We’re doing so much more on mobile these days than merely keeping connected with friends and family. And app-based money transfers certainly aren’t new.
But what about apps that specifically serve the “unbanked” — or the largely underserved population of consumers who just don’t have access to the banking options we’re used to?
That’s where Wave comes in. It’s a app that lets you transfer money nearly instantly to African mobile money accounts using your debit card. And it’s as simple to use as sending a text.
|Maximum transfer||$999 a day; $2,999 a month|
|Transfer methods||Debit card|
|Available currencies||KES, UGX, GHS, TZS|
|Fees and exchange rates||No transaction fees; exchange rate markup of 2% to 3.5%|
|Customer service options||Text, phone|
How much will I pay to send money with Wave?
Wave 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.
Pro tipThe 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.
How are Wave’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 Wave advertised at the time of this writing:
|Mid-market rate||Wave’s exchange rate||Markup|
|Kenya||1 USD = 102.92 KES||1 USD = 99.97 KES||2.9%|
|Uganda||1 USD = 3,593.50 UGX||1 USD = 3,500 UGX||2.6%|
|Ghana||1 USD = 4.38 GHS||1 USD = 4.29 GHS||2.1%|
|Tanzania||1 USD = 2,244.82 TZS||1 USD = 2,168 TZS||3.4%|
What does this mean?
According to the mid-market rate, 1 USD is worth 102.92 Kenyan shilling (KES). Yet when you transfer through Wave, 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.
Wave profits the difference of 295 KES — or about $2.80.
How does Wave compare to other services?
What types of transfers does Wave support?
Wave supports only debit card payments to mobile money accounts in Africa. You can send as little as $1 through Wave to Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania.
At the time of writing, Wave 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 Wave?
Download the Wave 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 Wave transfer?
Once the recipient receives your transfer, Wave 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 Wave’s site.
- Low minimum transfer. Transfer as little as $1.
- Quick transfers. According to Wave, transfers are instant.
- Only for mobile. Wave is a mobile-only app.
- Not for all African countries. Currently, you can send money to Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania only.
- No credit card or PayPal payments. Load funds from a debit card only.
How safe is Wave?
Wave 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 Wave, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wave 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.