Wise review: The best bank for travellers?

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I have been using Wise for many years now, both when I am at home and when I am travelling. Find out why in my thorough Wise review.

4.5 out of 5

One crazy mojito-fuelled night out at a club in Cuba I had my safety wallet stolen and along with it, my debit card. Now, I won’t go into much detail about how this so-called ‘safety’ wallet got stolen, because well, it was pretty much my fault.

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. I was most devastated about losing the wallet itself, but wasn’t particularly concerned about my Wise card.

As soon as I found some internet, of which there is admittedly very little in Cuba, I was able to freeze my debit card using the online banking app and then got straight back to the party. No irritating phone calls with a bank’s shoddy customer service department, but instead, a few simple taps on my mobile phone. The next day, I transferred some money over to my sister and we continued with our travelling!

This was back in 2020 and I have been 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.

Pros

  • Cheap to use at home & abroad
  • Transfers are super quick
  • You can hold multiple currencies
  • Wise keep your money & cards safe
  • Earn extra money with interest

Cons

  • No physical bank you can visit
  • No loans or overdrafts
A white Wise debit card being held up in front of some Vietnamese buildings
My Wise card ready to use in Vietnam

The positives

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 when using their cards, the app, their transfer services, and their interest feature.

It is cheap to use Wise at home & abroad

Before there were 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 (unless the vendor imposes any). 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 USD that I wanted to exchange for GBP a few years back and I made a few hundred extra pounds by waiting for it to exchange at the perfect time.

Ordering your card£7
Digital cardFree
Replacing your card£2.50
Replacing an expired cardFree
Sending the same currency to other Wise usersFree

Transfers via Wise are super quick

Long gone are the days when 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 recipient’s 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 finances 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 reaching the places it is supposed to, quickly!

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. This means 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.

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 however still 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 their money in low-risk financial institutions. In Europe this is held in Barclays and in the US it 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 use 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 backup, just in case you lose your other one.

Earn extra money with Wise Interest

Make your money work for you by turning on Wise’s interest feature. Swap any of your GBP, USD, or EUR currency accounts or jars over to start earning interest straight away. You can spend your money as normal whilst getting daily gains.

Your money will be invested into a fund that holds government-guaranteed assets. But it is worth noting that gains aren’t guaranteed. Variable rates are based on weekly averages.

You can have multiple jars or currencies set to earn interest. For example, I have a jar within my Wise account that I use to collect tax. This is set to earn interest. I also set my general GBP and USD balances to earn interest.

CurrencyRateIncludes
GBP4.66%0.56% annual fee
USD5.05%0.29% annual fee
EUR3.67%0.27% annual fee
Rates as of April 2024

It is worth noting that all interest earnings are taxable!

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

The negatives

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 also understand that Wise isn’t for everyone. The fact that they aren’t actually a bank can have downfalls for some people.

No physical bank you can visit

Since Wise isn’t actually a bank but rather a money service provider you can’t 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.

I don’t necessarily see this as a negative though, since I haven’t needed to visit a physical bank since I was a a child with a checking account booklet. As cash becomes less popular, virtual money is taking over!

No loans or overdrafts

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

Two different Wise debit cards in different colours
I carry two Wise cards when I travel for extra security

My verdict on Wise

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

Before I used Wise, I used to find banking to be an extremely stressful experience whenever I would travel. Not only was it expensive to use your home bank account, but 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. Plus I am making small additional income gains thanks to their interest feature.

It has been a lifesaver when sending money to both friends and family, as well as paying money to other freelancers that 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 if you live nomadically, like me!

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