Disclaimer: This post contains several referral links to several services, but the main focus of this post is TransferWise.

  • You will get a free transfer up to the value of $1000 AUD (you will have to pay the difference in fees if you exceed this).
  • I will earn a reward for every 3 people that sign up and transfer the equivalent of $300 AUD or more through their platform. The remaining referral links will be scattered throughout this post.

If you’re coming from the post I wrote about how to get the $10,000 HKD Hong Kong government hand out from outside of Hong Kong, the reason I’ve recommended TransferWise is because you’re going to get better exchange rates through TransferWise than most places! It may not be the best, but it’s sure as hell gonna be better than what you’d get at the banks!

The referral link can be added after sign up, or before sign up. If you are trying to add it after having already registered, when logged in, click on “Invite & earn 50 GBP”, and then scroll to the bottom and click on “Forgot to use an invite link?”, and finally paste my link: https://transferwise.com/invite/u/yens30

Last Updated: 23 September 2020 – Realised that I didn’t explain the “rate lock” feature clearly, and in fact, realised that I may have explained it in a misleading way. I have renamed this section to “Cancelling Your Transfer AFTER Sending Money to Them”, as this is a more fitting name and more reflective of what I really mean to say!

Summary/TL;DR

TransferWise offer a huge range of currency pair options for money transfers.

In my experience of dealing primarily with conversions involving SGD, AUD and MYR, TransferWise typically offer one of the highest rates in the industry, even after factoring in fees. They’re also the only platform I’ve used that offers a lock-in rate before you send in money that also does not penalise you for cancelling a transfer, which is extremely useful as a consumer, giving you time to compare to other platforms with no financial risk and/or obligation.

Their website and app both offer the user a very seamless user experience, and they are one of the few to offer multi-currency accounts and the ability to hold over 50 currencies locally, including localised bank details for certain currencies (only available in select countries), which allows you to natively receive bank transfers as if you own a bank account in that country locally.

If you want to read a more detailed breakdown on TransferWise, I write about them in more detail based on the following aspects:

  • Rates
  • KYC Requirements
  • Speed of Transfers
  • Breadth of Currency Pairs
  • Ability to send and receive a variety of currencies
  • Limitations (thresholds) on transfers in/out of a particular country, either by value and/or number of transactions
  • Muti-Currency Accounts
  • Cancelling Your Transfer AFTER Sending Money to Them
  • “Live” rates
  • Alerts
  • User Interface/Experience

[Worldwide] Transferwise – Review as at September 2020

I recently made a post teaching Hong Kong Permanent Residents/Citizens who are overseas how to claim the $10,000 HKD government hand out, and it’s received quite some traction.

I made a reference to TransferWise in that post, so I think it is only fitting that I make a dedicated post about TransferWise so you have the opportunity to understand it a little more.

About TransferWise

I’ll leave the real nitty gritty stuff to their dedicated “Our Story” page, but I’ll talk a little bit about what I know based on some of what I can find, and also from my experience using them.

TransferWise are one of the big names in the space of international money transfers. They are consistentlylistedasoneofthepreferred money transfer options, alongside the likes of PayPal, Square, Western Union, OFX, WorldRemit, Remitly, XE.com, CurrencyFair – just to name a few.

Notice I didn’t mention any banks? Of course, part of the reason is because this is a “worldwide” post, and barring international banks I’ve used in Malaysia/Singapore/Australia, the majority will not be relevant to you. However, more importantly, it’s because banks will pretty much never offer you the best rate – and they do it because they can (i.e. out of convenience).

Consider this:

  • Who doesn’t have a bank account? At the very least, if you personally don’t have one, you definitely know someone that has one. Bank accounts are associated with daily transactions, mortgages, Credit Cards, so they’re ubiquitous with everyday life.
  • Who has an account with TransferWise, Revolut, Skrill, InstaRem, CurrencyFair? Only those who have actively signed up for these services. They are absolutely not ubiquitous and are much more niche.

