How does Wise work? How to Use Wise Step-by-Step Guide [2024]

Wise was launched as TransferWise in the UK in 2011, with the aim of making it cheaper, faster and more convenient to send money internationally. These days you can do a lot with Wise: including sending money, receiving money, holding balances in multiple currencies, spending with a debit card, and opening a low cost Wise Business account.

If you’re considering making an international money transfer with Wise but have questions about how to use it, this guide is for you. We’ll walk through all the services and features Wise offers – and cover step by step how to send money or make the most of your Wise account.

Key Points:

  • Create a Wise account online or in the Wise app for free
  • Send payments to 160+ countries around the world
  • Send directly to the recipient’s bank account (they don’t need to open a Wise account)
  • Fund Wise international payments using your online banking, pay by card, or use a balance you hold in your Wise account
  • Wise currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate with a small transparent fee
  • Hold 50+ currencies in the Wise multi-currency account, with your own local bank details for 10 currencies
  • Get a Wise international debit card for easy spending and withdrawals all over the globe
  • Business and personal account options available

What is Wise?

Wise is a financial technology company which specializes in international payments and multi-currency accounts for individual and business customers.

You can use Wise to send a one off or recurring payment to 160+ countries with the mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees – or choose to open a Wise multi-currency account to hold and exchange 50+ currencies all in the same place. Wise accounts offer a broad range of features to suit anyone living an international lifestyle – including an international debit card and local bank details to get paid fee free from 30+ countries. Read our full Wise review to learn more.

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How does Wise money transfer work?

Wise money transfer works differently to sending a bank wire. Instead of using the 50+ year old SWIFT network, Wise built its own payment network of thousands of bank accounts around the world. This means that Wise can move money faster, with lower costs, and no risk of sneaky intermediary fees. These savings are then passed on to consumers in the form of lower fees and a better exchange rate.

Here’s how Wise international money transfer works:

Let’s say you’re sending a payment to a friend in Germany.

  • You’ll set up your transfer with Wise online or in the Wise app
  • You deposit the agreed amount into the Wise USD account here in the US
  • Wise will then send the amount you need, to your friend in Germany, from their EUR account in the EU

This simple solution means no money actually has to cross any international borders – cutting out the costs of currency conversion and allowing Wise to offer you an exchange rate very close to the mid market exchange rate with low, transparent fees which are easy to spot and compare.

Once you’ve registered your Wise account you can send money internationally and pay using your regular online banking service, a credit or debit card, or any balance you hold in your Wise account. Transfers are set up online or in the Wise app – and can move far faster than a normal international bank transfer. In fact, 50% of Wise transfers are instant, and 90%+ arrive within 24 hours.

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We’ll cover all you need to know about how to open and use a Wise personal or business account, a little later.

Wise payment methods

Wise offers multiple ways to pay for international money transfers, so you can choose the most convenient option for you. If you’re based in the US you can choose from 4 different payment options – the Wise fees you pay may vary according to the method you choose:

In US, available payment methods for Wise money transfers are:

  • ACH (direct debit or deposit): ACH payments are usually fast, and can be one of the cheapest options available
  • Wire transfer (or bank transfer): Wire payments may take 1 – 2 business days to be received, but can also be a cost effective option
  • Debit Card: Debit card payments usually settle within hours, but may cost a little more
  • Credit card: Credit card payments are also usually fast, but typically come with the highest Wise fees

How to use Wise

Once you have your Wise account all set up and verified you’ll be able to arrange international payments, or add and convert funds in your Wise multi-currency account. Wise multi-currency accounts also allow customers to send and receive international payments, and spend using a linked Wise debit card.

Here’s a rundown of the key features you’ll get with Wise:

  • Send money transfers from your Wise account or another bank account using the Wise app, to 160+ countries
  • Order a Wise debit card, make in-store and online purchases in 150+ countries, create virtual cards for free
  • Receive money into your Wise account, by sharing your local account details with the sender and get paid like a local in 10 currencies
  • Hold and exchange 50+ currencies in your Wise account using mid-market exchange rates
  • Open a business account to send, receive and exchange 50+ currencies

We’ll cover these account features one by one in a moment.

How to use Wise to transfer money internationally

With a Wise account you can send money in 40+ currencies to 160+ countries.

Transfering money with Wise is easy – and you can get started online or using the Wise app, without even needing to leave home.

