WISE Review: Is it the best travel card yet?

Wise Card

Fed up with paying hefty conversion fees from using my RBC VISA, I looked around for a good alternative for frequent travelers like myself. 3 percent is just hard to swallow if you have to get axed every single time you make a purchase.

After reading countless reviews, sharing notes with other nomads, and comparing options, I came to the conclusion that WISE is the best option out there for Canadians like me who do not have access to options like Charles Schwab Debit Card.

In this WISE card review, I look at what exactly is WISE, what makes it a great travel card, its pros and cons, and how it works.

Are you still asking yourself whether WISE is worth it? Read on!

What is WISE?

In a nutshell, WISE is a package consisting of a multi-currency account, with the option to add a debit card and virtual cards. On top of that, it comes with a very intuitive web and mobile app plus great customer support. The combination of these makes it the ideal travel card.

Multi-currency account

With Wise, you can have bank details in up to 10 different countries, making it a breeze to receive money like a local. You can also stash your cash in 50+ different currencies, making your international finances a piece of cake. Plus, you can send money to over 80 countries right from your Wise account, so handling cross-border payments is a cinch. It’s all about making your global money game super simple!

WISE Review: Is it the best travel card yet? -

Visa Debit Card

WISE gives you the option to have a physical debit card for USD 9. I found this to be especially useful when making purchases in shops and withdrawing from ATM’s. Their debit cards also comes with the contactless or tap feature that makes it easier to make purchases.

Virtual cards

One feature that some people may not realize is WISE’ virtual cards. To get a virtual card, you’ll first need to open an account. Once that’s done, you can create and hold up to three virtual cards simultaneously and this is even before your physical cards even arrive. If you’re in hurry to book your accommodations, this is a great option for you. You can instantly replace these card details if needed or delete them.

📝 Related: Have you started packing? Make sure to check our essential packing list!

Who is WISE for?

In summary, WISE is for people who want an easy way to pay and receive money like a local, regardless of what country they are in. You’d be a great candidate for WISE if you fall into any of these categories.

  1. Frequent Travelers
    Travelers who visit multiple countries can benefit from Wise by using its Multi-Currency Account and debit card. They can hold multiple currencies in a single account and spend abroad with competitive exchange rates, avoiding expensive foreign transaction fees.
  2. Expatriates and Global Nomads
    People living and working in countries different from their home country can use Wise to receive payments in local currencies, send money home, and manage their finances with ease.
  3. Freelancers and Remote Workers
    Freelancers and remote workers who receive payments in foreign currencies can use Wise to receive funds directly into their Multi-Currency Account and convert them at favorable rates. This helps them avoid costly currency conversion fees.
  4. Online Sellers
    E-commerce sellers and online businesses that operate internationally can benefit from Wise by receiving payments in various currencies, reducing currency conversion costs, and improving their profit margins.
  5. Small and Medium-sized Businesses
    SMEs engaged in global trade can use Wise to streamline international transactions, pay overseas suppliers, and manage foreign currency accounts, ultimately saving on fees and improving cash flow.
  6. Students Studying Abroad
    Students studying in foreign countries can use Wise to receive funds from their home country, pay tuition fees, and manage their finances while studying abroad.
  7. Expats Retiring Abroad
    Retirees who choose to live in a foreign country can use Wise to receive their pensions, access local banking services, and manage their finances securely.
  8. Digital Nomads
    Digital nomads who work and travel globally can leverage Wise’s flexibility, allowing them to receive payments and access their funds while on the move, without incurring excessive fees.
  9. Businesses with International Teams
    Companies with employees or contractors located in different countries can use Wise for cost-effective cross-border salary payments.
  10. Anyone Sending or Receiving International Payments: Individuals and businesses of all sizes can benefit from Wise when making or receiving international payments. It offers competitive exchange rates and transparent fees, making it a cost-effective alternative to traditional banks.

What makes WISE a compelling travel card?

