The Ultimate TransferWise Review

By Donald Ash | Japan Guy Product Reviews

What's the best way to send money home internationally?

This is a money dilemma that many an expat have faced.  For some, it's the deal-breaker that prevents them from living abroad.  Luckily, there are working solutions to this international money transfer problem. In this TransferWise review we'll examine one of the more popular solutions.  

We're going to put pick TransferWise apart. Let's take a look at the following:

Ultimate TransferWise Review
  • what TransferWise is
  • the pros
  • the cons
  • the fees
  • competitors
  • and more...

By the end of this review, I want you to have a clear, honest understanding of what TransferWise delivers on and what it doesn't.  Hopefully, you be able to definitely answer "Is TransferWise the right service for me?"

Affiliate Disclosure


Yes, I am an TransferWise affiliate and this page does contain affiliate links.  If you decide to use TransferWise using one of the links on this page, I do earn a commission.  Although I am happy to be a TransferWise affiliate, I believe there is no such thing as a perfect product or service.  In other words, I'm not pulling any punches just because I'm an affiliate.
This a 100% honest review that you can trust - a review based on my personal experience with the service.

What Is TransferWise?

Founded in 2011, TransferWise is an intermediary that allows you to send money overseas. Even though the the end result is money going from a bank account in one country to a bank account in another, Transferwise isn't considered a bank.  The benefit of them not being a bank is that you don't end up getting the exchange rate markup that some banks will silently tack on. Their mission is to "make moving money fair and transparent."


TransferWise Quick Reference Chart

Is It Best Way To Send Money Internationally?

SPEED

Is TransferWise the fastest money transfer service? 
No. There are services that may be slightly faster, but only slightly. 

When it comes to your money, speed matters.  Transferwise is  one of the faster services around. 

EASE OF USE

Is TransferWise easy to use?
Yes. I'd say it's easy to use.
There is an initial setup with a few hoops to jump through.  But that's pretty standard if you're going to to be transferring money in Japan.

However, once you've set up your account, the entire process becomes markedly easier.

FEES

I was so impressed with how low the fees were - compared to the last service I was using (more on that later in the post) - that I decided to become a TransferWise customer.

Fees are one of the areas where Transferwise absolutely buries some of its competitors.

RELIABILITY

Once you click that that deposit  button (お振込), can you trust TransferWise to put your money where you need it to go?
Each and every time?

YES! I have not once had an issue with my money not showing up in my U.S. account once a transfer has been made. 

TRANSFERWISE REVIEW: THE PROS

Why is TransferWise such a popular service among expats. Knowing that there are other options out there, what sets them apart? Here are seven things that make using TransferWise a easy choice:

  • 1. Best-In-Class For Lower Fees
  • 2. Incredibly Convenient
  • 3. Trust & Transparency
  • 4. Send Money On The Go
  • 5. Easy Cancellation
  • 6. Fifty-Nine Countries and Counting

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1. Best-In-Class For Lower Fees

TransferWise's fees were the primary dealmaker for me.  Unlike any other transfer method I've ever used, it's easy to find out EXACTLY how much a transfer is going to cost you.  You can even do this before you set up an account.  The Transfer Wise website has a simple calculator to find how much you'll pay. Just enter how much you want to send, your starting currency, and your ending currency.  You get to see all the fees you'll be paying right in front of you.

I played around with the numbers, using this calculator.  When I saw that raters were cheaper than the competing service I was using (GoRemit), so I decided to try it.

Transfer Wise Review - Comparison

I snapped this on a random day, but keep in mind that these rates will constantly be in flux.

SIDE NOTE: I'm not exactly sure how TransferWise pulls this off, but I even noticed that $15.00 international wire fee that I'm  usually charged, on the back end, through my U.S. bank account DOESN'T get charged anymore! If I make just one transfer a month - this alone saves me $180/year in fees.  And that doesn't even include the savings I already get on the front end of the transfer.  Now, I can't say if your situation would be the same as mine, but this was definitely noting.

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2. TransferWise Is Incredibly Convenient

Your TransferWise account includes a dashboard that makes everything so simple & convenient.  You simply log into your account dashboard, enter how much you want to send, transfer the money to TransferWise (at your local ATM), and check your email to confirm that it went through.  Schedule your remittances online, with ease.

TransferWise Review

Once you've scheduled your transfer, make your deposit at your local ATM. It's really that easy!

Now the first time may take a little longer, but once you know how it's done, you can schedule an overseas remittance in a matter of minutes. 

3

3. Trust & Transparency

We mentioned the dashboard in our last pro, but the dashboard is also a big part of how transparent TransferWise is about its transactions. You can see all the transactions you've made and the fees you've paid, at a glance. 


  • Email Confirmation – This is another big one for me! I love that with every single transfer you do, you get an email notification telling you that your money has been received.  In the very next email, you find out when you can expect your money in your overseas account.
  • Transfers You Can Trust - I still consider myself relatively new to TransferWise - I've been a member for almost a year (at the time of this writing).  But I've done enough remittances to know that I haven't had a single problem with any transactions I've done through this service. 

