This is our detailed comparison of two popular expat banking services: Wise vs Revolut.
Both companies offer currency exchange and various international banking services, tailored to those living an international lifestyle. Getting EU citizenship certainly fits the bill here.
I’ve been living abroad for 10 years in eight different countries – now in Madeira, Portugal.
I’ve used both Wise and Revolut for many years – along with several other digital banking services – and have seen their service offerings and technology grow and develop.
I’ve compared the benefits of Wise vs Revolut from the perspective of a new arrival in the EU, to help you decide which is the best fit for your cross-border banking needs.
Overall, I found that Wise offers a slightly better service for EU expats, mainly in terms of lower fees, better support, and higher limits on ATM transactions in the eurozone.
But for certain types of expats, especially if you’re into crypto or investing, Revolut is also worth a look.
Read on to see how Wise vs Revolut stack up against each other for your big move to Europe. Let’s dive in!
Wise vs Revolut: Detailed comparison
In this section we’ll compare Wise vs Revolut on 11 key areas that are important to the typical expat in Europe.
1. Availability – where can you open an account from?
With cross-border money services, it’s vital to know which countries you can open an account from, and where you can use your account. Let’s see how Wise vs Revolut compare on this key point.
Wise covers a very wide range of countries. You can open a Wise account just for money transfer from almost any country. But the Wise debit card and multi-currency account are only available in certain countries.
Compared to Wise, Revolut has more limited availability. You’ll need to be resident in one of the following countries/regions to get a Revolut account.
Fortunately, Revolut covers most of Europe. You might be currently resident in a country not on this list, but planning a move to Europe. In that case, you can sign up for Revolut once you get an address in your target European country.
Both Wise and Revolut will send your debit card to your address of choice. This is great for people on the move, removing the inconvenience of having cards sent to a single registered address.
Wise covers a wider range of countries, but Revolut still ticks all the boxes for expats anywhere in Europe.
2. Wise vs Revolut: Fees and usage limits
It’s important to fully understand the various fees and limits before choosing between Wise vs Revolut. Here we look at three categories of fees – account fees, transfer fees, card payment fees and ATM fees – to see how the two services fare.
Both Wise and Revolut personal accounts are free to open and maintain. Revolut also offers different paid membership levels with added benefits.
For transferring money, both Wise and Revolut claim to charge mid market exchange rates for most currencies. Wise applies a transfer fee, although it’s usually less than 0.5% and can vary according to your country and currency.
Revolut offers free transfers in the same currency, and interbank rates for transferring from one currency to another. But when if you transfer money on the weekends, Revolut applies a markup of 1% to all currencies.
Be sure to check the exchange rate carefully in the Revolut app, because the rate you receive on a Thursday may have changed when you make your transfer on Saturday.
With both Wise or Revolut, you can use your debit card free of charge to pay in any currencies you already hold. If you don’t have enough of that currency in your balance, both companies will convert one of your other balances and apply a (low) conversion fee.
In the UK and Europe, Wise offers two free cash withdrawals in GBP or EUR up to £200/€200 per month. After that, it’s a fixed fee of 0.50 GBP/EUR per transaction, plus 1.75% of the total withdrawal amount.
Revolut offers five free withdrawals per month, up to 200 GB (or equivalent currency). If you need more frequent cash withdrawals, it’s worth considering one of their paid membership plans, Premium (£400 limit) or Metal (£800 limit).
Revolut beats Wise on fees and usage limits, thanks to its more generous cash withdrawals and more flexible membership options. Just don’t forget to check the exchange rates at the weekend, or do your money transfers on a weekday.
3. Transfer speeds
Transferring funds internationally used to be a slow process. But thanks to services like Wise and Revolut, transfers across borders and currencies have become very fast.
When living abroad, the ability to transfer funds quickly is critical for important tasks, such as making a deposit on a property.
Transfer speeds via Wise are as follows:
- Low cost transfer: Funds will arrive with recipient within 3 – 24 hours
- Fast and easy transfer: Funds will arrive with the recipient within 3 – 5 hours
- Advanced transfer: Funds will arrive within 1 – 3 working days
In contrast, Revolut is somewhat slower. Transfers between UK bank accounts can be as quick as two hours. But the average time for a standard Revolut transfer is 1 – 2 business days (depending on the bank). International transfers via Revolut can take between 3 – 5 days.
