Money transfer service TransferWise, coming off of a banner year in which annual revenue grew to $149.12 million (£117 million) from $84.1 million (£66 million) in 2017, this week rolled out a MasterCard debit card and an accompanying multicurrency account — TransferWise Borderless — in the United States. Much like the card TransferWise introduced to U.K. and European Union markets in the middle of last year, it works in over 40 currencies without balance limits, and its conversion fees are consistent with current exchange rates.
Folks interested can sign up for an account and order a debit card starting today. TransferWise says a product for businesses will follow.
“TransferWise is working to remove some of the financial barriers keeping people from traveling, living, and working across borders,” said CEO Kristo Käärmann, a former PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant and Deloitte manager who cofounded TransferWise in 2011 with Taavet Hinrikus. “The international bank details are a key feature that truly set us apart. Our goal is to offer bank details for every country in the world through one account — the world’s first global account — and we’re starting with five of the world’s top currencies. The 40-currency debit card completes the package, so we’re excited to be releasing the card in the U.S.”
Customers in the U.K., U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand who sign up for TransferWise’s debit card get international bank details, including account and routing numbers unique to them. The card syncs with digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, and it delivers push notifications summarizing transactions via Transferwise’s mobile app.
TransferWise card users can “freeze” spending at any time in the event their card is stolen or goes missing, and Borderless cards are completely free — there’s no associated subscription, signup fee, or monthly maintenance fee. But perhaps the niftiest benefit is automatic currency routing: If a customer doesn’t have money on the currency they’re spending, Transferwise automatically exchanges it in a way that’s cheapest to them by choosing existing balances in currencies with favorable rates.
It’s no wonder TransferWise Borderless quickly gained steam in the territories where it debuted in 2018. TransferWise says that over the past year, its multicurrency customers have deposited over $2.55 billion (£2 billion) in their accounts and spent more than half a billion British pounds on their cards. Moreover, it says those customers have racked up over 15 million transactions to date.
“Banks have gotten away with charging people extortionate fees to access their money overseas. Traditional multi-currency accounts are inaccessible due to minimum balance requirements of $100,000 or more,” said Käärmann. “For the first time, we’re bringing true multi-country banking to anyone in the U.S. who needs it.”
For the uninitiated, TransferWise develops and maintains a peer-to-peer cash transfer platform that helps consumers bypass banks that levy hefty fees. That’s not to imply it’s a philanthropic cause — TransferWise, like banks, makes money by charging for international transfers — but it boasts that its rates are up to 12 times lower than those of rival incumbents. TransferWise recently opened its API for verified third-party businesses and continues to pursue partnerships to expand the availability of its service, as evidenced last July by its collaboration with French bank Groupe BPCE (Transferwise’s first with a major bank).
TransferWise in November reported an annual post-tax net profit of $8 million for the fiscal year ending March 2018, and it says that its more than five million users now move $5 billion worth of transactions around monthly. That’s a lot of moolah, but the company has stiff competition in Revolut and WorldRemit, as well as established giants like Western Union and MoneyGram.
But that hasn’t appeared to slow growth any. TransferWise revealed earlier this year that it’s now valued at $3.5 billion, following the closure of a $292 million secondary funding round, and it plans to add 750 new hires to its existing team of 1,600 around the world over the next year.
“TransferWise is experiencing phenomenal growth, and this investment is a testament to that,” said Käärmann in May. “We don’t need to raise funds to continue on this trajectory, but we’re humbled by the persistent level of interest in joining our mission.”
The company’s backers include Old Mutual, Institutional Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Lead Edge Capital, Lone Pine Capital, Vitruvian Partners, BlackRock, Valar Ventures, Baillie Gifford, PayPal founder Max Levchin, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, among others.
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