Spend Like a Local with a Wise Travel Card (Reviewed, Tested)

by | Jun 1, 2024 | 12 comments

For digital nomads around the world, spending and receiving money can be a headache. 

At the same time, it’s a priority to figure out which banks, travel cards, and credit cards are your best options to avoid hefty transaction fees. 

Thanks to its security standards, international accessibility, speed, and unparalleled cost-efficiency for foreign transactions and conversions, the Wise Travel Card has quickly become a crucial aspect of my spending system as a digital nomad

Transferring money internationally via Wise is up to 8 times cheaper than using a traditional bank, and fast! 55% of transfers with Wise arrive instantly. 76% of all transfers arrive within an hour and 93% within a day.

In this Wise Travel Card review, I’m sharing what Wise is, the pros and cons of using a Wise Travel Card, and how to set it up. 

By the end, you’ll get to decide if Wise is the right tool for you to make your location-independent banking cleaner, faster, and more secure.

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At a Glance

What are the main benefits of using the Wise travel card for digital nomads?

The card lets you spend like a local in the local currency without foreign transaction fees. The Wise App offers an extra layer of security and functionality.

Is the Wise travel card safe and secure for international use?

Yes, the card is made for frequent travelers and international users and provides both digital and financial security. Wise is regulated just like any bank via local financial authorities.

How does the Wise account compare to traditional bank accounts for digital nomads?

Wise is not a bank (it doesn’t offer overdrafts or loans), however, it has all the same spending functionality of a traditional bank account. Further, Wise is a multi-currency account without a recurring fee, making international spending extremely cost-efficient.

What fees are associated with using the Wise travel card abroad?

The Wise travel card offers you two monthly ATM withdraws free of charge, up to $200. After that, a fee applies. Additionally, there is no foreign transaction fee, but a small conversion fee. Spending locally with your Wise Travel Card guarantees you a mid-market exchange rate.

Can I use the Wise Travel Card in multiple currencies and countries?

Yes, the Wise Travel Card lets you spend in over 55 currencies and most countries. You don’t need to have the local currency in your account as Wise will automatically convert at the cheapest rate.

What is Wise?

Wise is a multi-currency financial service. Wise offers an international account for over 50 currencies, with instant, super-cheap money transfers. You can also get a Wise debit card to spend in any currency, bank details to receive money in 30 different countries, and more.

With Wise, you can hold, receive, exchange, and spend your money in multiple currencies. It guarantees a mid-market exchange rate, lightning-fast transfer times, and security on par with your local or domestic bank. 

Wise Banking is regulated just like any bank by financial authorities in any country where they operate.

With Wise, you can spend money globally for less. For each currency you open, you can receive a local bank’s account numbers and a local bank address which allows you to receive money easily.

Check out all the features of Wise here and sign up today

Main Features of Wise Accounts

I’ve been using Wise for over 5 years now and still find myself uncovering new features of Wise, formerly known as TransferWise. That’s to say, there are many phenomenal features of Wise, and the Wise debit card, which some call Wise Travel Card.

These are the main features I’d like to highlight for you as you consider becoming a Wise customer yourself. Or perhaps you already are and need a little help getting started?

Each Wise account comes with these features:

  • Balances – You can open balances in 50+ currencies. This lets you hold, send, receive, and convert money. Wise offers the real mid-market exchange rate which makes it up to 7 times cheaper than traditional banks.
  • Bank details – Wise offers local bank details in 10 currencies (US dollars, British pounds, Euro, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Singapore dollar, as well as Hungarian forint, Romanian leu and Turkish lira). You can use these bank details to receive money for free into your Wise account, which you can then convert or hold.
  • Money transfers – You can send money into local bank accounts, in their currencies in 60+ currencies.
  • Direct debits – USD, British Pound and Euro bank details allow you to set up direct debits to pay for subscriptions or automated payments.
  • Debit card – the Wise Travel Card lets you spend around the world like a local, without foreign transaction fees.
  • Wise Business Account – Wise lets you open a business account separate from your personal account. This can let you handle your business transactions internationally at a fraction of the price.
  • Jars – Money in a jar is kept separately from your balances. Via jars, you can accomplish your short-term saving goals for, say a flight, Kindle, or special vacation. You can’t accidentally spend it with your debit card, and you can’t send it or use it to pay Direct Debits. You can open as many jars as you need to organize your money, at no cost.

