How Does Wise Work? A Complete Guide 2024

If you are interested in international money transfers with Wise but have questions about how to use it, this guide is for you. We’ll walk through the features of a Wise account, Wise fees and exchange rates, and a complete step by step on how to send money with Wise, locally and overseas.

Wise Key Points

  • It’s free to create a Wise personal account
  • Your recipient does not need a Wise account to receive money
  • Pay for your Wise transfer with a card, using your online banking, or from a Wise balance you already hold
  • Your funds are converted to the currency you need using the mid-market exchange rate with a small, transparent fee
  • Payment is deposited into your recipient’s bank account in their currency – often instantly
  • Use your Wise account to receive payments in 9 currencies conveniently
  • Hold 50+ currencies in your Wise account and manage them from your phone
  • Get a Wise card to spend and withdraw in 170+ countries


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What is Wise?

Wise is a financial technology company which offers local and international payments, multi-currency accounts and linked debit cards, to personal and business customers in Australia and a broad selection of other supported countries. Wise is on a mission to make it easier, faster and cheaper to manage your money across currencies, and works to offer low, transparent service costs and quick delivery times when you send payments.

Wise was launched in 2011 in London, and is now trusted by over 16 million users worldwide. It’s overseen by 15+ regulatory bodies in the countries and regions where it offers services, and has a 4.3 out of 5 star, Excellent rating on Trustpilot, from over 190,000 live reviews.

Read a complete Wise review here

Which services does Wise offer in Australia?

Customers in Australia can open a Wise account online or in the Wise app. Here’s a rundown of the Wise services you can access in Australia:

  • Multi-currency accounts to hold and exchange 50+ currencies, with local bank details to receive payments in 9 currencies
  • International debit cards for convenient spending and cash withdrawals in 170+ countries
  • International money transfers to 70+ countries, which use the mid-market rate and low fees from 0.43%
  • Local money transfers in AUD to banks in Australia, with low fees and fast delivery
  • Business multi-currency accounts, debit and expense cards and payment services

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How does Wise work?

We’ll cover more detail of the Wise services available in Australia later, but it’s helpful to know a bit upfront about how Wise works. To use Wise you’ll need to first register a Wise account. You can then access a selection of services including a multi-currency account, debit card, and one off or recurring local and international payments.

Wise offers a couple of features that are not always available through banks and other currency exchange services:

  • All currency conversion uses the mid-market exchange rate with low, transparent fees – this is part of Wise’s commitment to transparency and driving down service costs, and makes it far easier to check and compare the real costs of the transactions you’re making
  • Wise international payments are processed through Wise’s own payment network, rather than SWIFT, which can mean transfers arrive instantly – 50% arrive in seconds, and 90% in 24 hours – and which also keeps down costs compared to banks

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How does Wise make money?

So, given Wise does a couple of things many other providers don’t – how does it work and how does Wise still make money?

We mentioned that Wise uses its own payment network for transfers. This means that when you send money with Wise you pay using a local transfer in AUD, to Wise’s Australian bank account. Wise will then convert the funds at the agreed amount, and deposit this amount in the currency you need to your recipient, from the Wise account in the destination country. This cuts out the SWIFT network usually used by banks, and means your money doesn’t really need to cross any borders. That keeps costs down, and means Wise can still make money, while charging customers less.

Wise is transparent about the fees on all services they offer, so you can see exactly how they’re making money when you use them – and so you can compare their fees against other services easily.

How to use Wise

Wise has a handy range of services for anyone. With Wise you can send money to friends and family in foreign currencies, use it when you travel, when you pay bills overseas or shop online. There’s also a good selection of options for businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers who can access all the features offered to Wise personal customers, with a few extra business friendly perks. Here’s what you can get with Wise:

  • Wise personal accounts to hold 50+ currencies
  • Wise Business accounts to hold, send, spend and receive dozens of currencies
  • Currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate and fees from 0.43%
  • Personal and business debit cards for spending in 170+ countries
  • Easy ways to receive payments in AUD and foreign currencies

We’ll cover all of these features in more detail below. Click here to read more about Wise personal vs business.

