top up by using the Wise (formerly Transferwise) money transfer service to send money from my UK bank account to my Thai bank account.
On a side note, Bangkok Bank are no longer issuing Visa debit cards, and those who do have Visa cards won't be able to get a replacement if they lose the card or it expires.
Instead, they are issuing Union debit cards, which are pretty much useless because you can't really use them anywhere, though you can use them to withdraw money. So this is another good reason to have the Borderless account debit card.
For the record: there is no real difference between MasterCard and Visa. The two are both widely accepted in over two hundred countries and it is very rare to find a location that will accept one but not the other.
There are also those who regularly visit Thailand but struggle to get a bank account, or just can't be bothered to go through the process. The Wise Borderless account is very well suited to visitors who would like to have a debit card that provides them with favorable exchange and withdrawal rates.
It is really useful when visiting other countries, too.
I was recently on holiday in Bern, Switzerland.
When I ran out of Swiss Francs, it made sense to use the Wise debit card because it gave me a favorable exchange rate. As I spent, it transferred the US Dollars in my Borderless account to Swiss Francs.
Wise Borderless Account Benefits Summary:
- Lets you spend anywhere in the world at the real exchange rate. You'll pay low conversion fees, and zero transaction fees.
- Receive money in 10 currencies, including GBP, USD, CAD, EURO, AUD, NZD, RON, HUF, & SGD
- Hold money in 56 currencies.
- Free to pay with currencies in your account: convert money into your required currency and it will be free to spend or pay in your chosen local currency.
- Free first two ATM withdrawals (up to £200) a month.
- Only pay a small conversion fee when you convert your money — typically between 0.35% and 1%.
- Pay in any currency, anywhere and it will automatically convert the currency in your account with the lowest conversion fee.
- Free same currency withdrawals for personal account users ( there are a couple of exceptions).
How Do I Set up an Account?
To get set up, you'll need to:
- Create a free account ( you might need to wait a day or so to have your account verified)
- Select a currency. You can set up each currency with just a couple clicks. You can have more than one currency.
- Add money to your account. You can top up via debit card or bank transfer
Once your account is set up and you have access to it, you can do the following:
- Convert money between your currencies in seconds at the real exchange rate with low conversion fees
- Send money from any currency in your account to pay bills, send money to friends and family
- Spend money with your Wise debit MasterCard
- Receive money with account numbers and IBANs. Get paid to your account (zero fees)
It's free to set up your account.
It's free to get your international bank details, and free to receive money using those bank details.
The only cost you’ll be charged is a fee to convert between currencies – either in your account or if you spend on your Wise debit MasterCard in a currency you don't have in your account.
When you convert money in your account it's always with the real exchange rate, and you always see the fee before you make the exchange.
If you spend on your MasterCard in a currency you don't have, Wise chooses to convert the balance with the lowest fee, so you never have to worry about getting the best rate.
I have pictured the fee tables for the US and UK accounts below.
Here's an example of some of the currency conversion fees:
- from GBP to EUR 0.35%
- from GBP to INR 0.55%
- from EUR to GBP 0.5%
- from EUR to USD 0.5%
- from USD to GBP 0.85%
- from USD to EUR 1%
- from AUD to GBP 0.7%
- from AUD to USD 0.7%
Is Wise Really Cheaper Than My Bank?
In a nutshell, yes, much cheaper; at least for this type of banking where you're dealing with foreign currencies and spending abroad.
Consumer Intelligence conducted research comparing the Wise Borderless account to 21 current accounts offerings from banks in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia.
The research concluded that in comparison to the 21 current accounts included in the study, the Wise borderless account is cheaper, quicker and easier for consumers across all categories.
In the UK, the research found it’s up to 9x cheaper to use Wise instead of a bank to send money from GBP to AUD, EUR or USD for £200 and £1,000. And it's up to 7x cheaper to spend the same amounts abroad with the Wise debit MasterCard.
In Australia, the research found it’s up to 12x cheaper to use Wise instead of a bank to send money from AUD to EUR or USD for $250 and $1,000.
In Germany, the research found it’s up to 4x cheaper to use Wise instead of a bank to send money from EUR to AUD, USD for €250 and €1,000. And it's up to 2x cheaper to spend the same amounts abroad using the Wise debit card.
The Wise (formerly Transferwise) Borderless account is the first platform offering true multi-country banking to anyone who needs it, no matter where you live.
You can receive and send money all over the world, hold and convert money in 56 currencies, and get a contactless MasterCard debit card for spending abroad.
If you are paid in a different currency than that of your home country, or perhaps even receive income in multiple currencies, the Wise Borderless account will save you money.
If you have been using PayPal to receive foreign currencies and then transferring them to your bank account, you can get those same companies or individuals to pay you into your Wise account and avoid those evil PayPal fees.
Do note that you can't transfer money from a PayPal account to your Wise Borderless account. There are some articles online saying you can do this, but I wasn't able to.
I even phones PayPal to see if I could get my Wise account added to my PayPal account so that I could withdraw money directly. They were brutally honest about why they wouldn't let this happen. Say no more.
You can also conduct favorable currency conversions within your Wise account, but that's optional. With the Wise debit card, you can spend the money from any currency inside your Wise bank account in any country around the world.
This is a modern day banking revolution. It will save you money. I have saved thousands in fees already.