UK FinTech Wise rolls out payments card to Canadian users

In an effort to meet demand from its Canadian users, Wise has officially launched its Wise card in Canada to enable customers in the country to make purchases in 200 countries and a multitude of different currencies.

Formerly known as TransferWise, the London, United Kingdom (UK)-based FinTech company first rolled out its Wise Account offering, which allows users to hold multiple currencies at the same time, to Canadians in 2017.

Lindsey Grossman, Wise’s director of product for North America, told BetaKit that the continent is Wise’s “fastest-growing market.”

Wise co-founder and CEO Kristo Käärmann told BetaKit that shortly afterwards, the company received “many requests” from its Canadian customers to provide a way to spend the money in their accounts online and at international retailers. On November 30, the startup announced plans to offer a means of doing so through the Wise card, an extension of the Wise Account.
 

Founded in 2011, Wise aims to make moving and managing money across borders “instant, convenient, transparent, and (eventually) free.” The company went public on the London Stock Exchange in July, securing a valuation of $11 billion USD.

Käärmann claimed Canadian consumers and businesses lose $13 billion annually in hidden exchange rate markups. “Even worse, the vast majority of Canadians are in the dark about how much they are overcharged — 80% of consumers and 74% of businesses are completely unaware traditional banks charge hidden exchange rate markups,” said the CEO.

According to the company, “Wise is offering Canadians a solution that is up to four times cheaper than traditional banks and alternative providers,” which often charge hefty fees to facilitate cross-border money transfers and spending. To achieve this, the company offers users the ability to send, hold, and spend foreign currency at the real exchange rate.

Wise’s card enables consumers and small businesses to pay for goods and services online or in-person in 200 countries and over 150 different currencies. To date, the company has issued over 1.6 million Wise cards across the world through Visa and MasterCard.

Lindsey Grossman, Wise’s director of product for North America, told BetaKit that the continent is Wise’s “fastest-growing market.” According to Grossman, Wise’s Canadian offering is one of the company’s top-used features, fuelled by Canadians’ demand for cross-border money transfers. “We see a lot of money, year over year, leaving Canada and coming into Canada because Canada is both a source country in terms of money movement as well as a destination,” she said.

She believes this shows that Canadians and Americans “are becoming increasingly global.”

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“There is this assumption that, ‘oh, Americans and Canadians are not as global as, let’s say, Europeans,’” said Grossman. “And I think the data just shows that that’s false. The US and Canada are very international, and I think it’s only the beginning of this trend, it will continue to grow.”

According to LinkedIn, Wise’s global headcount is concentrated mainly in the UK, the United States, Hungary, and Singapore, and the company does not have any employees in Canada.

With the launch of its Wise card, Wise has joined fellow UK FinTech Swoop in growing its presence in Canada. However, unlike Swoop, Käärmann said Wise doesn’t plan to add any employees in the country as part of the expansion. However, he left the door open to doing so in the future, stating that this “could be a consideration as Wise continues to further establish its footprint in Canada.”

As Wise and Swoop have sought to deepen their presence in Canada, fellow UK FinTech Revolut opted to leave the Canadian market earlier this year, amid a banking environment that has been challenging for FinTech startups. Revolut CEO and co-founder Nikolay Storonsky has since said the company plans to return to the country in 2022.

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For Wise, Käärmann said Canada will continue to remain a focus. The CEO added that, “given the recent progress being made by the federal government on open banking and payments modernization, the time is ripe for Canada to see these improvements in domestic banking benefit anyone transacting internationally.”

Grossman expressed optimism about Wise’s prospects in the country, but sees room for Canada to modernize its regulatory approach.

“I still think the regulatory environment [in Canada] is still in a place where we need modernization and we need regulators working with both traditional banks and more modern payments companies to create the best consumer policies,” she said. “People ultimately care about fast money movement and cheap money movement and money movement that’s easy to use.”

The Wise card is available starting November 30, and is expected to begin shipping to customers in December. In Canada, the Wise card will be processed as a prepaid card, and can be used wherever Visa is accepted.

Feature image from Wise

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit staff writer who loves to tell Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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