Lonely Planet Writer

New currency swap app aims to cut out hefty bank charges for travellers

Everybody who travels regularly has at some stage fallen victim to extortionate exchange rates at a bureau de change.

No more bureau de change?
No more bureau de change? Image by epSos.de / CC BY 2.0

So what if you could exchange currency directly with real people, cutting out the middle man and the potential for exorbitant fees? That’s the thinking behind WeSwap, a “people’s currency exchange” that connects travellers to each other via an app so that they can swap their money at real life exchange rates, without a massive cut being taken by a bank.

For example, a tourist from London on his way to New York wants to swap his GB£500 for US dollars so what could be simpler than pairing him with a US traveller heading in the opposite direction who is looking for sterling? Jared Jesner, the company’s chief executive, explained to Lonely Planet: “We see ourselves as the people’s currency exchange … WeSwap lets people swap currency directly with other travellers at the fairest possible rates, simply and without stress. At the moment, we support eighteen currencies and help travellers from ten countries get a better deal versus traditional travel money exchangers.”

The currencies available spread across most of the English-speaking world with the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all covered. The euro is also included as are other major world currencies for Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, and Israel. Mr Jesner said: “We give our users a WeSwap MasterCard linked to the app, so travellers have full visibility and control over their currencies. We really believe that sourcing currency from people is far better than sourcing currency from banks.” He said the company was constantly looking at new markets to expand so if the currency you are looking for is not available yet, that may well change in time.

The idea is proving incredibly popular and while WeSwap takes a 1% commission from each trade, that is far lower than the rates charged by traditional foreign exchange merchants. The company does not give detailed figures on its business but says millions of pounds are already being swapped each month using the app.