WorldFirst Review [2022]: Features, Fees & Alternatives

Does WorldFirst live up to its world first name in Hong Kong?

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    There are a sea of fintech and bank options out there for businesses to choose from. Picking the best provider for international money transfers requires more detail than a rating out of 5 stars. As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail.

    To help you understand the best option for your money, we have reviewed WorldFirst, a payment services provider based in the UK.

    We look at who can get a WorldFirst account, their products on offer, fees charged, and the level of customer service. We also compare our WorldFirst review with Statrys, to help you understand which provider might suit your business.

    Please note, that WorldFirst is a global business offering a range of different products specific to each country. To simplify things, our review will focus on WorldFirst’s international money transfer solutions for businesses based in Hong Kong. 

    What is WorldFirst bank?

    We will get to the bank part in a second. But first, a little about WorldFirst. 

    WorldFirst was founded in the UK in 2004, making it one of the oldest fintech going around. It gradually expanded around the world and in 2019 joined the Chinese conglomerate, the Ant Group. The Ant Group is a subsidiary of Alibaba and is one of the largest fintech in the world.

    WorldFirst is now a global payment service business with over 600 employees. Its headquarters are in the UK, and it has additional offices in Australia, the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Netherlands, Japan, and Korea. [1]

    Now for the bank part. WorldFirst is not actually a bank. It is a payment service provider. Like a bank, the company provides money transfer services across international borders. But unlike a bank, WorldFirst is not licensed to accept deposits and make loans. [2]

    To ensure they comply with the regulatory authorities, WorldFirst holds registrations, licenses, and authorizations in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands, UK, Canada, Australia, and the UAE. These regulations help to ensure fintech like WorldFirst follows standards that ensure the safety and security of your money.

    WorldFirst offers an account for making payments, an account for collecting payments from e-commerce platforms, and a world account for B2B customers to receive and make payments. See the WorldFirst products section below for more.

    Requirements for opening a business account

    If you are an individual or business based in Hong Kong or mainland China, you can sign up for a WorldFirst account. 

    From what we can see, businesses need to provide evidence they are registered or incorporated. This is not totally clear, so be sure to confirm the list of requirements with WorldFirst before registering for an account.

    You cannot open a business account if your business operates in a prohibited industry. See below for a complete list. [3]

    Examples of prohibited industries include counterfeit and replica goods, illegal drugs, pornographic products or services, cryptocurrencies, and animals, pets or wildlife.

    You are also prohibited from opening an account if your business is based in Iran, Cuba, Crimea, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and South Sudan. This is to comply with UN sanctions and the regulations of the UK, US, and other countries. 

    How to apply for a business account

    The sign up process for a WorldFirst account can be done online. WorldFirst says it should take up to 10 minutes, provided you have the necessary documents ready to go.

    Required documents include a certificate of incorporation or registration or a copy of your business profile and a photocopy of an identity document.

    You need to follow these steps to register online with WorldFirst:

    1. Go to WorldFirst’s homepage and click “register”

    2. Select from three business solutions

    3. Select the country where your business is incorporated or registered

    4. A one-time password will then be sent to the email you provided

    5. Verify your mobile number

    6. Upload your certificate of incorporation or registration, or a copy of a business profile

    7. Describe the nature of your business activities and where you will be receiving and sending money from

    8. Upload a photocopy of an identity document 

    9. Scan your face and upload it to finalize the application.

    After WorldFirst has verified your identity, the company says your account will be ready to make money transfers within an hour.

    You will need to upload all the requested documents, otherwise, you won’t be able to gain access to a WorldFirst account.

    WorldFirst products

    Business account 

    WorldFirst offers three accounts for different purposes. They are:

    1. Payments account - for making payments

    2. E-commerce collection account - for receiving payments from online marketplaces

    3. World account - for B2B companies wanting to receive and make international payments.

    We wanted to provide as much detail as possible for each of these account offerings, particularly around account details, restrictions and currencies supported. However, we found the WorldFirst website does not offer a lot of information. As a result, parts of this product review are likely to be incomplete.

    1. Payment account

    The Payment account offers you the ability to make a WorldFirst money transfer at foreign exchange rates more competitive than those offered by banks.

    One of the most often heard complaints among international business owners operating across borders is that banks charge too much for international payments. Fintechs like WorldFirst seek to provide a cheaper and faster service. 

    To send money with the Payment account, the amount must be at least HKD10,000 (or the equivalent). You can send payments to any beneficiary in the world, according to WorldFirst, but you may need to check if a country is eligible with WorldFirst before making your money transfers. [4]

    2. E-commerce collection account

    The E-commerce collection account enables customers to collect funds from sales made on online marketplaces. It is targeted at global businesses and online sellers.

    An E-commerce collection account is a local currency account that can be based in the UK, USA, Europe, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

    worldfirst e-commerce collection account

    You can only receive funds from online marketplaces in these countries. For example, with a Hong Kong e-commerce collection account, you can receive money from online marketplaces based in Hong Kong, but you cannot receive money from an online marketplace in the Philippines or Thailand.

    The currency of your collection account is the currency of the country the account is located in. 

    For example, if you have a US collections account, the currency of that account will be USD.

    WorldFirst offers the ability to transfer money between collection accounts instantly. For example, AUD funds from a collection account in Australia can be transferred to HKD in your Hong Kong collection account. 

