Last updated on September 22, 2020
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Many start-ups are vying for new customers in the financial technology (fintech) space. Challenger banks and money transfer companies seek to supplant legacy banks and corporations that have been around for decades. They attempt to do this by offering efficient, low-fee, and transparent mobile-first applications. Fintechs typically market to individuals and business customers who travel frequently, live abroad, sell products globally, or freelance.
How to Choose a Mobile Banking App/Company
Choosing the best mobile banking app depends on three factors, including your needs, financial goals, and budget. Understanding those aspects will make it easier to select the right partner and company.
Assess your needs first. Before evaluating financial apps, consider your requirements. For example, you want flight insurance because you travel a lot. Or, you request payments often and want to use a customizable link to make the process more efficient.
Understand your financial goals. For everyday financial transactions, mobile-first banks are excellent. However, suppose you want to start investing or seek a tax-exempt account. Most challenger banks don’t offer robust investing platforms. Moreover, tax-free accounts are rare. Thus, you might have to look around or stick with the status quo to achieve your goals.
Consider your budget. While free accounts/plans are standard with neobanks, users must pay to access more features and benefits. It’s the classic freemium model that thousands of tech companies use. They offer free plans to convert users to premium accounts. Secondly, monthly plan/subscription fees can add up to over a hundred euros, pounds, or dollars annually. However, for some people, paying monthly fees might not be financially prudent or practical for their budget/saving objectives or debt obligations.
Fintechs and neobanks will continue to add products, services, and features to compete with their rivals and traditional banks. What one company doesn’t have today, it will likely offer in a few months to a year. Therefore, you needn’t worry about missing out on the long term. Challenger bank apps typically have these features:
- Virtual and physical bank cards
- Instant push notifications on all transactions
- Analytics and categorization of expenses
- Multiple accounts for saving and budgeting goals (not the same as an interest-bearing savings account)
- No foreign exchange fees when spending abroad
- Free money transfers to other users
- Make recurring payments
- Download and print account activity
- Connectivity to third-party apps, for example, Apple Pay and Google Pay
- Card lock/unlock at your discretion, for example, if your card gets lost or stolen
Let’s review a couple of innovative fintechs and banking apps that regularly make headlines.
Founded in 2015, Monzo is a bank for people who live on their smartphones. It’s for individuals who want to get things done in a click and who don’t see the need for branches or checks.
Monzo focuses on solving problems rather than selling financial products. It wants to make the world a better place and change people’s lives by being as open as possible. Also, by being transparent, it believes it can make banking better.
Monzo is available on Apple and Google Play app stores. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2015, Curve is on a mission to change the way people spend, send, see, and save money. It simplifies your financial life by connecting your accounts to one smart card and an even more intelligent app. You can link your debit and credit cards to Curve’s app and spend it from any of your accounts using the Curve Mastercard.
Curve focuses on a couple of market trends, including the fragmentation of financial services and convergence of customer experiences. It believes the endgame will be a connected world of money, tailored individually for each user.
Curve is available on Apple and Google Play app stores. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Monzo makes money by splitting the interest margin earned on loans and balances and collecting interest. It shares revenues or collects fees through third-party product and service arrangements, for instance, its partnership with TransferWise to offer money transfer services. It makes money on cash withdrawals in foreign currency outside of the European Economic Area (£200 in withdrawals is free per 30-day period). It charges for replacement cards. Learn more about Monzo’s fees.
Curve makes money through plan subscriptions. It shares revenues or collects fees through third-party product and service arrangements; for example, customers can earn cashback through purchases at select partners (Curve Cash). It charges fees on withdrawals above its fair usage limits. It makes money from replacement cards and Amex Wallet top-ups. Learn more about Curve’s fees.
Products & Services
Monzo’s products and services include:
- GBP current account
- Individual Savings Account (ISA)
- Interest-bearing account
- Money transfer
- Personal loan
- Joint account
- Teen account
- Business account
- Round up payments and save the difference automatically.
- Withdraw up to £200 every 30 days for free (a 3 percent charge applies after that).
- Get paid a day early by confirming your salary.
- Divide and allocate your salary into different accounts automatically.
- Switch your energy service provider to lower your bills.
Curve’s products and services include:
- Card consolidation via single card use (Curve Mastercard)
- Money transfer
- Business account
Unique features (depending on the card/plan):
- Withdraw up to £600 each month for free (a 2 percent charge applies after that).
- “Go Back in Time” to switch payment sources retroactively.
- Get 1 percent cash back from selected retailers with Curve Cash.
- Get comprehensive travel insurance.
- Get electronic gadget insurance.
- Get rental car collision waiver insurance.
- Gain access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide with LoungeKey.
Monzo is free to use, whereas Curve has free and premium plans.
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Monzo offers a robust product portfolio and is the only UK challenger bank to provide tax-free ISAs. It’s in the process of reformulating its premium plans, which will likely expand its offerings. Furthermore, Monzo is available to US customers. On the other hand, Curve is less of a mobile banking app, and more of a single-card solution. It has money transfer services and different insurance coverages but not much else. For those reasons, Monzo is a better option for your everyday banking needs.