Content Overview Hide
Revolut and TransferWise are both useful digital platforms offering you a multi-currency wallet and ability to exchange between hundreds of currencies within the app without expensive markups – saving you tons of foreign transaction fees when travelling or paying in foreign currencies.
With the two global fintech players launching in Singapore over the past two weeks, I compare the functionalities of the two services to understand their differences and value proposition.
The following content contains a non-sponsored comparison, but may contain affiliate links. For my disclosure policies, please read them here.
Background and introduction
|Based in||London, UK||London, UK|
|Funding Stage||Series C||Series E+|
|Top Investors||DST Global
Both Revolut and TransferWise were founded within the past decade in the United Kingdom, with TransferWise having a longer operating history compared to Revolut. Both companies are mid-to-late stage startups with millions in funding in their pockets to fuel their global expansion efforts.
With noble ambitions, they are on the path of making money more democratised and fees more transparent. Revolut’s mission is to challenge the traditional banking industry by creating a better way to manage money. On the other hand, TransferWise wants to move money without borders, by making money transfers instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free.
Onboarding and setup
|Sign up process||Online||Online|
|KYC verification method||Onfido||MyInfo|
Revolut and TransferWise both offer online, branch-less sign up process with everything done within the app – from submitting a proof of identity or taking a selfie.
Opening an account with both of them is almost instant, with same-day account openings possible, but ordering a physical card might take a week (about 5-7 working days) for it to be delivered to your doorstep.
Funding and top ups
|Minimum top up||Yes – $20||No|
|Top up with debit cards||Yes||Yes – with 2.7% fees|
|Top up with credit cards||Yes||Yes – with 2.7% fees|
|Top up with Apple Pay||Yes||Yes – with 2.7% fees|
|Top up with Google Pay||Yes||Yes – with 2.7% fees|
|Top up with Bank Transfer||No||Yes|
|Top up with PayNow||No||Yes|
To get started, Revolut requires a $20 deposit to activate the account, before you can proceed to order a Revolut Card. You can withdraw the $20 to your local bank account or spend it in stores afterwards.
TransferWise doesn’t require the minimum top up, but the debit card needs to be activated in stores as well by making a purchase. Top ups made on TransferWise using debit and credit cards have a small fee levied to cover the transaction costs, while top ups using bank transfers and PayNow are exempted from this.
In my opinion, Revolut’s top up is definitely way more convenient because of its native Apple Pay integration and fee waiver for credit cards.
|Foreign currency conversions||Yes||Yes|
|Currencies available for conversions||150+||150+|
|Foreign exchange rates used||Interbank Rates||Mid-market rates|
|Auto FX conversions||Yes||No|
|Automatic currency exchange at point-of-sale||Yes||Yes|
Both Revolut and TransferWise are largely similar when it comes to remittance and foreign currency exchanges, although Revolut has the option of automatic FX conversions which you can set to trigger automatically when the currency pair you like reaches a certain rate.
Comparing the actual foreign exchange rate used for both of these platforms, I also compared several popular SGD currency pairs to what I saw at Chinatown and bank rates.
|Weekday rate||Revolut||TransferWise||Chinatown Money Changer||Local Bank|
From the table above, you can probably tell that both Revolut and TransferWise have comparable rates on weekdays, and both are better than the rates you see at the money changer or local banks.
However, when exchanging Singapore Dollars to Thai Baht, Revolut’s rates don’t stack up as well as the competition because of their additional 1% fees.
When comparing foreign exchange rates on weekends, the narrative might be a little different.
|Weekend rate||Revolut||TransferWise||Chinatown Money Changer||Local Bank|
On the weekends, Revolut’s rates do slightly worse as they charge slightly higher fees to compensate for liquidity because less currency is traded during these times. Nevertheless, they are still generally better than what you get when exchanging with local banks or at the airport.
Overall, TransferWise offers the best exchange rates among the competition both on weekends and weekdays.
Multicurrency wallet and account balances
|Currencies available for storage||14+||40+|
|Convert loose change||Yes||Yes|
|Local bank account details||No||Yes – EUR, USD, GBP, AUD, NZD|
As of today, TransferWise still reigns champion when it comes to the number of currencies you can store within the app, in addition to having local bank account details for EUR, USD, GBP, AUD and NZD currencies – where you can receive like a local and avoid expensive transfer fees if you’re using a bank.
Both platforms don’t have any minimum balances and allow you to convert loose/spare change easily to your native currency, so you don’t have to keep idle cash in foreign currencies lying around.
