International money transfer startup TransferWise’s debit card is now available in Australia and New Zealand, with a Singapore launch expected by the end of this year as the company expands its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. TransferWise’s debit card, which features low, transparent fees and exchange rates, first launched in the United Kingdom and Europe last year before arriving in the United States in June. Since its launch, the company claims the debit card has been used for 15 million transactions.
Australian and New Zealand customers will have access to the TransferWise Platinum debit Mastercard (a business debit card is also available). Cards are linked to TransferWise accounts, which give holders bank account numbers and details in multiple countries, making it easier and cheaper to send and receive multiple currencies. The company says that over the past year, customers have deposited more than $10 billion in their accounts.
TransferWise’s debit cards allow users to spend in more than 40 currencies at real exchange rates. In an email, co-founder and CEO Kristo Käärmann told TechCrunch that TransferWise decided to launch its debit card in Australia and New Zealand because its business there has already been growing quickly. “In addition to responding to customer demand, launching the card in Australia and New Zealand was also driven by the fact that Aussies and Kiwis are being overcharged by banks for using their own money abroad. It is expensive to use debit, travel and credit cards for spending or withdrawals,” he said.
Käärmann added that “independent research conducted by Capital Economics showed that Australians lost $2.14 billion last year alone just for using their bank-issued card abroad. This is because banks and other providers charge transaction fees every time someone uses their card abroad, plus an inflated exchange rate. Similarly, in New Zealand, Kiwis lost $1 billion simply for using their card abroad.”
One of TransferWise’s competitive advantages is that unlike most legacy banking and money transfer services, its accounts and cards were designed from the start to be used internationally. “While there are existing multi-currency cards that exist in Australia and New Zealand, they are prohibitively expensive to use. For example in Australia, the TransferWise Platinum debit Mastercard is on average 11 times cheaper than most travel, debit, prepaid and credit cards,” Käärmann said.
TransferWise cards don’t have transaction fees or exchange rate markups and cardholders are allowed to withdraw up to AUD $350 every 30 days for free at any ATM in the world.
The company is currently talking to regulators in several Asian countries, a process that can take up to two years, Käärmann said. It was recently granted a remittance license in Malaysia, and plans to make its remittance service available there by the end of this year.