Wise, formerly TransferWise, is an online money transfer provider with over 15 million customers and $9 billion in monthly transfers.
In 2018, it launched the Wise multi-currency debit card, which lets you spend money anywhere in the world at the mid-market exchange rate.
In this Wise debit card review, we will analyze the Wise debit card, how it works, and whether or not it is worth it.
The Wise debit card, previously called the Transferwise debit card, is a multi-currency debit card that allows you to spend money worldwide with low conversion fees and no transaction charges.
The card is an extension of the Wise account that enables holders to have bank details in different currencies, hold over 40 currencies, and send and receive money at the real exchange rate.
It is available to Wise account-holder residents in more than 30 countries, including Canada.
With a Wise card, you can take advantage of the following benefits:
- Spend money abroad with zero foreign transaction fees
- Pay directly from your Wise account using the real exchange rate (or the mid-market rate)
- Use the card in 200 countries
- Pay online, in-person in over 150 countries, or with Apple and Google Pay
- Get local bank details for 10 currencies and use them to hold, send, and receive money in 40+ various currencies
Sign up for a Wise account before applying for a Wise debit card. Once registered, you can hold over 40 currencies without paying additional fees.
Request a Wise card and upload money to your Wise account to spend money in multiple currencies and make purchases anywhere the debit card is accepted.
The Wise card also allows you to withdraw funds from international ATMs. For cards issued in Canada, two ATM withdrawals of up to 350 CAD are free every month.
Use your Wise account as well to send money anywhere in the world without the hefty fees.
Pay into the Wise’s bank account in the country you are sending from by making payment via card or local bank transfer.
The Wise account in your recipient’s country pays the money into your recipient’s account.
With Wise, your money never crosses currency zones, making it a cheaper option to send money abroad.
To be eligible for the Wise debit card, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years or older
- Have your own Wise account that will link to your debit card. (Create your Wise account here.)
- Have a working bank account in Canada
Wise will also require the following documents and information:
- Your personal details (name, date of birth, residential status, contact details)
- Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- Phone number and email address
Here are the steps to apply for the Wise debit card:
- Log in to your Wise account and add your first balance.
- Order your Wise card by clicking on the “Card” tab. Find the option to order the card.
- Check your card details before the delivery of your card. You can use them for online and mobile wallet purchases. The Wise card delivery time is within 14 working days.
- Once you receive your debit card, activate it by choosing “Balance Inquiry.” (You will be unable, however, to make cash withdrawals at your local ATMs.)
While awaiting your physical card, you can use the Wise digital card on your phone or laptop. Find the option to get a digital card on the Wise website or app.
The Wise virtual card lets you spend money online, in-store and abroad using the real exchange rate. It is free to use with your personal or business Wise account.
After each purchase, you can freeze your virtual Wise debit card and unfreeze it for the next use. You have up to 3 virtual cards, which you can use for different types of expenses.
The Wise virtual card can also be used with various mobile wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay, and Fitbit Pay.
The virtual card is ideal if you want to avoid compromising your financial data online and if you prefer the added security layer while spending money overseas.
Add a new account to your existing personal account to create your Wise business account.
You must provide the documents and information below to verify details about yourself and your business.
- Business documentation such as registration, location, industry, and any online or social presence
- Name, date of birth, and country of residence for all company stakeholders
- Document showing who owns or controls the company
- Your personal details (as the owner of the account) and information to confirm you are authorized to open a Wise account on behalf of your business
The verification process for a business account can take up to 10 working days. Wise will also charge a one-time set-up fee for opening a business account.
The Wise card exchange rate is the mid-market rate, sometimes called the interbank or middle rate.
The mid-market rate is the midpoint between demand and supply for a currency. It is considered the real exchange rate.
It is the rate at which bankers are willing to buy or sell a particular currency. The mid-market rate can be found on sites like XE, Bloomberg, Google, or Yahoo Finance.
Banks and other money transfer services, however, only use the mid-market rate when trading between themselves.
Most of them take the mid-market rate and mark it up by applying a margin on top of it. They then present it to you as the exchange rate they offer, thus hiding the real rate.
Wise, however, chooses to be transparent and even provides the Wise Currency Converter that lets you check the mid-market rate yourself.
So, we can see that Wise rates are significantly more competitive than those offered by most other money transfer services.
