A number of young, dynamic fintech startups entered the banking scene over the last 5 years looking to shake it up and change the way we think about banking. They won't be found on the high-street – they're on your phone. A more dynamic banking climate in certain parts of the world, accompanied by the growing tendency of using our phones to do business, mobile-only, branchless banks are successfully taking customers from well established rivals.
For those who travel frequently, these banking options provide painless and smooth international transactions, excellent foreign exchange rates, inter account transfers and most offer fee-free spending whilst abroad. These easy to use and intuitive iOS and Android applications are perfect for those on the move.
Set up by a Credit Suisse equity analyst and a former Deutsche bank app developer in July 2015, Revolut has focussed on the travel exchange market and is a great bank to consider for regular travellers. Using the 'Spot Interbank' exchange rate Revolut claims its rates save customers 3% to 5% on every transaction.
Two options: the basic Revolut card or Premium, both of which are prepaid debit cards are available. The basic card allows users to hold and exchange up to 26 currencies and spend on your card in 120 currencies. Furthermore users can spend, transfer and exchange up to £5,000/€6,000 in total every month (a 0.5% fee applies after this) and ATM withdrawals are free up to £200 a month, then 2%. Revoluts Premium card Is really geared up towards those that travel regularly and for £6.99 a month, users can access unlimited spending and exchange, a £400 cash withdrawal limit and overseas medical insurance included.
Monzo grew in popularity mostly due to their use of Twitter, hackathons and tech ‘influencers’ sharing the app. More than one million people are registered for its current account and users are quick to praise this intuitive and easy to use digital bank.
You can move money into your current account by making an instant bank transfer or through Apple and Android Pay and all Monzo users can send money instantly to other Monzo customers in their phone contacts list. Instant notifications are a nice touch every time you use your card but the real bonus is that there are no fees to pay with your card when used abroad or make online transactions in a foreign currency. ATM withdrawals are also fee-free anywhere in the world up to a limit of £200 per month with a 3% charge thereafter.
UK startup Starling Bank received their banking licence in July 2016, and launched the UK's first app-only current account in March 2017. Over 300,000 customers have signed up so far and Starling claims It has a strong focus on data and transparency aiming to convince people who are used to seeing their life in a dataset, similar to users of health-tracking watches.
Starling Bank offerfull personal, joint and business current accounts, managed via its iOS or Android app and users get instant notifications on spending. With no fees for overseas spending or cash withdrawals Starling is another great bank to consider for regular travellers. The app also categorises users spending so you can check in on how much you’re spending on food, travel, coffee, drinks and entertainment, and tells you which retailers you've been spending with.
Berlin-based N26, founded in 2013, has amassed 1.5M customers across Europe and launched a beta version of its current account to UK customers in October 2018. N26 offers many of the features that Monzo and Starling customers enjoy, including push notifications when a transaction is made, spending analytics, in-app card freezing and cheap spending overseas (the only fee is for foreign cash withdrawals at 1.7%). Another feature not available through rival operators is customers can access accounts via the 'N26 Web' using a laptop or computer, instead of a smartphone.
As the app is still in beta, function is limited for now - you get a Mastercard debit card featuring a unique, transparent design but you can't pay your salary into the account or set up direct debits and standing orders as yet. There's no overdraft facility (though this is planned before the end of the year) and the only way to add money to your account is bank transfer (using your sort code and account number).