  1. Easy and Cost-Effective Transfers
    Wise offers competitive exchange rates and lower fees compared to traditional banks and many other money transfer services. As an example, RBC’s fee structure says that anything below CAD 1000 will be $6 and anything above will be $10 charge. This is on average four times what WISE charges.
  2. Transparent Pricing
    Wise is known for its transparent fee structure. On the WISE app, users can see exactly how much they’ll be charged upfront, eliminating hidden costs or unexpected deductions. This is compared to most banks where it’s mostly a guessing game or you’ll have to call in or go to an actual bank to understand the fees you’re getting charged.
  3. Real Exchange Rates
    Wise provides currency conversion at the real mid-market exchange rate, which is often significantly better than the rates offered by banks or other financial institutions. Mid-market rates are the rates you see on Google exchange rate conversion, or these are the rates that are used by banks when they swap currencies. What does this mean? No markups! This feature ensures you get more value for your money.
  4. Multi-Currency Accounts
    The Wise Multi-Currency Account allows users to hold and manage multiple currencies in a single account. With support for over 50 currencies and transfers to more than 80 countries, Wise is making travel easy.
  5. User-Friendly Platform
    Sometimes, the differentiator is not the main product itself but the complementary things that go with it. Its user-friendly website and mobile app make it easy to send money internationally, manage accounts, and track transactions–even for those with minimal financial expertise.
WISE Review: Is it the best travel card yet? -

Pros

  • Offers easy-to-use web and mobile apps
  • This is not their first rodeo, WISE has experience being a reliable money transfer platform
  • Offers low fees all-round
  • Very secure
  • Speed and simplicity of transactions
  • Very transparent pricing

Cons

  • Verification issues when traveling internationally
  • Cash or cheque payments aren’t supported
  • Overdraft and loans aren’t available because it is not a bank
  • Can’t improve your credit score because, again, it’s not a bank
  • You also do not earn interest or have some of the services that banks provide, such as multiple payment methods or various credit card options.
  • Funding options to get your money deposited quick get pricey
  • Charges negative interest on large Euro balances.
  • It can be hard to get ahold of customer service over the phone since the North American support team is only available 9-5 on weekdays. That said, there’s a 24/7 help center on the Wise website
  • If you need a replacement card, it can take up to two to three weeks for delivery

You may notice that I listed more cons that pros above, but this that not mean that it’s not a great service.

At the end of the day, what makes it stand out is that it does what it’s supposed to do well and that is to make it easy to spend money like a local. For that reason, I’m giving a big thumbs up.

How does it work?

Cost and Fees

1. Currency conversion fees

WISE has among the lowest money transfer fees out there. It uses the mid-market rate to convert your balance. This means that you’re getting the exchange rates that banks use when dealing with each other, plain and simple.

Now, you’re probably wondering how they make their money? It’s on the other fees.

2. ATM Withdrawal fees

The withdrawal fees primarily depend on the ATM you use, plus the amount you can withdraw or number of times you can withdraw for free. This amount varies depending on the region you’re in. You can check the limit here before you incur withdrawal fees.

ATM

Usually what I do is book accommodations and pay online so I would not need to withdraw cash. For the most part, I end up not exceeding my free ATM withdrawal limit.

3. Funding fees

Adding funds incurs some costs, but it can be minimized by increasing the amount you’re funding and selecting a more affordable method to fund your account.

Wise funding fees

ACH transfer from your bank account or a debit card tends to be cheaper, while credit card fees are higher. If you choose to do a wire transfer, you should also check whether your bank charges some additional fees for wire transfer.

4. Setup or Maintenance Fees

The thing I love the most about WISE is that there’s no setup fees or ongoing monthly charges. The credit cards I have usually charges an annual fee, so it’s refreshing to have one that doesn’t and does everything I need. Maybe it’s not an apples to apples comparison since one’s a credit card and the other is a debit card, but both does the same job for me which is allow me to spend money when traveling.

