A few months ago, I was accepted to Toptal, one of the best freelancing platforms in the world. It is known for its high standards and only 3% of applicants pass the interview process.
When I received the first payment from Toptal, I was looking for a way how to transfer the money from the internal Toptal Pay system to my bank account in Europe. I tried various ways in order to find the most optimal one I would use for all future transactions.
In the previous post, I covered very similar topic about transferring money from Fidelity NetBenefits. But Toptal Pay provides different ways how to withdraw money from it so I’m going to list all the options here even if I repeat myself. If you’re too busy to read the whole article, just jump to the last option which is the best one I’ve found so far.
Just to be clear, I haven’t tried the first two options myself since it seems like a waste of money. If anyone has done it and there’s something wrong with my description, let me know in a comment. I’ve tried to do my research but someone with an actual experience knows it better.
The first option that would probably come to your mind is to transfer money directly to your bank account. Although this is the fastest way how to get your money, it’s also the one where you lose the most.
First of all, your bank will charge you a fixed fee for receiving an international bank transfer. The exact amount largely depends on your bank but if you have a good one it can be close to nothing. For example, the bank where I have my primary account charges around €1 for such transactions but the other one I use charges up to €20. Toptal Pay also charges €1.25 for sending money to a bank account in the eurozone.
However, you will definitely lose much more on an exchange rate, especially if you transfer a large amount of money. It’s because banks use their own exchange rates to convert currencies and they’re far from the interbank exchange rate. For example, I would lose around 2% just on an exchange rate set by my bank.
Moreover, it seems that Toptal Pay supports transactions in only 10 currencies so you might not be able to use this method at all if you don’t have a bank account in any of them.
The second option it to transfer your money through PayPal. In this case, Toptal Pay charges you a $0.95 fee and then you can send the money from PayPal to your bank account for free.
What’s the catch? Based on your PayPal account currency, there is going to be a currency conversion in either the first or the second transaction. And since PayPal is known for the worst exchange rates on the market, you would lose at least 2.5% on that. So it’s even worse than the first option.
The third option is to use a service like Revolut. I mostly use it for physical card payments abroad, internet payments by a virtual card or to split bills with my friends. But it’s also a great way how to convert currencies since it uses the interbank exchange rate during the workweek (Monday to Friday GMT) and charges just 0.5% over a weekend.
You can have multiple accounts in different currencies in a Revolut mobile app. You’re able to easily transfer money between these accounts and you can also make a bank transfer to/from a given account. Those transfers are in most cases domestic ones so they are free.
However, Revolut doesn’t offer US bank account numbers to their customers based in Europe so all bank transfers from/to your USD account are processed by a UK or EU bank. If you try to send money from Toptal Pay to your Revolut USD account, a transaction will get reverted because of some Toptal Pay policies.
The only way how to get money from Toptal Pay directly to Revolut is to create a prepaid Toptal Visa card and use it to top up your Revolut USD account. But since this card has not been issued within the EEA, Revolut charges a small fee which was exactly 1.67% in my case.
Then you can exchange the money within the Revolut app using the interbank exchange rate (during the workweek!) and send it to your bank account as a domestic bank transfer. All this should be free if Revolut has a bank account in your country and your bank doesn’t charge you for incoming domestic transfers.
The fourth option is to use TransferWise, a service that offers a Borderless account for transferring money between different countries. TransferWise has an actual bank account in more countries than Revolut (including US) so you can make a domestic bank transfer for free (except for Toptal Pay fees).
TransferWise also uses the interbank exchange rate and it only charges a small fee for converting currencies. It is very transparent about the fee and you can always see the exact amount before you execute a transaction. In my case, the fee was around 0.5% so it might not be the best option if you need to exchange large amounts of money.
If you try to add your TransferWise USD bank account number as a new transfer method in Toptal Pay, make sure you choose United States, USD, and Bank Account method. There is only a small $0.50 fee for ACH transfer charged by Toptal Pay. However, if you chose Wire Transfer method, you would pay a $10 transfer fee.
TransferWise + Revolut
The last and the best option is to use a combination of TransferWise and Revolut. The former one provides free domestic bank transfers in many countries while the latter one enables you to exchange currencies for free using the interbank exchange rate (during the workweek). So how can you combine these two services to avoid almost all fees?
TransferWise allows you to order their debit card for £5 which can then be used to pay with any currencies in your account. On the other hand, Revolut enables you to top up your account by a European debit card for free. Do you see where I’m going here?
You can send money from Toptal Pay to your TransferWise USD account for $0.50 (Toptal Pay fee) since it is a domestic bank transfer. Then you can top up your Revolut USD account by a TransferWise debit card for free as it is a payment in the same currency. Revolut will tell you it’s not (because the card is actually in GBP) but don’t be afraid to proceed with the payment. There are truly no fees. Finally, you just need to convert currency within the Revolut app and send the money to your bank account.
The only problem is that Revolut sets card top-up limits by a special algorithm to avoid money laundering. It will allow you to only top up your account by a relatively small amount when you add a new card. They won’t tell you where exactly your 24-hour limit is and you’ll need to find it by trying smaller and smaller amounts. In my case it was $300. But I made a mistake and topped up my account every 24 hours. One day, I forgot about it and when I then tried again after 32 hours, I was able to transfer all my money and I haven’t hit the limit since then. So try to play with it and don’t just emulate a money-laundering machine by making one transaction every 24 hours.
And don’t forget that there is both a 24-hour and a 30-day online payment limit on your TransferWise debit card. But you can easily change the default one to the maximum amount in a mobile app.
This article was written at the times when Revolut Standard allowed around €6000 of exchanges at the interbank exchange rate without any fees. But this limit has been lowered to just €1000 so the situation has changed a little bit.
If you exchange less than $2850 a month, you will be fine using just Revolut Standard. You can either exchange part of it in Revolut and the rest in TransferWise (since all money needs to go through TransferWise anyway) or you can simply send everything to Revolut. It doesn’t really matter since both TransferWise and Revolut Standard charges the same 0.5% fee.
If for some reason you need to save your Revolut currency exchange limit for other transactions (e.g. online purchases in foreign currencies) then you might want to use just TransferWise to transfer your salary from Toptal Pay. But with 0.5% TransferWise fee this is only worth it if you transfer up to $20k a year.
In all other cases, you will be better off paying for Revolut Premium plan with unlimited currency exchange. Let’s say you earn $100k a year and you transfer all money to your European bank account every month. In such case, you will save around $330 a year with TransferWise + Revolut Premium compared to TransferWise + Revolut Standard and $400 compared to using just TransferWise alone. Go buy yourself something nice with the money you save.