WorldFirst Review: Businesses & Online Sellers Only

By 
Alon Rajic
Last Edited Sep 06, 2023

WorldFirst does not accept private clients. View popular WorldFirst alternatives here.

Should I Use WorldFirst?

Pros:

  • Expansive Offering for Ecommerce and Business Clients
  • Do Business Like a Local - Accounts Held In-Country
  • No Minimum Limits (New from 2022)
  • Accepts Business Clients From a Wide Number of Asian Countries
  • Very Tech Oriented with Multiple API Integrations

Cons:

  • Chinese Owned
  • Not Accepting Private Customers
  • Not Accepting US Customers
  • Heavy Staff Turnover in Recent Years
  • Less Positive Customer Reviews Since Acquisition by Alipay

Services Offered by WorldFirst

Transfer Money Abroad to a Bank Account (only SME and corporate clients)  + 4

Official Website:

Overall rating67.0%
  • star-100
  • star-100
  • star-0
  • star-0
  • star-0
Updated on Sep 06, 2023
Aggregated User Votes
thumbs-up8451
thumbs-down376

Current Rates?

🏆 4 Industry Awards (2016-2021)

Where is WorldFirst Available?

This review of WorldFirst –  consisting of WorldFirst UK Limited, WorldFirst Pty Ltd (Australia), WorldFirst Asia Ltd, WorldFirst Asia Pte. Ltd and WorldFirst Netherlands B.V. – will truly get under the hood of this money transfer service. We’ll detail WorldFirst’s FX margins, explain how safe it is to use WorldFirst, and provide a thorough analysis of WorldFirst client reviews.

😲 WorldFirst no Longer Accepting Private Clients: 😲

Following a 2020 announcement, WorldFirst stopped accepting private clients. Existing private clients of WorldFirst were able to make international transfers with WorldFirst until April 2021 but were forbidden to set up a forward contract beyond this date. Depending on location, we recommend our readers learn about the best international money transfer companies for individuals in the UK/EU, best international money transfer providers for the USA, best international money transfer providers in Australia, or the  best international money transfer services in Canada. For large amounts, see the best-rated currency brokers.

Have a look below at the leading WorldFirst alternatives on the market,

Best WorldFirst Alternatives

Currencies Direct
  • Min Transfer: £/€/$ 100
  • Currencies Supported: 39
  • Offices : UK, EU, USA, India, South Africa.
  • Our Rating : 97.8%
  • Most Global Offices and Reach

    No Fees from Anywhere and Competitive Rates

    96% Client Satisfaction
TorFX
  • Min Transfer: £/€ 100
  • Currencies Supported: 40
  • Offices : UK, EU, Singapore, and Australia.
  • Our Rating : 93.4%
  • High Quality Bespoke Service

    MoneyFact's Best Provider Award

    Over 100 Years of FX Experience Across Its Trading Desk
moneycorp
  • Min Transfer: £/€/$ 50
  • Currencies Supported: 120
  • Offices : UK, EU, USA, HK, and UAE.
  • Our Rating : 92.8%
  • Business Oriented, Many High Profile Business Customers

    Industry Veteran since 1979

    Diverse Hedging Options and Excellent Guidance

Is WorldFirst Safe and Reliable?

Company Size

Founded in 2004, WorldFirst Limited is registered and headquartered in the UK. Starting out as a traditional currency broker, WorldFirst has grown into a global fintech, offering currency exchange and international payments to corporate clients, with a particular focus on ecommerce businesses who sell overseas through online marketplaces. Since its establishment in 2004, the company has grown rapidly and today has offices across four continents, employing more than 600 people.

WorldFirst is ranked among 2023’s top UK international money transfer companies in the UK in terms of revenue and has helped nearly 1,000,000 global businesses with their international transfers. WorldFirst continues to make millions of transfers for its unanimously happy client base each and every year.

Payment Process

Like most currency brokers, WorldFirst Money Transfer never speculates on the currency markets. When a client enters into a transaction with WorldFirst, the company immediately enters into a matching covering deal with their banking partners. This converts your sold currency into your bought currency, from which the onward payment is then made.