4

4. Send Money On the Go

Did you know that TransferWise has a smart phone app? Whether you'r using Apple or Android, it's super easy to send money while you're on the go. Admittedly, I haven't used this feature just yet.  Why? Because I was worried about how secure it would be to send money via my iPhone.  After thinking it through, though, I realize that you're just using your phone to initiate the transfer, just as you would on any computer. You still have to physically go to your bank, enter the reference number, and confirm how much you're sending.

TransferWise Review - App

5

5. Easy Cancellation

We know it's crazy easy to schedule money transfers with TransferWise.  But how easy is it to cancel?  It's just as easy to cancel a transfer as it is to schedule one - maybe even easier (since you don't have to make the actual deposit at your local bank). I can click a few buttons and my remittance is canceled.  No harm. No foul. No fees.

TransferWise Review - Canceling a Transfer

The part I can't speak on, because I've never done it, is cancelling a transfer after you've physically sent the money to your TransferWise account.  I would imagine that kind of hiccup would be more of a hassle.

6

6. Fifty-Nine Countries & Counting

TransferWise is currently available in 59 different countries and that number continues to grow. This doesn't mean that each country has a full offering of TransferWise's services.  Nevertheless, that probably means you CAN open a basic account to conduct transfers to and from these 59 countries. I have personally tested it here in Japan and can verify that you can send money from Japan to the US without any problems.

Does TransferWise Sound Like A Good Fit?

This is a service that does so many things right.  I don't like leaving something as important as
my money to chance - nobody does! If you're looking for a straightforward way to send money abroad,
TransferWise might be just what you're looking for. 


TRANSFERWISE REVIEW: THE CONS 

How can this be the "ultimate" TransferWise review without talking about the negatives? Here are some of the things I don't like about this money transfer service.

  • 1. TransferWise Isn't The Fastest 
  • 2. You'll Need Help With Your First Transfer
  • 3. Fees Aren't Flat

1

1. TRANSFERWISE ISN'T THE FASTEST 

After more than a decade of sending money from Japan to the US, I have to say that GoRemit has been the fastest I've used. Does that mean that TransferWise is slow?
No way!

Think of it like a Flash vs. Superman comparison.  
Go Remit is the Flash. TransferWise is Superman. Yes, the Flash is going to win in a race, but who is the better superhero overall?  Superman.

While this is listed as a "con," I am more the happy to sacrifice just a bit of speed for lower fees.

2

2. YOU'LL NEED HELP WITH YOUR FIRST TRANSFER

Sure, TransferWise is easy to use after you get started, but how about in the beginning?  The setup?
Sending money home from a country whose official language is your native tongue is one thing, but what happens when it's not?  If can't make heads or tails of the ATM you're transferring wth, it makes more sense to take someone with you who speaks Japanese.  At every Japanese bank I've been to, there is a Japanese staff member who will help you (note: they probalby won't speak English, though).

3

3. FEES AREN'T FLAT

Undoubtedly there are transfer services that offer a flat fee. The benefit of a flat fee is that if you have to send a larger amount of money home, proportionately the fees work out in your favor. For example if I pay a flat $20 fee on all transfers, if I were to send ¥500,000 home (which is about $5,000 USD), a $20 fee on $5K is only .4%. 

However, sending that same ¥500,000 through TransferWise (according to the calculator) I pay ¥4142, which is right at about $40 or .8% (double the fees).

This is a clear downside for TransferWise. As the amount you send gets larger their rate scales.  So if you're sending larger amounts home, I'd say do the math to make sure whichever service you're using gives you the best deal.

SIDE NOTE: Flat fees aren't always a good thing. If you ALWAYS pay a $20 fee when you send smaller amounts home you lose a GIANT chunk of your money. For example, a $20 flat fee on $100 loses you 20% of your money INSTANTLY!

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4. SOME SERVICES AREN'T AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE

Since the standard account allows me to do everything I need to, this con isn't as big of an issue.  However, there are services that I can't use here in Japan - at least not yet. Namely, the TransferWise Borderless account and the TransferWise debit card. 

I was gutted to hear that I couldn't use the Borderless account in Japan (not yet).  Just look at how they explain it:

TransferWise Borderless Accounts

Hopefully, these services will be available sooner rather than later. We'll see...

DESPITE THE NEGATIVES...

You'd be hard-pressed to find a service that matches what TransferWise can reliably do.
Care to try TransferWise for yourself?


TransferWise Is For...

EXPATS WITH BILLS TO PAY
Got student loans to pay?
Car payments? A Mortgage?

If you live & work outside of your home country, but still have financial obligations back home TransferWise is perfect for you.

THE MONEY CONSCIOUS
If you're a stickler about fees, more of us probably should be, then going with the service that charges you less makes dollars and sense. 

ONE OF THE 59

As I mentioned earlier, TransferWise isn't available everywhere. If you live in one of the 59 countries where this service is offered, you're in luck!