5. Card replacement Fees

Losing your card is a bummer, good thing you can easily freeze your card to avoid fraudulent transactions. However, you’re not off the hook in paying for the card replacement. The fee is just enough to cover the cost of generating and delivering the card to you.

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How to open an account?

Opening a Wise account is very easy, and you can do it on web or on your mobile. It’s so easy that it was done before I even realized that I have an account ready for me to use.

You can visit wise.com and click “Open an account.” From there, just follow the instructions.

To do it on mobile, you first need to download the Wise app.

In both cases, you need to sign up with your email and a password, verify your identity by providing necessary information, and open the balance in the country you need funds in. Only then will your Wise account is ready to use. It’s quick and easy, allowing you to access Wise’s international financial services right away.

How to fund or top up?

Funding your Wise card through the Wise app is a breeze. After logging in, navigate to your card section, choose the “Top Up” option, and pick your funding source, whether it’s your Wise balance or an external bank account. Specify the amount you want to transfer, confirm the transaction details, and complete any necessary verification steps. Once done, you’ll receive a confirmation, and your Wise card will be ready to use for purchases, online transactions, and cash withdrawals.

If you have a balance on your Wise account but it’s on another currency, no problem, you can convert that amount to another currency right on the app.

Remember that the process may vary slightly based on your location and app version, but Wise’s user-friendly interface and customer support ensure a smooth experience, making topping up your card convenient and hassle-free.

How to send money

Wise app

Sending money through Wise is a straightforward process: you open the Wise app or website, enter the recipient’s details, select the destination currency and amount, review the transaction details, and confirm it.

Wise then converts your money using the real mid-market exchange rate and sends it directly to the recipient’s bank account, often faster and cheaper than traditional banks or money transfer services, with transparent fees and excellent security measures in place to ensure a reliable and hassle-free money transfer experience.

How to receive payments

Receiving payments in Wise is easy: you provide your Wise account details, including your unique bank account numbers for various currencies, to the sender.

They initiate the payment from their bank or Wise account to your specified currency account, and once the funds are received, Wise credits the corresponding currency to your Wise account.

You can then hold, convert, or transfer the received funds as needed, all while benefiting from competitive exchange rates, low fees, and the convenience of managing multiple currencies in one account.

Other Features

Security

Regulatory Oversight
Wise is closely monitored by financial authorities in different countries, like the FCA in the UK and FinCEN in the US. This means they have to play by the rules and meet high standards for security and financial stability, which is a win for us.

Your Money is Safe
When you put money into your Wise account, it’s kept in a separate account from Wise’s own operational funds. This ‘segregation’ means your money is protected, even if Wise faces financial difficulties.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Wise offers a cool security feature called 2FA. It means you need to provide two forms of ID before you can access your account. So even if someone gets your login info, they can’t just waltz in.

Top-Notch Encryption
Wise uses strong encryption to keep your data and transactions safe. When you send information over the internet, it’s jumbled up so that only the right people can unscramble it.

Lock and Unlock Your Card
If you misplace your Wise Visa Debit Card temporarily, no problem. You can easily lock it through the Wise app to prevent any unauthorized use. Find it again? Unlock it just as easily.

Rock-Solid Reputation
Wise has a solid reputation. They’ve been around the block, serving millions of customers worldwide. People trust them to provide a safe and wallet-friendly way to handle international money.

Customer service

Friendly and Helpful Support
Wise’s customer support is known for being friendly and helpful. You’re not talking to robots; you’re chatting with real people who genuinely want to assist you. They’re patient and ready to answer your questions.

Global Reach
One cool thing is that Wise has customer support teams in multiple countries. This means they can assist you in the language you’re comfortable with. 

Email and Chat Options
Wise offers various channels for customer support, including email and chat. So, whether you prefer sending a detailed email or having a quick chat, you can get the support you need the way you like it. The downside is that support hours are limited to the office hours in your region, but at least you know that they’re not overworking their employees round the clock.