Below are the Wise debit card fees and other related costs:
- ATM fees over 350 CAD per month per account – 1.75% (+ 1.50 CAD per withdrawal)
- Converting money – From 0.43%
- Receiving USD wire payments – 4.14 USD (Fixed fee per payment)
- Lost card replacement – 5 CAD
- Account funding transactions – 2%
For Wise business card holders, the fees are:
- Lost card replacement – 5 CAD
- Account funding transactions – 2%
- Two or fewer withdrawals, more than 350 CAD per month – 1.75% of the amount over 350 CAD
- Three or more ATM withdrawals – 1.5 CAD per withdrawal
- More than 350 CAD per month – 1.5 CAD + 1.75% of the amount over 350 CAD
To add money to your Wise card, open the Wise app. Choose the currency you want to add money to and the amount you want to add.
Choose the payment method you want to use, whether credit card, debit card, or bank transfer.
The number of methods for uploading money to your Wise account depends on factors like where you live and your verification status.
For legal and security reasons, Wise may impose limits on the amount of money you can upload into your Wise account.
As we covered earlier, your Wise card is linked to your Wise account. Since it is a debit card, there are no cash advance fees, penalty fees and no interest to pay even when you are overseas.
Here are some pointers that will guide you on how to use your Wise card abroad.
If you are going to another country, top up your Wise account with the money you expect to spend. Before travelling, activate your card and set a PIN.
After activating your card, you can start spending money abroad and make cash withdrawals.
For a low fee, you can turn on the auto convert feature so your balance is automatically converted to your needed currency.
Use the Wise app to monitor your transactions through instant notifications and to freeze and unfreeze your card whenever necessary.
Having a Wise debit card is beneficial and disadvantageous as well. Find below its pros and cons to determine if it is the perfect solution for your debit card needs.
- No minimum balance required
- No foreign transaction charges
- Spend money in over 150 currencies
- Hold and receive payments in multiple currencies
- Auto-convert any currency
- Two free ATM withdrawals (for under $350) per month
- Low conversion fees
- Can be used with Apple Pay and Google Pay
- Available in over 200 countries
- No ATM withdrawals in Canada
- Limited availability
- No credit facilities
- No interest on your balance
- No deposit protection
- 1.75% fees for ATM withdrawals over $350 per month
Besides the Wise debit card, there are other financial products that have roughly similar features, such as the KOHO Premium Mastercard and the EQ Bank Card.
The KOHO Premium Mastercard is a reloadable prepaid Mastercard that you can open and maintain for $9 a month.
It offers the following perks:
- Cashback. Earn 1% cash back on bills, services, groceries and at select merchants.
- No hidden fees. KOHO Premium is a no-fee prepaid Mastercard that offers free e-Transfers and no NSF fees.
- Security. Use the app to lock your KOHO card anytime and keep it secure. A virtual card is also available for a more secure online shopping experience.
- Financial tools. The KOHO app has budgeting and tracking tools that help you meet your financial goals.
The KOHO Premium Mastercard charges no fees for currency conversions and allows one free international withdrawal from an ATM every month.
The EQ Bank card is a prepaid reloadable Mastercard and a high-interest savings account that gives you cash back.
The EQ bank card features are as follows:
- Earns 2.50% interest until you spend it
- 0.5% cash back on your purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- No monthly, ATM or inactivity fees and other hidden charges
- Free withdrawals from any ATM in Canada
- Refunds ATM fees other banks charge when you use their ATMs
The EQ Bank card is accepted anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
Related: Best Wise (TransferWise) Alternatives.
The Wise debit card is an efficient and affordable means of spending money abroad. It enables you to convert between currencies at market-leading rates.
You can get significant savings because the exchange rates are much lower than at traditional banks. Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees to pay.
If you travel abroad often and shop internationally, consider applying for a Wise debit card. It will let you spend in foreign currencies at cheaper rates and save on transaction costs.
The ATM limits can be a hindrance, but one way around it is to use the point-of-sale method when purchasing items overseas.
The fact that you can also buy things using the local currency is a primary advantage since there is no need to worry about conversions and exchange rates dictated by conventional financial institutions.
The Wise card is a prepaid debit card linked to your Wise account and is available as a Visa or Mastercard travel card. You can use the card anywhere Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
You cannot use the Wise debit card at any ATMs in Canada, but you can use it to withdraw from any ATMs overseas. Wise says that certain conditions in its Scheme Partner agreement prevent it from providing prepaid products that use Canadian ATMs.
You cannot deposit cash into your Wise card since Wise is a digital platform that offers services only through its website and app. You can only make payments from your device or receive funds via electronic transfers in your Wise account.
No, you cannot use Wise as a bank account because Wise is a financial technology company and not a bank. Even so, you can send and receive payments, hold a balance, and make in-person, online and mobile payments using the linked Wise card.
Wise states there are no Wise debit card limits in terms of the amount Canadians can hold in their Wise account. The company may request additional documents and information when large amounts are involved.
Related: Xe Money Transfer Review