How to open a Wise account

You can open your Wise account online or through the Wise desktop app. The process is pretty simple and can be done without leaving home.

Here’s how to open a Wise account step by step:

  1. Open the Wise desktop site or download the Wise app
  2. Confirm you want a personal Wise account
  3. Register with your email address, or an Apple, Google or FaceBook account
  4. Follow the prompts to enter your personal details
  5. Upload your ID documents for verification
  6. Once your account is verified you can order a debit card, send payments, and receive money to your Wise account

What documents do I need to get verified on Wise?

We mentioned you need to upload some ID documents for verification. Verification is part of how Wise keeps customers and their money safe.

Just like when you open a bank account you need to show some ID, when you set up a Wise account you’ll be asked to do the same. However, because Wise offers a fully digital service, you can do everything from home with nothing more than your phone. Just take clear pictures of the documents needed and upload them when prompted.

Usually to open a Wise personal account the documents you’ll need include:

  • A valid ID document like a passport, national ID document or driving licence
  • A proof of address like a utility bill or bank statement in your name

How to open a Wise Business account

Opening a Wise Business account is a straightforward process, but there are a few more documents, and a bit more information needed to get started. This is part of the verification process, and a legal requirement. You’ll be guided through everything step by step using onscreen prompts, and if you need extra help, you can also reach out to Wise customer support.

Here’s how to open a Wise account step by step:

  1. Open the Wise desktop site or download the Wise app
  2. Confirm you want a Wise Business account
  3. Register with your email address, or an Apple, Google or FaceBook account
  4. Enter your personal details, and the business information requested on screen
  5. Upload your personal and business documents for verification
  6. Pay the one time fee to access full business account features
  7. Once your account is verified you can start to transact

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How do I verify my business on Wise?

We mentioned there are a few more documents needed to open a Wise Business account. The good news is that you’ll be able to save your application progress if you don’t have everything to hand – and the entire application, verification and onboarding process can be done with your phone or laptop.

To open a Wise Business account you’ll need:

  • ID and address documents for the account owner
  • Information about the business including address, industry and registration number
  • Names, date of birth, and country of residence for directors and shareholders who own 25% or more of the business

How to transfer money with Wise

Wise offers local transfers in AUD, as well as international payments to 70+ countries, in 50+ currencies. You can set up your payment online or in the Wise app, for deposit to your recipient’s normal bank account.

Here’s how to transfer money with Wise, step by step:

  1. Log into your account and tap Send money
  2. Enter how much you want to transfer, or how much you need the recipient to get
  3. Confirm if the payment is personal or paying for goods or services
  4. Enter the recipient’s details – bank account number or email
  5. Fund your payment using a supported payment method like a bank transfer or card
  6. Confirm and your money will be on the move

Learn more about how to transfer money overseas with Wise here.

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Transfer limits and payment methods supported by Wise

You can send a Wise payment funded in AUD, and pay using any of the following methods:

  • Bank transfer
  • Debit or credit card
  • POLi
  • PayID
  • Send money from your Wise balance

Wise payment limits depend on where you’re sending money to, and the way you choose to pay. Usually you can send up to 1.8 million AUD by bank transfer and POLi, up to 18,000 AUD by card, and up to 50,000 AUD by PayID.

How to send money Wise to Wise

If you and your recipient both have Wise accounts open, you can send an instant transfer Wise to Wise, and pay with your Wise balance.

Here’s how to send Wise to Wise transfers:

  1. Log into your Wise account and select Send Money
  2. Enter the amount you want to send, or the amount and currency you want your recipient to get
  3. Pick Wise Balance as the payment method
  4. Check everything over, enter the recipient’s phone number or email, and confirm your payment

When you send a payment to another Wise account holder you can enter their contact information, or look them up in your phone’s contact book, and the money will be deposited to their Wise account seamlessly. There’s no need to ask for their bank details, and no need to enter lots of extra information when you set up the transfer.

Is Wise to Wise transfer free?

Wise to Wise transfers are free of charge when no currency exchange is needed. So if you hold a balance in AUD in Wise and want to send in AUD to another Wise account, that payment is instant and free.

