My experience using Wise in the Philippines: Better than PayPal

While still only second to PayPal in ubiquity, Wise is quickly becoming the freelancer's best friend. With friendlier exchange rates and transparent fees, Wise is my new favorite business tool.

5.5 minutes

Let’s face it: PayPal sucks

If you’ve worked with foreign clients, you will inevitably encounter an unwritten piece of wisdom that every remote worker needs to come to terms with: PayPal absolutely sucks. And with this knowledge comes the excruciating journey of trying to circumvent using PayPal as much as possible.

Enter, Wise (TransferWise)

Enter: Wise (formerly TransferWise). While it’s still a ways off from being THE chosen one destined to slay the evil dragon that is PayPal, it comes pretty darn close in my book. In my experience, there were some things I wanted to know that wasn’t readily available when I searched around, so I figured I’d write about it.

Signing up for Wise

The sign up process is pretty standard: You give your details, along with legal name and birth dates — just like you would at your local bank.

You can open both a personal and business account. I got both. Based on experience, having a personal account is enough if you just want to receive money from foreign clients. Plus, it was the only thing that worked for me, especially for the next step.

In order to be fully verified (in other words, in order to actual withdraw money from Wise), they ask for a one-time deposit. I could only do this for my Personal account, since the Business account won’t take my local currency (Philippine Pesos) as a payment option. This is where it got tricky for me.

So tricky, that it took me over a year to actually fully verify my account.

Wise has multiple options to choose from for you to deposit the amount they’re asking. If I remember correctly, it’s around 21 GBP or in my case, exactly 1,400 PHP. They have bank transfer, debit card, and credit card options.

Problem was, nothing was working for me.

I swear, I must’ve tried over a dozen times. What finally did work was using my mobile device, paying via Debit Card on the Wise app. A friend of mine had a different problem: Debit wouldn’t work, but Credit Card did.

I have no idea why it did or didn’t work. All I know is that after a year and a half, I finally have a fully verified Wise account.

Receiving Money (to the Philippines) via Wise

Someone told me I could just give my Wise email address and that’ll take care of things, just like PayPal. That was incorrect. Instead, Wise gives you different bank details depending on whether the one sending you money is based in the same country as the currency or not. Simply put, if I’m getting paid by the sender in USD, I have an option to send local banking details (routing number) or international banking details (SWIFT code). Or in even plainer English: Wise gives you bank details as if you had an actual bank account in the country.

Why should this matter?

Well, for one: it’s much more convenient for your clients if they can pay with their local currency. It’s less fees for them, and less fees for you. I like a solution that involves making things as frictionless for my clients as much as possible.

Second: using a routing number for a transfer (e.g. your client will transfer USD to you using a local bank in the US) is FREE. No confusing PayPal fees. In fact, no fees at all. Wise only charges a flat fee of 4.14 USD (as of October 29, 2022 3:59 PM) for wire transfers.

Using Wise in general is such a great (dare I say wise) choice because it uses the exact exchange rate, unlike PayPal which is notorious for having such low exchange rates. I mean it’s so low, even if transferring money from PayPal to Wise has a 3% fee, it’s still a better choice than withdrawing from PayPal.

In other words, Wise is so much better for getting your (literal) money’s worth.

Tips on how to use Wise

Speaking of, here are some other tips to make the most out of your Wise account:

  • Convert to peso first before withdrawal instead of directly withdrawing from USD, you get more money that way
  • Already mentioned this, but: Link to PayPal by adding Wise as a US dollar account. In my case, the bank name wasn’t Wise but something else. Withdrawing to this account incurs a 3% fee, but because PayPal has a much lower exchange rate, even with the 3% fee it’s still worth it to do this.
  • Wise has an affiliate program, meaning you can get some cash for referring Wise to your friends and family! But more than that, if they sign up through an affiliate link, they get benefits too! I love affiliate programs where it’s a win-win for both affiliates and invitees. If I remember correctly, they can have transfer fee-less transactions up to a certain amount (as of writing, it’s a fee-free transfer up to 900 SGD!) . That’s basically the same as getting to use Wise for free!

Downsides to using Wise

The only down side I can think of for Wise is that it’s not as widely used as Paypal. I still keep a PayPal account just in case, but an added benefit is I can set up recurring subscriptions that get paid in dollars (e.g. Zoom). This is helpful not just for its convenience, but it saves me some money since converting from my local currency to pay in USD costs me a bit every month. This is all thanks to bank currency exchange rates (if an item costs 10 USD, I pay a bit more than the exchange rate in my local currency because bank). So paying from an existing dollar account makes it easier. Aside from that, a lot of major services allow you to link PayPal as a payment option, making PayPal very convenient.

Still, while PayPal is still “king” I’m happy to say that Wise lives up to it’s name as a wise choice for freelancers and remote workers everywhere.

You can sign up for Wise using my link here, to get fee-free transfers up to 900 SGD (~635 USD)!