So you arrived in Germany but your money is still outside the Eurozone? Or you’re working for clients that want to pay you in US dollars, British pounds or Polish zloty? Then a TransferWise Borderless Account might be your best solution: Read how you can convert 20 USD with a fee of only 8 cent.
TransferWise* is a UK based service, being around since already 2011. They are well known for their instant money transfer service, also giving full transparency: You go on their website, fill in the amount and currencies you want to send and receive, see exactly how much fees it will cost, and then proceed with the one-time transfer.
What does the Borderless Account offer?
But in 2017 the’ve introduced their Borderless Account*, giving you a way to also receive (and still send) money in more than 40 currencies. An account with
- no fees for registration
- no fees per month
- no fees for receiving money
- and a free Mastercard
Using that account, your transfers can get really cheap, sometimes even down to 0.3% – especially after the price change in March 2019*, cutting in half the rate for USD-EUR transfers, among others.
So now, you can for instance transfer 1000 USD to EUR, for a fee of only 3.79 USD. But even little sums work, like 20 USD for a only 0.08 USD fee.
Can I use it as a freelancer for business payments?
But not only for sending money Transferwise comes in handy – if you have funds outside the Eurozone or if you’re a freelancer with a business and customers paying you in other currencies, then the Transferwise Borderless Account might be the best way to deal with this.
The Theory: How transfers work
In which currencies can I receive?
With the Transferwise Borderless Account, you not only can get one account number for one currency, but several account numbers:
- EUR (Euro) IBAN with & BIC/SWIFT code for SEPA transfers
- GBP (British Pounds) Account number & Sort code for FPS, BACS, CHAPS payments
- USD (US Dollar) Account number, Wire routing number & ACH routing number for Wire & ACH payments
- AUD (Australian Dollar) Account number & BSB code for local AUD bank transfers
- NZD (New Zealand Dollar) Account number for NZD bank transfers
These are currencies where you get your own local account number. So people can send you money anytime, using any reference.
But these are not the only possible “inputs” of you account. You can also receive – partly even by simple local bank transfers – money in AED, ARS, AUD, BDT, BGN, CAD, CHF, CLP, CNY, CZK, DKK, EGP, GEL, HKD, HRK, HUF, IDR, ILS, INR, JPY, KES, LKR, MAD, MXN, NGN, NOK, NPR, NZD, PEN, PHP, PKR, PLN, RON, RUB, SEK, SGD, THB, TRY, UAH, USD, VND and ZAR. See here the list of currencies*.
How does receiving work?
To receive USD (or GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD), you would use the account and wire or ACH routing number for a Wire or ACH payment, just as for a regular US bank transfer. Your USD balance in your account then gets topped up.
To receive money in one of the other 40+ currencies, you need to setup the transfer before within your account (add balance, then add money), and wire the money to a particular local Transferwise bank account, using a given reference number. With the reference number, Transferwise will know that the transfer belongs to you.
How can I exchange?
Once you (or someone else) paid money into your account, you can exchange the USD within your Transferwise account to EUR.
But here comes the interesting thing: You don’t need to exchange right now. You can also wait for a better exchange rate, or just until you actually need USD yourself, and then spend them without any fee at all. Until then, you can simply hold the USD, without any fee.
If you choose to exchange the USD to EUR, a fee of around 0.35% is applied. (For other currencies, other fees* may apply.) These are the only fees at Transferwise that you can’t avoid.
Then, within your Borderless Account your EUR balance is topped up.
How do I get the money out of my account?
Now, to spend these EUR from your EUR balance, you have 3 options:
- Transfer them to a EUR IBAN in Europe, for a fixed fee of 0.60 EUR (no matter what amount)
- Withdraw EUR from an ATM, an equivalent of 200 GBP is free every 30 days.
- Spend them with the MasterCard, coming for free with the Borderless account, without any fee.
Do I still need a “real” German Bank Account?
Looking at these features you might ask, whether you still need another, “real” German bank account. Doesn’t Transferwise already cover everything I need?
Well, here are the limitations of the Borderless Account at this time:
- no direct debit (Lastschrift) possible
- no standing orders (Dauerauftrag) possible
- cash withdrawals limited to 200 GBP per month (around 230 EUR)
But don’t worry, there are plenty of free German bank account offers, just check my other articles:
- Six Free German Bank Accounts
- Free German Business Bank Accounts for Freelancers
- Free Money Market & Fixed Deposit Accounts
How to Open a Borderless Account
Opening is even less hassle than with other usual online banks, because there is no Video- or PostIdent procedure. Simply:
- Go to TransferWise Account Registration*.
- Choose a username and password.
- Choose if this will be a personal or business account.
- Fill in your name and other personal details.
- Choose a default balance: This will be the main currency of your account, e.g. EUR.
Now you have accomplished the first step: You have an account with a default balance in EUR. But still no account number, MasterCard or other balance. For these, you need to verify.
How to verify?
- Go on Verify here / Start verification.
- Select your country.
- Select an available verification document. The options will depend on your country. Mostly, a passport, an ID card or a driver’s license are possible.
- Upload a scan of the document. (It has to be an image file, like JPG, PNG. No PDFs.)
- Wait for confirmation. Transferwise will tell you this can take up to some days, but in practise it mostly arrives after some 15-30 minutes.
Now you get an account number for you default balance, so for EUR balance you now have your own IBAN number. Congratulations!
How to get another balance in another currency?
That’s super-easy: Just select Balances from the menu on the left, and then choose your currency. And done.
How to add money?
Select one of your balances. If it’s one of the 5 balances with its own local bank details (EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, NZD), you will see the account number. Simply do a local bank transfer to that account number:
If its another currency, go to your balance and click Add [currency code], e.g. Add PLN. Then you will be asked for the transfer type. You e.g. can top up by credit card (more fees) or mostly also do a local bank transfer (less or no fees):
In the next step, Transferwise will show you their PLN account number and a reference number. Make a transfer including that reference number and in 1-2 days, your money will arrive at your balance.
How to get the Mastercard?
To receive the Mastercard, your account needs to hold at least 20 EUR or an equivalent amount in another currency. (Of course you can spend this money later.) Use any of the ways above to pay in that money. Then, in the menu on the left click Debit card and follow the steps.
I’m not aware of any cheaper way to send money around the world, unless you’re meeting in person and paying cash. Since opening and holding the Borderless Account has no running fees, I definitely recommend to give it a try if you happen to receive and send money in foreign currencies regularly.
If you have any questions, feel also free to write in the comments!
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