I got an email the other day from TransferWise, a service I use frequently. Why do I use it? Because I moved to Poland. Poland’s currency is the Zloty and paying everything on my card in British Pounds with conversion rates seemed stupid. It really struck home when I was paying a postage import fee to the Polish Government. The fee was only 40 Zloty (about $10), and yet I ended up paying more in bank fees and exchange rate penalties via my UK bank account – the only way I could pay this bill at that point – than the actual fee I was paying. It ended up costing about $15 (60 Zloty), bringing the total to $25 and it really irked.
A friend had recommended I apply for a TransferWise debit card. I dutifully opened an account and got a MasterCard with them. Ever since, it’s been my main way to pay and I love it. Every time I use the card, I get an alert on my phone in real-time that the card has been used. That’s something that would be nice on any account.
More importantly, in a tight space, the card works and helps me out. I was at the car dealership the other day in Warsaw for the car’s annual service. The bill ended up being near $1,000 and I only had $300 on the card’s balance. Sitting in the showroom, I sent $1,000 from the UK to the Polish card and, literally, within a few minutes, the money was on the card. I paid the showroom bill and walked out, head held high. Fantastic.
What this demonstrated to me is that needs must. I have a Monzo and Revolut account, but haven’t transferred significant activity to either away from my Barclays and Santander accounts, as there’s no major motivator. Punitive fees and charges on overseas transactions forced me to move to TransferWise and, since moving, I’ve really enjoyed the experience.
So, it surprised me the other day when I got an email asking if I’d like a Polish bank account from the firm.
I duly clicked through and with a couple of swipes had the account set up within one minute. Within one minute.
Such a far cry from my experience with an incumbent bank, as discussed last year.
Why so easy?
Well, they’ve got all the due diligence done already for onboarding by having my bank account details from the UK for sending funds over to Poland. Like PayPal and others, once you have one proven bank account live on the service, the customer onboarding is effectively done.
And is it a bank account with TransferWise?
No, it’s with PKO Bank, TransferWise’s Polish partner and the biggest bank in Poland. Even so, I was shocked and amazed at opening a bank account in less than a minute with a couple of swipes on the app.
Add to this low fees, great exchange rates, super informative records, real-time updates and alerts, views of transactions as they happen and more, and you can see why this and other challenger banks are taking off rapidly … if needs must.