WorldFirst, a market leader in the international payments space, offers a multi-currency “World Account” that allows businesses to hold, send and receive funds in 10 major currencies: GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, JPY, SGD, NZD, CNH and HKD. With a World Account, businesses can invoice customers in their local currencies and avoid unnecessary, back-and-forth FX charges, thereby “doing business like a local.”
When funding a World Account or repatriating funds from one, you’ll get WorldFirst’s highly competitive exchange rates—not the industry’s best but certainly rates that trounce those offered by banks or traditional money changers.
The World Account is designed for businesses with international exposure to GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, JPY, SGD, NZD, CNH (offshore yuan) and HKD but which do not have accounts for one or all of those currencies. The World Account will prove especially helpful for e-commerce companies, such as those selling on Amazon or Shopify platforms, and general import/export businesses.
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There are no account opening or monthly fees.
When buying foreign currencies for your World Account, when converting between currencies and when sending funds, you will pay an exchange rate that includes WorldFirst fees (you’ll have to ignore a lot of the “no fee” rhetoric on WorldFirst’s website); this makes the service somewhat less transparent than some other firms that disclose fees separately.
WorldFirst does have minimum transaction requirements, which are usually a low four-figure sum that varies with each currency.
If compared with a bank transfer, WorldFirst advertises savings for most currency conversions between 0.25 and 4 percent of the transaction amount. In the example of a A$5,000 transfer from Australia to New Zealand, in real currency terms that would translate to a saving of roughly NZ$145.
When compared with other FX specialists, WorldFirst consistently ranks near the top for savings on international payments, and even when it doesn’t, businesses in the UK don’t have to worry because it offers a “best exchange rate guarantee,” subject to a few terms and conditions (see below).
Same-currency transfers (e.g. sending AUD to an AUD account) might be more expensive with a World Account than some readers might expect. WorldFirst has told us that “up to 1 percent” is charged for such transfers, though we paid only 0.1 percent on a recent GBP transfer to a UK GBP account.
In the interest of fairness, it should be said that any extra costs paid on WorldFirst transfers help cover dealer and account manager support—services that you might not find with some of the newer, cheaper digital payments specialists.
For its UK customers, WorldFirst promises to better any exchange rate offered by any other FX provider, so long as you have an active account with the other provider, the quote you have is in writing (email) and is not more than 3 hours old, and so long as the rate is not better than that at which WorldFirst itself acquires the currency in the interbank market.
WorldFirst rate guarantees are only for new, upcoming transactions and don’t apply if you have already agreed a transaction rate with WorldFirst (“in-play” transfers will not be cancelled or amended).
With a World Account, you can apply for a unique set of account details for receiving each of the following major currencies free of charge: GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, CAD, JPY, SGD and NZD.
These accounts are not real bank accounts, they are merely electronic “addresses” through which WorldFirst funnels money to its customers, but they behave just like local bank accounts opened within national borders.
With “local” account details, businesses can save substantial sums by avoiding unnecessary back-and-forth FX charges. A German e-commerce group could, for example, receive funds from UK customers worth £10,000, hold those funds in British pounds, and then send payments to UK-based suppliers worth £7,000. If the business then wanted to withdraw funds to Germany, the only costs it would have paid would be those on the remaining £3,000, which is now converted into euros. Without a GBP account, this company would pay an FX cost every time it receives money from the UK, since these funds must enter its domestic EUR account, and also pay for FX on all UK supplier payments, since these payments are in a foreign currency.
There is no withdrawal fee per se. Withdrawal of World Account funds is treated like any other money transfer (see ‘Exchange Rates and Transaction Fees’).
All evidence suggests your money is entirely safe with WorldFirst.
WorldFirst is a highly regulated firm (regulated in the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia as of April 2019), and as such is required to hold sufficient capital to protect its customers’ funds.
Established in 2004, WorldFirst has built a trustworthy reputation in the industry. The company offers its own audited accounts and bank references should you wish to see these.
Furthermore, the company’s new owner, Ant Financial, is the largest fintech firm in the world and has seriously deep pockets.
Because this is an e-money account, not a bank account, readers should be aware that World Account funds would not be guaranteed under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (a UK government scheme that guarantees the first £85,000 held within FCA-authorised banks and credit unions), so in the extremely unlikely event that WorldFirst becomes insolvent and money cannot be returned to customers, World Account holders would need to join other creditors in making a claim against WorldFirst’s remaining assets.
WorldFirst provides a number of risk and exchange rate management features that businesses will appreciate.
Forward contracts are an effective way of managing foreign currency exposures for those who do business with customers in other parts of the world.
Bulk payments are easy to upload to the WorldFirst platform and can all be paid at the click of a button, and where this isn’t sufficient, WorldFirst can assist you in coming up with a fully automated, bespoke solution that suits your requirements.
Firm orders (also known as “limit” orders) are instructions to WorldFirst to convert your money at a better exchange rate than what’s on offer today. The WorldFirst platform will achieve this by monitoring all changes in the FX market and then by triggering your money transfer when the market rate matches your desired rate.
**New** Following its acquisition of CurrencyVue in March 2019, WorldFirst will soon be able to offer to its customers integration with popular ERP and accounting platforms like Xero, Netsuite and Quickbooks, which will provide real-time views of a business’s international payments, currency exposures and commitments.
Customers service options at WorldFirst are excellent, and include phone support, emails, requesting a callback and you can even pay them a visit to discuss your account in person.
WorldFirst users are assigned an account manager but can speak with any member of WorldFirst staff. For money transfers above £5,000, users can speak with an FX dealer for advice or to potentially get an improved exchange rate.
Typically, WorldFirst staff will be more knowledgeable about foreign exchange affairs and markets than those at newer firms in the payments industry. In several reviews online, customers have praised the foresight of WorldFirst dealers, which have suggested alternative, cheaper times to exchange money based on their knowledge of currency-affecting events and market fluctuations.
WorldFirst has a complaints process in place and says it responds to complaints within 3 days.
WorldFirst might not be too responsive to general enquiries from Joe Public (non-account holders); we hear that many of these emails go unanswered.
WorldFirst employs a “fair usage” policy which in essence is a list of limitations that ensures World Accounts do not make a loss for the company.
From the WorldFirst site:
WorldFirst is rated highly on popular review sites. On one particular site, as of April 2019, nearly 70 percent of the 430 reviewers gave the WorldFirst company a 5-star rating; 17 percent said they received “bad” service.
WorldFirst is a market leader in the international payments space and is consistently ranked among the most reliable and cheapest money transfer handlers for four-figure sums.
Posted: 13 Jul, 2020 - Last update: 3 Aug, 2023
Disclaimer: Please note any provider recommendations, currency forecasts or any opinions of our authors should not be taken as a reference to buy or sell any financial product.