WorldFirst review — everything you need to know


Founded in the UK in 2004, WorldFirst is now a global business, offering foreign exchange services and international transfers, for personal and business customers, with a special service for online sellers. With WorldFirst you can transfer money to friends and loved ones around the world — as well as making business payments to suppliers, employees and clients in multiple currencies.¹

Before you choose a service for your international transactions, it’s a good idea to do some research to understand the benefits and costs of different providers. This guide covers all you need to know about making cross border transfers with World First, including:

  • How to get started with WorldFirst
  • The services available and the exchange rates used by WorldFirst
  • How long it takes to process a WorldFirst payment
  • Contact details for WorldFirst, in case you need further advice or information

We will also look at an alternative to WorldFirst, Wise, so you can compare the options and choose the right one for your needs.

WorldFirst basics

WorldFirst previously operated across all of North America, but ceased trading in the US in February 2019. As a result the North American version of the WorldFirst website is no longer available and Canadian customers are asked to visit the UK site instead.

WorldFirst is a currency broker, offering overseas business transfers, personal international payments and foreign currency accounts for online sellers. When you create an account you’ll select whether you’re interested in becoming a personal or business customer. This will dictate the services available to you.

You can send money internationally as a personal customer with no upfront fee. Instead, WorldFirst add a margin to the exchange rate they use, which they keep as profit. More on that later. Online sellers and business customers may pay an upfront fee as well as or instead of an exchange rate margin — this depends on the transaction type and how often you use the service.¹²³

In this article we will focus on the currency services available to personal customers.

What is sending money with WorldFirst like?

Before you choose a service for your international payment, you’ll want to consider the different aspects of the options available to you. Each provider will have a slightly different approach and their own fee structure, which can suit different customers, for example. With a bit of research you’ll be able to find the right one for you.

  • You can send money all over the world, in a broad range of currencies
  • With WorldFirst you can fix an exchange rate for a future date if you choose to
  • Same day payments are possible for some major currencies, as long as you meet cut off times
  • Listed as a Gold Trusted Service by Feefo, which collates user reviews
  • WorldFirst transfers must be at least £1,000 or the currency equivalent. Smaller transactions are not accepted
  • If you cancel a transaction you may lose out as there could be an administration fee as well as a charge to cover losses on the currency exchange
  • WorldFirst add a markup to the rate they offer, which forms their profit.
  • Transfers are available to bank accounts only — there is no option to send cash payments to a recipient
  • The length of time a transfer will take depends somewhat on the destination it’s headed to — your money may arrive on the same day, or take 4 working days for other countries

How does it work?

If you choose to make an international payment with WorldFirst, here’s what you’ll have to do:⁴

  • Open an account on the phone or online — this will take between 10 minutes and an hour on average for personal customers and longer for online sellers and business clients
  • Model the payment you want to make using the tools available online, and agree an exchange rate. The rate is then locked for long enough for you to send the money to WorldFirst for processing
  • Make your payment to WorldFirst online, using a bank transfer, debit card or payment method of your choice
  • Your payment is received by WorldFirst and they pass the transfer on to your recipient in your chosen currency

worldfirst currency exchange rates and fees

WorldFirst currency exchange rates and fees

There is no upfront fee when you use WorldFirst to make an international transfer, although because payments are processed using the SWIFT network, there may be correspondent bank costs to pay. We’ll cover them in a moment.

Instead of an upfront fee, WorldFirst take the mid-market rate — also known as the interbank rate — which they are given when they buy currency and add a markup before selling currency to customers. This is called a spread. Here’s how WorldFirst explain it:

“Interbank Rate is the rate that banks and large financial institutions use to trade with each other. It is not the same as the rate they offer you. They quote you a different rate and that's where they make their money. This is known as the spread, or the margin. We make our money by taking a smaller margin than the banks do and passing that saving on to you.”

You can find the mid-market rate for your currency pairing by using an online currency converter. This will let you see the markup or spread which has been added by WorldFirst, and allow you to compare the costs with other providers.

WorldFirst state that their spread is smaller than other banks. However, it’s helpful to know that not all international transfer services add a markup to the exchange rate used. Some services choose instead to use the interbank rate and charge a fee for currency conversion, making it easy to see the price you’re paying. Check out the price of making your transfer with an alternative provider like Wise, which uses the mid-market exchange rate and charges a low, separate fee for the payment.

The other thing to watch out for when using WorldFirst or other similar providers is extra fees added when the payment passes through the SWIFT network. These charges, known as correspondent fees, are levied by partner banks, which work with WorldFirst to move the money from your account to your recipient’s. Up to 3 banks can be involved in one transaction, much like if you were to take a flight with several connections before you reached your destination. Different banks take care of the payment at different times during processing — and charge a fee for doing so. WorldFirst cover the correspondent fee if they can, but you may find that some transactions cost more than expected thanks to these extra costs.

To avoid costs involved in the SWIFT network, and make your international payment using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, you could use an alternative provider like Wise.

You’ll be able to send and receive payments all over the world, using the exchange rate you’ll find on Google, for just a small fee. And if you choose to get a Transferwise borderless account it could be even easier to send international payments and manage your money across multiple currencies. Keep dozens of currencies in one account, and switch seamlessly between them, safe in the knowledge that your money is protected with bank level security, no matter what currency you hold it in.

WorldFirst money transfer locations

With WorldFirst you can send money to your friends and family all over the world. You can also make business payments, and open local currency accounts in major currencies if you’re an online seller. The full range of transfer locations is available online and includes:

  • Australia
  • France
  • Spain
  • New Zealand
  • UK
  • US

WorldFirst money transfer speed

When you agree a transfer, you’ll first have to send the money, which must be received and cleared by WorldFirst before it is passed to your recipient. That means that the length of time it takes for your transfer to be processed depends to an extent on how long your own bank takes to pass the funds to WorldFirst. Debit card or online/phone banking payments typically take the least time to reach Worldfirst, with BACS transfers taking the longest.

Processing is typically done on the same business day after the funds are received for USD and EUR payments, so your recipient could have their money within 1 business day. For other currencies, you can expect it to take 1 to 4 working days before the money arrives in your recipient’s account.

Ways to transfer your money

You can send your money using any of the following methods:

  • Debit card
  • Online or telephone banking
  • BACS payment
  • Direct debit
  • CHAPS payment

The money will then be paid directly into your recipient’s bank account in the agreed currency.

WorldFirst money tracking

Once your payment has been sent by WorldFirst to your recipient, you’ll be emailed a notification. It’ll then arrive in your recipient’s bank account with a reference number starting W-PAY, to make it easy to identify.

Customer experience

WorldFirst have a clear and simple to use website, which covers much of the information you’ll need to make a payment. You can also contact the team by phone or using the online chat options available on the website, if you have questions.

WorldFirst offer a number of specialist foreign exchange services, including international transfers in multiple currencies. Instead of charging a fee for this service, there’s a markup added to the exchange rate used, which WorldFirst state is lower than the markup typically used by banks and other providers. You can compare the exchange rates available with WorldFirst with the mid-market rate, using an online currency converter or simple Google search. This helps you to see the real costs of your international payment.

You can also compare the prices of making an international transfer with other providers, such as Wise, which processes international payments using the mid-market exchange rate and a low, upfront fee. See if you can save, today.



All sources last checked 21 April 2019

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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