How to use Transferwise for Travel [Best Travel Currency Exchange]



One of the key considerations for taking a trip is money.  Especially if you’re travelling to a location to where the currency is different from your home country.  Getting hold of cash can be a costly exercise – from fluctuations on exchange rates to poor exchange rates and the dreaded currency commission rates.  One of the best ways to pay the least to obtain currency while travelling is to use Transferwise for travel.   Using Transferwise to move money between currencies – and using the Transferwise debit card is one of the cheapest ways to use money while travelling.

Using Transferwise for Lowest Travel Money Costs

There are a couple of elements to Transferwise that make it one of the best ways to obtain and spend money abroad.

 The Transferwise Borderless Account.

First, you can create what’s called a “borderless account”.  All that really means is that you can open bank accounts in multiple countries via Transferwise and hold different currencies in those accounts.   So if I’m travelling to the USA for vacation is would make sense to have some money that I can use in US dollars.  Transferwise lets me open an account, not just in my native British Pounds, but also in US dollars.  (And Euros, and Australian dollars – and a whole lot of other currencies).   BUT, you don’t HAVE to hold money n those currencies, until you actually want it there.  (Keep it where you’re earning interest if you’re lucky enough to be doing that!).

Do it now.  See how easy it is.  Open your borderless account now!

These different currency accounts mean that you can move money from your home currency account to the currency in which you’re going to be spending.   And the reason you want to use Transferise to do this is that it offers some of the best currency exchange rates – WAY better than your bank, or the bureau exchange.

Transferwise cost comparison

The Transferwise Currency Exchange Charging Rates

Transferwise uses the mid-market rate (like all the banks do when they move money between each other) when it is moving your money between currencies.  It is completely transparent about this.  The way that it makes money is that is charges a small percentage on the commission- and this is ALWAYS displayed and VERY CLEARLY, so you can see exactly how much your currency exchange is costing.  Check out Transferwise currency rates here.

When you move money, say between Euros and US Dollars Transferwise clearly shows how much its costing, what their commission is (its never hidden like some other providers) and it explains how much you have saved based on average rates for high street banks.

The Transferwise Travel Card

There is a small charge for the Transferwise debit card.   There’s no minimum balance you have to pay and there are no ongoing charges to pay for the card.  The huge benefit of the Transferwise debit card is that you get FREE ATM withdrawals up to the equivalent of GBP200 a month.   After that, there’s a 2 per cent fee for withdrawals made in a 30 day period.

There are zero foreign transaction fees with the Transferwise debit card.  Convinced?  Get your Transferwise Debit card here.

You can use the Transferwise debit card just like any other debit card.  Use it to pay for food, in bars, restaurants, shops – there’s no charge – just use it exactly the same as you would any other card, except you’ll be paying in the currency of where you’re travelling, with the money that you’re holding in your “borderless account”, and so getting some of the best exchanges rates around.

So what happens if you don’t have any money left in your Transferwise currency account?  Don’t worry, your card will still work.  When you set up your Transferwise borderless account you link it to a bank account in your home country.  So if you aren’t holding any money in a particular currency but are spending that currency Transferwise will automatically do the conversion at the standard exchange rate and charge their regular fees.

You can spend in ANY currency on your Transferwise debit card and it will be converted using the lowest possible fee.

I’m not going to type out what all those fees are, as they make it very clear on their website – you can check them here

Why Transferwise?

We use Transferwise for the following reasons

  1. Because they provide cheap currency exchange rates
  2. Because it Transferwise provides us with the ability to hold local accounts in US dollars, GB Pounds, Euros, Australian dollars, Japanese Yen.
  3. We can receive money for free in GB pounds, US dollars, Australian dollars and Euros.
  4. Because it is all online and you don’t need to go into a branch or find someone to deal with if there is a problem (we haven’t had a problem, but doing it online is seriously important to us). – We ALWAYS login to our VPN before connecting to ANY financial services provider – as we tend to use publicly available wifi networks.  (Get up to 3 months for free with our chosen VPN here )
  5. They’re transparent about their pricing.

You can’t pop into a branch of Transferwise, they have a different model to other banks, so their overheads are lower.  And those savings are passed onto you and me.  Transferwise is full regulated – and yes your money is safe – there’s more on regulation and your money at the end of the article.

What is Transferwise?

Transferwise is a financial services company with more than 6 million customers who move more than US$4 billion dollars EVERY MONTH, saving on average US$4 million a DAY in bank fees.

