New banks

TransferWise launches a debit card for U.S. travelers, entrepreneurs, and immigrants

  • TransferWise introduces a debit card for U.S. customers.
  • Features like a borderless account make the money transfer firm competitive with banks
TransferWise launches a debit card for U.S. travelers, entrepreneurs, and immigrants

International money transfer firm TransferWise launched a debit card for US account holders today. The card, which was first teased months ago, enables millions of people in the US to spend overseas in 40 different currencies. The company is rapidly scaling around the world as it matures into a global financial institution.

What is it: The TransferWise debit Mastercard is associated with the firm’s borderless accounts. These accounts, which function like a personal bank account with unique account and routing numbers, let users store, send and receive money in various currencies.

TransferWise introduced its borderless accounts to US customers in August 2018, but without a debit card. The TransferWise debit Mastercard was launched in the UK and EU in 2018. Since then, customers have deposited over £2 billion in their accounts and spent more than half a billion pounds on their cards. There have been over 15 million transactions on UK and EU TransferWise cards to date.

“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,” said Kristo Käärmann, CEO and co-founder of TransferWise.

“Traditional multi-currency accounts are inaccessible due to minimum balance requirements of $100,000 or more. For the first time, we’re bringing true multi-country banking to anyone in the US who needs it.”

The debit card has some interesting features:

  • Access to over 40 currencies are available with no limit on how many balances a user can hold. If a user swiped a card in a currency she doesn’t hold in her account, the card chooses the cheapest option from available balances.
  • Free account: There’s no subscription, no sign up fees, no monthly maintenance fee
  • Security options: Users can freeze/unfreeze their cards instantly in the Transferwise app and receive push notifications every time they spend
  • Interoperability:Syncs with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay

How the debit card fits into TransferWise’s strategy: Though it doesn’t have a banking license, the money transfer firm is positioning itself as a banking alternative. It’s scaling internationally with global ambitions. TransferWise is also rolling out sticky functionality that increases engagement with consumer and business customers, like this debit card and cross border payroll.

What the industry thinks about TransferWise: Tearsheet research earlier this month looked at what financial industry professionals thought about the competitiveness of various challenger banks, including TransferWise. The money transfer firm ranked relatively high in its competitiveness for future consumer and commercial banking business.

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