Transferwise Borderless – Saving Us Some Serious Cash

A Paypal alternative saving us thousands.

TRansferwise is perfect for freelancers

Hard at work. Life is good!

Up front, I hate bank fees and gouging by financial institutions. More specifically, I hate paying more than I should for a substandard service. Freelancers,  bloggers, and Digital Nomads (like us) have the luxury of being able to work from anywhere in the world, for clients across the globe. As long as we coordinate and communicate to meet our client’s requirements and deadlines, it doesn’t matter if we’re working from a bar on Boracay or snuggled up in front of the fire in a mountain retreat in Montana. Sounds like a dream right?

But one of our most significant issues is providing our clients with options for secure payment, without attracting a bundle of fees. Up until recently, Paypal was the default option because they are the biggest in the market. Large platforms like Upwork, paid out solely by Paypal, as did larger publishing companies that I work for like International Living. Freelancers working with a range of currencies, reluctantly accepted their significant fees and poor foreign exchange rates plundering a large chunk out of our income. I quote some numbers below, and you’ll understand why I’m so excited about Transferwise Borderless, a new, free Paypal alternative.

If you don’t have time to read about my experience, how much money I’m now saving, and why I’m so excited, sign up for a  FREE Transferwise Borderless account, and see for yourself.



Why I wanted an alternative to Paypal for payments and currency transfers.

1. Paypal Fees are significant. Here’s an example:

A client paid USD 1,107.85 into my Paypal account on the 15th September 2017. Awesome, I love notifications like that. But how much do you think made it into my Paypal account? You might be shocked. Just 1067.67 USD! That’s right. Fees ate up $40.18!!! or 3.6%. That adds up to around $480 per year or more, just from this one client.

Transferwise'slower fees mean more money for you.

Even Upwork charges half the amount to transfer your money to your local bank account as it does Paypal. (0.99c vs $2.00.) Not such a huge difference but it’s my money. I’d like to keep as much of it as I can, thank you very much.

2. Paypal’s Foreign Exchange rates are terrible.

I’m an Australian. My bank accounts for routine living expenses are in Australian dollars (AUD). At some point, I need to get my USD into my AUD account, so I can live and pay off my credit card.

The rate quoted by Reuters for USD to AUD today (24th October 2017) is 1.2811. So, you would receive around 1281 AUD for every 1000 USD. Note this is the mid-market rate (midway between the buy and sell rates). Unless you’re a big bank, you usually wouldn’t get this rate, and it varies depending on who you transfer your money with. That’s precisely the point I want to demonstrate below.

If I transfer USD 1000 from my Paypal account to my AUD account right this minute, I would only receive ~ $1245 (a rate of 1.244882). That’s approximately $36 less or 3.6%!

So to extend the example above….

If we take the original amount from the client (1107.85 USD), I should receive 1107.85 x 1.2811 = 1419.26 AUD if the mid-rate is used.

What I actually get is a different matter. By the time MY money makes its way to my AUD account I only receive 1329 AUD  (1107.85 – 40.18) = (1067.67 x 1.244882) = 1329.

That’s AUD 91 less or ~ 6.3 % less. That sucks!!!

3. It’s inconvenient to use Paypal for a range of currencies

This part gets so complicated I haven’t even gone there. According to the rules, you can only have one Paypal account per country. So if I want to transact in Euro, British Pounds, or any other currency, I would need to apply and have a different login for each one. That makes moving between currencies confusing and incredibly inconvenient, AND I still have to use their crappy exchange rate.

4. Paypal is not particularly transparent about its fees for International payments

You have to go digging to find out what they are. Here’s the link to their FEE information. Note you then have to go to the “Legal Agreement” to get more information on each country. Anyone else got time for that?? I certainly don’t.

5. Paypal customer service is woeful

The few times I have had the misfortune to have to contact Paypal support to sort out an issue I was on the helpline for upwards of 30 minutes, several times. The way I finally got some action was to go to their Facebook Page and complain and then use the FB message function. Granted, when I finally got a real person on the end of the line, we got things sorted, but getting to that stage was like pulling teeth. All this was happening while they had locked my account with over $1000 in situ. It’s not just me. Google ‘Paypal complaints’ and take a look for yourself. Better still go to Trust Pilot and read the reviews there.

Why I choose Transferwise Borderless vs Paypal for my business

1. 28 different currencies – 1 log in

I can have up to 28 different currency accounts all from the same login! That’s right 28 of the world’s major currencies and more coming soon. Your USD clients can send money directly to your USD account. Your British clients can pay you in pounds, Eurozone clients in Euros, Norwegian clients in Kroner, and Mexican clients in Pesos. You can then move your money around these accounts for quite low fees (see below.) Incredible right?

Once you have a verified Transferwise account, adding a new currency is as simple as hitting the “Activate a new currency” button. Voila, you get an International transfer code, account number and bank address. It’s ridiculously simple and takes about 10 seconds! I now have a USD and GBP accounts. If I need more, I’ll just add them. (Other currencies include everything from Hong Kong, Singapore and Canadian dollars, to Hungarian Forints, Mexican Pesos, Croatian Kuna, and Norwegian Krone. That’s super convenient for Digital Nomads who choose to live in cheaper countries around the world and sometimes end up with local clients.)

2. I receive money if clients pay into my Transferwise Borderless account.

Let’s go back to the example I used above. If my client transfers USD 1,107.85 into my USD Transferwise Borderless account using the ACH (Automated Clearing House) process, I will receive USD 1107.  I’m already up~ USD 40 on this one invoice. You would incur similar low, or no, fees in the other currencies.