Wise is the easy winner in this category. If speedy funds transfer is important to you, then Wise should be your top pick.
4. Receiving money
When establishing a life abroad, you may encounter people who want to pay you “like a local”. That means having a local bank account.
Wise and Revolut both offer the ability to have assorted local bank details. This is useful, so people can easily pay you in the currency of their choice, without having to exchange currency. But which of the two services offers the biggest range of locales?
The Wise multi-currency account lets you access local bank details for 30 countries, so you can easily get paid from around the world.
In contrast, Revolut currently only offers local bank details in GBP and EUR, although you can get Swift details to receive transfers in 28 other currencies.
Revolut lets you receive money for free, up to a limit of £5000 for standard accounts.
With Wise, you get a better deal. Receiving any amount of funds is free (except for the US dollar, which has a limit of 250,000 USD per transaction / per day.
Wise wins in this category, thanks to its wider range of local bank accounts and ability to receive unlimited funds free of charge.
5. Wise vs Revolut: Bank cards
Wise offers the MasterCard debit with its multi-currency account. It’s a standard debit card, which works for making payments (including contactless) and cash withdrawals anywhere that accepts MasterCard.
Wise charges a fee from 0.35 to 1% when converting money from one currency to another.
Revolut has a wider range of contactless debit cards available than Wise, according to its different membership plans.
- Revolut Standard account: Regular card (plastic)
- Revolut Premium account: Customizable card (plastic)
- Revolut Metal account: An attention-grabbing metal card
Customers have the option to choose either Visa or MasterCard. This is useful if you live in a region where one is more widely accepted than the other.
Unlike Wise, Revolut doesn’t charge a conversion fee to switch from one currency to another.
Both Wise and Revolut allow you to easily cancel your physical card from within the app, if you lose it. And both companies now offer virtual cards, which only exist on your phone and can’t be lost.
Virtual cards have different details to your physical card, and you can freeze them after each purchase. That keeps your funds safe, as no-one can steal your card information. It’s also possible to generate one-time only virtual cards which you can get rid of after completing the purchase.
Revolut wins on cards, thanks to its lack of conversion fees and wider range of cards. That includes the important choice between Visa or MasterCard. NB, Wise has plans to launch a Visa card in 2022.
6. Security & transparency
Keeping your funds safe is of paramount importance. If you’re in the UK, your regular bank account will be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This scheme protects bank users if their bank fails.
Neither Wise or Revolut is covered by FSCS, as neither currently holds a banking licence in the UK. However, Wise is covered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates the UK’s financial services industry.
Revolut has an EU banking licence, backed by the Bank of Lithuania, so it’s considered relatively safe. The company has an obligation to “safeguard” client funds. Here’s an explanation of how it does this.
In terms of transparency, Wise is an extremely transparent company in general.
You can lock in exchange rates for up to 96 hours, giving certainty about how much you will spend. Before making any transaction, Wise gives you a full breakdown of associated fees.
On the other hand, Revolut has a different fee structure for each country, so it’s easier to get caught out.
It’s a close call between the two in this category, but Revolut just pips Wise to the post thanks to its EU banking licence (and plans to obtain a UK one in 2022).
7. Ease of use
Revolut has an excellent mobile app, which is a delight to use. However, it doesn’t have a web platform, so users are confined solely to the app. This can sometimes be frustrating when you have a lot of transactions to examine.
Wise, on the other hand, has both an app and the website. The Wise app feels more basic than the Revolut app, but it gets the job done. For more granularity and visibility, you also have the option of viewing your Wise accounts on the website.
Although Revolut has a great app, Wise wins in this category as it offers both an app and a website option.
8. Customer support
Customer support is critical when you’re using money services that don’t have physical branches.
In the event of a problem with your account or with a specific transaction, the online customer support channel is the only place you can turn to.
So how do Wise vs Revolut fare on this vital point?
For starters, both Wise and Revolut offer an excellent selection of online guides, which can help you solve most problems.
The Wise customer service team is available via email, phone, or live chat, although the chat function isn’t always available. In contrast, Revolut support is only available by app and limited to UK business hours.
I’ve also found both Wise and Revolut support to be very responsive on social media, especially Twitter.
Wise wins on customer support, because of its wider range of contact options and better availability.
9. Extra features
Wise is highly specialized in money transfer services, and that’s really what it does best. Hence, Wise doesn’t have many extra features that I haven’t already mentioned.
