Exclusive: TransferWise is looking at launching a money card

TransferWise founders Kristo Kaarmann and Taavet HinrikusTransferWiseTransferWise founders Kristo Kaarmann, left, and Taavet Hinrikus.

TransferWise is assessing whether to launch a card linked to customer accounts, according to multiple sources.

Four sources within the foreign exchange and payments industry told BI that TransferWise is looking at the possibility of launching a card after a flood of new entrants into the market over the last year.

A spokesperson for TransferWise declined to comment.

TransferWise, launched in 2011, allows people to send money abroad online, offering cheaper prices than banks and other traditional operators thanks to its lack of a costly branch network. TransferWise typically charges between 0.7% and 1.5% commission on transfers.

The company was one of London’s first fintech “unicorns” — a private business valued at over $1 billion — and has attracted funding from Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, and Scottish asset manager Baille Gifford, among others. In job ads, it promises to “revolutionise” the world of international money transfer.

TransferWise focuses on transfers abroad, with people doing things like sending money to family or paying overseas workers. But the world of holiday money cards and foreign exchange payment cards is a closely linked space and has seen a flood of interest from both entrepreneurs and investors in the last six months.

Revolut, a zero-fee foreign exchange card, has attracted over 300,000 users in a year and raised £6.75 million from renown venture capital firm Index Ventures, one of TransferWise’s investors. Bureau du change giant TravelEx has also launched SuperCard, which lets you spend on plastic abroad with no fees or commission, and startups such as Monzo and Curve let customers spend on their cards abroad at no commission.

Several sources in the industry have told BI they understand TransferWise is now assessing the merits of launching its own card that could rival these products, letting people spend directly from their TransferWise accounts.

TransferWise switched its licence with the UK regulator in January of this year, switching from a PSD licence that allows it to send money abroad to a more comprehensive e-money licence.

E-money licences allow holders to “issue payment instruments” as well as hold customer money, rather than simply transferring it.

One fintech CEO who didn’t want to be named told BI: “There would be no reason to get an E-money licence unless you were thinking about at least digital wallets.”

TransferWise had revenues of £27.8 million in the year to March and is currently moving £800 million a month over its platform globally. The company made a loss of £17.3 million for the year.


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