Our detailed review of international money transfer service Wise explains the fees, pros, cons and everything you need to know.
Updated 8 December 2023
This guide covers:
- Wise is doing its best to conquer the world when it comes to making international money transfers. You may currently use your bank, Western Union, PayPal or another business to move money between countries.
- Wise is focused on offering the best value for money, meaning your NZD will go further when you transfer them overseas.
- From the results of our periodic international money transfer research, we concluded that Wise consistently offered the best value. Specifically, Wise offered more foreign currency for your NZ dollar compared to its rivals; we tested the currencies of AED, AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, INR, JPY, MXN, PHP, SGD, USD and ZAR using small payments (NZ$100 and NZ$500) and big payments ($5,000).
- We believe Wise outperforms traditional money transfer services by delivering value for money, convenience and speed.
- However, there are several things to know before signing up to Wise, as we detail below.
- Whether you are looking to make a one-off transaction or send money overseas regularly, Wise beats the banks and PayPal. Our guide explains everything you need to know about the service Wise offers.
This guide covers:
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- Bank-beating FX rates to 50+ countries and currencies around the world
- Low-fee transfers from one bank account to another
- Four options to pay - bank transfer, POLi, credit card and debit card
- Same-day payments in many cases - if you use POLi or a card, the transfer can complete within seconds
- Outstanding online experience with detailed FAQs, video guidance and online help library
- Approval and verification to use Wise is fast and instantaneous in most cases
- The exchange rates are far superior to those offered by PayPal
- Banks transfer as a payment method offers the lowest fee, but it has a slower delivery time when compared to other options
- No China CNY transfers permitted from New Zealand
- Transfers are not as instant as PayPal transfers, but a lot better value for money
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- To understand how Wise offers the best value international money transfer service, we outline ten must-know facts that help explain the service overall. Most importantly,
- Wise always uses the mid-market exchange rate (the one you will find on Google). In comparison, exchange rates used by banks, PayPal and travel money cards and other money transfer services often conceal a markup.
- Wise's use of mid-market rates is a major reason why using a bank to send money overseas will be much more expensive.
Wise charges two fees - a Wise fee (for processing the transaction) and a Payment method fee (i.e. the cost of receiving your money, i.e. by a credit card or by a bank transfer).
Fee 1: Wise fee - this will vary based on the currency you are converting NZD to
What you pay depends on what currency you use. In our analysis of a NZ$1,000 transfer, we found Euros and British Pounds are the cheapest to transfer, and United Arab Emirates Dirham and South African Rand are the most expensive.
As an example, the following fees would apply on a NZ$1,000 transfer:
Generally, the percentage fee charged drops as the size of the transaction increases, but to understand the different fees for different currencies, the table above gives the best overview.
The Wise fee is deducted from the transaction value. For example, if you wish to transfer NZ$1,000 into PHP, based on the table above, NZ$990 will be available to send as NZ$10 is taken by Wise as its fee.
Understanding how Wise charges its fee, a second fee will apply, as we outline next.
Fee 2: Payment method fee - unlike the Wise fee, the payment method fee does not vary based on the currency you are converting NZD to.
What these two fees mean for you:
Based on our research, the lowest-fee transactions are always funded by a bank transfer. If you use a credit card, debit card or POLi, you will pay more and/or your recipient will receive less.
Wise isn't just peer-to-peer transfers
Wise started as a peer-to-peer transfer service, meaning, for example, it matched your money transfer of NZ$500 to USD with someone else doing a transfer from USD wanting to send NZ$500. Now the company has large reserves of all the currencies they offer, and Wise is facilitating the buying and selling of currency. This means your transfer will always occur as the peer-to-peer model has been superseded.
Regulation in England, New Zealand and around the world
Wise is heavily regulated in England, where the company is based. Furthermore, its operations are reviewed and monitored around the world by various government bodies. In New Zealand, it falls under the watch of the Department of Internal Affairs.
Joining and using Wise is very easy, and we outline the complete process below.
New Zealand banks charge a fee for international money transfers. You may also need to have your recipient’s details approved by your bank, as part of their fraud-prevention measures. When you do finally make the transfer, it can take as long as five working days to arrive in the recipient’s bank account.
