In this brand focus, I’ve taken a slightly different approach to what Laura and I normally do and decided to compare two digital banking/currency card services. In truthfulness, the two brands are actually quite different from one another and I wish someone had written a more insightful guide when I was researching both.
What is Monzo and what is Revolut?
Most people won’t of heard of either Monzo (formally Mondo) or Revolut, myself included until about a year ago when a friend of mine posted about Revolut through social media and I decided to investigate further. It’s important to remember that both services are actually quite different despite what they may have initially set out to do, both have strengths and weaknesses and I have tried to cover them, in brief, to keep the post simple.
Monzo: Until about a month ago was known as Mondo but had to change its name due to a trademark legal challenge, putting that to one side it’s a digital bank. You might think your current HSBC, Natwest, Barclays etc are already digital but not quite. Monzo is a digital-only bank or should I say trying to be, it was granted a full banking licence “with restrictions” two weeks prior to the name change which is a milestone in itself, when I started using the service fully in April this year it was only half a bank really if you could call it that. Monzo has no physical branches like a typical bank and at the moment it supplies its users with a MasterCard prepaid debit card, no Visa card, current or savings accounts and the whole service is accessed through either the iOS app or Android app. The service is essentially a smart bank for the smartphone generation and in its current form only scratches the surface of what it can potentially do going forward. Monzo markets itself as a challenger bank trying to disrupt the boring high street banks the UK has to offer, despite major leaps in banking apps from the big players like HSBC and Barclays for example, they all seem a bit too corporate and bland. Monzo is here to break the norm of what a bank is and how it serves us, that’s refreshing and one of the reasons I decided to give the service a try.
- The iOS app is regularly updated and although many security and general features were lacking in the first releases, the Monzo team do a great job at listening to user feedback and addressing known bugs and rectifying them with regular releases. The UX is at a stage where there is enough of what you need inside the app for now with minimal design. The most exciting thing is knowing the potential features yet to come with future releases.
- The pre-paid MasterCard although only in beta form is very smart, it has contactless capability which is always a winner. The card can be used abroad in most destinations without foreign exchange transaction fees, this is fantastic for travelling, It’s also a feature I didn’t realise the card possessed till I contacted them. (going forward it’s not clear if new cards will be used such as Visa Debit or if Monzo will stick with MasterCard…) ATM withdrawals are generally free but some terminals may charge. Lastly, who can ignore that amazing fluorescent coral card, certainly an eye catcher and unique.
- Monzo features a spending graph within the app and allows for export of transactions, this is a handy feature for those who like to see a general spending history for the day, week or month which is easily accessible and clear to view. Each transaction is really well tagged with merchant information such as location and categorised automatically within the app which is very clever, even using it locally in Jersey I was surprised with how accurate the tagging and rich information it provided was, you can even optionally add picture receipts too if you’re into that.
- The Monzo Community is a big part of what makes the service different and is vital to how it moves forward. Although the service has its core values and objectives, without its customer base it’s nothing and it knows this. The community pages are a breeding ground for users ideas and suggestions for going forward and some of the stuff on there is really good, it also allows anyone to see what potential features might come in the future and what the Monzo team are working on or trying out. They regularly reply to community members posts and get involved in discussions, just the way it should be.
- Despite how flashy and useful its pre-paid MasterCard is Monzo doesn’t currently offer any other type of card such as a Visa Debit, this might put off potential customers as it doesn’t seem like a “legit” banking service. This is definitely more of a psychological barrier to some rather than a huge issue, but a con none the less. A notable caveat to mention is when you get the card through the post and activate it you have to top up with £100 minimum, also a big turn off for some.
- Monzo is technically not an official bank and doesn’t offer current accounts and despite releasing a prototype API to developers it doesn’t integrate into 3rd party tools such as MoneyDashboard which I use on a regular basis. I’m sure this is more than doable in the future but something I can’t imagine is at the top of the to-do list and, to be fair what Monzo is trying to achieve with its mobile apps is essentially the same as what MoneyDashboard does. However not having a desktop version of the Monzo service is a missed opportunity as sometimes being able to view all your data and spending habits on a bigger screen is convenient.
