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Sourcing the best bank account for digital nomads can seem a struggle. With many banks charging for overseas transactions and withdrawals, maintaining a budget on the road can be a challenge. When embarking on life as a digital nomad, its important to open an account with a bank you can trust not to drain your balance in fees alone, or unexpectedly block all action on your account because you didn't think to inform them of that spontaneous stopover in Paris while on-route to Milan.
Founded in 2011, this multilingual, international bank is the perfect solution for your banking needs.
I've tried a number of banks and travel bank cards over the years, and had become used to opening and closing accounts every time I moved country, or, often, city. And then, shortly after moving to Paris, I came across Transferwise, an online, borderless bank account, and, honestly, I'll never go back.
Currencies & Business Accounts
Supporting over 750 currency routes worldwide, while allowing account-holders to manage their accounts in over forty currencies, it's easy to juggle income streams from several countries. For digital nomads, those who work in industries that require, or allow them the freedom to move and travel often, or those managing international businesses, this is the perfect solution.
For professionals, Transferwise caters to businesses, and it is possible to open a business account as well as a personal account.
As an online bank, simply download an app to your phone and have to hand all of your bank details and transactions right there on your phone. With password-protection, you can feel secure in carrying your finances in the palm of your hand.
Direct Debits can also be created via the app, for incoming or outgoing finances, allowing for hands-free finances. Statements can be downloaded directly to your phone in PDF form. Other features of the app include setting spending limits, changing your pin code for your bank card, or ordering a replacement card. You can also access your account details, such as your account number and sort code for the UK and IBAN and BIC numbers for Europe, via the app.
Finally, you can add an address book of contacts to the app, for those who you frequently transfer money to, such as your landlord.
Payments & Transfers
All payments, with details of transactions and location, appear on my app immediately, and generally, online transactions appear equally quickly, and never more than 24-hours after the payment was made.
I would also use my Transferwise account to transfer the rent to my landlord. The speed of this payment, I've noticed, depends on location. Typically, all bank transactions in France, regardless of bank, take 3-5 days to process, and so I found this to be the same for me each month when paying my rent. However, since recently returning to the UK, I've found transfers to be instantaneous, as is more typical here. I've never made a transfer from one Transferwise account-holder to another, to know how quickly the transfer time would be in that situation.
Firstly, there isn't a subscription fee for a Transferwise account, but there are a few fees to take into consideration.
I've noted these fees in British pounds, euros and US dollars.
Transferring between your own accounts, e.g. converting pounds into euros, will cost a flat fee of:
£0.60 | €0.63 | $1.40
When sending money between two accounts using the same currency, a flat fee will be deducted, regardless as to the sum being sent:
£0.60 | €0.63 | $1.40
The minimum amount that can be received from a transfer is £1 (of the same in any currency; €1, $1, etc). Therefore, the minimum that can be sent is 1.00 + the sending fee, e.g. £1 + £0.60.
The fee deducted for a transfer increases depending on the amount being sent between accounts using different currencies. This fee seems to depend more on the receiving currency, rather than the currency of the account sending the money. For example, based on a UK-EU transfer:
If sending £10 to an account in euros, they will receive* €10.84. You will be charged £0.30 for the transfer.
Sending £100 to an account in euros, they will receive* €111.08. You will be charged £0.63 for the transfer.
Sending £1000 to an account in euros, they will receive* €1,113.16. You will be charged £3.95 for the transfer.
Transfers involving currency exchanges for American account holders do seem to incur slightly higher fees, with a transfer of $1000 to a British account incurring a fee of $10.88, or $10.86 if transferring to an account in euros, but it's still a very low amount.
*(based on current exchange rates)
Banking security is, of course, vital, but I've had accounts with banks before now that could be described as being over-zealous in their security, blocking my card and freezing my account whenever I shop at a website I haven't previously visited before, or wander off the beaten path while travelling.
Transferwise, however, makes me feel both secure, while not coddled. A pin is required every time I open their banking app, which can be easily changed. Payments for contactless payments are upheld, according to the limit of each country.
When making online transactions, I often need to confirm the payment immediately, either via the app or via a confirmation code sent via text message. The app is essential; high-amount or first-time online payments cannot be made without having my phone to hand.
However, Transferwise also has a login page on their website, allowing all the same features granted in their app, and so if your phone is lost or stolen, or you otherwise have problems with their app, you can still contact their support team with the same ease. There's nothing worse than trying to borrow a friend's phone in order to spend an hour waiting to speak to customer support (accessible only via phone), to inform them that your phone has been stolen, after all.
More information regarding Transferwise's security can be found here.
My Transferwise Experience
I signed up for Transferwise after moving to France. I'd found a job, and an apartment, but I was still struggling to open an account on a high street bank, because my rent was all-inclusive, and so I found it impossible to provide adequate paperwork to prove my place of residence. I'd seen Transferwise advertised on the metro, and so it was already a bank that I was aware of, but the marketing was so heavily driven towards travellers, I thought it was simply a top-up travel card. It was only when a colleague too recommended it, that I realised just how suitable a bank it was for my needs. She too had struggled to open an account at a high-street bank and had instead applied to Transferwise.
Opening a multi-currency account was such a simple process. Through the website, I uploaded a copy of my ID and a single document as proof of address (my new work contract). My application was approved within two days, after which I was able to open an account in multiple currencies; euros, British pounds, and American dollars. These accounts are all spent via one bank card, and managed via an app on my phone. I opted for all three in order to better manage payments, as these are the three currencies in which I receive payments.
I received my lovely, neon green bank card within two weeks.
I've been using Transferwise for eighteen months now, without a single complaint. Despite many weekends away in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Spain, I've never needed to alert them to my travels in advance, and while their security features tend to flag up when I make online purchases, I've never had my card blocked unreasonably, as my British high street has a habit of doing whenever I leave the country and forget to inform them.
Professionally, this is the perfect bank card for managing multiple streams of income in multiple currencies and is the best bank card that I've ever found for my nomadic lifestyle. As a traveller and a digital nomad, I highly recommend Transferwise to everyone; and frequently recommend it to friends and fellow expats.