Here is how to transfer money internationally with Wise:

  1. Log into your account
  2. Type in how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get
  3. Enter the recipient’s details – bank account number or email
  4. Check over the details
  5. Fund your payment using a card or bank transfer
  6. Confirm and your money will be on the move.

You’ll also be able to track your transfer if you need to, in the Wise app or on the Wise desktop site.

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What details do you need from your recipient?

The good news is that your recipient does not need yo have a Wise account to be able to receive a transfer that was sent with Wise. Your Wise transfer will be deposited directly into the recipient’s bank account, so the recipient needs to give the sender their bank account details.

Exactly what’s needed can vary a little based on the country you’re sending money to, but you can usually expect to need these details from the recipient:

  • The recipient’s full name as shown on their bank account
  • The recipient’s bank account number or IBAN
  • The recipient’s bank name
  • Country specific information, like a sort code for the UK or a BSB for Australia

How long does an international money transfer take with Wise?

Wise international transfers are fast. In fact, more than 50% of Wise transfers are instant, and the vast majority of payments arrive within 24 hours.

In contrast, sending money overseas with your local bank can take 3 – 5 days depending on the destination country – and even longer if the currencies involved are less commonly used.

Send money with Wise
If you want to learn how Wise money transfer compares to international bank transfer, this guide can help: Wise money transfer vs international bank transfer

How to open a Wise account

Wise has been created to offer an intuitive user experience with customers able to open a personal account on both the Wise Apple and Android apps, and the Wise desktop site.

Here’s how to open a Wise Account:

  1. Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site
  2. Tap register
  3. Create an account using your email, Apple ID, Google ID or Facebook details
  4. Add your personal information, following the onscreen prompts
  5. Get verified
  6. Top up your account, order an international debit card or set up your first transfer
  7. You’re ready to go

How does the Wise Account work?

Once you’ve opened your Wise account you can hold a balance in any of 50+ currencies, and exchange currencies between them with the midmarket exchange rate and low, transparent fees whenever you need to.

You can also send fast and efficient payments to 160+ countries from your account, and spend internationally from your Wise balance with a linked Wise card.

Wise accounts come with local bank details for up to 10 currencies, so you can get paid like a local from 30+ countries.

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How do I get verified on Wise?

To keep customers and their money safe, Wise has to complete a verification step when you open an account or set up an international payment. This is to comply with legislations around the world and prevent fraudulent or illegal account use – banks need to do this when customers set up accounts too.

However, while you might have to visit a branch to verify your bank account, the good news is that you’ll be able to complete the Wise account verification process entirely online or in the Wise app.

If you have a US issued SSN or ITIN you’ll be able to enter this when you open your Wise account or make a Wise transfer. If you don’t you can also upload images of your ID and/or a selfie of you holding your ID. You’ll be guided through the process and can save your progress and come back to it if you need to.

A valid ID can usually be:

  • Passport
  • National ID card
  • Photo driver’s license

If you ever need any support while you’re completing the verification step, the Wise customer service team is on hand to advise you – by phone, online or in the Wise app.

How do you transfer money from Wise to Wise?

You’ll be able to transfer money from your Wise multi-currency account to another Wise account online or in the Wise app. In fact, if you synch your contacts in your smartphone you’ll even be able to make a payment with just a phone number or email address.

Here’s how to transfer money from your Wise account to another Wise account:

  1. Open the Wise app
  2. Make sure you’ve opened a balance in the currency you want to send (or receive)
  3. Tap Recipients in your Wise app
  4. Select Find friends on Wise
  5. Choose the option to Sync contacts
  6. Select the contact you want to send to, and set up the transfer as usual

If the recipient has a balance already in the currency you send, the money will be added to that balance automatically. If not, Wise will automatically create that currency balance for them, and the money will be added to the new currency balance, so there’s no hassle for the recipient at all.

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How long does a Wise to Wise transfer take?

Wise to Wise transfers are super fast – your funds will arrive in seconds so you can use them right away.

You can send money from your Wise account to another Wise account simply by using the recipient’s email address or phone number – which makes it super easy to send to anyone already in your contacts. Recipient details are also saved under ‘Recipients’ tab which makes it more convenient to quickly send money to them again.

Is Wise to Wise transfer free?

