For the last 3 or so years, I have been using Western Union as my default for sending money back home to the Philippines. To be honest, I knew that it was probably not the best or cheapest option out there but I realized that only after I’ve already gone through the quite demanding process of making sure that my account would let me do my transfers at 7Eleven Convenience Stores (as opposed to going to one of their physical shops). Out of sheer laziness, I figured that unless I wanted to AGAIN go through the hassle of opening an account, providing the necessary documents and enduring the long processing period, Western Union Slash 7Eleven is now my best, most convenient choice. I could have gone on using that route forever. But then, late last year, they sent me an email saying that my account is expiring and in order to continue using it, I would have to send them all of my identification documents again and basically undergo a process as if I’m registering for the very first time. Realizing that I’m going to have to go through the hassle anyway, I decided to really take the time to sit down, research, weigh all the alternatives and find the best option for me out there.
Of course, pricing and exchange rate were major factors that I considered. Equally important to me though, is the ease of application and convenience of the actual process of sending the money. Taking those things into account, I have since decided to go with TransferWise and whenever I need to send money, it’s never been easier.
In the hopes that it would also make your life easier, I have decided to write this review of TransferWise. This is not a sponsored post… I wish it were (LOL).
TransferWise pulls its exchange rate from Reuters which means that it’s updated in real time while the trading market is open and that it is well within the fair mid-market exchange rate. The company actually does not make money from the exchange rate and earns only from the transaction fee which, according to their website, is only “what it costs us to send your money, plus a small margin”.
The fee structure is as follows:
- First, there is a very reasonable fixed fee. I’m from the Philippines and in the case of JPY to PHP transaction, the current fixed fee is set at 101 JPY — no, I’m not even kidding. I played around with the website’s fee calculator and even if you set the amount to be sent to 1Million JPY, that fixed fee remains, well, fixed – at 101 JPY. I also played around with other currencies and observed that this fixed fee differs from country to country but stays affordable wherever – in some areas it’s even set below 100 JPY.
- Then, there is a variable fee which is a percentage of the amount you are sending. The percentage of the variable fee may also change depending on the manner you would be paying for your remittance. When sending money to the Philippines, for example, you can choose between two options: by debit card of by bank transfer. While paying by debit card would have you shell off 4.01% for the variable fee, paying via bank transfer would only deduct an impressive 0.77%.
If you were to send 10,000 JPY to the Philippines via bank transfer, for instance, you would only be paying 177JPY for the entire transaction as shown in the picture below. Seeing this on the screen really blew my mind because for the same amount, I would have to pay 1500JPY at Western Union.
Comparing it with other services, TransferWise actually has the tendency of having a lower exchange rate compared to other available services (including Western Union) but once you factor in the fees, you still end up with the best numbers with it.
Remember that the figures shown here were snapped on a random day and that the rates are subject to change. Also, depending on the currencies you are exchanging, the list of services available and being compared might be longer.
Shown above by the way, are two features of TransferWise’s app or website that I absolutely appreciate. The first one is that it shows you AUTOMATICALLY and EXACTLY how much the transfer is going to cost you and how much the other end is going to be receiving even before you start the process of sending the money. Heck, you can even do it even before you open an account with them. You can enter an amount either on the ‘You send’ field or the ‘Recipient gets’ field. The other feature that I love about the website is that it it lets you compare real-time rates with other companies.
To start using TransferWise, either go to their site or download their app. There, provide the necessary details of your transfer (amount and mode of payment/transfer type) and click on ‘Get Started’. Enter the information needed to create an account (if it’s your first time to use TransferWise). From there, you will be prompted to verify your account. This is the most bothersome step you would have to take in opening a TransferWise account but its so much better than some of the other services that would require you to wait days to receive documents by post and send them right back. TransferWise will take you through the process with detailed instructions but to give you an idea, you’re going to need a valid Japanese ID (your Zairyu or My Number card will do), a marker, a piece of paper and your phone to take pictures with. Once I’ve submitted all the necessary requirements, I got a message saying that they will verify my account within 48 hours but in my case at least, it took less than a day to get verified and for my initial transfer to start
Once you’re verified, sending money is super easy.
For convenience, I prefer using my phone when setting up the transfer so that’s what I will be showing here for the demo. However, if you prefer using a computer, the process is pretty much the same.
After entering the amount that you would like to send, you will be asked to supply the recipient. Note that if you prefer it, receivers’ information will be saved for future transactions so you just have to choose the specific person you’re sending it to from the list. For first time transfers, of course, you will first have to provide information about the recipient. Doing that is not at all complicated and requires only the basic information – name, address (in my experience, does not have to be too detailed), and the account you are sending it to. Here, note the area where you can choose the type of account of the recipient. I imagine other options might be available if you are sending money to other countries but for remittance to the Philippines for example, you could choose to either send it directly to the person’s bank account (a looong list of participating companies or to an E-Wallet account (GCash and Pay Maya available) – yes, that means no need for inconvenient cash pickups in remittance centers. Once all of the necessary information are supplied, you can proceed until you get to the confirmation screen with the details of your transaction. If everything looks good, you can continue to the next step where you will get information about a local Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ bank account where you should transfer the total amount of your transfer. All you need to do now is get to the nearest ATM and make the transfer. Even better, if you have online banking available, you don’t even need to leave the house! Afterwards, keep an eye on your TransferWise app as it will update you if the transfer has gone through and the money was received. They will also send you an email confirmation of the transfer. Usually, you will be told that the transfer will get to the receiver within the day or within 24 hours. So far, all of my transfers arrived within an hour or so.
Honestly, TransferWise has a lot more features that I have yet to explore such as their Jars, Platinum debit card and multiple currency account. However, one service that I have tried and do appreciate is their ‘Balance’. Basically what it lets you do is store/load some money to your account in advance so the next time you have a remittance, you don’t need to head out and make the money transfer anymore. This can be done very easily and intuitively using the app.
I really feel that I have lucked out because I found TransferWise after what I thought was a misfortune (having my WesterUnion account suspended). I am very excited to learn about and maybe try out its other features and it has really added some convenience to my life. Hopefully, you found this blog useful and that you, too, will enjoy using TransferWise!