Wise review: The best bank for travellers?

Lucy Johnson Avatar


A white eco Wise debit card on a wooden shelf next to a plant
Table of contents

One crazy mojito-fuelled night out at a club in Havana, Cuba, I had my safety wallet stolen and with it, my debit card. Now, I won’t go into too much detail about how this so-called ‘safety’ wallet got stolen, because well, it was kind of my fault. I had it attached to a strap that went through the belt loops on my jeans and had to remove it every time I went to the loo.

Throughout the night, as more mojitos were consumed, it was placed less and less securely onto my trousers. So, unsurprisingly it got snatched off me without me even noticing.

What I was most devastated about was losing the wallet itself, because my bank card was through Wise, an online money wallet.

As soon as I found some internet, of which there is admittedly very little in Cuba, I was quickly able to freeze my debit card using the online banking app and get straight back to the party. No irritating phone calls with the bank’s shoddy customer service department, but instead, a few simple taps on my mobile phone.

This was back in 2020 and it is safe to say I am still a very loyal user of Wise ever since. In this Wise review I am going to go into more detail about why I use their banking service and how it suits my nomadic lifestyle.

Review summary

I have been using Wise for many years now, both when I am at home and when I am travelling. Their digital wallet is super simple to use and international transfers are cheap. I can use their debit card like a local when abroad and I feel safe in the knowledge that my money is safe. I would recommend Wise to anyone who travels a lot, like me, or for anyone needing to do a lot of international money transfers.

Brand: Wise

Rating: 4.8/5

My experience using Wise

As a long time user of Wise I am now going to go into more detail about my experience using their digital wallet service, including the pros and cons I have personally discovered.

Here are the pros of using Wise.

A white Wise debit card being held up in front of some Vietnamese buildings

It is cheap to use Wise at home & abroad

Prior to there being any international-friendly banking services, like those provided by Wise, if you wanted to use your debit or credit card abroad you would face phenomenally high fees for doing so every single time.

Thankfully, with monetary services like Wise you can use your card in ATMs abroad (and at home) and get the first 2 withdrawals of under £200 with zero fees.

Alternatively, you can hold the currency of the country you are visiting inside your wise app and use the Wise card when paying in shops and restaurants, with zero fees. The only thing you’ll be charged with is converting the balance to another currency on your app.

The fees for doing this are always small, but they do vary between currencies. You can check out the live fees on their website here: Wise account fees.

The best bit is that you can even save money by scheduling currency transfers for when the exchange rate reaches a certain amount. I did this with a few thousand dollars that I wanted to exchange to pounds a few years back and I actually made a few hundred extra pounds by waiting for it to exchange at the perfect time.

A green Wise debit card infront of some plants

Transfers via Wise are super quick

Long gone are the days where you make a bank transfer to a friend or family member and it takes a few hours to a few days to land in their bank account. The same can’t be said of international payments though, unless you use a digital wallet like Wise.

Their international payments can appear in the recipients bank within a matter of seconds, depending on who they bank with. If they are also on Wise then the process will be completely seamless.

This makes doing your personal finance on Wise an absolute dream, since your money spends more time inside your account than it does swimming around somewhere in the ether. Unless you spend it all, that is.

Moreover, if you run a business or do a lot of transfers to friends or family, then you’ll feel safe in the knowledge that your money is actually reaching the places it is supposed to, quickly!

Two different Wise debit cards in different colours

You can hold multiple currency accounts

Wise don’t just give you the option to use your home currency in other countries with low conversion fees and live exchange rates, they also allow you to hold other currencies within your account. This is something you don’t see anywhere else, definitely not from traditional banks!

On top of this, they have 10 different currencies which you can hold actual local account details for. Meaning people can pay you money into these checking accounts, like a local. All of these are housed within your account inside one handy digital wallet.

For example, at this current moment I hold a GBP account as well as a USD account, both of which can send and receive money, as well as VND for spending money within Vietnam. Soon, I am heading to Thailand so I will open up a balance for THB so I can use my card like a local when I am there.

This feature is great for anyone who works remotely and is paid in multiple currencies, or for anyone with international friends or family who send each other money. It is also really handy when you travel a lot and want to keep hold of currency within your account that can be used at any time.

A white eco Wise debit card on a wooden shelf next to a plant

Wise keep your money & cards safe

Since Wise isn’t a traditional bank you may feel a little bit concerned about storing your money with them. They are still however an authorised Electronic Money Institution that is independently regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.

This means that they are required by law to store your money in low-risk financial institutions. In Europe this is held in Barclays and in the US, it is is held in Wells Fargo.

What they aren’t, is a dodgy travel card with a brand name no one has ever heard of. Wise is trusted by over 15 million people to make international transfers and to spend money at home and abroad.

I have always felt safe using them as my main bank account for using both at home and abroad. Their app is secure, with 2-factor authorisation, and online payments also need to go through this authorisation process before being finalised.

You can open up multiple digital cards within your account that you use solely for your Apple or Google Pay and online purchases. These can be disposed of at any time, for personal or security reasons. On top of this, you can have multiple bank cards that are easy to freeze and cancel at any time. New ones can be sent out to your home address.

You can easily travel with a few cards and keep one hidden away in your luggage or in a safe in your room as a back up, just in case you lose your other one.

Areas of improvement

There are many reasons why I love using Wise. Their service completely suits my lifestyle and my monetary needs. I make a lot of international payments and spend a lot of money abroad, since I am constantly on the move. Therefore, I save a lot of money by using Wise as my main checking account.

That being said, I do also understand that Wise isn’t for everyone. The fact that they aren’t actually a bank can have downfalls for some people.

I will now cover the main issues that people may experience when using Wise.

No physical bank you can visit

Since Wise isn’t actually a bank, but rather a money service provider, you can’t actually go and visit them like you would a traditional bank. Everything is done online, either through their website or the app. Therefore, you can’t pay cheques into your account, nor can you add physical cash into it.

I personally don’t necessarily see this as a negative though, since I haven’t had the need to visit a physical bank since I was a a child with a checking account booklet. As cash becomes less popular, virtual money really takes over.

You can’t take out loans

There are no loan options with Wise, since they aren’t actually a bank. Therefore, their money provider services are not suitable for anyone who is looking to use it for traditional banking purposes.

This isn’t a concern for the majority of people using Wise though, since it is a popular service amongst travellers, international business owners and expats. These aren’t necessarily the people who would be looking for mortgages and bank loans from traditional banks.

My verdict on Wise

For an increasingly globalised world, digital wallet services like those provided by Wise are more important. Unlike traditional banks, they can provide cheaper transfers and lower conversion fees to customers so they can spend and send money abroad like a local.

I used to find banking to be an extremely stressful experience when I would travel pre-Wise. Not only was it expensive to use your home bank account, it would also prove very difficult to get any help abroad if something were to go wrong.

Now, I can spend happily anywhere in the world thanks to Wise. I use their bank card as if it was a local debit card. I schedule conversion transfers to make the most of exchange rates and I save heaps of money in the process.

It has been a lifesaver when sending money to both friends and family, as well as paying money to other freelancers who I have worked with.

I would recommend it to anyone who also moves money around the world a lot, or visits other countries regularly, be it for business or pleasure. Or you live nomadically, like me!

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