Wise customer support

In-App Assistance
If you’re using the Wise app, you’ll find built-in assistance features that can guide you through common issues or questions.

I especially like the feature to flag the transactions that are most likely problematic

WISE Review: Is it the best travel card yet? -

Educational Resources
Beyond just solving problems, Wise provides educational resources and articles to help you understand how their services work. This may be the biggest reason why I never needed to reach out to their customer support in over one year of using their services.

App

Easy Money Management
The Wise app is like your financial Swiss army knife. You can do all the transactions you do on desktop using your mobile, all from the palm of your hand. That includes funding your account, converting currencies, and even changing spending limits. I found that troubleshooting issues or getting help is just as convenient on mobile as it is on desktop.

Smooth Currency Conversion
When you convert cash between currencies, the app gives you rates close to the real deal, so you’re not losing out on exchange rate rip-offs.

Track Your Spending
The app helps you keep tabs on where your money’s going. I found the email notifications to be a nice touch. Some other options for notifications so you know a transaction went through are through push or inbox message notifications. It’s like having a personal finance tracker in your pocket.

Is Wise a bank?

Wise is not a bank, and that’s actually one of its key strengths. While it offers features and services that are often associated with traditional banks, like the ability to hold and manage money in multiple currencies and make international transactions, Wise operates differently.

It’s not a bank because it doesn’t lend or invest your money. Instead, it focuses on providing a more efficient and cost-effective way to handle international money transfers and currency exchange. By not operating as a bank, Wise avoids many of the complexities and costs that traditional banks have, which allows it to offer competitive exchange rates, lower fees, and greater transparency to its users.

This non-bank approach aligns with Wise’s mission to make international finance fairer and more accessible for everyone.

If WISE is not a bank, how do I know it’s safe?

Safety is a legitimate concern, and it’s natural to wonder how Wise can ensure the security of your funds when it’s not a bank.

The answer lies in Wise’s commitment to regulatory compliance and financial transparency. While Wise isn’t a bank in the traditional sense, it operates under strict regulatory oversight from financial authorities in various countries.

In the US, it is registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that gives is license as a money transmitter. In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requires WISE to keep funds in low-risk financial institutions. If WISE goes under, your balance will be unaffected and refunded to you in full.

What this means for you is that Wise adheres to stringent security and financial standards, similar to those required of banks.

Additionally, Wise’s customer funds are held in segregated accounts, separate from the company’s operational funds. This separation of funds safeguards your money, even if Wise were to face financial difficulties. They also employ robust encryption and security protocols to protect your data and transactions, ensuring that your financial information remains secure.

Wise’s reputation for reliability, transparency in fee structures, and a track record of serving millions of customers worldwide further attest to its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of your funds. While Wise may not be a bank, its focus on regulatory compliance, customer protection, and transparent operations offers peace of mind for users concerned about the safety of their finances.

The Verdict

I can personally vouch for its ease of use and convenience. It has been my travel companion for over a year now, and I can’t think of a single bad experience using it.

This review shows that Wise is an exceptional travel card. Its main offering is its Multi-Currency Account, offering competitive exchange rates and real mid-market rates. You can then complement it with a linked Wise Visa Debit Card and virtual cards that are globally accepted, saving you on currency conversion fees. With transparent fee structures, user-friendly app, and reliable customer support, it’s a versatile and cost-effective choice for travelers, ensuring convenience, security, and excellent value for your money while on the go.

WISE Review: Is it the best travel card yet? -

The Wise Credit Card is a traveler’s ally, offering a host of benefits tailored to globetrotters. With just one card offering competitive exchange rates in 160 countries, it ensures seamless spending abroad for a worry-free journey. This is the card we use while traveling as it offers the best rates and lowest fees.

Open your account now and start saving with WISE!


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