The two main transaction banks for World First are Barclays and Citibank – two of the most renowned and secure international banks worldwide. WorldFirst maintains high transparency regarding its financial performance and measures taken to safeguard client funds.

Re-branding

On June 21, 2017, WorldFirst (including WorldFirst UK and WorldFirst Australia) changed its logo and overall website appearance towards a more colourful and less simplistic design than before. This rebranding process also included a lot more focus on a specific segment – online sellers, which has proved itself as a highly commercially viable direction for the company. During the year to follow, the company also entered into an internal reorganisation process to better adjust itself for its new future.

Sale to Ant Financial

In January of 2019, as part of its reorganisation process, WorldFirst decided to stop taking on US based clients and shut down its entire US operation. Days later, it was discovered that WorldFirst had been bought by Ant Financial, the Chinese conglomerate behind AliPay and AliBaba, for a sum of USD $700m.

At the time, it was reported by articles in the media that WorldFirst USA would reopen in the future under a new name and would be a separate business named Omega Money Transfers with no relationship to Ant Financial’s WorldFirst. The move never materialised and a number of Amazon sellers from the US were caught up in the US-China trade spat.worldfirst-website

Sponsorship of UEFA Euro 2020

WorldFirst was an official partner of UEFA for the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship. The tournament, where England lost to Italy in the Euro cup final, saw WorldFirst’s logo branded around the pitch throughout various matches.

Sponsorship of UEFA Euro 2020

Closure of Private Accounts

On 10th February 2021, WorldFirst sent a service termination email to all private clients notifying them of account closures on 21st April 2021, with online access being removed after 10th April.

 

Awards

Since its acquisition by Alipay, WorldFirst has not won many awards, nor does it seem they have entered any competitions. This contrasts sharply with the numerous awards WorldFirst garnered throughout its growth journey.

The company’s rapid growth led to its inclusion in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 in 2011. It also earned spots in the top 100 Sunday Times FastTrack companies in 2015, 2016, and 2017 – more than any other financial services provider in the UK.

Moreover, WorldFirst earned several other prestigious awards, including the UK Customer Experience Awards in 2013 and the UK National Business Award in 2011.

In April 2016, WorldFirst Payments was honoured with the Queen’s Award for International Trade, one of the UK’s most esteemed and coveted awards.

Conclusion

Over the last decade, WorldFirst has been one of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK, as supported by its position in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 from 2015-2017. In recent years, the growth of the firm has slowed but WorldFirst remains one of the largest and most trustworthy money transfer companies in the country, handing over a million international payments each and every year.

WorldFirst UK Limited is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority as an Electronic Money Institution under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011. The company is also regulated in the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. It was acquired by Ant Group in 2019, operator of Alipay, one of the largest mobile payment platforms in the world. Almost 1,000,000 businesses have sent £125bn around the world with WorldFirst since 2004.

98% Credibility Score.

Do Clients Like WorldFirst? Reviews From Across the Web

Research

Before switching from the review platform Feefo to TrustPilot, WorldFirst had garnered over 7,100 client reviews on Feefo, with a rating of 98/100. While Feefo is still one of the most reputable user review companies globally, TrustPilot seems to have taken the lead as the preferred review platform for both consumers and businesses.

WorldFirst currently has over 2,100 reviews on TrustPilot, with a rating of 3.9/5 – “great”. This is a decline from the 4.3/5 rating in 2022 and further down from the 4.7/5 score the firm achieved in 2020.

Evidently, WorldFirst is on a downward trend with regards to client reviews. The switch to a more digital focus appears to be impacting the customer experience.

Considering this, it’s unfortunate that WorldFirst lost all their previous client reviews from Feefo upon transitioning to TrustPilot. However, having observed the company for the best part of a decade, we can vouch for their previously outstanding feedback. During its tenure with Feefo, WorldFirst frequently received the Feefo Platinum Trusted Service Award.

On ReviewCentre, another prominent client review platform, there are approximately 200 WorldFirst reviews.

All three sites showcase a plethora of client reviews from global customers. We surmise that while the majority of these reviews originate from the UK — WorldFirst’s largest client base — they also encompass feedback from WorldFirst Australia and WorldFirst Singapore.

