N26, Revolut, Monzo, or Starling Bank?

 

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Over the past few years, Britons have been showered with new financial companies. These financial technology companies (fintechs) and challenger banks want to replace established banks and the old guard. They aim to make financial dealings more convenient, mobile, hassle-free, and cost-efficient. For example, customers can open accounts using smartphone apps instead of visiting branches. Also, unlike traditional banks, their products and services are designed to accommodate new types of workers, including freelancers, remote workers, digital nomads, and global citizens.

How to Choose a Financial App

Choosing a company depends on three factors, including your needs, financial goals, and budget. Understanding those aspects will make it easier to select the right partner and app.

Figure out your needs first. Before evaluating financial companies, consider your requirements. For example, you plan to travel a lot and want insurance coverage. Perhaps you request payments often and want to use a 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, 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 in the hopes of converting users to premium accounts. Secondly, monthly plan/subscription fees can add up to over a hundred in 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.

Standard Features

Fintechs and neobanks are only going to keep adding 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 banking apps, more or less, have these features in common:

  • Virtual and physical bank cards.
  • Instant push notifications on all transactions.
  • Multiple accounts for saving and budgeting goals.
  • No foreign exchange fees when spending abroad.
  • Free money transfers to other users.
  • Manage recurring payments.
  • Download and print account activity.
  • Connect to third-party apps, for example, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
  • Lock/unlock your card immediately.

Four challenger banks that should be on your radar are Monzo, N26, Revolut, and Starling Bank. Let’s review and compare their products, services, and plans.

UK Challenger Banks

Monzo

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. Its products/services include:

  • UK current account
  • Individual Savings Account (ISA)
  • Interest-bearing account
  • Joint account
  • Money transfer
  • Overdraft
  • Personal loan
  • Teen account

Unique features:

  • 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 to lower your bills.

N26 (UK Website)

N26 provides mobile banking services. It offers current accounts, fixed accounts, and other banking services, letting customers manage and control their finances via smartphone.

  • UK current account
  • Insurance
  • Money transfer
  • Overdraft

Unique features (depending on the card/plan):

  • Disable and enable payments abroad, directly in the app.
  • Pay no fees on ATM withdrawals abroad, in any currency.
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide with LoungeKey.
  • Exclusive partner perks.

Revolut

Revolut is on a mission to build a frictionless platform to use and manage money around the world. It has developed a platform allowing users to transfer, exchange, and spend money with a multi-currency card that is accepted everywhere.

  • UK and EU current accounts
  • Commission-free investment account
  • Commission-free cryptocurrency account
  • Insurance
  • Money transfer

Unique features (depending on the card/plan):

  • Round up payments and save the difference automatically.
  • Round up payments and donate the difference to charities.
  • Withdraw up to £600 each month for free (a 2 percent charge applies after that).
  • 100 commission-free stock trades per month.
  • Buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Ripple.
  • Cashback within Europe (0.1 percent) and 1 percent outside Europe on all card payments.
  • Delayed baggage and flight insurance.
  • Exclusive partner perks.
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide with LoungeKey.
  • Concierge service to help manage your lifestyle.

Starling Bank

Starling Bank is a mobile-only bank offering personal, joint, and teen accounts. Its app helps people take the stress out of money by letting them visualize and manage their finances in real-time.

  • UK and EU current accounts
  • Interest-bearing account
  • Joint account
  • Money transfer
  • Overdraft
  • Personal loan
  • Teen account

Unique features:

  • Round up payments and save the difference automatically.
  • Pay no fees on ATM withdrawals abroad, in any currency.
  • Spending insights to manage your money better.
  • Get paid back easily or split the bill with “settle up.”
  • Deposit and withdraw cash at local post offices.
Revenue Models

Since challenger banks differ from traditional banks, you might be wondering how Monzo, N26, Revolut, and Starling make money.

Monzo makes money from overdraft, personal loan, and withdrawal fees. It shares revenues or collects fees through third-party product and service arrangements, for example, offering money transfer services through TransferWise. Click here for Monzo’s fees.

