Revolut vs TransferWise – the battle of travel multicurrency wallets

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.

If you missed my reviews for each of these platforms which you can read about them here (Revolut | TransferWise). Otherwise, let’s get started.

The following content contains a non-sponsored comparison, but may contain affiliate links. For my disclosure policies, please read them here

Background and introduction

Revolut TransferWise
Founded 2015 2011
Based in London, UK London, UK
Funding Stage Series C Series E+
Funding Amount $337mn $772mn
Top Investors DST Global
Index Ventures
Ribbit Capital
Andreessen Horowitz
Index Ventures
JP Morgan

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

Revolut TransferWise
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

Revolut TransferWise
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 Exchange

Revolut TransferWise
Overseas remittance Yes Yes
Foreign currency conversions Yes Yes
Currencies available for conversions 150+ 150+
Foreign exchange rates used Interbank Rates Mid-market rates
FX alerts Yes Yes
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
SGD/USD 0.733 0.733 0.731 0.728
SGD/THB 21.930 22.160 22.070 21.817
SGD/MYR 3.071 3.051 3.044
SGD/HKD 5.747 5.747 5.720 5.682
SGD/JPY 79.680 79.680 79.150 78.746

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
SGD/USD 0.730 0.733 0.733 0.728
SGD/THB 21.650 22.129 22.081 21.759
SGD/MYR 3.070 3.050 3.035
SGD/HKD 5.718 5.749 5.721 5.675
SGD/JPY 79.271 79.708 79.303 78.746
SGD/GBP 0.569 0.572 0.568 0.565
SGD/EUR 0.658 0.662 0.659 0.656
SGD/AUD 1.069 1.075 1.068 1.062

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

Revolut TransferWise
Multicurrency wallet Yes Yes
Currencies available for storage 14+ 40+
Minimum balances No No
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 Management

Revolut TransferWise
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
Spending analytics Yes No
Money Vault Yes 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.

Money transfers

Revolut TransferWise
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.

Fees

Revolut TransferWise
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
No
Subscription fees Free for Standard users
$9.99 for Premium users
$19.99 for Metal users
Free
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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Derrick is a digital native, finance geek and avid photographer. He loves spontaneity but is a control freak at the same time.

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