My company and I bank with Wise and today, while doing a routine check of exchange rates, Wise’s UI scared the hell out of me. Fortunately, they were able to explain why it looked like their web site was bothering to throwing away the paltry sum of $10 on a currency conversion. They weren’t. It’s fine; it’s just a questionable user experience.

Please note: I have notified Wise customer support about this. Maybe they’ll do something to make it better. I’m guessing that they’ve had non-trivial internal discussion about the tension between a cleaner UI and a more-transparent UI. The ball is firmly in their court now.

The Symptom

I visited Wise’s “Convert Money” feature to see what they would give me in CAD for all the USD in my account. Their UI helpfully shows the conversion like this:

USD amount
- our fees
x exchange rate
= the CAD we would deposit into your account

I really like how clearly they present their calculation. There was only one problem: the CAD amount didn’t match the calculation. It was a difference of about $10, which is not a large amount, but is enough to look like a hidden fee, rather than a computation error. Wise’s brand is fee transparency as well as keeping fees low.

The Impact

Was there some hidden fee I didn’t know about?! Did Wise forget how to do arithmetic?! I expect them to get it right to the penny. Every. Single Time. It’s what I pay every bank for. Whatever the explanation, there is some part of my psyche that now trusts them less. I can’t be the only person.

The Problem

Wise reports the exchange rate rounded to four decimal places, however, they apply a more-precise exchange rate. When the amount to convert is large enough, a difference of 0.00005 becomes noticeable, and when they round up, it looks like I’m not getting all my money, even though I am.

The Solution

I told Wise customer support what psychological effect this experience had on me, notably on my perception of their brand. Now it’s on me to remember this for the future as well as on them to decide whether a slightly cleaner UI is worth scaring a segment of their customer base. It has become a business decision for them. I did my duty and reported the issue; I also did my best to present my opinion without undue drama.

And I believe my heart rate is all the way back to normal.