As a traveller, you hate wasting money on overseas payment fees and unfavourable conversion rates. Therefore you'll always be looking for a way to open a bank account as soon as you'll be spending a bit more time in a specific country. In some countries, it's tricky or impossible to open a bank account as a traveller. Until now… Now there is a local bank account alternative for travellers.
Why a local bank account alternative? Well, as you probably know opening a bank account can be tricky or impossible in some countries. Often you'll need to be a resident or be able to show proof of address to open a local bank account. Luckily there are ways to open a bank account without proof of address. It's 2019, there are now virtual bank accounts for travellers.
Best local bank account alternative
Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) Borderless is a virtual bank account that is the easiest and best local bank account for travellers. Oh, and it's free to set up. But let me explain a bit more about this virtual bank account first.
What is it?
Wise Borderless is a bank account alternative. You'll get a real bank account number and can receive regular payments like wages or payments from clients if you are a Solo Entrepreneur. It is a virtual bank account as it's different from an oldskool bank account.
Advantages of this virtual bank account
- It's a local bank account in these countries:
- Australia – bank account with BSB Code and Account Number
- European bank account – IBAN bank account in Euros
- Hungarian Forint bank account – with Hungarian bank Account Number.
- New Zealand – get a New Zealand bank account number
- Romanian Leu – bank account with SWIFT/BIC and IBAN details
- Singapore Dollar – with Singapore bank account number
- UK – British bank account with Account Number and Sort Code
- USA – USD bank account with your own Routing (ABA) and Account Number
- You can keep more than 50 currencies on the debit card / in your account, which means you'll pay in all these countries without any extra costs. Pay like a local wherever you are.
- It's free to add money to the Borderless account/debit card. It all depends on how you choose to add money (bank transfer is free, while by credit card will incur a fee).
- Cheap transfers worldwide at a fraction of the costs bank usually charge you… And at a more favourable exchange rate.
- Free ATM withdrawals up to a certain amount.
- An app that controls and secures your Borderless account. You'll see a pop-up notification as soon as money comes in or goes out. If you lose your card you can block it via the app.
- Pay as you go banking… You'll only pay a small amount for the things you use, for example, a transfer to another bank account or when transferring money to another currency.
Difference between a real bank account and a virtual bank account
Wise isn't like a traditional bank. They are a bunch of smart cookies that first came up with a way to do international money transfers at a fraction of the costs bank would charge. Well, they are a big worldwide organisation now. No longer just a bunch of financial geeks. And now, they've come up with the Borderless Account, the perfect alternative for a local bank account in many countries.
However, it is different from a regular bank account. When you go for a virtual Borderless Bank Account:
- You won't be able to get a loan or overdraft. You can only spend the amount you have put on your Borderless Account.
- There's no interest given on the money in your account.
- Your money is protected but not guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) something you may get with a bank account.
- Your bank details are unique but they don't represent real bank accounts. They are simply ‘addresses’ for your Electronic Money account. You can receive payments, just like with a real local bank account
In which countries can I use it?
At the moment, TranserWise Borderless can be used as a local bank account alternative in the following countries and currencies:
- Australia (payments in Australian dollars)
- Europe (payments in Euro)
- Hungary (payments in Hungarian Forint)
- New Zealand (payments in New Zealand dollars)
- Romania (payments in Romanian Leu)
- Singapore: (payments in Singapore Dollars)
- United Kingdom (payments in British Pounds)
- United States of America (payments in USA dollars)
This means that you'll have a bank account number in each of the above-mentioned countries, including bank details that come with a bank account in that specific country.
Cost of the bank account alternative?
It's free to open a Wise Borderless Account. The costs of using your Borderless Account and debit card are.
- Getting your debit card or ordering a replacement is €5/£5 (or local equivalent)
- Spending with your card in currency:
- you have in your account: free
- you don't have in your account: conversion fee (between 0.35% and 1.0%)
- that isn't supported: Mastercard rate in GBP/USD, depending on where you live
- Withdrawing cash from an ATM. If you have the currency you're withdrawing on your balance, you can get the following amount from an ATM every 30 days without any costs.
- If your card is issued in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore: 350 AUD/NZD/SGD
- If your card is issued in the UK (all European cards): 200 GBP or equivalent in your currency
- If your card is issued in the USA: 250 USD
Tips to save money when using the Borderless Card
- If you're spending online in a currency other than GBP/USD, the seller might charge their own conversion fee. This could happen even if you have the other currency in your account. To avoid this, ask the seller to bill you in the currency you want.
- To avoid extra fees from the ATM, be sure to choose the local currency where the ATM is. This will stop the ATM from marking up the currency exchange rate.
Can I open a Wise Borderless account?
Anyone can use Wise (the new name of TransferWise) to transfer money worldwide at a fraction of the costs that bank charge you. To open a Wise Borderless account & debit card you will need to have an address (aka be based) in:
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
- New Zealand
More countries will be added later this year. It is rumoured that Singapore will be added soon to the list of countries from where you can apply for a free overseas bank account & debit card from Wise.
Is it just for travellers?
Wise Borderless is for everyone that wants to open a free bank account alternative to paying as cheap as a local. And to keep more than 50 currencies in the account. Therefore, it's perfect for travellers and backpackers but also for Digital Nomads. See the advantages of this virtual bank account for business purposes.
Do you use it?
As Digital Nomad and travelling geek, I use Wise Borderless for all my personal and business finances. It's so easy to use if you are spending or receiving money in various currencies. Yes, there is also a business version of the borderless account. Perfect for travelling solo entrepreneurs or fellow travelling digital geeks.