I have gotten to the point where some serious research into the best way to get money paid to me & to exchange money while overseas is required. This has led me to find what I think are the two best currency exchange apps.
I have now been living overseas for almost 6 months. It has been a total mission trying to set up a bank account & I have paid stupid amounts of money when exchanging one currency to another.
The need for a good exchange rate and bank account is very important when you are trying to travel on a minimal budget. The combination of the first 2 on the list is the perfect recipe for saving money while travelling! Create an account with Revolut & then use Transferwise to add your currency to your Revolut account for a very minimal fee & live exchange rates, trust me, you’ll save a packet.
I hope this helps some of my fellow travelling budgeters to get a better deal when it comes to their finances.
This list is mainly based on my research. I have only used & can personally recommend 2 of the apps/cards listed below; Revolut & TransferWise. And as always all the opinions listed in this post are my own.
Revolut is a pre-paid banking alternative, so not a bank (yet, they have plans for this), that was founded by Vlad Yatsenko & Nikolay Storonsky. It is a digital wallet for Australian Dollars, British Pounds, Euros and US Dollars (amongst other currencies) letting you transfer money for free to friends or businesses. It allows you to transfer money between 120 countries using the mid-market exchange rate at that time, saving you up to 8% compared to other currency exchange companies.
So How Does it Work Exactly?
It is an app based company. You download the app, sign up for an account (you have to be over 18), verify your identity by providing a drivers license or passport photo, upload your money, purchase your MasterCard (£5 or free when paying for the premium account, £6.99/mth) & wolah you are ready to go! That is how easy it is. None of the crap that normal banks put you through when trying to open an account in a new country.
With your new account, you get details for an EU & UK account. For the EU account, you get a personal IBAN & BIC (what you need to be paid in Euros) & for your UK account you get an Account number & a Sort Code (what you need to be paid in Pounds). For any other currency you have set up, you get the details that are required to be paid straight to that currency but this can incur an international payment fee from the bank the money is coming from.
It also allows you to use the card in over 150 countries with no extra currency exchange fee. It’ll access the account you have money in & exchange it on the spot at the current live market rates with no fees. With this, you can withdraw up to £200/ €200/ Fr200/ 800zl (or currency equivalent) per month on the basic account & £400/ €400/ Fr400/ 1600zl (or currency equivalent) per month on the premium account. A 2% fee applies thereafter. You can also use it for transactions (card-purchases) up to £5,000/ €6,000/ Fr6,000/ 20,000zl (or currency equivalent) per month. A 0.5% fee applies thereafter. There is no limit for transactions if you upgrade to the premium account.
Is there a Catch?
Up until this point you’ve been able to set up a UK account & European IBAN, you haven’t had to deal with the crap a bank would put you through to get these said accounts, you can transfer money between multiple currencies at the market rate, send money to friends & other companies/organisations for free & for all this you’ve paid nothing except £5 for a MasterCard, if you chose to do so. Pretty good if you ask me.
The only real catch I can see, & mind you I’m no expert just a girl trying to save money where she can, is that on weekends you get charged an extra .5% – 1.5% on the market rate at 2359 the Friday night before. This is because the markets close on the weekends so there are no live market rates.
This app/card is definitely the most beneficial if you are working & travelling in the UK & EU, which I am, making it perfect for me & those other travellers doing the same. If you have any questions about it check out there FAQ.
To read more about them go to the Revolut website.
TransferWise is a company, again, not a bank, that was started by Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann. They shared a common issue where they got paid in one currency but needed it in another. So they devised a simple scheme. Each month the pair checked that day’s mid-market rate on Reuters to find a fair exchange rate. Kristo put pounds into Taavet’s UK bank account, and Taavet topped up his friend’s euro account with euros. Both got the currency they needed, and neither paid a cent in hidden bank charges.
They realised this mustn’t be just an issue they had and so TransferWise was born. A currency exchange company that is FCA regulated, uses mid-market exchange rates & is totally transparent & upfront with their fees, they have to make money somehow right?
So What is it Exactly?
It can be 2 things really. 1, a currency exchange app, 2, a borderless account.
- It can be used purely as a currency exchange program. You sign up & can then transfer funds from one currency to another at the mid-market rate, the same exchange rate you’ll find on google. You can choose to transfer it to yourself, someone else or a business or charity. The only fees you pay determined by the currency you are transferring from & too. You can calculate the exact fee you’d pay here.
- Your borderless account is a bit like having local accounts all over the world. It’s a multi-currency account that lets you keep money in 28 currencies, and convert between them at the real exchange rate whenever you need. As an added bonus, you also receive personal account numbers for 4 of those currencies – USD, GBP, EUR & AUD. This is great if you’re overseas on a working holiday because you can get paid in those countries if you live there with zero fees.
Is there a Catch?
Really that depends on what you’re after. The one thing I was after when looking for a company to go with was an attached card to the accounts. Unfortunately, there is no such card with Transferwise, so you may be getting paid into the account but you then have to transfer it to another account to use it & in this, you will definitely find extra fees attached.
Saying that I have used it to transfer from one currency to another & found it so much cheaper than using the exchange shops & it was still cheaper than the exchange fees on my travel card.
To read more about them go to the TransferWise website.
A Few More (Untested) Options
Ok, so they are the two that I have used personally. The next few I have read about & done a bit of research on but have not used myself. They have all been recommended to me by people I’ve met or asked when trying to work out which company to go with. Because I haven’t any experience with them I am keeping it short & providing you with a link for more info.
World First provide bank to bank international money transfers via online platform or telephone. For most countries, there is exchange no fee but there is a minimum transfer sum of £1,000. There are some countries, however, that have other fee structures. World First is currently rated as the top International Currency Provider by internationalmoneytransfers.org.
To read more about them go to the World First website.
Moneycorp is the second largest foreign exchange broker in the United Kingdom. They have been exchanging international currencies around the world since 1979. In 2015, Moneycorp traded over £22bn in 90 different currencies. This definitely makes Moneycorp one of the largest and most experienced companies around for international payments. But not necessarily the cheapest.
Moneycorp provides its money transfer services for individuals who wish to make one-off payments.
To read more about them go to the MoneyCorp website.
Currencies Direct is a UK-based currency exchange and money transfer provider offering services to individual, businesses, and online sellers. They do not typically charge transfer fees and have competitive exchange rates. You can exchange your currencies either over the phone, online, or via their dedicated mobile app. Most transfers between “major” currencies are carried out the same day or the next working day.
To read more about them go to the Currencies Direct website
IFX – International Foreign Exchange
To read more about them go to the IFX website.