Transferwise has launched a debit card which gives you bank account details for four countries including the US and Australia - but while it's good for long-term travellers it can be beaten for shorter trips.
The Transferwise card, which is free and available to all UK customers, gives you the equivalent of an account number and sort code for the UK, Australia, a European country and the US.
There are no fees for money being paid into the account - so if you receive US dollars you can spend them in the US without any fees or conversion rate. But there is a conversion fee if you spend in any currency other than the one you're paid in, for example if received US dollars and spend in pounds.
While having in effect four bank accounts in one could be a big boon for people who are travelling for a long stint in these countries, the Transferwise card can be beaten if you're simply using it to spend abroad.
See our Travel Credit Cards guide for more information.
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How does the Transferwise borderless account work?
The Transferwise borderless account essentially offers four accounts in one - though it's worth noting they're not 'real' accounts and don't come with overdrafts or give interest, but mean that you can be sent money electronically.
Once you've activated your account to each of the below currencies, it gives you:
- An Australian account number and Bank State Branch (BSB) code
- A UK account number and sort code
- A European International Bank Account Number (IBAN) - all European bank accounts have this
- A US account number and routing number - this is the code that US banks use to identify the branch where a bank account is held
Having these 'local' bank details means money can be paid into your account in one of the above currencies, which you can then spend in the same currency with no conversion fees - so this could be good for those who are working abroad, or are paid in a different currency.
If, at point of payment, you are given the option to pay in local currency or in sterling, make sure you choose the former option otherwise there will be a conversion fee.
If, however you're holding one currency in your account and pay in one of the other currencies available via the account, it'll be converted at the near-perfect interbank rate but you'll be charged a conversion fee on top, ranging from 0.35% to 4.5% depending on which currency you spend in.
Cash withdrawals are free up to £200 per month, with a 2% charge if you exceed this.
Is it any good?
We've always recommended the best way to spend abroad is either with top travel credit and debit cards or top prepaid travel cards, as they guarantee near-perfect rates every time. Remember, although Transferwise offers similar rates to these products, it does charge a conversion fee so it's unlikely to be the best option if you're just spending abroad.
Here's how it compares:
How much currency you'd get for £100
|Payment method||US Dollars ($)||Euros (€)||Australian Dollars ($)|
|Transferwise borderless card||138.96||113.83||182.45|
|Halifax Clarity credit card||139.39||113.98||182.39|
|Revolut prepaid card||139.56||114.16||183.24|
|Correct as of Monday 23 April 2018|
You can see from the table above, our top prepaid card Revolut gives better rates than TransferWise in all of the three currencies, and the Halifax Clarity card gives better rates for the two of the currencies - so the Transferwise card can beaten if you're simply using it to spend abroad.
How to get the Transferwise card
From today, anyone can sign up to the get the Transferwise borderless account.
Once you've set up your account and been verified, your card will be sent to your home address within three to five working days.
Is my money protected?
The simple answer is, yes. But it's not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), instead Transferwise is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to issue electronic money.
This means that all of your money is safeguarded in a separate Barclays or Wells Fargo account, and so if Transferwise were to go bust you'd get your money back, however, if the bank holding your cash went bust you'd lose it - though this is of course highly unlikely.
What does Transferwise say?
Transferwise chief executive Kristo Käärmann said: "Multi-country banking has been the domain of big businesses and the rich for far too long. We're on a mission to make the benefits of international banking available to everyone, no matter what their bank balance.
"That’s why we're really excited to be able to bring the borderless account and debit card to our three million customers and more as of today."