    This service looks easy to use and we assume there is no fee charged for these money transfer services, but check with WorldFirst.

    The exchange rate for a transfer is likely to be a mid-market rate, which is the midpoint between the buy and sell prices for the two currencies.

    3. World account

    The World Account is the multi-currency account for B2B companies. 

    With this account, B2B clients can receive and send funds in GBP, USD, EUR, CAD, JPY, AUD, SGD, NZD, HKD and CNH.

    You can receive payments via payment methods supported by WorldFirst. It might be wise to check that WorldFirst supports the payment methods your business uses.

    You can transfer money instantly within the World account provided the accounts are in EUR, USD or GBP. If you hold another currency in your World account, you will not be able to convert it to another currency. [5]

    Cards

    WorldFirst does not offer payment cards (i.e. credit cards) in Hong Kong.

    Foreign exchange 

    WorldFirst offers foreign exchange services for a range of currencies around the world. To find out if they support the currencies you want to transfer money overseas in, we recommend getting in touch with them.

    With WorldFirst, you can choose to convert money at spot exchange rates or exchange rates determined under forward contracts. A spot rate is the market rate at the time of processing. Under forward contracts, exchange rates are fixed for a future period of time based on a minimum volume of currency.

    The company says its fees for an exchange rate transaction are lower than the commissions charged by banks. From our review of their site, we could not find out how they determine these exchange rates and what, if any, additional fees apply. You could try asking WorldFirst for this information. 

    Fees charged by WorldFirst

    As we discovered with other topics, the WorldFirst website is limited in the information it provides about fees.

    For businesses, they have an arrangement where pricing is agreed upon once you become a client. We find this approach lacks transparency and completeness, as businesses and online sellers do not know what they will be charged upfront and cannot compare WorldFirst’s offer with other payment providers.

    Pricing and pricing structures can change over time, so be sure to check the WorldFirst website for the latest information. 

    Here’s what we found.

    Fees

    Account opening Free
    Monthly maintenance fee Free
    To receive money Free
    To send money Free
    To send money from WorldFirst to a bank May be fees but not disclosed
    World Account May be fees but not disclosed
    Foreign exchange rate margin 0.6% or less

    Foreign exchange fees

    For foreign exchange services, WorldFirst says it offers great rates with no hidden fees. By their estimates, savings are in the 0.25% to 4% ballpark, depending on the amount transacted. The company says it tries to cover charges from the bank for transferring money, but it does not guarantee this. They also say that if a competitor offers a better rate, they will match it. [2]

    Getting in touch with WorldFirst

    Given some of the limited information on their website, we recommend contacting a WorldFirst Hong Kong representative before registering for an account.

    You can get in touch with them using the chatbox on their website, by email (Clientsupport@worldfirst.com.cn), or by calling them at +852 3002 4499. [6]

    WorldFirst vs Statrys

    Getting the best solution for your money transfer activity is an important choice. The best provider will depend on the nature of your business. 

    To help you get a clearer picture of your options in Hong Kong, we compare our WorldFirst review with Statrys on products, pricing, and customer support. 

    Please note, this comparison is a guide only for businesses based in Hong Kong. Make sure you read the fine print for each offering to determine the best match for your company. 

    Product

    WorldFirst’s E-Commerce collection account is ideally suited to businesses selling online who regularly receive payments in local currency from online marketplaces.

    Online sellers can hold multiple collection accounts in the UK, USA, Europe, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. If you sell products or services in those countries or regions, you could be better off with WorldFirst.

    If you conduct business primarily in Europe, Statrys offers a EURO IBAN account which allows you to transfer funds between SEPA countries without charge. This makes Statrys a more attractive option. 

    Unlike WorldFirst, Statrys also offers clients payment cards, giving business owners more flexibility when it comes to making payments. If a payment card is important to you and your employees, you might be better off with Statrys.

    Fees

    As mentioned in the Fees section above, WorldFirst provides scarce information about their pricing structure. Before proceeding with them, contact a WorldFirst representative in Hong Kong to get more information.

    Without a clear view of WorldFirst’s pricing, it is difficult to compare it with Statrys. 

    You can, however, clearly see what Statrys charges for its various services on its pricing page. Statrys aims to be transparent about its fees, so clients know the costs involved and can determine the best option for their business.

    Customer support

    The international payments world can throw up unexpected challenges. Having strong customer support can help you minimize frustration and administration time. 

    WorldFirst offers support in the form of a chatbox, email address, and phone. Statrys provides similar contact options, plus the ability to contact them via Whatsapp and WeChat, a handy addition if you use those platforms. 

    We could not find any mention of a dedicated account manager on the WorldFirst website. Statrys, we believe, is the only fintech offering a dedicated account manager with response times in minutes, not hours or days. 

    For faster response times and greater flexibility around communication, Statrys appears to be a stronger option. 

    Read what Statrys customers have to say on the Statrys reviews page.

    Ready to set up a Statrys account? Chat with one of our friendly customer representatives.

    Final note

    Anything we missed? Drop us a message and we will do our best to make the review even more comprehensive.

    This review is based on information available on the WorldFirst Hong Kong website as of September 2022.

    Sources

    Disclaimer

    This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Statrys Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

    Currenxie and the Airwallex logo are trademarks of Airwallex Limited, registered in the Hong Kong SAR China and other countries and regions.

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