Low-cost international money transfers

It’s a new way of transferring money from bank accounts in different countries.

Here’s the short version of what TransferWise is: Transfer money between foreign bank acounts and avoid the ridiculous bank fees. Transferwise has bank accounts set up all around the world. You make a transfer first to their local account and then they send you money from another account into your foreign bank. Hence avoiding the international fee. Since the US doesn’t have the same banking procedures (bank to bank transfers are very common in Europe) the deal is a bit more obvious for people in other parts of the world. But it still a great deal.

Here’s the pricing: Most countries have a .5% (1/2%) fee! The fees for sending money from a US bank account are a bit higher. There’s a $15 USD fee and then 1% for anything over $1500. But even if you are sending from the US here are two advantages: the recipient of your transfer won’t be paying any fees and the exchange rate is very competitive.

Since money is involved I wanted to use this new service and investigate it thoroughly before recommending it. Here’s a longer version of why if find it useful and why I feel confident passing it along.

For four months now I have been sending money home to a US bank account. Here’s what usually happens when I do that. My Polish bank charges me a fee, my US bank charges me a fee, and I get a very poor exchange rate from złoty to US dollars. When things go slower than usual I call up the banks and both blame the other for the holdup.

I tried PayPal (5% fee), Western Union (upwards of 20% in fees and bad exchange rates), and other online banking options (which many times don’t accept incoming international transfers).

TransferWise is designed to avoid that whole scenario. It’s like Skype and Pay Pal had an international lovechild. The savings can quickly add up.

From bank to bank my transfers to the US typically took around a week and this new service is no faster. But here’s another thing I like, I sent an email to their support team about the expected delivery time and they quickly sent me a thoughtful email appreciative of my business and clarified how the delivery is estimated and calculated. (At the moment the website just says “Tuesday 4pm” but it is in UK time and doesn’t indicate the date. Which is confusing if you are initiating a transfer on a Sunday for example.)

They have some major financial backing because it looks like a viable business model. They addressed my questions about security and heartbleed with an up to date encryption. (From customer support on April 18 2014: “To get specific, we are using TLS 1.2 encrypted with 128 bit AES and DHE-RSA.”) And over 6,000 customers rate Transferwise a 9.7 out of 10 on this consumer information website from the UK. That is 2000 more reviews than they had 3 months ago.

This can also be used to receive money. You simply type in how much you want to receive and then transferwise sends a link to your client which arranges for a payment in their currency. Again, you don’t pay any fees, the full amount of your invoice appears in your bank. You can add a business profile to a personal account which allows you to send and receive payments with your business bank. There is even service for students to pay their schools when studying abroad.

I was looking for this exact thing and this company filled the gap. I’m a fan

-- Seth Compton 08/4/15