Below is a genuine, verified, comment by a client we have referred to them:

Very good, speedy service. Staff I spoke with regarding opening the account were very friendly & knowledgeable. Setting up the transaction, beneficiary etc., was simple and straightforward, and the money arrived in the beneficiary’s account very quickly. To top it all, total transaction was £60 cheaper than my bank!
Advantages +6

Clients praise World First on every aspect of its service. There are multiple client reviews describing:

  • Easy sign up process.
  • Happy with the rates they are given.
  • Dedicated dealers are often mentioned by name, and described using the following adjectives: Professional, Knowledgeable, Polite, Customer Oriented, and Helpful.
  • Satisfaction with the prompt execution of a transfer. Often completed overnight.
  • Great solution for transfers to China.
  • Efficient and easy-to-use online platform.
Disadvantages -4

Among the many positive reviews, we also witnessed several complaints. The majority of them focused on:

  • Slower transactions to specific locations (e.g., Brazil), where the process might be slightly more complicated and may require a sign-off from the funds’ recipient.
  • Not providing original copies of certain documents.
  • The company regularly requests supporting documents in order to process transfers, e.g. invoice/proof of the source of funds
  • Private clients were surprised that the private client desk closed.
Conclusion

In general, clients are positive about the services provided to them by WorldFirst online and over the telephone. The firm is regularly praised for being reliable, trustworthy and efficient. And despite a recent increase in pricing, customers still feel like they’re getting good value for money and praise WorldFirst for providing excellent exchange rates, even after the price increase kicked in.

Despite this, there has been a notable uptick in complaints. Virtually every complaint left in 2023 appears to relate to WorldFirst requesting supporting documentation in order to process a payment, or delaying/refusing to make a payment for compliance purposes. As a regulated institution, WorldFirst is required to adhere to strict anti-money laundering laws, just like other regulated foreign exchange firms. For most customers, this should not impact them at all, but businesses operating in high-risk countries or high-risk industries should expect a greater level of due diligence. These companies may want to consider trying two or three different payment providers and should find that once repeat payments are going to the same beneficiary, some of the documentation requirements ease over time.

A small number of customers complained about slow transfers but transactions are slow to reach specific countries, regardless of which company you choose. In virtually all countries worldwide, banks do not handle incoming international transactions during bank holidays and weekends.

Overall, we can see that the vast majority of business clients are satisfied with the service provided by WorldFirst.

95% Client Feedback Score.

World First’s Exchange Rate & Fees

Research

Fees: There are no payment fees for payments made to other World Account users or for transfers between your own World Account. Other international payments start at £0.30 but will increase when sending money to more remote destinations.

Exchange Rates: On July 23, 2019, WorldFirst announced a shift to a more transparent and fixed pricing model that would compete directly with Wise’s rates for SME clients. It was structured in such a way that it was cheaper for clients sending significant volumes overseas. However, the short-lived move, which appeared to be a direct result of the acquisition by Alipay, was reversed in 2022.

To us, WorldFirst’s decision to revert isn’t entirely surprising. Historically, the firm has consistently offered greater value to its clients compared to Wise. While Wise specialises in online spot transfers, WorldFirst goes beyond by offering this service and much more. WorldFirst provides its business customers with dedicated account management and an array of currency hedging tools. These tools empower businesses to manage currency risk more effectively. Additionally, their multi-currency account solution operates in tandem with more trustworthy banking partners.

Nevertheless, this change upset many of WorldFirst’s existing clients, and the company will need to remain consistent with its current pricing strategy.

OLD AD:

world-first-exchange-rates

CURRENT PRICING PAGE:

CURRENT PRICING PAGE

Despite diverting away from fixed, transparent margins, the FX markup applied by WorldFirst for currency exchange is still capped at 0.75%, representing significant savings compared to banks and the majority of money transfer providers.

Limits: As of 2023, there are no minimum transfer limits. What’s more, given WorldFirst’s size and access to liquidity, there is no upper cap on how much you can send either.