Transferwise has more than 1,300 employees in 11 offices and 4 continents.  This is a serious operation.

How Much Can you Save with Transferwise?

Transferwise operates a really simple pricing structure.  You get charged what it costs them to send your money plus a small fee.  You will always know what that fee is before you send any money.  You’ll also always know how long your money is likely to take to transfer between currencies.    You can save up to 15 x what your local bank would charge for currency exchanges.

Transferwise collects data from other financial services providers that is publicly available – to show you how much you can save.    They’ll show you this on each transaction you want to make, but you can also take a look for example here  where they show how much transfers cost and also how long they take to go through.  Some providers take as many as FOUR business days to transfer money, while Transferwise takes hours, which means you get the benefit of your own money for longer with Transferwise.

How to Use Transferwise for Travel

It’s really easy to use Transferwise for travelling.   If you want to use the benefit of a Trnasferwise debit card then you’ll need to set It up and get hold of it before you leave home.  If you don’t want the card, then you can set up a Transferwise borderless account from anywhere.  Here’s how to set up for Transfewise for travel.

Set up a Transferwise Account

The Transferwise multi-currency account is free to set up and free to maintain.  There are no ongoing account costs for Transferwise accounts.    All you need to do to set up a Transferwise account is to complete your profile, upload ID documents to verify your account for security and then you’re good to start!

Get local bank details with your Transferwise Account

British Pounds, Euros, Polish Zloty, Australian Dollars, US Dollars and New Zealand Dollars all come with local bank details.  That’s right, you get your own bank account details – IBANs, account numbers – the whole nine yards, just like your regular account.

Download the Transferwise App

Move money from an app, from your laptop, just as and when you need it.  Confirm the rates.

Apply for a Transferwise card

Simply apply for your Transferwise debit card, which gives you

  • No foreign transactions fees
  • No annual fees
  • Low currency conversion rates
  • Free ATM withdrawals worldwide – up to the equivalent of GBP200 every 30 days
  • Lowest possible fees with auto-convert for any currency
  • Manage with the Transferwise App – get instant notifications, freeze your card, unfreeze it any anytime

Transferwise App

How to Use a Transferwise Card when travelling

Using Transferwise when travelling is a fabulous to save money.

You can hold balances in your Transferwise account in different currencies.   (like US dollars, British Pounds, Euros, Australian dollars, Japanese Yen.. and so on).  But equally, you don’t have to have money in those currencies to spend in those currencies.  If you spend in say Japanese Yen but don’t have Yen in your currency account, the Transferwise will auto-convert to give you the lowest possible rates.

Once you’ve got a Transferwise account you can apply for a debit card.  I don’t know of anyone who’s been turned down.  This is a debit card, not a credit card.  It is a Mastercard.

Your Transferwise card lets you take money out of an ATM for FREE – if you hold that currency in your Transferwise account.   It lets you take out up to 200 GBP/250 USD/350 AUD/350 NZD/350 SGD (or your currency’s equivalent) in total per 30 days. After that, a 2% withdrawal fee will be charged.

When using your Transfereise debit card always select to get charged by the ATM in the local currency – NOT your home rate – this means that Transferwise and not the bank whose ATM you are using will set the exchange rate.

Using Transferwise for Currency Transfer Payments

If you need to pay bills in another currency to your home account, then using your Transferwise account for this is really simple.  You can do it ALL online.   There’s no waiting period.  No hassles and you’ll know exactly how much it is going to cost.  And for me, its ALWAYS been cheaper than alternatives.  Always.  Read independent comparisons here.

Simply add your recipient to your recipient’s list – and then transfer the money.  You dinon’t even have to be holding the foreign currency in your Transferwise account, you can make the exchange on the fly from your connected bank account, the fees are exactly the same as if you move money from say Euros to Dollars, and then pay them as if you just do it all as one transaction.

I love how transparent Transferwise is about showing me what the cost of the money is, and what their commission charge is for providing the service.

transferwise send money abroad

And I really love how quickly it all happens, as well as their humorous comments about how quick the service is compared to other things in the world (check it out when you do your transfers!)

Using Transferwise for Holiday Travel Money

We are travelling most of the year, so most of our expenditure is in foreign currency, but even if you’re looking at a one or two-week holiday Transferwise can save you money.    There’s no need to be using the seriously expensive currency exchanges at airports or border crossings.  All you need is a Transferwise account, a Transferwise debit card and an ATM.

Pop the card into the ATM, take the cash out and you’re off and running.

