The techniques available for managing your own money on-the-go has recently undergone some changes. No longer will the concept be associated with the stigma of being uncool. Now, there are modern modern equivalents to the traditional bank and how it works, that exist in an entirely digital format, these are known as Neobanks. A benefit of a Neobank is that they can allow you to set up an account without providing a home address, or contract of employment – no more fuss associated with traditional banks.
When I moved from Poland to London in 2016, options were very limited. Without proof of address, there was only one bank that was willing to open an account for me, even then – I still had to pop-in to the nearest branch to have my passport verified.
Nowadays, it’s simply a matter of installing an app on your phone and snapping a picture of your ID. Immediately, you will recieve an account number and debit card, and finally begin to function like a normal member of society. There should be no doubts that your money will be kept securely for you and on top of that you will have the opportunity to access competitive exchange rates when travelling abroad.
There are, as always, upsides and downsides from a banking system being completely digital.
As you can imagine, there are no physical branches you can visit for digital banks. This means that any issues you may encounter, can be resolved from the convenience of your phone or laptop – providing you have a stable internet connection. Also, options pay cash in to your account might be limited depending on the provider you choose; for example, in the UK, Monzo allows you to deposit cash into your account via PayPoint. I have summarised all of the most important features of the most popular Neobanks available today.
When you are on holiday, having easy access to your funds is critical. We’re so used to having instant access to our money. Going to less popular locations and having to rely solely on cash might feel a bit strange at first – it was for me, anyway. It all depends. However, make sure while you’re on holiday you always have enough cash with you in case the card terminal doesn’t work or the vendor doesn’t accept cards – it can easily happen. We all know, wandering through a city looking for an ATM is not half as exciting as looking at beautiful views.
Overall, there are a couple of things I really enjoy about digital banking; particularly providing a valuable insight into your spending habits – sometimes just by asking a chatbot! Also, I’m not a fan of having to go to the bank to resolve any problems and I don’t use cash most of the time.
Curve – the helpful one
What is unique about Curve, the card they provide allows you to link all of your existing cards. To pick which card you will be paying with is a matter of opening the app and changing it there. No one will know if you’re in “debit” mode or “credit” mode! Also, you get an instant pop-up notification that you’ve used the card.
The downside: it’s not a bank, so you need to have your bank account with someone else.
Upside: it’s only one card you need to take with you!
There are 3 different types of cards with benefits. While the Basic version is free, paid versions come with special perks.
The free introductory offer gives you 1% cashback on transactions for the first 90 days. You can pick different partners like TfL, Waitrose and many others. You get to choose which transactions you want your offer to be valid for (and you can pick three).
When you travel, you will recieve very good exchange rates (and no charges) and you can withdraw £200 per month for free.
There is also two premium versions. One is Black and the other – Metal (when you get to have an actual metal card, how cool is that?). The most loaded membership comes with medical, car rental damage and gadget insurance. Also discounted access to lounges in the airports across the world. Pretty sick.
I use Curve myself and love it – if you want to get £5 cash in the app, use my link.
Monzo – the friendly one
Monzo is a bank – so you’re not just getting a card, but it comes with an account number as well. If you’re getting your salary paid to Monzo, they allow you to access it one day ahead. It’s like a one day loan for your salary – if you really need it. Sometimes those last 24 hours might feel way longer if you’re on a tight budget – who has been there? It also comes with a really handy budgeting tool. It helps to plan ahead your monthly outgoings like bills and rent, but also encourages a habit of saving. Very neat, very clever – and super helpful to be more serious about your money. Without the guttered feeling of taking money away from yourself.
They also provide instant notifications once a transaction has occurred, so you have full control over your spending. Worldwide transactions are fee-free. Every account comes with an overdraft allowance of £1000 and they can lend you up to £15,000.
With Monzo you can also open a joint account in case you were thinking about chipping in with your partner on groceries, travel funds among other things.
Revolut – the safe-focused one
Simplified money management with great insights, cryptocurrency exchange and fee-free transactions worldwide? Those are great features of Revolut and it all comes in a nice card with an app. So you manage your money pot with a tap on the screen. You can use it both as a business and individual. You’ll get a UK bank account with European IBAN. Did I mention a generous limit of £200 worth of withdrawals from your balance? If you care about your security when paying online (and you should), you are able to generate virtual disposable card numbers. They will deactivate after you use it – protecting your data in the most secure way. No one will ever be able to use that card number for fraudulent transactions.
As with other services, Revolut comes in 3 tiers – there’s a free version (in which you get the account number). Premium at £6.99 a month offers medical insurance, flight delay and lost baggage insurance as well. If you decide to go for luxurious, Metal (£12.99 a month) – you will be your travelling friends’ favourite friend. If your flight gets delayed by over an hour, you will get free lounge pass for yourself and up to 4 of your companions.
Starling Bank – the serious one
The UK-based challenger virtual bank is another take on modern banking. Spending habit insights are available in the app. Easy bill-splitting options and flexible overdraft is just to name a few of the features. It is the ‘Best Business Banking Provider of 2019’ – well deserved for an exceptional service.
What sets Starling Bank apart from others is its ability to keep two currencies on one account. Currently, it supports keeping Pound Sterling and Euro in two separate pots. If you and your partner have an account with Starling, you can create a joint account and save for your goals. Or simply share expenses!
They also make it easy to move all your finances with a Switch Service and will happily take it off your to-do list.
N26 – the cool one
A Neobank with a goal to remove all the fuss off any activity related to your money. Also it comes with a really cool looking, see-through bank card. You can temporarily lock your card, manage savings and notify them if you’ve lost your card – all within a neatly designed mobile-app environment.
There’s no fees on transactions in a foreign currency.
Trying to be more reasonable with your spending? You can set daily limits on your transactions.
Learn more on your spending patterns. How? N26 will categorise your spending. This will help you understand more clearly where your money goes.
When it comes to pricing, the basic account is free and you can opt-in for premium services.
N26 offers you free cash withdrawals worldwide and no fee on foreign transactions. Also, you can create up to 10 Sub-accounts to split your savings and see how much you’ve saved for each separate goal.
N26 Metal comes with a very beautiful, metal card and the most exclusive N26 offers. This includes priority customer support, medical insurance, flight delay and lost luggage cover. If you travel a lot, you can get LoungeKey access for £20. They also have exclusive deals with Hotels.com, WeWork and more – the list is growing every month.
Besides all the cool features, incentives and perks offered by these banks or cards, I mostly appreciate the flexibility and the ease of use. A friendly tone of voice takes away all the confusion from industry jargon. Hey – we all get tangled with this money thing at times. We all should be better at managing it, at being responsible and saving. It feels like the future of banking by making “money talk” is becoming a normal part of the conversation, and I feel positively about it.