How Transferwise and Apple Pay Work

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Transferwise just made international money transfers one step easier for many of its customers around the world by expanding its relationship with Apple Pay.  The well-funded British startup processes $1.2 billion in transfers per month across 750 currency routes.  It adopted Apple Pay in the UK in 2015, and the results have been encouraging enough for them to announce the same move in Australia, Switzerland, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and the US.

Transferwise Makes International Transfers Cheaper

Transferwise is able to offer lower pricing than a typical bank because of its innovative system.  By offsetting funds going in one direction (e.g., from Australia to France) with an equal amount of funds in the opposite direction (e.g., from France to Australia), it reduces the need for currency conversions.  Whereas many banks mark up the foreign exchange rate in a way that may be hidden to consumers, Transferwise locks in the more favorable mid-market rate.  It charges a flat fee for small transactions and takes a percentage of larger ones.  Businesses pay the same fees and exchange rates as individuals, but they are required to submit documentation on the legality of their entity. 

Fees and daily limits vary based on where the money is going and on which transfer method is used.  For example, people in the US can send cross-border payments via ACH bank debit, federal wire, or SWIFT transfer.  ACH bank debit has lower fees than federal wires or SWIFT transfers, but it also sets a lower daily limit ($5,000 vs. $1M for the other methods).

Traditionally, users of Transferwise’s mobile app need to input their bank account or credit/debit card info every time they send money.  Apple Pay eliminates this step, thus creating an easier and more secure experience.  According to Gregory Talon, Transferwise’s consumer product lead, “It’s much more convenient to do it this way.  Because you don’t have to type any of your card details it limits the risk of having somebody watching what you are doing.”

Apple Pay Makes International Transfers Faster

Available since October of 2014, Apple’s digital wallet allows iPhone users (of the 6, 6s, 6s plus, 7, 7 plus, and SE) pay for goods and services using Touch ID—facial recognition may come soon—and a near-field communication (NFC) chip.  Apple Pay works in retail establishments like grocery stores, restaurants and hotels, and through participating apps and web sites.  As of December 2016, 35 percent of merchants in the US accepted Apple Pay versus 4 percent two years prior.

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Apple Pay was designed to avoid the hassle of needing to dig into one’s wallet and the tedium of needing to type in numbers and dates for every money transfer.  It stores personal financial information on a “secure element” within the user’s device and relies on tokenization to transmit this information safely.  No sensitive data ever gets sent through the air.

Transferwise expects that less friction in the money transfer process will increase adoption of its service and reduce the risk of user drop-off.  Besides, big banks in the US and UK already accept Apple Pay, so Transferwise is simply keeping up with the competition.


Marisa Fasciano
Content Specialist
Marisa is a communications consultant based in New York with a background in social research, diversity education, and nonprofit development.  She has lived and traveled abroad extensively… Read more

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