Both my boyfriend and I are able to easily send and receive money from loved ones around the world using the Wise account. We can’t think of any way to live this lifestyle without Wise.

Main Functionality of Wise Accounts

The above features provide you with a wide array of functions that traditional banks simply don’t offer. Below are just a few functions I adore about Wise. They are also the reasons why I trust and use Wise intensely.

  • Hold and convert 40+ currencies, in one account.
  • Speedy transfers: 55% of transfers with Wise arrive instantly. 76% of all transfers arrive within an hour and 93% within a day.
  • Keep your money how you like: You can set aside money for a new laptop in “Jars” (they work like old-fashioned envelopes) in any currency and choose to hold your money as stock or cash, to optionally earn interest (capital at risk, gains not guaranteed).
  • Highest privacy and safety guaranteed through two factor identification, 24/7 support, and international regulations.
  • Set automated, recurring payments once and forget about it.
  • Convert currencies at a pre-determined exchange rate.
  • Utter transparency about spending and conversion fees.

Personally, I love that I can earn cash back, save money via Jars, and know that Wise will automatically spend from the account with the most advantageous exchange rate.

Check out all features of the Wise bank account and sign up today

Is Wise a Bank?

No, Wise is not a bank. However, when it comes to spending locally as a digital nomad, you can use it in the same fashion as you would use a domestic bank.

Whereas banks offer overdrafts, loans, and credit options, Wise being a money service business does not provide these options. 

While many banks will charge you a monthly or quarterly account fee, Wise only charges you for the services you actually use.

In this article, Wise says: “…you can use Wise for many day-to-day financial transactions and even as a primary account depending on your needs.” 

If your needs are to spend locally around the globe, it’s a good idea to set up Wise as your primary account. However, andthis is important, I highly recommend you retain a bank account with a domestic bank or two

I also strongly advise against using Wise Jars as your primary savings account. It’s fine to hold a few thousand dollars in them, but your rainy-day fund should be in a domestic bank savings account or a high-yield account.

Wise protects your money through strong partnerships with domestic banks in every country whose currency they offer. For example, your EUR balance is protected and regulated through the National Bank of Belgium. 

Ultimately, while you shouldn’t make the mistake of defining Wise as a bank, you are encouraged to think of personal Wise accounts as your primary spending accounts if you live a nomadic life. 

Personal Wise Account and Wise Travel Card

Set up correctly, the Wise travel card can become your primary mode of spending. This debit card lets you spend like a local in the cheapest way possible.

The personal Wise account lets you send and receive money from family across the globe. If your friends have Wise, the Wise App can quickly turn into what Americans know as Venmo.

Through the App, all that’s needed is your friends’ email address and you can reimburse them for that weekend trip.

My personal favorite feature of the Wise travel card is not its flashy green color, but the fact that I get a notification every time I arrive in a new country, welcoming me to the country, and giving me a quick rundown of how to most efficiently use my card.

Who is the Wise Debit Card for?

Both the Wise account and Wise debit card are for anyone living an international life. (Anyone who needs to send, spend, or receive money internationally). The Wise debit card is for anyone who spends money in varying currencies on the regular.

If you’re a digital nomad, you’re likely purchasing groceries in at least 5 different currencies over the year. The Wise travel card is for you.

If you’re living an international life, you’re likely looking for a way to minimize your foreign transaction fees. The Wise travel card is for you.

If you’re an expat, you’ll likely have subscriptions and recurring payments in varying currencies and are tired of your credit card company flagging your card for fraudulent activity. The Wise debit card is for you.

