“In theory, it replaces your bank”: TransferWise Launches Borderless Accounts and MasterCard

Consumers will soon have access to TransferWise’s borderless account and MasterCard debit card.

The borderless account allows consumers to receive money and be paid from countries around the world in their own local currency, with zero fees. Consumers will also be able to hold up to 28 different currencies directly in the account. Whenever a consumer swipes or uses their MasterCard in a country for which they already hold the currency, they won’t pay a penny extra.

To convert currencies in the account, though, TransferWise says it will charge consumers “low, transparent fees” at the “mid-market exchange rate”.

The new multi-currency account opens four international bank accounts for consumers—automatically giving each American, Australian, European and U.K. account details, which, as it allows TransferWise to operate on local banking rails, should both increase speed and cut costs for the fintech.

The borderless account went live for businesses, sole traders and freelancers last May, but the “invitation only” MasterCard offer represents the first time the fintech has offered consumers a debit card. The accounts and accompanying card will initially only roll out to 1,000 customers in the European Economic Area. A full public launch is expected by end of Q1.

Originally founded as purely an international money transfer service in 2010, TransferWise has slowly expanded its capabilities to encompass more features traditionally serviced by banks.

Yet Joe Cross, TransfeWise’s head of global marketing and public relations, told Tearsheet the company won’t be applying for a banking license.

“But with the physical card, in theory, it replaces your bank,” he said.

TransferWise’s borderless account was certainly already attractive to international freelancers or expats who receive payment from countries outside their own. The linked borderless account and debit card mean these consumers will no longer have to wait the three days it can take for transferred cash to populate a different bank account where they have the capability of spending it. 

“It’s a step forward for completing our vision for borderless money, where anyone anywhere in the world can spend and receive money globally without having to worry about the hassle and the exchange rate,” TransferWise co-founder and chairman Taavet Hinrikus told TechCrunch. “I think it’s the first time that anyone has created a multi-country bank account. It did not really exist before.”

TransferWise recently raised $280 million in capital, bringing their total investment to date to $397 million. The fintech also reportedly reached profitability in 2017 and claims to have over two million customers across 42 countries and move £1 billion in transactions each month.

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Cadence is a fintech reporter and writer at Fintech Unltd, where she covers the changing landscape of financial technologies. Previously, Cadence interned at Psychology Today, Business Insider and the Wisconsin State Journal. Cadence is interested in how science and technology intersect with power and culture and is curious about the world we are creating for tomorrow, consciously or not. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2017 with degrees in Journalism and Chinese. Send tips and story ideas to Cadence at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter @cadencebambenek.