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How Banks Are Exploiting Students (And How TransferWise Could Save Us)

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As students, we find ourselves bombarded with deals that are supposedly in our best interests all the time. However, more often than not we know precisely whose interests they're in. The company bombarding us. Naturally.

University fees are extortionate, we have no money to eat anything other than pasta half the time, and combined with the fact that banks are out to get us (read on and you'll see what I mean), it'd be easy to take a pretty bleak outlook on student life - financially, that is, obviously fun levels are through the roof. #unay

Studying abroad is always a popular option, and undoubtedly a great way to experience a new culture, develop your language skills and broaden your horizons (or so careers advisors would have us believe anyway.) But then of course, there's all the financial malarkey with which to deal too. Student life is so hard.

As an undergrad about to embark on a year abroad, I was gobsmacked to recently discover that international students are being disgracefully overcharged by sneaky banks for transferring money abroad. Yes, apparently the average undergrad paying £9,000 per year ends up paying £335 in hidden bank charges. If you think that's bad, MBA students' fees are hit even harder, with hidden charges of potentially more than £1,000! And so many banks actually claim to be doing the transfer for free. It's all lies, I tell you. LIES!

The trouble is that most of us students don't know any better, and banks prey on our ignorance (sure, we may be able to write dissertations on the philosophies of Sartre, but put us in the real world and we're clueless.) While we think we can send money abroad free of charge, most high street banks actually take about 5% of the money transferred by charging a flat fee and inflating the 'spread' between their exchange rate and the real mid-market rate. Slight financial jargon there, but hopefully you get my drift.

So it's generally not great. Well, students, don't despair! After doing a spot of research, I stumbled across a company called TransferWise which has just launched a new system to revolutionise the way international students can pay fees. Whether you're a Brit going abroad or a European coming over to the UK, there's now a way to transfer money (tuition, accommodation and other costs) for FREE! And don't we love free stuff?! The slogan for this campaign is "no fees on fees", which quite frankly I think is rather clever.

While this is awesome, does it not seem a bit ridiculous that it wasn't always the way? TransferWise have effectively done to money transfer what Skype did to calls. Another student fave right there. What can I say? We're thrifty. And for any equally thrifty non-students, TransferWise do all sorts of money-moving, not just uni fees.

The company was actually co-founded by Skype's former director of strategy, Taavet Hinrikus, along with Kristo Kaarmann, who was a consultant for banks at PwC and Deloitte (AKA big graduate employers.) All the signs seem to suggest that TransferWise could be the next big thing, and about time too.

Oh, and I'm also getting a good vibe from this epic competition they're running - if you win, TransferWise will fly your best friend over to wherever you're studying, paying for flights, a hotel for the weekend and £500 spending money. I really want to win. So, fellow students, I impart this information to you today with the hope of saving you money. You can thank me later.

It's high time we stopped letting banks exploit our already limited funds and made the most of arguably one of the best student discounts out there (stiff competition from 10% off at TopShop, but I think TransferWise may just cinch it.)