Learn more about the Wise Debit Card here

Main Features of the Wise Debit Card

Now, Wise can be a game changer for you with or without the flashy green card. That said, I highly recommend getting the card as it will help you to spend like a local. Here are the main features of the card:

  • Seamless integration with Google and Apple Pay.
  • Easily set and change your spending limits via the App.
  • Secure two-factor authorization via the App for any online purchases.
  • Quick ability to block your card in case of theft.
  • Up to $200 of ATM withdrawals without additional fee.
  • As a Visa card, the Wise Travel Card is accepted worldwide.
  • The card lets you spend in any currency like a local, offering minimal fees and a mid-market exchange rate: the best available.

While I strongly recommend having at least 2 different cards that offer low or no fees on foreign currencies, the Wise travel card is something I don’t want missing from my wallet ever again. In five years of using it, it’s only once not been accepted.

Wise Travel Card Pros and Cons

There are many things to love about the Wise Travel Card, however, as with any service, there are a few features to take into consideration as well when making buying decisions:

Pros of Wise CardCons of Wise Card
Lets your spend in 40+ currenciesWhile there is no annual fee, you must pay $7 to receive the card
Seamlessly spends from cheapest currency held in your accountMust indicate a shippable address to
receive card, not all countries allowed
Low markup for currency conversions Very few merchants don’t accept Visa (Wise debit cards), so it’s good to have a Maestro or Amex as backup.
Easy to manage (block, increase limits, etc.) via Wise App Replacement card can take up to
3 weeks to arrive – although you can
start using them digitally immediately
Access to bank account details for easy transfers No credit card option available
Allows 2 monthly ATM withdrawals for up to $200 After $200 you pay a high ATM fee
Pros and Cons of Wise Travel Card

With these features laid out, I’ll add that your Wise account allows you to easily generate reports for all or just certain currencies and during customizable time frames. This makes digital nomad finance and taxation easy and transparent.

Wise may not be a bank, but the benefits of Wise make digital nomad banking a hell of a lot easier.

Similarly, while Wise is not a bank, it’s what I recommend to my friends as the best online ‘bank’ for expats.

Just pretty-please know and ensure that Wise is a crucial part, yet not the end-all-be-all of the digital nomad financial systems you need to put in place.

How Does Wise Debit Card Work

The Wise debit card works much like a traditional debit card. The biggest difference is that the Wise account itself isn’t technically a bank account. 

The plus of this, of course, is that you can’t overdraft your account by accident because you’ve misunderstood a new currency. The card will simply decline. 

You can add your Wise debit card to your Google or Apple Pay, as well. You can also use it for recurring subscription payments if you’d like. 

As long as your associated Wise account has sufficient funds, the card works exactly like a debit card.

When you spend locally, you don’t need to have the local currency in your account. Rather, Wise automatically converts from the currency in your account that is cheapest to convert to the local currency. 

That way, you avoid the headache of constant manual conversions. Instead, you can rest assured that Wise gets you the biggest bang for your buck.

With notifications turned on, you’ll get a push notification for any transactions made, including which currency Wise chose to spend from.

Learn more about the Wise debit card and sign up here

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How to Use Wise Card Abroad

As mentioned above, the the Wise travel card works just like any debit card.

Sometimes, you’ll be asked to select if you want to be charged in your native or in the local currency. Wise advises that you always spend via the local currency.

For instance, ATMs might offer you a direct conversation with your card’s native currency. Decline this conversation. 

As an example, in Thailand, I once accidentally accepted the conversation on a $500 withdrawal and lost $30 in conversation fees to the ATM, compared to what Wise would have offered me. 

There is an easily adjustable limit on daily spending on the card. You can change that within minutes on your App.

For ATMs, know that Wise debit card gives you 2 monthly withdraws for up to a cumulative $200. After that, you will be charged a fee (varies by country).

Is a Wise Card Better Than Cash?

I believe carrying a Wise debit card is significantly safer, and likely cheaper, than carrying cash. This is because converting cash typically comes at a hefty commission fee.

As discussed, Wise significantly minimizes these fees. Also, cash can be stolen whereas a stolen Wise debit card can be blocked from any laptop or phone within two clicks.