In contrast, Revolut has a long list of extra features, with new ones being added regularly. Here’s a list of our favorites:
- In-app budgeting – lets you manage your money better by setting up different monthly budgets
- Vaults – Revolut’s version of a savings account. Vaults allows you to round up transactions, set up recurring payments, or make a one-off deposit. Vaults don’t have interest, but they keep parts of your money separate to put towards specific goals.
- Cryptocurrencies – you can buy cryptocurrencies within the Revolut app, with over 50 different coins available. It’s a convenient way to buy crypto, but there’s a high fee of 2.5% on the Standard account and 1.5% on the paid plans.
- Perks – Revolut’s reward program where you can get instant cash back
- Insurance (medical, dental and phone) – useful when travelling outside your country of residency
- Direct debit – This is a useful feature which Wise doesn’t offer. I’ve used it in Portugal to set up several local direct debits before I had a Portuguese bank account. Having a direct debit feature makes your Revolut account function more like a local one.
- Donations –a convenient way to support your favorite causes via Revolut, by rounding up spare change, creating a recurring payment, or making a one-off donation
- Airport lounge passes – for Premium and Metal members only
- Concierge – for Metal members only
Wise is great at what it does, but in terms of new and exciting features – Revolut is the clear winner!
10. Wise vs Revolut: What do users say?
Let’s now take a look at user reviews for Wise vs Revolut.
I’ve chosen Trustpilot for this task, as it’s one of the most comprehensive user review platforms out there. All scores and user comments were correct at the time of writing this post (December 2021).
Both companies score pretty highly overall on Trustpilot, with Wise slightly ahead of Revolut:
- Wise overall score: 4.6 (out of 5)
- Revolut overall score: 4.4 (out of 5)
Wise has more reviews (138,920) than Revolut (99,304) with 1% of those being ‘Poor” and 5% being ‘Bad’.
Revolut has 1% of ‘Poor’ reviews and 9% ‘Bad’.
Common complaints about both services include issues with customer support, accounts being closed for no reason, and some transfers taking longer than expected to arrive.
However, given the low percentage of negative reviews for both services, these appear to be isolated incidents and don’t reflect the overall quality of either Wise or Revolut.
It’s a close call, but Wise scrapes in as the winner in user reviews.
11. Wise vs Revolut: Business accounts
When you’re living a cross-border life – especially when that involves running an online business – having a great business bank account makes life a lot easier. The good news is: both Wise and Revolut now offer separate business accounts.
But which one is best?
We’ll do a dedicated post comparing these accounts at a later date.
For now, here’s a brief overview of Wise vs Revolut on their business accounts.
Wise for Business – key points
- Free to set up and use – many business accounts charge a fee, Wise doesn’t
- Receive funds and make payments using mid-market exchange rates
- Handle payroll, pay invoices and buy inventory in over 70 countries
- Suitable for all kinds of companies, from large organizations to freelancers and small limited companies
- Use your Wise Business debit card online and in person, to pay for business expenses in multiple currencies
- Get local bank details to easily receive funds in GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, NZD, HUF, RON and SGD.
- Easy integration with popular accounting platforms, including QuickBooks and Xero
Revolut Business Account – key points
- Offers a free version, but key features (such as international transactions) are limited. The cheapest paid option is £25 a month
- No support for cooperatives, public sector businesses, foundations, and charities (although this may change soon)
- Ability to hold 28 international currencies
- Local bank accounts in GBP and EUR
- Limited to 100K EUR per incoming transfer
The Wise for Business account feels more robust and comprehensive than Revolut’s current offering, at least at the free tier. If you’re willing to pay £25 or more per month, then Revolut’s premium business tiers are worth exploring. But for now, Wise offers more flexibility, serves a greater range of businesses, and offers a wider range of currencies than Revolut.
Wise vs Revolut – who wins?
Making your big move to Europe can be full of challenges. The last thing you want is headaches with banking.
That’s why you need a cross-border banking solution that includes efficient and low-cost currency exchange.
We compared two of the most popular expat banking solutions: Wise vs Revolut.
Overall, both Wise and Revolut offer a good service for your money exchange and banking needs in the EU. We recommend using them alongside a regular local bank account in your target country.
So, based on our Wise vs Revolut comparison, Wise is our top pick.
Our choice is due to Wise’s enormous range of local bank accounts, lightning fast money transfer speeds, ease of use, and excellent customer service.