My Experience with TransferWise

One of the issues expats face is how to exchange US or Canadian dollars for local currency. Here in Mexico, and I suspect in many places, the primary means of doing so are ATMs.

However, ATMs are expensive. Not only do you pay a fee to use the ATM, the bank where you hold the account will also likely charge a fee for the transaction. Moreover, you get the price the ATM provider gives you for the exchange rate.

If you look up the exchange rate for the Mexico Peso to the US Dollar, you’ll see the spot price. But you won’t get that price at the ATM. Let’s say, for example, that the spot price is 20 pesos to 1 USD. The ATM might give you 19 pesos for 1 USD. So you pay a fee plus you pay an extra peso per dollar on the exchange rate. (This is just an example. The exchange rates at ATMs can and do vary considerably.)

So some expats look for alternative ways to transfer dollars held in the U.S. into pesos for use here in Mexico.

One such way is a service called TransferWise. It was recommended to me by several expats.

It may have worked for them; it didn’t for me.

Twice now I started the process, filled out their forms online, set up a transfer and was told it was in process. After several days and no communication from them (and the money not being received by our landlord), I tried to logon to check the status of the transfer.

Turns out my account was “deactivated.”

No explanation. No communication. Nothing.

The first time this happened, I emailed them and complained. Turns out they only needed more information about me. Which I then provided. They also apologized for not informing me and offered a free transfer.

Okay, I took them up on that and used them again. Or should I say, tried to.

Again, the transfer was set up. I received an email saying they had received the funds and were transferring them.

After that, silence.

And once again, when I went to check on the transfer, my account was deactivated.

No explanation. No communication. Nothing.

OK. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I’m done with TransferWise.

The service is needed; the value proposition is good. The fees are acceptable.

Their customer service is dreadful.

I did try to communicate all this to them; again, no response.

So, I’m off to the ATM. It may be expensive (or relatively so), but at least it works.

TransferWise doesn’t.

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