Personal Finance

Our experience with Transferwise - it's legitimate but sketchy and discriminatory

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  • Jul 29th, 2020 10:04 am
[OP]
Deal Addict
Apr 26, 2007
1564 posts
96 upvotes

Our experience with Transferwise - it's legitimate but sketchy and discriminatory

My friends, family, and I have been using Transferwise to move money from Asia to Canada.

We like Transferwise because of its speed, simplicity, and low cost.

When you hit an issue, however, that’s when they really show their true color. Their customer service is downright frustrating, slow, and unhelpful.

We wanted to share a coupe of our stories, so you know what you’re getting into before you use their service.

My mom ran into an issue with a money transfer because her Asia identity document includes her maiden name and her Canadian identity document includes her married name. The money was out of the Asia account and was with Transferwise. We understood that this could be a problem and were willing to work with them toward a resolution. This is where things blew up:
* We offered two ways to resolve this: 1. we could provide other identity documents to show that my mom is indeed my mom, or 2. simply refund the money back to the account
* We figured the fastest way to ask for advice on how to resolve this issue is by calling their customer service hotline. Since my mom doesn’t speak any English, I offered to the customer service team that they could go through identity verification with my mom, and then she would give me the authorization to speak on her behalf. The customer service representative impolitely rejected the request and directed me to use email
* Their customer service team was very slow to respond to email. Every update took at least a full business day
* They told us the money couldn’t be refunded because their system was unable to move the money back to the Asia account. This is Transferwise’s problem and they insisted that we needed with our bank in Asia to resolve the problem
* After going back and forth for two weeks, most of which was spent waiting for a response from Transferwise, I stood firm and told Transferwise that this was their problem and they needed to fix it
* Transferwise then asked for a bunch of other identity documents from my mom
* The whole experience was very frustrating because each response is owned by a different customer service representative, who clearly didn’t bother to read the history of the case. I had to repeat myself and remind them what we tried every time
* At the end, they were able to fix the problem on their end and issued the refund back to the account
* It took them nearly five weeks to simply refund the money back to the account

I’ve been referring friends to Transferwise as a fast and low-cost way to move their money around the world, primarily from Asia to Canada. Transferwise has a referral program where you receive a reward of $115 CAD for every three referrals that transfer over a certain amount of money. After receiving my sixth reward, I received an email from their customer service team that my (and my only) referral program has changed. They placed me into a one-off referral program where I would receive a 15 GBP discount with future money transfers for every successful referral. **This practice is discriminatory, and it reminds me of cost-saving techniques used by sketchy companies that will go out of their way to save some money.
* I’ve since asked them to provide a reason behind placing me into a one-off referral tier. I’ll update this thread when I receive an update.

I hope this helps paint a picture of the company and the potential issues you may run into when you use Transferwise.
9 replies
Deal Addict
May 16, 2017
2364 posts
3086 upvotes
I think you encountered a unique but recognizable issue with inconsistent identity documents. I don't see a problem with Transferwise requiring proper vetting of those documents, the delay is certainly excessive.

However, I fail to see anything "discriminatory" in your second issue. The issue COULD be changing terms and conditions without proper notice but then again, it appears Transferwise retains the right to alter the referral program at any time, so that likely won't apply.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Apr 26, 2007
1564 posts
96 upvotes
Fair comments, thank you Robsaw.

Like I shared in my post, we understood the identity documents could be an issue. However, the way they handled the situation left a lot to be desired. It took Transferwise five weeks to issue a simple refund to the transfer, while insisting for weeks that the problem was on the bank’s end.

On the second issue. I'm aware that there are clauses in most T&C indicating that the referral program could change at any time. I’ve been referring legitimate businesses to the platform. It felt discriminatory to me because for the work that I’ve been doing, I’m penalized for being perceived as receiving “too much” referral bonuses, an amount less than $700 CAD. For a company the size of Transferwise, transferring millions of dollars a day, I certainly expected better.
robsaw wrote: I think you encountered a unique but recognizable issue with inconsistent identity documents. I don't see a problem with Transferwise requiring proper vetting of those documents, the delay is certainly excessive.

However, I fail to see anything "discriminatory" in your second issue. The issue COULD be changing terms and conditions without proper notice but then again, it appears Transferwise retains the right to alter the referral program at any time, so that likely won't apply.
Deal Addict
User avatar
May 8, 2004
3820 posts
2174 upvotes
Toronto
You referred 18 people and made $690 from TW... and I bet all 18 of them are doing the $10K from HK to Canada (they will probably never use TW again) so TW is losing money from you...

You'll probably argue that, hey if you can't afford it then don't offer this promotion but I'm pretty sure TW didn't expect people to use them solely for transferring the 10K over.
Deal Addict
User avatar
May 8, 2004
3820 posts
2174 upvotes
Toronto
It's like if I abused the ZA referral thing and referred 1000 people (200 x 1000 = $200000) (which is not that that hard, I can just post on a Yellow forum saying I want to f*k over the China bank). I'm sure they will stop me way before I get to $200K.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Jan 27, 2004
50001 posts
14046 upvotes
ONTARIO
Homer88 wrote: You referred 18 people and made $690 from TW... and I bet all 18 of them are doing the $10K from HK to Canada (they will probably never use TW again) so TW is losing money from you...

You'll probably argue that, hey if you can't afford it then don't offer this promotion but I'm pretty sure TW didn't expect people to use them solely for transferring the 10K over.
Usually in the fine print is something along the lines of “offer subject to change at any time without notice”.

They’re really only intended to be used maybe a few times. But i guess if you somehow got a million people to join, they probably won’t pay that out.
Member
Jan 21, 2012
326 posts
879 upvotes
VANCOUVER
People on this forum need to stop calling every case-specific customer service issue “discrimination.”
Deal Addict
May 16, 2017
2364 posts
3086 upvotes
lc39nav wrote: People on this forum need to stop calling every case-specific customer service issue “discrimination.”
True, but we also need to understand the meaning of the term "discrimination" or "discriminatory" in the appropriate context of contract law or human rights legislation:
- Clearly, an action against a person influenced by their PROTECTED personal characteristics isn't legal - I see no suggestion of that in this case.
- Under general contract law, a contractual term or action that treats a party differently from other parties to the same or similar contract based upon their characteristic or circumstances could be deemed "unduly discriminatory" and disallowed. We're talking about characteristics in the context of a business relationship not personal characteristics.

In the latter, prices could be different between one customer and another based upon total business volume. That is discriminatory but not "unduly" so.

So, the question in this case is was the OP singled-out for a change in their referral program or would the same change be applied to anyone that engaged in similar conduct? If the latter, then there is no discrimination and the only question remaining is whether the unilateral change in program is unreasonable?

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