It is my understanding that the not-so-competitive rates offered by banks for cross-border money transfers is what has given these third party cross-border money transfer companies a platform to exist, whose whole business model is centered around “offering better rates on cross-border money transfers than the banks”.

In case I haven’t made myself clear…

If you are after the best rate, > you should never use a bank> .

It is important I emphasise that TransferWise is not available everywhere, but it is available in manymany countries and currencies. This link shows the supported currencies and this link shows the countries that money can be sent to.

Personally, I have been using TransferWise since 2016 and have had a very good experience in terms of customer support, reliability of transfers, coverage of covered currencies, and user experience.

Before I start writing the review part of this article, I want to point out that reviewing an international money transfer company can be considered both easy and difficult.

The easiest way to do it? Compare money transfer options for a particular currency pair (e.g. HKD -> AUD), find the one with the lowest cost and highest rate, and boom – that’s the best money transfer option!

But yet, despite the rate being such a cruial feature of an international money transfer, I believe such a one-dimensional review would be doing an international money transfer company a disservice, so let’s look at some other differentiating factors. I’m also not only writing for one currency pair, and each currency pair will have their own set of competitors/constraints/limitations.

These are the other aspects I will be writing about:

  • Exchange Rates
  • KYC Requirements
  • Speed of Transfers
  • Breadth of Currency Pairs
  • Ability to send and receive a variety of currencies
  • Limitations (thresholds) on transfers in/out of a particular country, either by value and/or number of transactions
  • Muti-Currency Accounts
  • Rate locks
  • “Live” rates
  • Alerts
  • User Interface/Experience

How we can measure TransferWise on these features is highly dependent on their competitors. The competitors of TransferWise I’ve used are mostly limited to those that are relevant to currency pairs relevant to me, which includes a combination of SGD, MYR, AUD and HKD (roughly in that order). With that being said, I have used the following companies:

I’ll try and be brief on each of the differentiating factors that I’ve pointed out above for brevity-sake.

Let’s get going.


Exchange Rates

What many consider to be one of the, if not the most important factor.

Firstly, it is very hard to unanimously say that an international money transfer platform offer the best rates, because it depends on the currency pair. In addition, the rates can be fantastic, but if you charge $500 per transfer, the benefit of transferring through such a platform despite the fantastic rate is largely eroded by such a sizeable transfer fee. Furthermore, every currency pair will have their own unique set of competitors, because not all currency pairs are available on all platforms.

In my experience, TransferWise tend to be one of the best when factoring in both rates and fees. Personally, I have most experience transferring SGD->MYR, AUD->SGD and AUD->MYR. The best rate for these pairs tends to be Revolut, with TransferWise typically sitting around 2nd or 3rd best.

Summary: TransferWise don’t necessarily always offer the best rates, but it depends on the currency pair. From my experience, they are usually one of the best. You can safely assume that they’ll always have better rates than the banks, and you can also assume that they’ll typically have one of the best rates amongst the large international money transfer options.

It’s always best that you do your own research based on the currency pair you are intending to transfer.


KYC Requirements

KYC Requirements, as far as I am aware, are an industry standard. There’s no way around it and all the platforms require it. Some to varying levels of detail, but the point is – if you’re trying to transfer money anonymously, I cannot help you and that is not what I’m writing about.

Summary: KYC Requirements are absolutely required for Transferwise, and I’ve not encountered any platform that doesn’t ask for documents detailing your personal information, typically requiring your address, passport and/or local identification, and source of funds.


Speed of Transfers

I would imagine this could vary from currency pair to currency pair, but in the pairs I’ve tested, it seems to transfer in about 1-2 business days, which is about what you’d expect.

The only ideas I can think of for faster cross-border transfers? Intra-bank transfers – Citibank/HSBC I believe would be the larger players in this space from an international perspective, while you could also probably find such options available between SGD and MYR with CIMB and/or Maybank, but this is not an area I’m overly familiar with. Oh, and Cryptocurrency – but that’s a completely different ball game.

Summary: The speed of transfers with Transferwise are about what you’d expect for a third party international money transfer company, which I’d classify as “expected” (within 2 business days).