TransferWise Isn't For...

PEOPLE WITHOUT BANK ACCOUNTS
Someone reading this might scoff and say "who doesn't have a bank account?" But it happens.  Or, maybe you closed your accounts back home before you moved here.

TransferWise is bank account based. You'll need bank accounts for it to work.

TOURISTS

If you're staying in Japan (or some other country) for a short period of time - you won't need to use this service.


Honestly, I don't think tourists are even able to set up bank accounts, at least not in Japan.

OUTSIDE OF THE 59

Living in one of the countries that TransferWise doesn't serve? 


Then this probably won't be the best way for you to send money internationally.

TRANSFERWISE'S COMPETITORS HERE IN JAPAN...

Competition is a wonderful thing because it forces companies to step up and be better. When I got here, there were so few options to conveniently transfer money home.  If you had a problem you had with your service or hated the exorbitant wire transfer fees you just had to stomach it and keep on going.  Now there are options!  I personally recommend Transferwise, but money matters, so it's worth doing your research and choosing the best service for you.

Paypal

I'll be honest, I lost a bit of my faith in PayPal.  
Yes, it is an option, but because I've had several horrific customer service experiences with them.
I only use them when I absolutely have to.  

You may have a different experience and I would never dissuade anyone from using what's working for them.  All I can say here is make sure you're not getting worked over on fees.

GoRemit

I know for a fact, that Shinsei Bank's GoRemit service is VERY reliable.  Not quite as convenient, but still pretty damn good - I used them for almost a decade. It's the fastest service I've tried.
 
 If they could get rid of the international wire fees you incur in your home country, they'd give TransferWise a legitimate run for their money.  They still do when you're transferring larger amounts of cash.

Western Union - TransferWise Competitor

Western Union

Western Union has been around, wiring things since 1851! It is available here in Japan.  But to be honest, I don't know any foreigners who've used it.  So I can't speak on its effectiveness.

They do offer online transfers, an app, tracking, and physical Western Union branches.  However, their site does say that "Western Union also makes money from currency exchange."  Which makes me think they may do the whole markup thing that TransferWise is helping you avoid.

Japan Post - TransferWise Competitors

The Japan Post

This was my tried and true method when I first got to Japan. I'm not sure if they've made the process easier (I sure hope so), but it used
to be a bit of a hassle going to my local Japan Post to fill out repetitive paperwork.

Seven Bank - TransferWise Competitor

Seven Bank

I can't say that I've ever used Seven Bank, but I've heard that it works pretty well, for reasonable fees.  Considering that 7Eleven's are all over Japan, I could see how it would be a very convenient option.

TransferWise Review - Competitors

WorldRemit

WorldRemit seems like an untested diamond in the rough. Haven't used this one either, but strictly on a fee level, WorldRemit is one of TransferWise's strongest competitors .

Choosing TransferWise Over The Competition?

You're not alone!  It's the service I chose, too & I don't regret it.
Click the red button to try TransferWise for yourself?


HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

The beauty of TransferWise is that it's 100% free to setup an account. Heck, it'd still be worth it if they made you sign up for a fee (considering how much they can save you over time).  


WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?

If you're interested in trying this service for yourself, you can go to their website by clicking here.


IS TRANSFERWISE THE BEST WAY TO SEND MONEY INTERNATIONALLY?

I haven't tried every international money remittance service out there, so it's hard to definitively say that TransferWise is the best. However, I will say that TransferWise is the best way to send money internationally that I have used.  


MY FINAL TAKE

How would I rate this international money transfer service? Considering all of the things it does right and even the things it doesn't, I'm going to CONFIDENTLY give TransferWise 4.75 out of 5 stars.  That's 95% which makes this service an A rating.  
An A rating doesn't mean this solution is perfect and doesn't mean that TransferWise can't improve, but as it stands, TransferWise is one heck of a valuable service.

If you're looking for a sensible way to send money abroad and save money doing it, TransferWise gets my highest personal recommendation:

OVERDELIVERS!

TRANSFERWISE REVIEW: THE WRAP UP

When you make the decision to live abroad for an extended period of time, figuring out what you're going to do with your money can be daunting.  Not only am I  glad that TransferWise gives me a way to send money home from Japan, I'm glad that it's growing. Why? I think more expats, more travelers, more people that work hard for their money need to know about this service. 

It's so nice to rest easy knowing there's a money transfer service out there that does it right. Their goal isn't to nickel and dime you to death with fees, but to save you money in a professional, transparent way.


Need To See TransferWise In Action?

I hope you enjoyed this TransferWise Review. Here is some other related content you should check out!

Watch Ultimate TransferWise Video Review

TransferWise Video Review

Prefer to watch this review in video form?
Click the blue button below to watch the
full video review of TransferWise.

TransferWise vs GoRemit

The $500 Money Transfer Test

Need to see a real-world TransferWise test?
Check out this TransferWise versus GoRemit post.
We will determine which one saves you the most money.

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About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.