That said, whether or not you need cash in addition to your card, depends on the country. I never even thought to draw cash in London last year. Meanwhile, I need to make sure to carry some cash in most of South East Asia and, of course, Germany…duh.

Safety Measures and Tips for Using Wise Travel Card

While the Wise debit card and the entire Wise account are a great way to minimize headaches and costs while traveling and spending as a digital nomad, there are some safety measures to keep in mind.

Be sure that you don’t keep the bulk of your hard-earned money on your personal Wise account. It’s fine to keep one month’s of expenses at a time on your account so that you can smoothly spend from it. It’s also fine to have a piggy bank inside a “Jar” for a couple of thousand dollars. 

Beyond that, I strongly recommend moving your money off of Wise. While Wise is regulated and secured by local financial authorities, it does not provide the same protection to its customers.

If your money gets stolen through your card or there’s a preach into your account, you’ll be less likely to recover what’s lost. 

As long as I stick to these two rules, I’ve found myself to feel very secure with my Wise travel card. I use it for all day-to-day transactions. For anything out of the norm, I use my Amex for extra customer protection and points. 

Also note that any digital transactions made through your Wise debit card are secure through a two-step authorization system, utilizing your Wise app. So don’t be afraid to use your card for Kindle book payments and the like! 

Final Words

The personal Wise account is a phenomenal resource for any frequent traveler, digital nomad, and expat with family overseas. Wise accounts should not be used in place of traditional bank accounts, however, can be used as a primary spending accounts thanks to its features and security.

I strongly encourage you do your own research before choosing to integrate Wise into your finance strategy. Personally, I’ve used Wise for many years and have found that my personal needs are best met by the personal Wise account and Wise travel card.

What do you love most about the Wise travel card? Tell me in the comments.

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  1. Sonia

    Your recommendation about keeping just the amount for one month’s expenses in your account is a very good one. The Wise card is very convenient for international travel or digital nomad living in my experience, but doesn’t have the security of an insured bank account.

    • Dina-Marie Weineck

      Absolutely, Wise is fantastic for all financial transactions digital nomads incur on the regular. However, it shouldn’t be the only account we use, nor should the card be the only one in our wallets. Personally, I have a domestic bank account in Germany and two additional credit cards for back-up, savings, and points.

  2. Felicia Winston

    Thanks for the honest review of Wise. Sending and receiving money internationally can be a pain. I wish they was a secured and insured option instead. For now I’ll take your advice and not use Wise as my primary account.

    • Dina-Marie Weineck

      Hi Felicia, Wise actually is fully secured and regulated through national bank regulations in every single country they operate in. thus, you can safely use it for all international money transfers, in and out. Just be sure that you don’t come to think of Wise as a savings account or primary bank.
      Wise also offers special, reduced fees for large money transfers if that’s ever a need. Platforms like Western Union can be ridiculously expensive and the customer support of Wise is so much better in my experience.

  3. Valeriya Goffe

    Wise travel card sounds like a very convenient option, especially since you pay only for services you actually use. I was not aware of it. It’s definitely a good idea to keep an account with your local bank as well, but Wise seems like a good option for frequent travelers.

    • Meeka

      Idk why I’ve never thought about opening up a Wide credit card. I would definitely save on ATM fees. Thank you for putting this together.

      • Dina-Marie Weineck

        For sure, you would! The great thing about Wise is that it’s entirely free. You just have to pay a minimal (onetime) fee for the card. After that, you only pay for the services you actually use. And ATM fees don’t start until >$200.

  4. Shweta

    I normally use my credit card while travelling internationally. Way better than cash for sure. But after reading your blog, I will look into getting a Wise debit card, I do have a Wise account for receiving international payments.

    • Dina-Marie Weineck

      Yes, it’s really nice to have both a credit card and a Wise card. That’s how I’m set up. Check the fine print if your credit card has any fees on currency conversions or foreign transactions. If so, Wise might be a great way to save money. Plus, you can’t spend more (or lose on theft) than you have in your Wise account! 🙂

  5. Jennifer Record

    Honest review- thanks for the reminders about how to spend wisely and track my budget while traveling! Great advice!


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