WorldFirst handles a variety of business clients and online merchants and can assist them with transferring hundreds, thousands or millions of pounds per transfer.

Conclusion:

There are no minimum or maximum transfer limits of any kind with WorldFirst and businesses transferring over £5,000 with WorldFirst will have access to a dedicated account manager. So businesses of all sizes will find a solution that works for them. Transferring money with WorldFirst online is smooth and easy, and should clients encounter any issues, WorldFirst customer support is generally praised for being easily accessible and highly professional. Dedicated dealers can provide guidance relating to the transfer, including details on the range of currency hedging tools the firm offers and share WorldFirst’s currency outlook for the future.

Businesses who send larger volumes will find they achieve a lower exchange rate spread than those making smaller payments. Since bringing an end to its fixed margin policy, some customers have criticised WorldFirst for being more expensive, whilst many other customers still feel the exchange rates offered are excellent. A cap of 0.75% is also very reasonable – many other money transfer providers will charge around 1.5-2% for small sums and major banks can charge 2.5%+. From our perspective, we were surprised WorldFirst ever decided on a fixed-margin policy given the added-value they offer and we couldn’t see how this business model would be sustainable. The rates still appear to be good, all-be-it not as cheap as purely online providers like Wise and CurrencyFair. The model now adopted by WorldFirst is perfectly fine – it’s what some of the leading currency brokers like moneycorp and Currencies Direct also operate – but with the added benefit of a 0.75% cap on currency exchange. We just feel it was a bit of an own goal for the firm to ever try a fixed margin approach and cause unnecessary damage to the brand.

92% Fees, Exchange Rates.

Global Reach & Service

Research:
Dedicated Dealer: Yes.
Offices: UK Netherlands Australia Hong Kong Singapore Japan

As a WorldFirst corporate client you are able to open collection bank accounts overseas for online sellers in GBP, EUR, USD, CAD, AUD, NZD, CNH, SGD, HKD & JPY.

Ways to Contact: Email, toll-free telephone number, call-back form, and meetings in worldwide offices.

Translations: WorldFirst is available in several languages, including; English, Dutch, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese.

Accepts Clients: Generally speaking, globally, bar the USA.

Currencies Handled: Over 130.

Client Reviews: Often praise the quality of support and dedicated dealer functionality. Corporate clients only (including ecommerce).

Conclusion:

With a dedicated dealing team that consists of knowledgeable dealers worldwide and offices in 5 continents (including most recently the Netherlands and Japan), service and global reach for corporate clients is extensive and structured. The only major drawback is that WorldFirst stopped accepting US-based clients in January 2019. For business customers in the US, we strongly recommend OFX (local support from an office in San Francisco) and moneycorp – our no.1 rated provider for business FX and accepting clients from the majority of US states.

WorldFirst Foreign Exchange handles a considerable number of currencies and has more local country translations than 99% of its competitors. It has dedicated support staff in each continent in which it operates, making service much more localised than with most foreign exchange companies. It is also worth mentioning that the sign-up process takes less than 60 seconds, while most competitors retain perplexing and complex sign-up forms.

When it comes to global reach and service, WorldFirst FX is among the top 10 money transfer companies for business customers. With such an extensive setup of banking partners across the world, the majority of  customers can settle their trades with a local transfer, avoiding expensive SWIFT fees.

Where possible, WorldFirst will also rely on its own payments infrastructure to process international transfers, thus avoiding recipient bank and intermediary bank fees, which is another invaluable asset. Here is how this works:

96% Global Reach, Availability, Service Score

Additional Functionalities

Research:
  • Market Orders
  • Limit Orders
  • Rate Watch
  • Forward Contract
  • Regular Transfers
  • Multi-Currency Accounts
  • Xero Integration
  • Payments to China

Forward contracts, firm orders and rate watch functionality, alongside a team of experienced and professional dealers, makes WorldFirst one of the best companies for hedging currency exposure. Clients can also set up regular transfers which can be particularly helpful for businesses with a requirement to repeatedly make the same transaction, such as paying an overseas salary. There’s even the option to fix each of the regular transfers with a forward contract to know exactly how much will have to be paid. Or, alternatively, it’s possible to agree to pay the rate on the day the transfer is scheduled to take place. Uniquely, WorldFirst offers the capability to book forward contracts for up to 3 years in advance, this is significantly longer than the standard 12 months offered by many other firms.