3. Transferwise has way lower costs for transferring money, and they are very transparent.

Transferwise fees are much lower than Paypal'sTransferwise charges for the major currencies equate to  ~ 1% or less. So if you transfer USD 1000, and they’ll charge you $10 (or $9.99 to be exact). Note that there is a small flat fee of a couple of $ max (depending on what currencies you are transferring to and from) which will obviously impact on very small amounts. But they actively bringing their fees DOWN!! Most of the GBP fees just fell, some by up to 37%. 

4. Transferwise uses far superior foreign exchange rates.

Transferwise uses (and transparently shows) the mid-rate for a currency exchange at the time of transfer, as provided to them by Reuters with no markup. And, you’re guaranteed that rate for 24 hours once you commit to the transfer.

So let’s go back to my example above:

My client sends me $1107.85. I receive USD 1107

When I transfer that amount to my Australian bank account I would incur a USD 10.96 fee (clearly shown during the transfer process), leaving me with $1096.05

I then get 1096.05 x 1.2811 = 1404 AUD.
( 1404 – 1329) = 75 AUD more.


Yep. Read that again. On one invoice of just over $1000, I would be AUD 75 better off using my new Transferwise Borderless account over Paypal. I predict I’ll save well over $1500 over the course of a year at a minimum.

I would be AUD 75 better off using my new Transferwise Borderless account over Paypal.

5. Transferwise Customer Service is Fantastic

TRansferwise has excellent customer serviceI admit it. I screwed up. I used my business website address ( as my account name, rather than just my name. That meant when I tried to link my Upwork account I got a verification error and would have had to jump through a thousand hoops to get the two linked up.

I got straight onto the chat help on the Transferwise support hub and almost immediately connected with a very helpful person called Kadi (I know it was a person because no bot could have coped with my stupid questions!). Kadi understood my plight, gave me a solution (we changed the name on my account to my ABN (Australian Business Number) name, and we had it sorted in under 20 minutes. The delay was me finding documentation and taking screenshots that showed my name with my ABN, and sending them through to the ticket. Trust me. That would have taken days with Paypal. Seriously, guys…life’s too short.

6. More benefits and a few FAQ’s

Are Transferwise Borderless accounts are free to set up?

Yes, they are.

Is Transferwise safe?

As far as I can see they are as safe as any other money transfer organisation. They are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011, for the issuing of electronic money. If you read some of the reviews about Paypal, I’m more scared of them.

Do they have a track record?

I’d say that’s a big yes.

Is it easy to open a Transferwise Borderless account?

Well, if my experience is anything to go by YES. I just filled out the details, uploaded a copy of my driving license (photo ID) and a utility bill (Address verification) and I was away. Even though I screwed up my original account name I was still able to contact support and get it sorted out.

Does it cost to open a Transferwise Borderless account?

Nope. It’s completely free with no ongoing account fees as far as I can tell.

Is Transferwise just for business?

Nope, you can open a personal account with all the same benefits and features.

Why is Transferwise so Cheap?

This is my favourite part. They essentially cut out the middlemen (the banks). Transferwise is a peer to peer service, much like Airbnb, Uber, and so many other great disrupters, working for the consumer to save them money and provide better services.

How will I use my new Transferwise account?

Well for starters, I transferred most of the money in my Paypal account to my new Transferwise USD account. I’ll leave just enough in there to cover direct debit obligations I have set up. It costs nothing to transfer it over. Once I can work out how to switch over those other payments I’ll only leave enough money in Paypal to keep the account open.

Secondly, I’m providing all my clients with my new account details so they can transfer payments directly into my various Transferwise currency accounts. That’s going to save them a heap of effort and in some cases, foreign exchange fees their end. I’ve already connected my Upwork account and it works like a dream.

Where I have an option to make payments by electronic transfer, rather than by credit card (in AUD), I will do so to avoid fees and markups by vendors.

And lastly, as we head off around the world, I have the potential to transfer cash to close friends and family and withdraw the other end virtually fee free. I’m still working out the legality and tax ramification (for them). Let me know if you see any issue with this. Have you done it? I have read examples of this on other blogs.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with both Paypal and Transferwise. Drop a comment in below and let me, and all my other readers know how you feel.

Disclosure: I am so delighted by my experience with Transferwise, I’m happily recommending them to everyone I can. No one I know likes to waste money, so I’m passing on the good oil. I also joined up with their affiliate program which means I get £10 when you open your FREE account. Not a huge amount of money and certainly not enough to make me tell any porky pies!! The bottom line is that it doesn’t cost you any extra but it does help us keep this website going. 

Note: I do not receive any payment for writing his post (or any others on the site for that matter! unless I’ve declared it). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.

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8 Responses

  1. patrick Aherne says:

    Is Transferwire a bank account or a paypath?

  2. Ella says:

    This is a really useful article. I’ve actually recently started using Transferwise myself and agree that it’s a great alternative to Paypal as the fees are significantly better 🙂

  3. I too am using Paypal for international payment and can totally agree with all the points here. Well written. 🙂

  4. Jenny says:

    This seems like a great alternative to Paypal, so thanks!

  5. Kayla says:

    Wow, this was so informational! I’m just now getting started in my journey to freelancing, but I work for people in the US and the UK (and my fiancé and I send money to one another through PayPal), and it is a worry that I’ll be cheated through PayPal a bit the more I get paid. This sounds like a great alternative that I’m going to look more into. Thanks!

    • timshazz says:

      Kayla, I wish this had been available way earlier in my freelancing journey. I’ve lost thousands in unnecessary fees. Good luck with everything. I think opening a Transferwise borderless account will definitely be one of your easiest and beneficial.

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