Don’t forget you can also use the Transferwise debit card like a normal debit card, –  paying for restaurant meals, trips, tours, car rental and so on.   I don’t know why I keep saying “like a normal debit card”, I really should say, it’s a super-normal debit card – because it doesn’t charge huge fees for spending in a foreign currency!

Using Transferwise to Receive Foreign Currency Payments

If you get paid in foreign currencies then getting that payment into your home bank account can cost a HUGE amount in fees.  Even if the person paying you wants to use, say PayPal, then your fees are high.

Transferwise lets you open accounts in multiple currencies, so you can give local bank details to the people wanting to pay you, or put them on your invoices.  Transferwise also lets you convert more than 50 currencies!  So your bill payers will be paying in their currency, then you can use the low exchange rates tat Transferwise offers to convert to whichever currency you want it in.

How to Use Transferwise to save on Paypal Currency Transfer fees

You can even use Transferwise to save on Paypal fees.   Let’s say you regularly get paid by someone in US dollars who can only pay via Paypal.  Yet, your home currency is Euros.  And you get hit with the Paypal fees.  And then you get hit with the Paypal exchange fees – which tend to add 2.5% to your transaction charges.  2.5% might not be much but it sure mounts up.  And I’d definitely prefer that it was MY 2.5%.

All you need to do is add the US dollar account that you set up with Transferwise to your PayPal account.  Paypal lets you add TWO bank accounts to your Paypal account.  One can be in your home currency and another can be in the other currency where you get a lot of payments.  For me, my home currency is British Pounds, yet I get payments in US dollars.  So I have 2 bank accounts attached to my Paypal account, one British Pounds and one US Dollars.

How to add Transferwise to Paypal

If you cannot add your Transferwise account online with Paypal, just call up their help team and ask to put on another bank account.    That’s how I did it.  It was easy.  I had to go through to 3 different people to find someone who knew how to add a US dollar account to my UK Paypal account, but they set it up and within literally 20 minutes, I was up and running.  My US dollar account on my UK Paypal account is set to be my Transferwise dollar account.

And my transfers from Paypal US dollars to a US dollar account are free.  Saving me 2.5% of transfer fees.  Easy.


Is Your Money Safe with Transferwise?

Transferwise FCA (Financal Conduct Authority)

Transferwise is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK – they’re required by law to keep money safe.  They do this by storing it in low-risk financial institutions – in Europe its Barclays in the UK, in the USA it’s with Wells Fargo.  All monies are held in a specific customer account, separate from their business operating monies.

Transferwise FCSC (Financial Services Compensation Scheme)

If Transferwise were to cease to exist, then your money would be paid back from the accounts referenced above.  Transferwise, is, however, not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) as it is is not a bank.  Your money is protected by safeguarding – which you can read more about here.

FAQs on Why Use Transferwise

Can You Link Transferwise to Paypal?

Yes.  You can link a transferwise account to Paypal easily.  If you are not able to do this online, then you can phone Paypal and they can add it manually for you.

Can you use a Credit Card on Transferwise?

Yes.  You can use a credit card on Transferwise.  However, it is usually cheaper to use a debit card.  You should check with your card provider what charges they will make as payments made via Transferwise using a credit card may be interpreted by your bank as being a cash withdrawal and therefore may incur additional charges.

How do I use Transferwise?

How you use Transferwise depends on what transactions you want to use it for.  Setting up a Transferwise account is free.  Within your Transferwise account you can set up currency accounts.  You do not need to have money in these currency accounts to have them open. You link your Transferwise account to a bank account and or a card and can make transfers using Transferwise as the mechanism.  Transferwise currency conversion rates tend to be cheaper than regular bank transfers.

Is Transferwise covered by FCSC?

No.  Transferwise doesn’t provide financial protection like the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which are schemes used by tradtional banks.  Transferwise is not a bank.  Transferwise safeguards your money.  Safeguarding is a legal requirement that means your money is kept in separate accounts to those which are used to run the business of Transferwise.  If anything ever happened to Transferwise then your money will be safe in the accounts of the banks in which it is stored.



Other Ways we Save Money While Travelling

Transferwise is a great way to save on foreign currency transactions and spending in foreign currencies.  We also use a VPN to mask our location and save on flights and other expenditures while we’re travelling – read more about that here. 

In addition, by using filter water bottles we safely drink tap water everywhere around the world – and save hundreds of dollars a year on not buying bottle water.  Read how we do this here.



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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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