If there’s any currency exchange needed, Wise’s low, transparent fees will apply, and your funds will be converted to the required currency using the mid-market exchange rate.

How to cancel a Wise transfer

If you’ve set up a Wise transfer, but Wise has not yet paid the money out to the recipient you may be able to cancel the payment. You can do this yourself in the Wise app if you’ve started a transfer and not paid, or if you’ve paid but the funds have not reached Wise yet. In this case, your payment will still show as pending in the Wise app.

Here’s how you cancel a Wise transfer, if the payment shows as pending on Wise:

  1. Log into Wise and go to Home to see your activity list
  2. Find the pending transfer you want to cancel
  3. Click Cancel transfer
  4. If you haven’t paid yet, click I didn’t pay, and then Cancel transfer
  5. If you’ve already paid, click I paid, and enter your bank account details if needed

If Wise is in the process of transferring your money at the time you want to cancel, you’ll need to reach out to customer services to ask if the payment can be stopped. Once Wise has processed the transfer and sent it on to the recipient, the payment can not be cancelled and you’ll need to ask the recipient to send the money back.

How to deposit money into my Wise account

You can add money to your Wise account yourself in any of around 20 currencies supported for top ups, including AUD and major global currencies like GBP, USD, EUR and NZD.

Here’s how to deposit money into your Wise account:

  1. Log into your Wise account and select the currency you want to top up in
  2. Tap the + symbol and enter the amount you want to add
  3. Confirm the currency you want to use to pay in
  4. You’ll be shown the available payment methods and any fees that apply
  5. Check and confirm, and follow the prompts to fund the top up

Alternatively, you can use the local bank account details that come with Wise to add money yourself, or to have someone else pay you. How to receive money with Wise is coming up in more detail, next.

How to receive money with Wise

Wise accounts come with 9 different sets of local bank details which you can use to get paid in USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD, SGD, RON and HUF. All you’ll need to do is to give the sender the bank details shown in your Wise account, and have them use these to arrange the transfer.

As an example, here’s how to receive money in AUD to your Wise account:

  1. Log into your Wise account
  2. Tap Open, and select AUD to open a AUD currency balance
  3. Choose between inside Australia for domestic, and outside Australia for international transfers
  4. You’ll see your AUD account details, and can use the ‘copy account details’ function to give to the sender

What details do I need to give to the sender

You’ll see everything you need to receive a payment to Wise when you follow the steps outlined above. This includes:

  • Your name as shown on your Wise account
  • Your bank’s BSB code
  • Your bank account number and BSB

Wise fees

When you send a payment with Wise, your money is converted with the mid-market exchange rate, and the fees you’ll pay are split out for transparency. The overall cost will depend on the currency involved and how you choose to pay, and can include 2 different fees:

  • Fixed fee: this covers the fixed costs associated with the transaction
  • Variable fee: this covers the cost of the currency exchange

To show how this works, let’s look at a couple of examples, sending AUD to NZD and USD with Wise.

Payment Wise fixed fee Wise variable fee Wise total fee Recipient gets
1,000 AUD to NZD 0.79 AUD 4.58 AUD (0.46%) 5.37 AUD 1,072.54 NZD
1,000 AUD to USD 0.62 AUD 4.87 AUD (0.48%) 5.40 AUD 664.79 USD

*Fees and charges correct at time of writing, 5th July 2023. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information

The costs of a transfer with Wise can vary based on a few different factors. To see how much your specific transfer costs, you can get an instant no obligation quote on the Wise pricing page. This will allow you to compare other providers and your bank, so you can pick the service that’s right for you.

To know more about how much does a transfer with wise costs, check our complete guide on Wise fees.

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Wise exchange rates

Wise always uses the mid-market exchange rate to convert funds from one currency to another. That’s the same rate that you’ll find with a Google search or a currency converter tool, with no markup or margin added.

How to get a Wise debit card

You can order a Wise debit card once you’ve registered a Wise account and been verified. With a Wise card you can spend and make cash withdrawals in 170+ countries. It’s free to spend a currency you hold in your account, and if you don’t have the correct currency for a transaction, the card can convert for you, with the mid-market rate and the lowest possible fees every time.

