We compare the features, exchange rates and security of the three best multi-currency accounts available today — the WorldFirst World Account, the TransferWise Borderless Account and the OFX Global Currency Account.
The ability to hold funds and manage payments in multiple currencies is essential for all serious online sellers, importers/exporters and for other SMEs and freelancers doing business in a globalized world.
Multi-currency accounts are also of great value to those who travel regularly, remit money to families abroad or have other overseas expenditures, such as a foreign mortgage.
More than convenience, multi-currency accounts offer large savings on foreign exchange costs. It’s remarkable but true that a small business with many foreign-currency payments and receipts could increase profits by 10 percent or more simply by switching to multi-currency accounts (more information on how these accounts boost your bottom line can be found here).
A multi-currency account with a major lender might sound like a great idea but many of these require local addresses, come with monthly account fees and/or require a large starting deposit (the Bank of Queensland, for example, requires a deposit of 50,000 Australian dollars). But far more important than these are the shocking transaction fees that a bank will subject you to.
It’s now well established that banks offer horrific exchange rates, either separated from or including an expensive transaction fee. Simply put, each of the account providers we compare below can save you 70-80 percent on money transfers while offering a customer experience as good, if not better, than the banks. Don’t settle for less.
Let’s get this one out of the way.
OFX’s Global Currency Account is for online sellers only — that means sellers at “approved” marketplaces, including Amazon, eBay, PriceMinister.com, Newegg, Buy.com, Game, Wish.com, CDiscount.com, Rue du Commerce and Shop.com.
WorldFirst’s World Account is another business-only account but this can be used by all businesses and freelancers, not only by marketplace sellers.
The TransferWise Borderless Account is by far the most flexible; it can be used by anybody, including for personal use.
If you’re in the US, your choice is limited to the Global Currency and Borderless accounts, since WorldFirst has no US operation.
Winner: Borderless Account wins for flexibility; it can be used by individuals and businesses, including those in the US.
Neither the Borderless, World or Global Currency accounts have account maintenance fees, monthly or otherwise; nor do they have minimum balance requirements.
As of June 2019, the Global Currency Account offers GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, CAD and HKD.
The World Account offers GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, CAD, NZD, JPY, SGD, HKD and CNH (offshore yuan).
The Borderless Account offers GBP, EUR, USD, AUD and NZD, but also allows account holders to keep funds in a further 35 currencies (if receiving funds in these additional currencies, fees apply).
For all of these accounts, when receiving or paying in a non-supported currency, you’ll be subject to the standard exchange rates and transaction fees (see below).
Winner: WorldFirst – World Account, since it allows users to receive the most major currencies.
With multi-currency accounts, foreign exchange costs will be paid only when you fund a foreign currency balance using home currency, when withdrawing foreign currency balances back to your domestic bank account, when shifting money between foreign currency balances, and of course for all payments in currencies that aren’t supported by your multi-currency account.
The provider offering the best deal on foreign exchange is easier to determine than it should be, but bear in mind that the cheapest option might not be best for you.
TransferWise offers money transfers at the interbank exchange rate with a small, separate transaction fee and is easily the cheapest service overall. For major currency routes like AUD-USD, AUD-EUR, GBP-EUR and GBP-AUD, the total transfer cost is typically around 0.4-0.5 percent of the transferred amount.
WorldFirst and OFX build fees into their exchange rates and might also levy a separate transaction fee. The total cost for major currency routes with these companies is usually around 1 percent, or double that of TransferWise.
For transactions involving more exotic currencies (think AUD-PHP or GBP-INR), WorldFirst and TransferWise can be considerably cheaper than OFX.
Winner: TransferWise – Borderless Account, which offers razor-thin FX costs when receiving non-supported currencies.
TransferWise, WorldFirst and OFX are all highly regulated firms with top-notch account security consisting of 2-step logins, TSL or SSL encryption, multi-layered fraud prevention systems and much, much more. Each firm holds your funds separately from its own in a major financial institution and is extremely well capitalized. All said, we cannot see any reason why funds would be at risk in either account.
