The Sendwave (formerly Wave) app offers a secure way to transfer funds almost instantly to a mobile money account using your debit card — but for now it only works in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria or Tanzania.
$999 a day; $2,999 a month
Bank debit card
KES, UGX, GHS, TZS, NGN
Fees and exchange rates
No transaction fees; exchange rate markup of 2% to 3.5%
Customer service options
How much will I pay to send money with Sendwave?
Sendwave is one of those rare services that doesn’t charge transfer fees. Instead, it makes money by offering you slightly worse than the mid-market rate when you exchange currency.
The mid-market rate is what your money’s worth compared to another currency. For example, the mid-market rate for dollars to euros could be 1 USD = 0.95 EUR.
Charging above the mid-market rate means a company will convert your money for less than it’s really worth — reducing the exchange rate to 1 USD = 0.90 EUR, for example.
Keep in mind that big players like Western Union and MoneyGram make money on both exchange rate spreads and fees that can be higher for specific types of transactions, like paying with your debit card. With Sendwave, you cut out the fee altogether.
How are Sendwave’s exchange rates?
Depending on your recipient’s currency, you’ll see a spread on the mid-market rate that appears to top out at about 3.5%.
To give you an idea of what you could pay on the exchange rate, here’s what Sendwave advertised at the time of this writing:
Sendwave’s exchange rate
1 USD = 102.92 KES
1 USD = 99.97 KES
1 USD = 3,593.50 UGX
1 USD = 3,500 UGX
1 USD = 4.38 GHS
1 USD = 4.29 GHS
1 USD = 2,244.82 TZS
1 USD = 2,168 TZS
1 USD = 363 NG
1 USD = 352 NG
What does this mean?
According to the mid-market rate, 1 USD is worth 102.92 Kenyan shilling (KES). Yet when you transfer through Sendwave, 1 USD is worth 99.97 KES. Here’s what that looks like when sending $100:
Your money is actually worth $100 x 102.92 = 10,292 KES.
Instead, your recipient receives $100 x 99.97 = 9,997 KES.
Sendwave profits the difference of 295 KES — or about $2.80.
How does Sendwave compare to other services?
Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
What types of transfers does Sendwave support?
Sendwave supports only debit card payments to mobile money accounts in Africa. You can send as little as $1 through Sendwave to Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania and Nigeria.
At the time of writing, Sendwave supports transferring your cash to M-Pesa, MTN and Airtel mobile money accounts, with plans to add others as it expands into other countries.
How do I send money through Sendwave?
Download the Sendwave app for iOS and Android and register for a free account. You can start sending money immediately — just enter your recipient’s name and phone number.
How do I track my Sendwave transfer?
Once the recipient receives your transfer, Sendwave emails you confirmation. And you’ll see your transfer marked Funds Delivered in the app’s transaction tab.
Benefits and drawbacks
Mobile app. No need for a desktop, you can transfer funds straight from your smartphone.
Easy signup. To get started, submit your name, email and phone number on Sendwave’s site.
Low minimum transfer. Transfer as little as $1.
Quick transfers. According to Sendwave, transfers are instant.
Only for mobile. Sendwave is a mobile-only app.
Not for all African countries. Currently, you can only send money to Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania.
No credit card or PayPal payments. Load funds from a debit card only.
How safe is Sendwave?
Sendwave is a licensed money transmitter in every country it operates in. It encrypts transactions through a 128-bit connection and doesn’t store your personal or financial info in its databases.
To get started with Sendwave, download the app on your mobile device. Then sign up for an account and enter your recipient’s contact details to send money.
If you need help at any point in the process, email email@example.com.
Sendwave is a simple way to get money to African countries not often served by other money transfer services. It charges no fees to transfer funds directly to mobile money accounts — and it’s as easy sending a text.
Frequently asked questions
Sendwave has chosen not to accept credit cards or PayPal because both options cost the company processing fees. According to the company, accepting only debit cards allows it to keep costs low and pass savings on to consumers.
Yes. As long as your funds aren’t yet transferred to your recipient’s mobile wallet, you can cancel a transaction through the app.
Easily text or call Sendwave through its mobile app.
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards, banking and investments writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Lifehacker and CreditCards.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order and expertly navigate the cutting-edge financial tools available -- including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.
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