Looking to move money abroad? I know that going through traditional means can be inconvenient, expensive, and slow.
Brick and mortar banks are known to inflate exchange rates and charge large transaction fees to increase their profits. Luckily, there are a growing set of options out there to send money cheaply from the comfort of your own home.
Wise, known as Transferwise up until February of 2021, is one of them.
I’m a huge fan of Wise. As I’ve highlighted in my bio and several blog articles, I adopted a digital nomad lifestyle back in 2019. I’ve since expanded and now have to send money to six different countries.
Managing my international finances is truly easier than it’s ever been with Wise, and I couldn’t imagine going back to a big bank and doing an expensive wire transfer.
I have been using their borderless account since 2018 and have sent countless transfers abroad at a fraction of the cost of regular banks since then. Wise also allows me to convert my money into different currencies cheaply and within a matter of seconds.
In this Wise review (Canada-focused), I’m going to walk you through what this virtual provider has to offer for Canadians, its fees and rates, and how safe and reliable it is.
Online International Money Transfer and Banking Service
Wise is one of the cheapest and most convenient options out there for international money transfers. It also offers a great user experience for its customers.
- Mid-market exchange rates with no mark-up
- Low and transparent fees
- App or desktop access
- Good customer support
- Regulated by FINTRAC
- 60+ currencies
- Borderless account to hold more than 50 currencies at once
- May not be the cheapest or most convenient option for large transfers
- No cash pick-up or bill payment options
- Service not available until verified by their team
What is Wise?
Wise, formerly Transferwise, is an online international money transfer and banking service. With the goal of moving money easily across borders and minimizing hidden fees for their customers, the London-based company offers an expanding set of products and services in currency exchange and payments services.
With an online Wise account, you can instantly send money abroad and get paid in other currencies using mid-market currency exchange rates and transparent, flat fees.
Better yet, you don’t have to worry about the exchange rate markups or high fees traditionally charged by brick and mortar banks, nor the delays, inconvenience, and fine print.
As a Canadian, your free Wise borderless account allows you to:
- quickly send money to more than 60 countries in their home currency
- hold more than 50 currencies in balances in your account
- convert currencies instantly in your account with low fees
- get account details to receive money in AUD, CAD, GBP, HUF, EUR, NZD, RON, SGD, TRY, and USD
- set up Direct Debits in AUD, CAD, GBP, EUR, and USD
- You get an extremely good exchange rate – I can’t stress this point enough. Many of the big banks will not only charge you for the wire transfer, but take a big percentage of your money for each exchange rate conversion.
There are no monthly fees or minimum balances that you need to worry about with Wise unless you plan to hold more than a €15,000 balance. In that case, there is a 0.40% charge per annum.
This isn’t even a concern for me, because I have it linked directly with my bank account, so I never hold a balance in the account.
Wise does also offer a debit card that lets you spend anywhere in the world at the real exchange rate, however, this feature is only available only in Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore.
If you are planning on moving to any of the above countries from Canada, or already have a home address there, this is a great feature as it provides low conversion fees and no transaction fees through your travels.
One of the many great features of Wise is that customers know exactly what they are being charged for. Their transparency is unrivalled in comparison to traditional banks that inflate exchange rates and charge extravagant service fees.
When sending money through Wise, you pay a fixed fee to send money (which varies by currency) as well as a fee to convert your currency of choice (the exchange rate).
For example, say that you want to send the equivalent of CAD $1000 to your friend over in England, who keeps a GBP bank account.
You would be paying a CAD $0.54 fee that is charged regardless of how much money you are sending, along with a variable fee for converting the currencies. In the latter, the more you send, the higher your variable conversion fee.
When the screenshot below was taken on October 19th, 2021, the said fee was 0.51%, which amounts to CAD $5.07.
To calculate the fees you would pay for any hypothetical transfer on Wise, simply head over to www.wise.com and use the calculator on their home page.
Keep in mind that in addition to the fixed and variable costs to send money abroad, Wise also charges a USD $7.50 fee for receiving USD wire transfers to your borderless account.