Breadth of Currency Pairs

TransferWise offer a really broad coverage/range of currencies. Here are the supported currencies, and here are the supported countries.

Skrill and Revolut seem to also offer a reasonable wide range of currency pairs, while still falling short of TransferWise. XE.com seems to be about on par with TransferWise in terms of currency pair options. I’ve used Revolut more extensively in recent times, and their main challenge for you, wherever you are, is they might not yet be available in your country, as Revolut’s reach is more limited than that of TransferWise. As for Skrill – I haven’t been able to use them extensively, as I’ve always had trouble with completing transfers through them. This is to the extent that I’ve actually never managed to complete a cross-border transfer, despite having a fully active account with them!

Summary: Probably the best amongst all the platforms I’ve listed and tried personally.


Ability to send and receive a variety of currencies

This might sound the same as the factor above, but there is a subtle but important difference. Granted, this sort of limitation may not be relevant to the majority of people, but it’s relevant to me because I’ve wanted to send money back and forth between several currencies.

I had a Singapore-based InstaRem account. InstaRem supports currencies such as AUD, MYR, which are currencies that I would typically transfer. However, I was not able to send money to InstaRem in these currencies to exchange because my account was a Singapore-based InstaRem account, and I could therefore only send in SGD and then exchange from SGD.

However, this is more of a criticism of InstaRem than it is a compliment for TransferWise, because the other big players (XE.com, CurrencyFair, OFX) don’t impose such restrictions.

Unfortunately, Revolut also impose such restrictions – and I say “unfortunately” because I’ve found Revolut to offer the best rates amongst all the platforms I’ve tried (even better than TransferWise). In fact, on the balance of everything, I consider Revolut to be TransferWise’s primary competitor in this space, particularly in terms of rates and User Interface/Experience.

Summary: TransferWise accept transfers in currencies other than the currency of the country you’re registered in. Just to be clear, this is a good thing! It’s certainly not unique, but there are platforms out there that limit the currencies you can send in based on the country of your account.


Limitations (thresholds) on transfers in/out of a particular country, either by value and/or number of transactions

I cannot comment too much on this in regards to TransferWise specifically, but the platforms sometimes may impose such restrictions. My understanding is these restrictions are typically for risk management (money laundering), and/or compliance with local authorities. For example, I’ve had some good words for Revolut above, but one of their most significant restrictions for my Singapore-based Revolut account is that they are subject to limitations imposed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which affect annual and/or monthly spend thresholds, and the maximum wallet balance you can have at any given time.

I haven’t transferred enough volume through TransferWise to really “stress test” their system, but this is something that I just wanted to point out as something to consider, which obviously is more relevant if you typically transfer high volumes of currencies.


Muti-Currency Accounts and Debit Cards

Amongst the options I’ve listed above, I believe only Revolut, CurrencyFair and Skrill offer anything similar. Revolut’s version is the most similar and arguably better (topic for another time), but TransferWise are one of the few to offer a multi-currency account and issue Debit Cards in this space. We could talk about banks and their equivalents, but remember – the point of this post is to compare international money transfer companies, and banks do not offer good rates, which is one of the most important factors of a cross-border money transfer.

CurrencyFair has a half-baked version (“The CurrencyFair Wallet”), which allows you to hold certain currencies before converting, but they do not issue any Debit Card. Neither does Skrill. I can’t comment much more on Skrill’s version because I have very limited experience with using Skrill.

The primary benefit of TransferWise’s product, which is also superior to that of Revolut’s, is that you can open a multi-currency account and have specific bank details for certain currencies (AUD/NZD/GBP/EUR/USD). This is extremely convenient for receiving money in these currencies natively without having to open a proper bank account in those countries.

Summary: TransferWise offers a very broad range of currencies in which you can hold a currency and have personal bank details (AUD/NZD/GBP/EUR/USD), and they offer a debit card from which you can spend this money. I know there are fees for topping up the card though, so keep that in mind!