Let’s take an example below, with Kiwibank. We wanted to make three transactions:
We wanted to compare what this would cost h AUD, GBP and EUR you will receive, compared to what Wise offers.
*Rates for all comparisons taken for both Kiwibank and Wise at 5am NZ time, 15 March 2019
Our PayPal fees guide illustrates you will pay between 3% and 4.20%, making a PayPal transfer far more expensive than Wise. The only benefit of PayPal is that the recipient doesn’t need a bank account, although in the majority of standard money transfers this isn’t an issue.
In the examples below, based on the bank transfer comparison above, show the exchange rates offered by PayPal are poor value when compared to Wise.
Comparing PayPal to Wise
Send and receive money in seconds is what Wise promises, but how you pay depends on what how fast your money is transferred. Nonetheless, compared to the speed of your bank, Wise is lightening-fast.
The fastest way to pay is via POLi or card
In the example below where we send NZ$500 to India, we show how paying by POLi, debit or credit card means the money will arrive 'in seconds'. If you pay by bank transfer, while this comes with no additional fees, it will take longer. If you transfer over a weekend, the entire Wise transaction could take up to three days.
Nonetheless, compared to a bank (Kiwibank, for example, states international money transfers "usually arrive within two to three business days of sending"), how fast your transfer arrives depends on how quickly you transfer the money. Any payment form other than bank transfer will be instant, so your payment may arrive in seconds, depending on the destination country.
Wise lets you cancel a transaction, but if you have already paid via POLi or a debit or credit card, there is little you can do to reverse the payment. This means it is essential to input your recipient's details correctly. If you enter the wrong details, the transfer will either be rejected or go to an unintended recipient.
To avoid any issues, it's best to ask your recipient to confirm the bank details as they appear on Wise once you have set them up on your account. You can take a screenshot or copy and paste it. You can then transfer the money with confidence.
Only Wise transaction paid with manual bank transfers can be reversed if you accidentally pay the wrong person, but this has to be done before you make the bank transfer.
Wise is governed by rules and mandates set by the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. This has limited the transaction values to ensure safety for consumers and reduce the risk of money laundering transactions. For this reason, $10,000 is the limit you can transfer at one time if using a card, but this is the most expensive option as our fees review describes anyway.
While 50+ currencies are available for transfers, covering all four corners of the world, China is a no-go at the moment for Wise other than UnionPay. According to the approved Country Wise list, money transfers from New Zealand are prohibited. For approved countries, there are still limitations, specifically:
No new information about if and when New Zealand will be added to the approved country list is currently available.
Your account may be deactivated without warning - Wise advises that "account deactivation is a security measure that we have to take from time to time to ensure that we comply with our regulations and maintain the safety of our global customer base". If you do have this happen, there isn't much you can do other than contact support. If you have a transfer in-progress and your account is deactivated, this can be stressful.
Money transfers can be delayed - it may say 5 hours, but if your bank has a glitch, you make a bank payment outside of business hours to settle the transfer, or you just have bad luck, you can face delays of a day or two. If you are transferring to an account overseas to settle a payment, it is best to plan in advance and organise the transfer well ahead of schedule.
Call centre support is limited - Wise picks up the phone 9:00am - 5:00pm, Monday to Friday New Zealand time, so outside these hours you'll need to wait until they open.
- We are fans of Wise, and use it internally to pay overseas contractors who do ad-hoc work for MoneyHub. We find it fast, simple to use, 100% online and completely honest by way of the fees it charges.
- Best of all, you have full control over the process. In a few simple clicks, you can pay someone directly with email notifications of the process.
- If you are transferring large amounts of money ($25,000+), you may feel more comfortable making the transactions in smaller part-payments. Wise is 100% online and trusting a website with a life-changing amount of money can be daunting - anyone anxious may get more comfort in a piece-by-piece approach.
- Be aware: Using a credit card as a payment method is the same as purchasing something with your credit card – you will repay the purchase when your bill is due. Using a credit card to settle a Wise transaction does not trigger a cash advance. If you are unable to pay your credit card bill, or make a part-payment, you will be charged interest on all of your transactions. Please see how credit cards work for more details.
- Ultimately, Wise beats what banks in New Zealand offer, and competitively outperforms both PayPal and traditional money transfer services such as Western Union in almost all situations.
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