Wise to Wise transfers are free of charge when there’s no currency exchange involved, meaning that Wise to Wise transfers between the same currencies are completely free. If you’re converting currencies, you’ll be able to make your payment with the real mid-market exchange rate and just Wise’s low, transparent conversion fee to pay.

How do I receive money from Wise?

If someone is sending you a payment with Wise you can either receive it into your regular bank account, or choose to have it deposited into your Wise account using your local bank details, depending on the currency.

Wise accounts come with the option of getting local bank details to receive payments in these currencies:

Wise local account details
🇦🇺 Australian dollar🇨🇦 Canadian dollar🇪🇺 Euros🇬🇧 British pound🇭🇺 Hungarian forint
🇳🇿 New Zealand dollar🇷🇴 Romanian lei🇸🇬 Singapore dollar🇹🇷 Turkish lira🇺🇸 US dollar

Open a Wise Account

If you want to get your money deposited to your Wise account in USD you can take the following steps:

  1. Open your Wise account and click on USD balance
  2. Click on account details and choose between inside US for domestic, and outside US for international transfers
  3. You’ll see your account details, and can use the ‘copy account details’ function to copy them easily and give to the sender

Want to receive a payment from overseas to your regular US bank account? You can do that, too – even if you’ve not yet opened a Wise account. Read on for how.

How do you receive money internationally from Wise?

Receiving money transfer from Wise is easy and free. The recipient does not need to have a Wise account to receive the money, as the payment will be deposited into their bank account directly.

If you’re expecting to get a Wise payment to your regular bank account, just give your bank details to the person sending the money and wait for the money to arrive in your bank account. More than 50% of Wise transfers are instant – and the vast majority arrive in 24 hours.

Learn more here: How to receive money from abroad with Wise

Do you need a Wise account to receive a money transfer?

You do not need a Wise account to receive a money transfer sent with Wise. If you’d rather, you can simply receive the money directly to your normal bank account. In this case you need to give your normal bank account details to the sender.

What details do I need to give the sender?

To receive a payment to be sent through Wise, you’ll need to give the sender your account details, including:

  • Your name as it appears on your bank account
  • Your bank account number
  • Your account routing number(s)
  • Depending on the specific payment you may also need to give your address, or a reason for the payment

If you’re receiving your money to your Wise account in USD, Wise gives the same account information for payments sent by ACH and Wire. If the sender asks for a routing number for either ACH or Wire, you can just give them the number shown in your Wise USD account details.

How to set up a Wise account to receive money

You can set up a Wise account to receive money transfers in 10 currencies including USD, EUR and GBP. With your Wise account, you can get local account details for these currencies, and receive transfers with those details.

Here’s what to do to receive money into your Wise account. We’ll use the example of getting a payment in GBP:

  1. Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site
  2. Create a Wise account by entering your email, Facebook or Google ID
  3. Get verified by adding your SSN, ITIN or uploading ID
  4. Within your Wise account, tap open a balance, and select GBP
  5. Tap Get account details, then copy the account information for GBP
  6. Send the GBP account details to the person making the payment, to receive funds into Wise

How to receive money into your Wise account

Planning to receive a payment to your Wise account in a different currency? You can do that too – just follow the steps laid out above to get your USD account details with Wise, but click on the currency balance you’re expecting, to get your local account details for GBP, EUR or any other supported currency.

How to deposit money into my Wise account?

Add funds to your Wise multi-currency account in dollars – or any of the other 50+ supported currencies, to make payments and spend on your linked debit card anywhere in the world.

You’ll be able to select your preferred payment method, including using an ACH or wire, or adding funds with your debit or credit card. The fees for different payment methods vary, so you can pick the one which suits you best.

Here’s how to deposit money to your Wise account:

  1. Open the Wise app or website
  2. Choose the currency you want to add
  3. Enter the amount you want to top up
  4. Select your preferred payment method
  5. Check, confirm and make the payment

Once you have a Wise balance, you’ll be able to make transfers, convert to different currencies or spend using your Wise card.

