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Alternative to bank wire transfer - TransferWise?

I'm currently booking accommodations for an upcoming trip to Italy. One of the places I've booked (which looks amazing and is very reasonably priced) requires pre-payment and does not accept credit cards - they want a bank transfer (this apparently is not unusual with airbnb, vrbo, etc.). In the past when I've run into this situation, I've managed with paypal, but this place doesn't accept paypal, either.

I was shocked today when I asked my local credit union about sending a bank transfer. Their fee was $50, plus a foreign transaction/conversion fee (US$ to Euro).

I started googling around and came across TransferWise, an online service claiming to do this sort of international transfer on the cheap. From all I've seen, they appear legit and very low cost. Yes, I do know that sending prepayment money is risky, but this place appears quite legit and I'd really like to go through with it.

With the huge popularity of airbnb and similar services, I would imagine that this prepayment-via-money-transfer must be fairly common. Anyone here used TransferWise before for this sort of thing? Share your experiences?

Thanks.

Posted by
6381 posts

I have no knowledge of Tranferwise, but would be suspicious of a lodging that requires upfront, full payment in cash.

which looks amazing and is very reasonably priced)

bordering on almost too good to be true?

Hope it works out for you

Posted by
5552 posts

I have friends who have used Transferwise to transfer money between American and French accounts, and they like the service. (I don't have any knowledge of it in relation to reserving accommodation.)

Posted by
631 posts

Like Joe, I think Transferwise is the lesser of your problems here.
what is the place and how did you find it?

Posted by
1410 posts

In 2013 two places I stayed required deposits by bank transfer. I ended up using 2 different banks. One charged $40, the other $30. In 2016 I discovered www.transferwise.com. The charge was around $5 and I think the exchange rate was better. I ended up paying the entire bill in advance at the three apartments rather than pay with ATM cash.

I had initially been leery about transferwise, but there was an excellent article about it in Forbes magazine which eased my concerns

Posted by
17021 posts

I think at least one person here has recommended using Transferwise to pay (some) European traffic fines.

Posted by
11681 posts

What kind of lodging is this ( hotel, Pensione, apartment) and where did you find it? VRBO, AirBnB and similar agencies specifically advise AGAINST paying by wire transfer. Their contract with the owner forbids it, and you lose all protection of going through the platform itself.

On the other hand, I have encountered small family-run hotels in various places (Dolomites, UK, Germany, and other places) that routinely require an advance deposit by wire transfer. While I do not find that troubling of itself--I trust their business practices -and honesty---it is still difficult for us. In most cases when I have explained the expense and difficulty, they have waived the requirement for us.

Posted by
3436 posts

As long as you are aware that wire transfers of any kind are one way transactions and you cannot get it reversed, then go for it.

I have read too many stories about people who find great sounding places to stay that demand a wire transfer to pre pay and then when they show up no one knows anything about any reservation. So just be sure before you do it.

Posted by
5017 posts

Update: TransferWise worked out great. I would certainly use this again and would recommend it.

Total cost to me was about US$8 (!) and it went through in less than one business day. Easy to set up, you can even pay with a credit card (for a fee). Cheap, quick, easy - hey, I like those.

As a comparison, I attempted to do the transfer on Saturday from my local credit union, a good CU for most things, but they totally failed at this. First I called their branch in advance before going there to ensure I had all the info I needed. Staff person there assured me the info I had was all I would need. I went in, they then demanded about 5 additional details about the recipient (the street address of their bank, for example) which I did not have. They were also going to charge me $50 for the transfer, couldn't promise what exchange rate they would use, and would impose a surcharge for taking dollars out of my account and converting to Euros before sending them. I was estimating the cost in the neighborhood of $70 (from a credit union). And it would take 5-7 business days.

Yes, I am well aware of the risks of pre-paying for any accommodation, I considered those risks and feel OK about it in this case. To answer questions: this is a small B&B/Pensione in a city on Sardinia (Italy). The B&B is in a 17th century building, deep in the city's old town and high up in that historic quarter, where there are only a few places to stay. It looks a little funky (hey, at 300 years old, we all are) and quite charming. Prices are reasonable, but not totally-crazy-too-good-to-be-true. I found it online using a big-name booking service. I see a hundred reviews (generally very positive) across a half-dozen different booking sites from the US and Europe. I am not naive about online reviews and I think I can usually spot fake news. If this turns out to be a scam, they've worked very hard and have done a good job. Anyway, I'm confident the place and the recipient are legit. And worst case, if we do get scammed, it's not a huge amount of money (3 nights at a fairly inexpensive place).

Bottom line to anyone who stumbles across this thread in the future: TransferWise worked great for me. I'd use it again in the future (but yes, always be careful before sending money to anyone). Hope this helps someone down the road. Cheers.

Posted by
11158 posts

Thanks for that feedback. As for what happened with your credit union, I've heard similar stories. It's not just that many US financial institutions will charge a fortune for an international wire transfer; they don't even know how to do it if you are willing to pay the fees.

Posted by
5017 posts

Just returned home from our trip last night, heres an update on the place that we booked online and then prepaid via TransferWise:

To answer questions: this is a small B&B/Pensione in a city on Sardinia (Italy). The B&B is in a 17th century building, deep in the city's old town and high up in that historic quarter, where there are only a few places to stay. It looks a little funky (hey, at 300 years old, we all are) and quite charming. Prices are reasonable, but not totally-crazy-too-good-to-be-true. I found it online using a big-name booking service. I see a hundred reviews (generally very positive) across a half-dozen different booking sites from the US and Europe. I am not naive about online reviews and I think I can usually spot fake news. If this turns out to be a scam, they've worked very hard and have done a good job. Anyway, I'm confident the place and the recipient are legit. And worst case, if we do get scammed, it's not a huge amount of money (3 nights at a fairly inexpensive place).

All was perfect, no issues at all.
This place was actually one of the highlights in an incredible trip - we LOVED staying in this place, it was amazing, magical, and inexpensive, too. Hard to beat that.

I would absolutely use TransferWise again in the future if I needed to do a "wire transfer" (with the caveats stated above about it being a one-way transaction so do your homework on the recipient). Great experience for me (no connection to them, just a satisfied customer).

Posted by
3436 posts

Thanks for reporting back. Glad to hear everything went well.

Posted by
11613 posts

Good to know. Some lodging requires a bank transfer, but many will waive it for non-European guests (the cost from the US can be more than a night's lodging at a B&B).

Booking through an accommodations website also solves the problem.

Posted by
5017 posts

Booking through an accommodations website also solves the problem.

Not always.

In my case (described above), I did book the room through a large, well-known accommodations website (one with lots of TV commercials). The payment terms were pre-payment only, and no credit cards. So, while it's often true that this isn't an issue when going through a booking service website, not always.