Customer support options for each account are excellent, and include phone and email support.
From a customer service perspective, the best feature of a Global Currency Account is that it offers true 24/7 phone support.
With a World Account, you’ll be assigned a personal account manager and can also consult FX dealers for transfers above £5,000.
With a Borderless Account, you’ll be offered 13 regional phone lines for support in the most languages.
Winner: All (TransferWise for non-English speakers).
An easy winner here.
The Borderless Account is the only product that offers a debit card, although this is only available to UK and EEA residents as of June 2019.
With its Mastercard logo, the Borderless card can be used to spend internationally, and no transaction or FX costs will be incurred when spending in currencies held within the Borderless Account (for some ATM withdrawals, fees apply). For currencies not held within the account, spending will be subject to TransferWise’s low conversion fees.
Winner: Borderless Account; it’s the only account that comes with a card.
OFX, TransferWise and WorldFirst all provide advanced features as part of their broader money transfer services; these include limit orders, used by those willing to wait for improved exchange rates; bulk payments, allowing for payrolls (500-1,000 payments) to be processed with a single click, and recurring payments (weekly, monthly etc.).
The full details of these features are beyond the scope of this review; however, a couple of obvious negatives stand out: OFX has a minimum transfer size for limit orders that we feel is too large, at AUD 30,000 (varies by currency), and TransferWise makes limit orders and recurring transfers more difficult than we’d expect, since these require use of the company’s API.
An obvious positive is with WorldFirst; this being its enhanced order types, which include “stop loss” orders, designed to limit risk on open FX positions, and OCO (one-cancels-the-other) orders.
Winner: World Account, backed by WorldFirst’s advanced order types.
Both the Borderless and Global Currency accounts can be easily integrated with Xero — the popular cloud-based accounting platform.
WorldFirst is somewhat late to the party, but following its acquisition of CurrencyVue in March 2019 it will soon be able to offer integration with Xero, as well as with other popular accounting and ERP platforms like Netsuite and Quickbooks.
Winner: A tie between Global Currency Account and Borderless Account.
Money held in World and Global Currency accounts can be used to fund forward contracts in addition to spot payments. FX forwards aren’t available with a Borderless Account since TransferWise don’t support these.
The buyer of a forward contract is allowed to “book now, pay later.”
With a forward, you’ll fix an exchange rate today for a future money transfer, secured by a small deposit. Forwards are used for hedging against adverse currency movements and make budgeting easier because of the price certainty they offer.
WorldFirst allows account holders to fix an exchange rate for up to 3 years; OFX allow for only 12 months, but for the majority of SMEs this will be enough.
Winner: World Account edges Global Currency Account due to long-dated forwards.
Before stating which multi-currency account, if any, we feel is the best, it should be said that all of these products are excellent and BER would happily recommend either. Each of these accounts comes with excellent customer service options, top-notch security, costs nothing to open and each will trounce the banks when it comes to foreign exchange costs.
When deciding upon the very best account, it really is a matter of “horses for courses.”
Although we feel that TransferWise’s Borderless Account is the best product overall — it is the only product that can be used for personal use and it offers the cheapest transfers for non-supported currencies — it wouldn’t satisfy a sophisticated business in need of hedging solutions (FX forwards), nor any business with significant exposure to Asia, since it offers no receiving accounts for Asian currencies.
For businesses, we feel that the World Account is a much better option and, all considered, betters the Global Currency Account. The World Account is the only product that comes with receiving accounts for CNH, SGD and JPY; it offers long-dated FX forwards, advanced order types, a personal account manager and for non-supported currencies, overall it’s cheaper to send money with WorldFirst than with OFX.
However, we return once more to “horses for courses” because business owners in the US must choose the Global Currency or Borderless accounts, since WorldFirst has no US presence. And what if Xero integration is an absolute must? If that’s the case, then you’d again be choosing between a Global Currency or Borderless account while you wait on WorldFirst to roll out this functionality (possibly in the second half of 2019).
To repeat what we’ve already said, we’d wholeheartedly recommend all of these accounts. The best for you will be just that — the best for you.