Here’s how to get a Wise debit card:

  1. Log into your Wise account and tap the Cards tab
  2. Follow the prompts to order your card – you may need to complete a verification step
  3. Pay the 10 AUD one time fee – optional express delivery is also available for an extra fee
  4. Once your card arrives you can activate it for contactless by making a chip and PIN payment

To find out more about how to use the card, check our complete article Wise debit card review

Get a Wise debit card

Wise digital card

As soon as you’ve ordered a Wise physical debit card, you can also create a Wise digital card in the Wise app, to get started straight away. Add your digital card to a mobile wallet for in person spending, or use it when shopping online. Just tap the Cards tab in the Wise app to create your first digital card instantly.

How to withdraw money from Wise

Once you have a Wise balance you can withdraw your funds by either using your Wise card at an ATM, or by withdrawing your funds back to your bank account. If you’re withdrawing to your bank account there may be a small fee, depending on the currencies involved. For ATM withdrawals, it’s free to take out up to 350 AUD a month, in up to 2 separate withdrawals. After that there’s a fee of 1.5 AUD + 1.75% on withdrawals, until the monthly allowance resets.

Wise mobile app

The Wise mobile app is available on both Android and iOS and is generally the easiest way to access your Wise account. Download the app for free and log into Wise, to set up instant transaction notifications, freeze and unfreeze your Wise card, review your account and make payments – all with just your phone.

How long does an international money transfer take with Wise

Wise international payments are usually pretty fast. 50% of Wise payments arrive instantly or within seconds. 90% arrive in 24 hours. That can be faster than bank transfers which use the SWIFT network. SWIFT transfers tend to take 2 – 5 working days to arrive in their destination.

Who owns Wise?

Wise is a publicly floated company, which you can find on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker WISE.

Is Wise safe?

Wise is a safe service, trusted by 16 million+ customers globally. In Australia, Wise is regulated by ASIC and holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL). Wise is also authorised by APRA.

As a global company, Wise is overseen by regulatory bodies wherever it offers services. It’s also invested in industry level security measures to keep customers and their accounts safe.

Wise customer service

Wise does not have a physical office where you can talk to a customer service team member face to face. However, there are plenty of different ways you can contact Wise customer service:

  • In app support: log into your account to start a live chat or get the right phone number to call for your specific problem
  • Facebook: Wise Facebook
  • Twitter: @Wise
  • Instagram: @Wiseaccount


Wise offers services in Australia for personal and business customers, including multi-currency accounts you can use to hold 50+ currencies and get paid from 30+ countries, debit cards for international use in 170+ countries, and low cost international payments to 70+ countries. Wise services are pretty simple to use and can all be accessed online or in the Wise app. Use this full guide to how Wise Australia works, to see if Wise is the right pick for your international transactions.

FAQ – How does Wise work

  1. Do I need a bank account for Wise?

You do not need a bank account to send or receive a Wise payment – you can open a Wise multi-currency account and set up payments using an alternative payment method like a credit card. You can also receive payments from others to your Wise account easily.

  1. Can you deposit cash into a Wise account?

You can not deposit cash into a Wise account. Instead you’ll need to top up and arrange payments with an alternative like a bank transfer, credit or debit card.

  1. What is the maximum you can send on Wise?

Wise payments have variable maximum transfer amounts depending on the currencies involved and how you choose to pay. However, the limits are usually set pretty high to allow customers to transact freely. Limits of the equivalent of about 1 million GBP are common.

  1. How long does it take to transfer with Wise?

Wise payments can arrive pretty fast. 50% of transfers are deposited instantly, and 90% arrive in 24 hours.

Claire Millard
Fintech copy and content writer
Claire Millard is a content and copywriter with a specialty in international finance. Her work has featured in The Times and The Telegraph, as well as industry magazines and leading personal finance blogs.
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Ileana Ionescu
Content manager
With a background in business journalism, Ileana is an experienced content manager, creating content for Exiap that helps its audience make informed decisions about their finances.
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Last updated
February 7th, 2024