As mentioned, Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate for all of its transfers. The mid-market currency exchange rate is the midpoint between the buy and sell prices of any two currencies at a given time.
Of course, this fluctuates as the value of foreign currencies changes every day, and your transfers on Wise will reflect this in the variable fee that you pay. The mid-market currency exchange rate is also known as the “interbank exchange rate”.
It is commonplace for banks to add around 3% or more of markup on top of the mid-market rate when doing currency exchange for their customers.
Wise offers guaranteed rates for all of their transfers. Once you set up your transfer, the rate that you saw on the screen will be the rate that Wise uses for your transfer even if the rate increases by the time your money gets to Wise. This may be anywhere between 2 to 72 hours, depending on the currency.
When you are setting up your transfer, Wise will indicate how long the rate will be held. Either way, it’s better to pay for the transfer as quickly as possible.
Note that the guaranteed rate period does not include weekends or holidays when banks usually do not process transfers. For example, a 48-hour rate hold for a transfer submitted on Friday at 5 pm would be held until Tuesday at 5 pm.
For more details on guaranteed rates, head here.
Wise offers a very handy exchange rate alert service that notifies you about rate changes to the currencies of your choice, and you don’t even have to have an account to sign up.
You can go here to register with your email address, choose your preferred currencies, set up thresholds for when you want to be notified, and get rate alerts straight to your email inbox.
All in all, Wise’s deliberate efforts to charge low fees while using the mid-exchange currency exchange rate is what makes this platform one of the cheapest ways to send money abroad.
Opening a Wise account in Canada
Opening a Wise account in Canada is convenient and easy. You can open your account as an individual, and, if you have one, add your business to your account as well. Wise’s international business features are streamlined and make paying employees and getting paid extremely easy in a variety of currencies.
You can open a Wise account with this link, and get a fee-free transfer of up to $800.
Registering for Wise can be done on a desktop, mobile, or their apps for android or iOS. Much like opening an account at a physical bank, Wise will need to verify your identity before your first transfer. This allows financial institutions to keep everybody’s money safe and combat money laundering.
To confirm your identity, Wise accepts clear images of your passport or the front and back of your national ID card or photo driver’s license. Verifying your identity usually only takes 1 to 3 days after you fill in your details and upload your documents.
After this, you will have full access to the features of your account and send money abroad in a matter of minutes. And don’t forget, the recipient does not need a Wise account to receive the money in their bank account.
The sender only needs their regular banking details, which may look different based on which country they are living in.
Yes, Wise is registered in Canada. The details of their registration in Canada, as well as in other countries, is transparently listed on their website:
Wise Payments Canada Inc. is registered with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) as a Money Service Business (MSB) with registration number M15193392. We also have an MSB license with the Authorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) under license number 902804.
The full list of how Wise is regulated in each country can be found here.
Yes, Wise is safe and reliable. As Wise is regulated by FINTRAC as a Money Service Business (MSB), it is subject to the same rules and regulations as other major financial institutions in Canada.
As a reminder, FINTRAC is the national financial intelligence agency of Canada, which works to detect, prevent, and deter security threats to Canada such as money laundering and terrorist activity financing.
In addition, Wise uses HTTPS encryption and a 2-step login procedure to protect your transactions and makes sure your communications with the company are secure.
Sending large amounts of money through Wise is possible and safe, although there may be a couple of extra steps in comparison to sending lower amounts.
Firstly, most banks have a limit on how much you can pay online at once within 24 hours or a 1 week time frame. If your transfer exceeds your limit, you may have to call your bank or go into your branch on the day that you would like your transfer sent.
Once you have spoken to your bank and set up your transfer, Wise may ask you further details before completing the transaction, such as the source of the money.
Once you have provided them with verification details, Wise will take care of the rest. As with all other Wise transfers, each transaction is vetted by a real person to ensure safety.
In terms of costs: as mentioned, there is a variable rate that you pay with each transfer (in the case above, it was 0.51%).
If the percentage of the sum you’re sending is larger than what your traditional bank would charge for the transfer, it is up to you to make the call. You can always use the calculator on Wise’s homepage before making your decision.