I’d say the multicurrency wallet functionality for TransferWise is more refined, but Revolut is steadily adding more currencies (including MYR) onto its platform.
|Card availability||Yes – debit card||Yes – debit card|
|Card scheme||Visa in Singapore||MasterCard in Singapore|
|Custom card names||Yes||No|
|Freeze and unfreeze card||Yes||Yes|
|ATM withdrawals switch||Yes||Yes – with 24h and 30 day limits|
|Chip and PIN transactions switch||Yes||Yes – with 24h and 30 day limits|
|Contactless transactions switch||Yes||Yes – with 24h and 30 day limits|
|Magnetic stripe transactions switch||Yes||Yes – with 24h and 30 day limits|
|Online payments switch||Yes||Yes – with 24h and 30 day limits|
|Location based security||Yes||No|
|Spending limits||Yes – 30 day||Yes|
|Support for Google, Samsung and Apple Pay||No||No – US only|
|Replace lost/missing card from app||Yes||Yes|
|Disposable virtual cards||Yes – Premium and Metal accounts||No|
|ATM Withdrawals||Free – up to $350 every 30 days
2% on withdrawals above limit
|Free – up to $350 every 30 days
2% on withdrawals above limit
Both Revolut and Transferwise offer a debit card for spending your wallet balances, and while the core functionality of both platforms are mostly similar, Revolut offers disposable virtual cards for its paid plans, allowing you to use the credit card details one time and then immediately dispose them off – preventing them from ever being stolen.
Unfortunately, the debit cards cannot be linked directly onto Google, Android or Apple Pay in Singapore currently, so you need to bring the physical card out with you if you want to make contactless purchases in shops or for public transport.
Despite both using different card schemes in Singapore, Visa for Revolut and MasterCard for TransferWise, there isn’t any material differences between the two given both card schemes are widely accepted at merchants islandwide and worldwide.
It seems like a fair competition here.
|Send money to personal bank account||Yes – free||Yes – $1.40|
|Send money to another person||Yes – free||Yes – $1.40|
|Send money to a business||Yes – free||Yes – $1.40|
|Send/request money via app||Yes – Revolut users||No|
|Send/request money via payment link||Yes||No|
|Send/request money from nearby people||Yes||No|
|Request money via bill split||Yes||No|
|Scheduled payments||Yes – bank account or Revolut users||No|
In the money transfers space, you’d start to see the edge Revolut has, especially when it comes to sending and receiving money from others. The Revolut app allows you to withdraw money into your personal bank account for free, or send and request money from other Revolut users right from the app – similar to PayLah!
There are additional features on Revolut with TransferWise lacks such as making scheduled payments and splitting bills – which makes Revolut a very capable money management app for everyday use, and its usefulness increases when your friends all use it.
I’ve give Revolut the edge for money transfer features.
|Sign up fees||No||No|
|Annual card fees||No||No|
|Card delivery fees||Free for standard delivery. $19.99 for express delivery||No|
|Card replacement fees||Free for first replacement,
$9 thereafter per replacement
|Subscription fees||Free for Standard users
$9.99 for Premium users
$19.99 for Metal users
|Foreign transaction fees||No||No|
|Currency conversion charges||0.35% to 2%
0.5% to 1% more for conversions outside of FX market hours
1% more for THB and UAH
|0.35% to 2.22%|
The best thing about them is that they are free to use, with no sign up or annual fees at all. Both platforms take a small fee when converting between currencies, but do not mark up the rates you see on Google.
When exchanging currencies, the rate you see in the app is the one net of fees, so you have full knowledge upfront of how much it costs to convert one currency to another – unlike most banks where they hide the rate used in your bill statements.
TransferWise tends to have lower fees across all its products and services.
When using both services and cards extensively over the past several weeks, I found that Revolut and TransferWise have different strengths and their use cases should not be mutually exclusive.
For example, for people looking at the best rates for international money transfers or foreign currency bank transfers (e.g. paying businesses, bill payments, remittance), then TransferWise has the advantage of super quick transfers, best-in-class foreign exchange rates and local bank details.
Frequent travellers also enjoy excellent FX rates in all countries (including Thailand) regardless of whether you’re changing money during the weekends or outside of market hours.
On the other hand, Revolut is more like an everyday finance app, where you can spend and track expenses, send and receive cash from your friends quickly, store and convert digital money of multiple currencies, stash away small change and withdraw freely into a local bank account – all from a single, powerful app.
There’s no single winner between the two juggernauts, and the best one for you is determined by your needs.
But if you ever travel overseas, and don’t want to pay exorbitant foreign exchange charges or want a better exchange rate compared to what you get from your neighbourhood money changers, then I strongly recommend you to sign up for one of them.