- I’ve mentioned it a few times already but Monzo does not currently offer any current or savings accounts! This will hopefully come with time but it will need to build up trust before I commit to switching entirely to a digital-only bank and ceasing my entire relationship with a high street bank.
- I mentioned above that when you first receive the card you have to initially top it up with £100 credit, this is all well and good but say for example you decide your not happy with the service or lose your card (you can always order a new one) your £100 is stuck on there for good. The app and service do not allow you to withdraw the money digitally back to the account it came from, you have to spend the credit on the card.
Revolut: Launched over a year and a half ago the global money service has come a long way since it’s initial inception but it has remained good at what it knows best.Put simply, that’s allowing you to spend or send your cash anywhere in the world with minimal fuss and zero transaction fees. Once signed up users request a pre-paid MasterCard that arrives in the post ready for activation. The card is all controlled from an iOS/Android app which is where you manage what currency you want to load onto the card and how you want to spend it, within the app, there is a timeline of all transactions and it gives you merchant information too. This is very handy, especially when travelling away from home and it’s not always obvious where you spent your money. Within the app there are 3 main currencies you can choose to use and the rates are fantastic. Pounds £, Euros € and Dollars $. You can top up instantly using a linked current account, exchange or deposit back any of the 3 currencies, for example, you come back from New York with $50 left you can choose to exchange this into pounds and use the remainder of credit back home. The app also allows you to send money if you have credit on your account to other Revolut users as well as nonusers, great if you’re in a travelling group of friends and need to sort out paying them back. I’ve used my Revolut on a few occasions on mine and C’s travels and it really is the best alternative to using your home bank cards with the effortless ease of use and great security features.
- The app functionality and features are at their best ever at the moment and Revolut has done a great job in the last 3-6 months really improving much-needed areas within the app, an example of this is displaying more detailed merchant information from individual transactions which previously wasn’t doable. You can also filter transactions to find specific spends more easily and exports of data are also possible when you really want to investigate further.
- When I last used the card with Laura in New York we had a couple of weird instances where certain activities needed to be questioned, for example, we had 3 transactions being debited from our account balance but all 3 transactions were being declined on our end. We contacted the Revolut team through the in-app support messaging system and the team was fantastic, they explained how certain transactions worked and any issues we had were all resolved through them. We even managed to get some refunds back for transactions that again had got stuck in the system shall we say. It was reassuring knowing that even on our travels any problems we had the team was available to assist with.
- One of the main features of using Revolut is being able to exchange between the 3 main currencies the app uses so instantly and easily, this is very useful especially if you are doing multiple trips in one go and need easy access to different currencies. Revolut’s app also allows any unused funds in your account to be deposited back to your personal bank account which means your money is not stuck on the card, which if you’re not travelling for a while is very good.
- Confidence and trust in using such a service are always important and Revolut despite being fairly new to the marketplace has done a great job with its security features built into the app and card.Simple yet essential features like blocking and unblocking the card or, blocking and unblocking ATM withdrawals are impressive and if you want even more control there are things like disabling magstripe payments or adding location based security.
- Just like Monzo, Revolut is mobile only and has no desktop version of the service, I think this is another missed opportunity and not everyone travelling the world will necessarily want to be travelling with an expensive smartphone. I think the app is great but being able to have a desktop service would also be nice.
- This is a bit of an unfair complaint as I was one of the early adopters but the first batches of Revolut cards including mine did not feature contactless. Laura applied for a card before our trip to Sardinia and her’s does feature it which is good to see, I’m just jealous mine doesn’t have it. On a side note to merchants, I am a true campaigner for contactless and think it should be everywhere!
In conclusion, both Monzo and Revolut are fantastic at their individual services and although offer similar features to each other they are very much different. Monzo certainly has the most still to achieve and competition from other challenger banks, but from what I’ve seen it’s going to be an exciting brand to follow and be a part of. I really like how it’s trying to do banking differently not only by offering smart features that help its customers but also the technologies behind them. Revolut really is the best global money card service out there and a must for regular and nonregular travellers alike, it’s the best way to spend and track your cash whilst away from home. The current version of the app is the best it’s been and features like the built-in customer support are invaluable, hopefully, it remains free to use and keeps up with demands from new customers going forward.
If you have any questions about either service please feel free to ask I will try my best to answer and as always, you can contact us through any of our social media channels.