In instances where you send the equivalent of 100,000 GBP over a calendar month (in a one-off or multiple transfers), note that Wise does offer a lower conversion fee. Over £100,000, the more you send, the lower your variable rate. Note that they use pounds to calculate because it’s a London-based company
Wise’s specialist team is also there for support when sending large transfers. You can access this feature once you log in to your account.
The user experience on Wise is smooth and easy to navigate. With options to use the service on desktop, mobile, or app, you have access to your account and can send transfers from wherever you are. And with their borderless account, you can convert between currencies with ease and low fees.
Linking your existing bank account is easy, as is adding recipients and contacts. Their online services are available in 16 different languages.
If you need help or have questions about Wise, you can start at their Help Centre. It comes with detailed instructions and information about frequently asked questions, as well as a section through which you can address issues regarding a specific transfer (if you’re logged in to your account).
If you need to speak with a real person, you can also contact them here.
Wise is surely not the only platform for making international transfers from the comfort of your own home, although their borderless account has not been fully replicated. In terms of virtual international transfer pricing, let’s compare Wise to a common alternative, PayPal’s Xoom service.
Xoom is a PayPal service that allows you to send money to your friends and family around the world. You can make international transfers, send cash for pick-up or home delivery, pay international bills, and reload your cellular phone plans.
Aside from international transfers, all latter services are currently not offered by Wise.
When it comes to sending money abroad, however, the main difference between the two services is that Xoom does add a markup on the mid-exchange currency exchange rate, and charges higher transaction fees for some of their services (fee schedule below).
Based on this fee schedule, the only instance it may be cheaper to use Xoom for your transfers is if you are sending a small amount of money directly from your PayPal balance.
This service is free, and despite the markup on Xoom’s conversion rate, the small amount would result in small fees. However, in many instances, Wise is the cheaper option as can be seen in the example below.
Note that Wise offers a very helpful comparison tool that allows you to sort through exchange rates charged by different financial institutions.
I hunted down some reviews from Wise users on Trustpilot, one of the biggest consumer review websites out there.
Turns out, most people agree with me that Wise (formerly Transferwise) is outstanding. In fact, out of the current 132,389 reviews, 85% rate Wise as “Excellent” and 8% of reviewers rate it as “Great”. Their overall score on Trustpilot’s website is 4.6/5.
Below are some reviews that comment on the experiences users had using Wise.
How I use Wise
I currently have Wise linked up to my bank account, and it can send and receive money directly from there. It’s as simple as logging into your online banking, and you can set it up within minutes.
I mostly use Wise to send money to international service providers, or workers I have that help me run my business. I have people that I need to pay in the Philippines, Egypt, the U.K, and the U.S, and I can send them money quickly and cheaply with Wise.
You will need either their banking info though to send or at least their email. Once you have everything set up, it’s extremely easy to send money to them.
I also use Wise to send money to myself. I have two international bank accounts, one in Vietnam, and one in Georgia. While I am living in those countries, it’s handy to have the local currency readily available. I send myself money using Wise, directly into these bank accounts.
Final Verdict on Wise
I know moving money across borders can be expensive, inconvenient, and slow. Our traditional financial system was not built to accommodate international transactions in a rapidly digitalizing world.
As options have been limited in the past, this allowed banks and credit unions to charge large and hidden fees for these transactions.
Since 2011, Wise, formerly known as Transferwise, has been working to break down these barriers to moving currency across borders.
Their transparent and low fees, honest exchange rates without markups, a wide range of currencies, and great customer service allow them to stand apart when it comes to sending money internationally.
Wise is also known to be reliable and safe, adhering to FINTRAC regulations in Canada and upholding its company values.
As a happy account holder myself, I definitely would recommend Wise to you. Wise has made it very easy for me to uphold my lifestyle of being a digital nomad and allows me to continue managing my international finances with ease.
If you don’t yet have a Wise account, you can sign up here to receive a fee-free transfer of up to CAD $800.
Through the link, you can save fees and try out Wise for yourself without the fees to see whether it’s right for you. I’m confident that you will love it as much as I do.