Mobile banking is on the rise, but which of these new upstarts offers the best deal on currency transfers? We’ve taken a look so you don’t have to.
If you’re looking to transfer money overseas, you’ve probably become used to seeing a lot of your money disappear into the ether. Traditional banks can often be fairly opaque about what charges they levy which is why you’ll often find yourself paying much more than you expect. Now, though, they have a new challenge in the form of mobile banks. Without the burden of physical infrastructure, they offer a faster and cheaper way to move money overseas. However, even here some offer a better service than others, so we’ve run the rule over some of the most popular.
Mobile Banks Currency Fees Compared and Contrasted
Transferwise goes out of its way to present itself as the antidote to the traditional banking system. In particular it makes a point of highlighting the hidden fees other banks charge over and above the mid-market rate. It, on the other hand says it never marks up the mid-market rate. Its fees for sending money overseas are also reasonable – at 0.35% of the amount converted plus £0.80. The first £200 of withdrawals are free and after that it levies a £2 fee.
Described by its CEO Anne Boden as the bank which is ‘in synch with you’, Starling Bank aims to make your accounts available wherever you go in the world. Adds only a small mark-up on the mid-market rate and charges £4.28 for foreign transfers. There are no fees for banking worldwide and you can withdraw up to £300 in foreign currency.
Since its launch in 2015, Monzo Bank has grown to almost a million users. It describes itself as the bank of the future and, as well as basic financial services, it also offers a range of innovative budgeting tools. Thanks to its partnership with Transferwise, most of its fees are set by them. It boasts a healthy selection of currencies and no fees for withdrawals. Cash deposits can now be made via PayPoint for a £1 charge.
Europe’s first mobile bank has exploded since 2013 offering a faster, smoother and cheaper approach to international transactions. As with Monzo Bank, it benefits from its partnership with Transferwise and so follows its fees on foreign transfers. Withdrawals are free for holders of its premium Black card while its standard customers will be charged a 1.7% fee.
The Viola Card is marketing itself as the Monzo alternative. It is the newest kid on the block having only just arrived at the start of 2019 but differs considerably from Monzo. It is a prepaid credit card rather than a bank and comes with a wide range of fees starting with a monthly subscription of £4. Foreign transfers are charged at 1.5% of the amount and also include a £2 fee. Cash withdrawals will also cost £2.90.
Fees with Revolut tend to depend on the time of week and that can lead to some disaffection among its customers. On weekdays Revolut says you receive the interbank rate for major currencies and +1% for minor currencies such as THB, RUB, UAH and TRY. At weekends it is +0.5% on all major currencies and +2% on smaller currencies. It covers 23 global currencies and charges £2 for withdrawals.
This new smart card allows you to combine your credit, debit and prepaid cards into one place. A spend of up to £500 will be at the mid-market rate. Anything higher will be charged at 2%. You can withdraw £200 from the credit card each calendar month. Sums over this have a 2% fee.
Launched in 2015, Monese adds basic banking features via smartphones. It adds a small mark-up of 0.5% over the mid-market rate. It charges a £1/€1 withdrawal fee and allows cash top ups via PayPoint and the Post Office, although these attract fees of 3.5% and 2% respectively.
This challenger banks allows you to send money to more than 190 different countries in 80 currencies. Costs for FX can vary from 0.1% to 2.25%. The first two transfers are free. After that costs vary depending on where you are sending money. They include an FX fee of between 0.1% and 2.25% and a fixed £1.99 Azimo fee.
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Tom Cropper is a financial journalist with work which has appeared in titles such as the Guardian, Euromoney and many others.