WorldFirst World Account:

In May of 2017, WorldFirst launched the World Account. It’s one of the best corporate FX features we have seen in the currency transfer industry to date. It enables small businesses to open bank accounts across the globe to receive, hold, convert and pay money globally. This includes 10 local currency accounts, allowing businesses to make and receive domestic payments to do business like a local.

Local bank account details are possible in GBP, EUR, USD, CAD, AUD, NZD, CNH, SGD, HKD & JPY.

Xero Integration

In March of 2019, after being sold to AliPAy, the company announced the buying of CurrencyVue, an Integrated FX Exposure Platform. With an increasing number of SMEs looking to Quickbooks or Xero for its accounting solutions, the move allowed WorldFirst to better integrate with these and other Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

Online Seller Offering / Focus

WorldFirst is one of the few FX companies that help merchants receive payments by setting up local bank accounts for them in a number of major ecommerce destinations (since May 2017 it was made available to all corporate clients). This is an area that is highly complex and one that most companies would rather avoid, but WorldFirst makes it happen and reduces costs and overheads in the process.

E-Commerce is really what drives WorldFirst’s success today. As the longest running money transfer firm in the ecommerce space, it is also compatible with the greatest number of marketplaces (100+). These include, but are not limited to, Amazon, Etsy and AliExpress. You can often find online marketplaces offering introductory terms to attract WorldFirst ecommerce clients onto their platform too.

WorldFirst App:

WorldFirst has one of the top ranked money transfer apps. Unlike most companies, which either don’t have an app at all or have apps that can only watch rates, the WorldFirst mobile app lets you actually make transactions on your mobile phone. So whether you’re a business owner, treasurer or finance director on the move, WorldFirst has you covered.

The app can be found on the App Store, Google Play and can even be used on Smart Watches (perhaps the only app in the industry that is suitable for these devices).

Conclusion:

This is another strong point of WorldFirst. Despite a rapidly growing number of financial services that allow businesses to open digital bank accounts around the globe, WorldFirst was the original. Its World Account is offered in partnership with top-tier banks and the firm enjoys strong relationships with all of the leading global online marketplaces. Its accounts are truly local and make international trade much easier – many of WorldFirst’s competitors offer multi-currency accounts but the accounts are often held in the UK (thus still involving international transfers to other countries).

Its hedging options are also more sophisticated than usual – products such as flexible forwards are hard to find and in providing forward contracts up to three years in advance, this offers a greater degree of flexibility than what is possible with any other prodiver on the market today.

98% Added Values Score
WorldFirst Scoreboard
67%
67 of 100 1 review
  • Credibility Score - 70%
    70%
  • Client Feedback Score - 95%
    95%
  • Fees, Exchange Rates Score - 80%
    80%
  • Global Reach, Availability, Service Score - 20%
    20%
  • Added Values Score - 70%
    70%

WorldFirst Review Summary

Having closely monitored the progress of WorldFirst and its competitors over the last decade, we still believe the firm has one of the most complete corporate foreign exchange solutions on the market.. WorldFirst was the very first non-banking financial institution to offer multi-currency accounts and this offering continues to be its major selling point. Ten local currency accounts are available across the globe, offered in partnership with top-tier banks like Barclays, Citi and Deutsche. WorldFirst has invested more heavily in its tech capabilities of late, but it continues to operate a team of professional currency dealers which the majority of clients find to be easily accessible and helpful.

With that being said, there are a growing number of unhappy customers who have found customer support to be slow, particularly when compliance requirements are flagged for particular transactions. Another regret is that WorldFirst’s acquisition has led to a number of its expert staff to leave. Combine this with the fact it stopped its U.S operations and stopped accepting private customers as of Feb 2021, it means the firm has gone down in our rankings. Nevertheless, WorldFirst still makes it into our top 10 providers for the unique benefits it continues to bring businesses and especially online sellers.


Subscribe
Notify of

94 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments