A Quick Comparison of Currency Accounts: Wise vs Revolut vs Rebank

Leona Mondsee
Chief Financial Officer, rebank
5
minutes

Most startups and businesses now operate internationally. You may have a worldwide team, and you need to pay them in different currencies. You may have customers who want to pay you in their local cash or have to make bill payments to a company abroad.

The question then quickly becomes:

Could or should you hold money in different currencies? The answer is probably yes.

This article will help you find the best online provider to deliver the best multi-currency accounts.

Overall verdict on best multi currency account:

  • Revolut - Best if you are sending approx £10k/$13k per month. Going below or above that, it's not necessarily the cheapest.
  • Wise - Great for one-offs and low frequency, especially if you have simple business needs.
  • Rebank - Best if you are growing and doing regular business internationally.

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What is a currency account?

First of all, a currency account, a multi currency account, or a foreign currency account are all the same thing.

A currency account is an account with a bank or similar financial provider which lets you hold different currencies from your local one.

For example, if your startup is in Silicon Valley in the US, then you will have a bank account to hold Dollars. (How to open a US corporate account)
If you wish, a currency account can be opened to receive, hold and pay in Euros, without having to exchange currencies back to dollars each time. The benefit being you would avoid lots of extra fees such as transaction charges and commissions each time you exchanged currencies.

Having different currency accounts for your startup doesn't mean you need to have overseas offices, foreign banks, or other complications. They can easily be opened with online providers or, sometimes, your bank. But be warned that banks are experts at disguising their fees by offering poor exchange rates and “superficial” charges for simply moving money across borders.

Your business could be losing out significantly if you operate globally and use your bank to change currency when making international payments.

How to use multi currency accounts?

For receiving revenue or investment

You might want accounts to accept funds in different currencies. Lots of startups want to be as accommodating as possible and take customers from all over the world. This may mean local billing (charging customers in their local currency). So you might want to have an IBAN or a local account for the customers (or a third-party payment solution) to deposit into. This will save on international payment fees and poor FX rates forced on you by a bank if you only have one currency.

To pay bills

Often you will have suppliers who want to be paid in their local currency, which might be in another country. For example:

  • Your payroll is in GBP (UK pounds)
  • You have a supplier asking for payment in USD (US dollars)
  • You have a contractor based in France asking for Euros.

You could decide to hold funds in each currency, exchanging bigger chunks when there are favourable exchange rates. It's then easier to pay each bill when it's due, in the correct money, without worrying about the exchange rate movements.

It can help if you are worried about implications like Brexit, Covid or other political/international events and the impact on your expenses if the exchange rate moves significantly.

What to look for when opening a multi currency account?

Local banking details

Where possible, you will want to have both an IBAN for international payments and local banking details. So, if you are seeking a USD account for your European based startup, you will want an account which also comes with its own account number and routing number (both Wire and ACH, the local details in the US), as well as an IBAN, all in the name of your startup. This will enable faster payments in or out and less risk of being charged additional fees.

Payment ability

Check how fast the payment will be processed. Some accounts will put all transfers through international payment routes such as SWIFT, which are slower and more expensive. (More on Payment Rails)

Costs

Many banks still make understanding their fees deliberately tricky. Don’t worry; there are some great options, but to save you the pain of picking the wrong one, here are the things to look out for.

Try to compare all the below when considering costs:

  • Monthly fee for the account - some are free, some charge per currency or a flat fee for up to 40 currencies
  • Exchange rate in comparison to the live rate (sometimes called the interbank rate) - some banks can charge up to 5% of the value of what you send, disguised as a poor exchange rate.
  • Payment fees - these are fees to send the funds. In some accounts, they will be applied to all transactions. They range from a few dollars (or equivalent) to over $50.
  • Payment initiation costs - this is the cost just to request the payment be made. It is often a surprise to startups, as they will also be charged a payment fee and potentially even a monthly fee.

Which banks have foreign currency accounts?

You could try your bank, where you currently hold your cash. However, these tend to be the most expensive and worst experience. On the positive side, they can be easier to monitor as everything is in one place (assuming your bank doesn't have a horrible interface).

You could try other banks or international banks like HSBC. You will probably still face the same expensive fees and bad user experience issues. It also adds one more log-in for you to manage. (More on UK currency bank accounts).

Who should I open multi-currency accounts with?

You have a lot of options.

Today, fintech companies and new online banks specialise in reducing these fees to zero. They have transparent up-front costs and use more competitive exchange rates, closer to the best rate possible, the Interbank rate. This is the rate you will see when searching for the exchange rate on Google and xe.com. It is considered the “real” exchange rate, but remember, it constantly changes according to demand for that currency on the open markets. When making a foreign currency payment, always look for the provider than offers the best exchange rate first, then check for any additional fees.

There are specialist options like Revolut, Rebank and Wise (formerly TransferWise) which focus on this service and tend to be more cost-effective than traditional banks and others. They also have a more transparent way of showing their charges.

How does rebank fit in?

🏖 Whatever methods you decide, we'll keep track of all in the same place

💎 Allowing you to receive seeds in different currencies at low fares

🛫 Paying international suppliers with low transaction fees

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Revolut

A typical Revolut international transfer fee is £3 + 0.4%

Pros

  • There is a free Revolut business account. It does have fees for both domestic and international payments.
  • Revolut can hold funds in 30+ currencies.
  • Local account details for cheaper local payments in GBP and EUR and Revolut IBANs.
  • Approval flows are available on the more expensive tiers.
  • Payment cards, both virtual and physical.

Cons

  • Sign up can be slow due to the number of documents needed to be uploaded at onboarding. Expect to need more paperwork here like company registration documents, proof of address etc.
  • Paid tiers, Grow and Scale, only make sense if you spend around £10,000 or £50,000 per month, respectively.
  • Their user experience is not great as you need to authenticate on multiple devices constantly.
  • Revolut add an extra charge markup on the weekends, making this option less cost-effective.

Who is the Revolut multi currency account best for?

Best if spending approx. 10k or 50k per month (weekdays only), maxing out those allowances on the paid plans.

Wise

A typical Wise international transfer fee is 0.41%

Pros

  • It's quick to open a Wise account and easy to use.
  • Transparent fees. Easy to check charges in advance.
  • Wise uses the Interbank rate.
  • Payment cards available.
  • Hold funds in 50 currencies.
  • Local account details (for cheaper local payments) in GBP, EUR, USD +5 more.

Cons

  • Setup fee of £45 just to open an account.
  • Various markup fees depending on the country and currency.
  • No approvals are possible.
  • Can be charged to receive money. There is a $4.14 fee for receiving USD wire payments.

Who is the Wise multi currency account best for?

If occasional or very infrequent usage and otherwise simple banking needs

Rebank

A typical Rebank international transfer fee is 0.25%

Pros

  • More than just payments! (Aggregates all your business banks, more here).
  • Fastest account opening and set up.
  • Local account details in GBP, EUR, and USD (free local payments on top tiers)
  • Able to schedule your payments and set permissions for approval flows.
  • International batch payments for larger pay runs.

Cons

  • Monthly subscription - so not ideal if only sending funds infrequently.
  • No cards available.

Who is the rebank multi currency account best for?

Best if you do regular business internationally or for large international transfers, such as moving capital funds. Get started with rebank.

Final thoughts

From talking to hundreds of founders and their teams, we have found that comparing these kinds of costs falls down the to-do list fast. Switching banks is usually met with a look of pain and horror. If you are looking at switching for whatever reason, remember to make sure it makes financial sense. It’s also important to consider the time and effort required to do so. We compared three accounts that have a much faster onboarding process than a traditional bank. Both rebank and Wise have a relatively pain free sign-up flow. We recommend that you do not just optimise for cost but also how much time you will save too. Time is better spent doing what you do best, running your business!

Switching banks is usually met with a look of pain and horror. If you are looking at switching for whatever reason, remember to make sure it makes financial sense.We recommend that you do not just optimise for cost but also how much time you will save too. Time is better spent doing what you do best, running your business!

Leona Mondsee
Chief Financial Officer, rebank

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