Finding a good deal when it comes to foreign currency is a tricky business. Everywhere claims to be cheap but there is actually a major discrepancy from provider to provider.
Even ‘trusted’ British institutions such as the Post Office and Marks and Spencer’s are hiding fees and ultimately profiting from us travellers exchanging our hard-earned money.
Many travellers who don’t go to the high-street are also in the habit of taking their UK bank card away. Not a good move either. As well as a poor rate, you’ll be charged a percentage for each transaction as well as other fees like using ATMs.
Unaware of all these nasty add-ons, it’s not until we get home we realise how much we’ve wasted.
WeSwap, the world’s first peer-to-peer travel money platform, are looking to shift the balance of power away from banks and bureaux and back into the hands of ordinary travellers.
CEO and founder Jared Jesner said that the Fintech start-up – which just raised £2.4m in crowdfunding – were looking to make “travel money fair again”.
So how, exactly, are they doing that?
The first thing that WeSwap is big on is transparency. That means the fees they charge will always be clear and always fair.
Money is swapped at the mid-market exchange rate and a flat fee is added depending on how quickly you need the swap. 1.4% for instant exchange (AKA swap), 1.3% for a three-day swap and just 1% if you give them a week.
The reason for a disparity in rates depending on the time, is that WeSwap is finding a traveller heading in the opposite direction to swap your money with.
That’s the peer-to-peer part. And like Airbnb and Uber before it, this looks a great example of when a social p-2-p business works perfectly.
Because your money is literally being swapped, it means WeSwap can afford to make their service cheaper than competitors.
The first thing is overheads. WeSwap is a digital business and the swapping platform is already built.
Take somewhere like the post office. They need to buy their foreign currency from a trader and then sell it on again to the consumer. They’re obviously not going to make a loss. And what about the staff they need to employ in their shops, and what about the huge insurance required?
So what’s next for WeSwap?
Improvement, growth and expansion.
WeSwap are on a mission to “get the world swapping” which, of course, makes total sense.
Their community of swappers is already on the right side of 200,000 but the more travellers they can get using the platform the cheaper travel money becomes.
Obviously to grow and for the technology to shine, WeSwap needs travellers from all around the globe swapping currency with one another. The potential for scalability is vast.
And the great thing is that whilst this all sounds fairly complicated – from a customer perspective WeSwap is easy to use.
You just sign up for a card online and the WeSwap MasterCard gets posted to your door within 5 working days.
Even before it’s arrived you can load up your card using your debit card and then you swap into whichever of the 18 currencies you need.
You can store more than one currency on the card at any one time and when you’re abroad you will use the card just like you would with a debit card in the UK – you either spend with the card over the counter, or you withdraw from an ATM. Simple.
It’s also worth mentioning the crowdfunding round which only finished last month in November to give an idea into how much their community, and others, obviously believe in what they’re doing.
Over the course of three weeks, 3,000 travellers invested in WeSwap. That is the most investors that crowdfunding partner Seedrs had ever had in a UK round.
Over £2.4 million was raised and the North London-based company are set to use the money for further growth and expansion in 2017, with Asia ear-marked as the next big move.
Hopefully this is the start in a shift of power away from the big banks and back to regular travellers who just want a fair rate on their travel money.
Watch this space, the WeSwap community is growing.