How to get a Wise debit card

With the Wise multi-currency account you’ll be able to order a Wise debit card to make it easier to spend and withdraw money in 150+ countries. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Log into the Wise app or desktop site
  2. Select Cards on the website or Android phones, or Account if you’re using an Apple device
  3. Follow the prompts to order your card, and pay a one time 9 USD fee
  4. Your Wise debit card will be with you in 14 – 21 days. You can also choose express delivery for an extra charge to get your card within just a day or two

Once you’ve successfully ordered your Wise debit card, you’ll be able to view your card details, and use your virtual Wise card for spending online. That means you’ll be able to get started before your physical card even arrives in your mailbox. Once your physical card does arrive you’ll need to activate it:

  1. Go to your Wise account
  2. Go to Card on the website or app
  3. Choose Activate your card
  4. Enter the 6-digit code that’s on the card below your name
  5. Choose your PIN

The Wise card is available for customers based in the UK, the US, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and most countries within the EEA.

Open a Wise Account

How do you withdraw money from Wise?

Once you have a balance in your Wise multi-currency account you’ll be able to:

  • Send payments to individuals and businesses in 160+ countries
  • Spend your balance with your linked international debit card
  • Make ATM withdrawals
  • Withdraw to your own bank account in the US

If you’re making a withdrawal from an ATM using your Wise card, you’ll be able to make up to 2 withdrawals, worth no more than 100 USD, for no fee. After that, you’ll pay a low charge of 1.5 USD + 2% of the withdrawal value for each withdrawal.

Sending money to someone else – or withdrawing money to your own bank account – may have a small fee depending on the currencies involved and how you set up the transfer. You’ll be able to see all your options – and any fees involved – by logging into the Wise app or desktop site.

How does Wise know which currency to use?

If you’re spending with your Wise card and hold the currency you need as a balance, the amount you pay will be automatically deducted from that currency balance.

If you don’t have the currency you need, or if you don’t hold enough of that currency as a balance, Wise uses smart conversion technology to automatically convert from the best currency possible. This way they can keep the fees as low as possible.

How to open a Wise business account

Business accounts from Wise are great for entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners who need to pay and get paid in foreign currencies.

Here’s how to get your Wise business account in just a few simple steps:

  1. Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site
  2. Register by adding details about your business, and yourself as the account holder
  3. Set up and pay for a transfer – if you’re opening a full Wise account you’ll also need to pay a one time fee
  4. Complete the verification step if required – you’ll be guided through this step if it’s needed

You’re ready to go once the Wise has verified your account.

Go to Wise Business

How do I verify my business on Wise?

Verifying your business account on Wise is entirely done online or in the Wise app. You’ll usually be asked to upload images of some key documents which can be used to verify both you and your business.

In most cases, as well as your business documentation which can vary based on entity type, customers looking to open a Wise business multi-currency account will need to provide  the names, dates of birth, and countries of residence for any directors and shareholders who own 25% or more of the business.

The exact paperwork and information required will vary based on the type of business you’re running – you’ll be able to follow the on-screen instructions to check what’s relevant for you.

How to use the Wise app

Sending money with the Wise app is quick and secure. Wise has tried to make the process as seamless as possible with lots of shortcuts like setting up new transfers for previously used details and recipients.

You are also able to check the status of your transfer, send in your documents for verification, make payments using debit card or credit card. Here’s a quick rundown of the key features of the Wise app:

  • Check your Wise account balance
  • Set-up and track transfers
  • Get instant notifications about transfer or purchases
  • Create and use virtual/digital cards
  • Track spending on your Wise card
  • Get your card details from the ‘card’ tab to make purchases
  • Request payments from others
  • Freeze and defrost cards
  • Get your local account details easily
  • See your account limits

Wise has apps for IOS in the Apple store and Androids in Google Play.

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How does Wise make money?

Transparency is a core principle of the way Wise works – so you’ll be able to see the fees you pay for any service you use, before you confirm the transaction.

When it comes to sending international payments, there are 2 separate fees which are broken out when you model your transfer. That means you’ll know ahead of time how much your payment will cost. Here is a breakdown of Wise fees for international transfer:

  • Fixed fee: this covers the fixed costs associated with your payment – for major currencies this may be in the region of $4.15 – $4.35
  • Variable fee: this covers the cost of the currency exchange – for major currencies the variable fee is normally around 0.4% – 0.5%

Wise transfers can cost from as little as 0.41%. The total average customer cost for Wise transfers is around 0.6% of the transfer value – often the lowest overall cost on the market.

How much does it cost?