Cancelling Your Transfer AFTER Sending Money to Them


changedmymind.jpg

So you’ve sent your money to TransferWise, but you’ve changed your mind.

You can cancel.

Without a penalty…

as long as TransferWise have yet to receive the money. Something like that.

Their UI makes it clear prior to committing to cancelling as to whether you will be refunded in full. I have done this once, and can confirm that I received a full refund.

What is the significance of such a feature? Consider you’re at a restaurant, and you order Meal A. After 5 minutes, you’ve changed your mind and you decide you want Meal B. You call over a waiter to ask them to change your order. What do you expect the waiter to say? Something along the lines of:

Let me check if the kitchen has already started making Meal A. If not, then sure.

or

Sorry, we’ve already started making Meal A.

TransferWise have the ability to do the former, and I believe this is truly unique in the space of international money transfers.

This is how you can make this work for you: If, between you sending money to TransferWise and TransferWise receiving the money, the rate moves in your favour, you can cancel your booked transfer and just re-create it. It also means you can shop around despite having sent the money and compare it to competitors. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be behaviour they’d encourage, but it is certainly possible, and I wouldn’t count on such a feature being available indefinitely.

Of all the other money transfer platforms I’ve used, such as M1 Remit, Singtel Dash, XE.com, OFX, Wallex, CurrencyFair and InstaRem – none of them allow you to cancel after sending your money to them.

Summary: TransferWise are the only platform I’ve used that offer such a “grace period” where you can cancel without a penalty even after sending money to them. The duration of this “grace period” is unclear, but the UI makes it clear as to whether you can cancel for free as it will advise you as you go through the prompts.


“Live” Rates

This could be argued as both a positive and a negative.

It’s a positive because you could assume that you’re “always getting the best rate”.

It’s a negative because you could argue that a less dynamic rate that is updated at fixed intervals offers you more certainty/stability.

I’m going to lean towards the former. Remembering that the business model of these companies is such that they make money out of cross-border money transfers. It would be logical that the rates (in a less dynamic situation) have a built-in margin as “buffer” for the company to ensure that they still make profit.

I will confess that this is absolutely speculation on my part, and I am more than happy to be corrected, but this is my working assumption/theory.

Summary: TransferWise offer live rates which seem to update by the minute (if not more frequently). Combine this with their “lock-in” function and you can understand why there is the potential for lots of value to be derived from TransferWise. To be fair, this is not unique to TransferWise, and in fact, virtually all of the non-localised transfer options offer live rates.

Out of the ones I’ve listed above, M1 Remit and Singtel Dash are the notable ones that seem to only update their rate at fixed intervals throughout the day.


Alerts

I’ve never used their alerts feature, as I actually monitor FX movements frequently enough such that I don’t need them pushed to me, but I know this exists as a feature.

It is also offered by InstaRem, CurrencyFair, OFX and Revolut.

Summary: Offered by TransferWise, but not unique to them.


User Interface/Experience

This is an area where TransferWise really shines. Revolut is probably the only other service that can compete (and maybe even trump TransferWise) in terms of UI. TransferWise offers a really nice user experience on both their app and their desktop version. InstaRem is decent but feels like a slightly stripped down TransferWise, while Revolut’s fantastic app is just that – only available in app form. The other localised options (e.g. Singtel Dash, M1 Remit, Wallex, SLIDE App) I’ve mentioned that I’ve used for SGD->MYR transfers are nowhere near close to TrnasferWise/Revolut in terms of user interface and experience. OFX and CurrencyFair both feel like stripped down versions of InstaRem, which already felt like a stripped down version of TransferWise.

It is quite difficult to put the user experience of an app into words, but in summary, I would say TransferWise has the best desktop website experience, while Revolut pips Transferwise in terms of the app experience.

A lot of the process is very clearly laid out, for example, the timelines around the transfer process, the help section, and the fee structure.

Summary: Probably one of the best in the industry, particularly for its desktop/web version. Their app is also very good, but they have a formidable competitor in Revolut, who do not offer a desktop/web version.


Have you got any comments, questions, or corrections? Feel free to comment below!

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