Here’s a breakdown of the fees involved when sending $1,000 to a range of major global currencies with Wise:

Sending 1,000 USD to:Fixed feeVariable feeTotal fee
Australian dollars (AUD)4.25 USD4.66 USD (0.47%)8.91 USD
Brazilian real (BRL)4.34 USD12.81 USD (1.3%)17.15 USD
Canadian dollars (CAD)4.31 USD4.77 USD (0.48%)9.08 USD
Swiss francs (CHF)4.35 USD5.05 USD (0.51%)9.40 USD
Euros (EUR)4.15 USD4.66 USD (0.47%)8.81 USD
British pounds (GBP)4.25 USD4.66 USD (0.47%)8.91 USD
Indian rupees (INR)4.25 USD6.82 USD (0.69%)11.07 USD
Japanese yen (JPY)5.41 USD5.44 USD (0.55%)10.85 USD

Find out more about Wise fees here.

In the Borderless account or multi currency account Wise makes money on the currency conversion fees and when adding money to each different currency account. While the fees are very low for currency conversion, Wise makes it money because there are so many of these transactions across the world every day by millions of customers.

Is Wise safe and legit?

Yes Wise is safe and legitimate. Wise uses bank grade security and is regulated round the globe. On their website they use HTTPS encryption and 2FA for logins and passwords to transfer money.

By law they have to ‘safeguard’ your money, which means they have to protect ‘100%’ of it by keeping your money in segregated accounts in 1st class banks such as JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and Deutsche Bank.

Finally they use 3DS for card payments and employ their own in-house security team to monitor fraud and keep your money and data secure. Learn more about Wise safety here: Is Wise safe?

Who owns Wise (formerly TransferWise)?

Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann set up Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) in 2011. As expats living in London they were tired of paying so much to send money home.

According to Crunchbase, Wise has raised over $1.7 billion in 13 rounds of venture funding. Its last round of funding was in October 2022. Investors into the company include Silicon Valley Bank UK.

Conclusion: How does TransferWise work?

Wise was built to make it cheaper, faster and easier to transact in foreign currencies. You’ll be able to open a Wise account online or in the Wise app, to send payments to 160+ countries, hold and exchange 50+ currencies, and get paid with your own bank details for 10 different currencies.

Wise works differently to banks and traditional exchange services. By setting up its own payment network, Wise has been able to drive down the costs of international transfers, and pass these savings on to customers through lower, more transparent fees and a better exchange rate.

Using Wise is simple, and you’ll be able to access your account and Wise services right from your laptop or smartphone. From setting up your account and getting verified, to sending your first payment, switching between currencies or withdrawing funds back to your normal bank, you can manage your money easily and cheaply, without even needing to leave home. Check out Wise low cost international payments and multi-currency accounts today to see just how much time and money you can save.

Go to Wise

FAQs on How to use Wise

  1. Do I need a Wise account to receive money from Wise?

You don’t need a Wise account to receive money from Wise. You can simply have your Wise payment sent to your normal bank account in the currency of your choice. Or, if you’d prefer, you can open a Wise account yourself, to get paid like a local in up to 10 currencies.

  1. Do you need a bank account for Wise?

Wise accounts come with local bank details for 10 currencies which means it’s easy to manage your money across currencies – even if you don’t have a bank account in the currency you need.

Use your Wise bank details to get paid into your Wise account, to send transfers around the world or spend and withdraw with your Wise international debit card.

  1. How do you transfer money from Wise to my account?

Send payments online or in the Wise app, in 50+ currencies. Just enter the recipient’s bank details, confirm the currency you need, and add the amount you want to send.

  1. Can you deposit cash into your Wise account?

You can not deposit cash into a Wise account – you’ll need to add funds using a linked bank account or card, or have someone send you money using your Wise account details which are available in 10 different currencies.

  1. What is the maximum you can send on Wise?

Wise maximum sending limits are set by currency – usually you can send the equivalent of up to around 1 million GBP. Log into Wise to check the sending limits for the currencies you need.

  1. How long does it take to transfer with TransferWise?

50% of Wise transfers are instant, and 90%+ arrive within 24 hours. Banks, on the other hand, cam take 3 – 5 days to move money internationally.

Claire Millard
Fintech Content Writer
Claire Millard is a content and copywriter with a specialty in international finance. Her work has featured in The Times and The Telegraph, as well as industry magazines and leading personal finance blogs.
Read more
Seyma Mektepli
Seyma is an experienced content writer and editor-in-chief at Exiap, delivering informative articles on personal finance, and money transfers.
Read more
Last updated
March 27th, 2024