N26 makes money through plan subscription, overdraft, and withdrawal fees. It shares revenues or collects fees through third-party product and service arrangements, for instance, offering money transfer services through TransferWise. It makes money from card replacements and emergency card advances (ECA). Click here for N26’s fees.

Revolut makes money through plan subscription fees and insurance premiums. It shares revenues or collects fees through third-party product and service arrangements; for example, customers can earn cash rewards through purchases at select partners (Revolut Perks). It charges fees on money transfers and withdrawals above its fair usage limits. Weekend transactions and currency conversion fees may apply. It makes money from replacement cards and delivery fees. Click here for Revolut’s fees.

Starling Bank makes money from interest on overdrafts, personal loans, and account balances. It charges fees on money transfers. It charges for replacement cards and certifying account documents. Click here for Starling’s fees.

Products & Services

Current Account

A current (checking) account is a bank account that allows you to conduct everyday financial activities, such as deposits, withdrawals, bill payments, and recurring payments. A current account typically doesn’t earn interest but may receive if it maintains a minimum amount as set forth by the bank, for example, £25,000.

All four companies offer UK current accounts. Revolut and Starling Bank also have free Euro IBAN accounts. Separately, N26 offers euro accounts in many European countries, for example, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.

Savings Account

A savings account is a bank account where you can store money you don’t need right away but have easy access to it. It typically earns a modest interest rate.

All four companies provide in-app saving mechanisms, but Monzo and Starling offer distinct savings accounts. Monzo customers can open tax-free savings, joint, and teen accounts. Starling customers can get joint and teen accounts.

Overdraft

Monzo and Starling Bank have overdraft protection, N26 has announced it will, and Revolut doesn’t. For Monzo, you’ll be charged 50p every day your account is overdrawn by more than £20, up to a maximum cost of £15.50 a month. For Starling Bank, you’ll pay an equivalent annual rate (EAR) of 15 percent. If you go over the overdraft limit, a standard interest rate applies.

International Money Transfer

Monzo and N26 process money transfers through TransferWise. TransferWise is another topnotch UK fintech. It allows you to hold, manage, and convert money in multiple currencies at the best exchange rates possible, i.e., mid-market, interbank, spot, and “Google rates.” TransferWise charges 0.3 to 2 percent on most transactions, which is up to eight times cheaper than many banks. I’ve been using TransferWise since 2015.

Revolut also converts money at mid-market rates. Customers can send money for free up to £5,000 monthly (a 0.5 percent fee applies after that). A markup on weekends and certain currencies may apply. Revolut is one of two UK companies that offer free money transfers. The other is TransferGo.

Starling Bank does money transfers, but rates are not as good as Revolut and TransferWise.

Investing

An investment account allows an individual to buy, hold, and sell financial securities, for example, stocks.

Revolut offers commission-free stock and cryptocurrency trading. The other three companies do not support investment activities.

Insurance

Travel insurance might cover medical bills, lost valuables, and unforeseen expenses. Contents insurance pays for damage to, or loss of, an individual’s possessions. Mobile phone insurance takes care of damage or loss.

N26 and Revolut offer insurance products, whereas Monzo and Starling Bank do not.

Personal Loans

A personal loan is a type of unsecured loan. You typically don’t need to pledge any security or collateral to get the loan. The lender provides funds to use at your discretion but charges a fixed or variable interest rate on the entire amount or on money that’s used.

Starling Bank and Monzo offer personal loans while N26 and Revolut do not.

Comparison
Monzo N26 Revolut Starling Bank
UK account Yes Yes Yes Yes
EU account No No Yes Yes
Savings account Yes No No Yes
Joint account Yes No No Yes
Teen account Yes No No Yes
Personal loan No No No Yes
Overdraft Yes Coming No Yes
Money transfer Yes Yes Yes Yes
Insurance No Yes Yes No
Investment account No No Yes No
Crypto account No No Yes No
Monthly fee Free to £6/mo. Free to £14.90/mo. Free to £12.99/mo. Free

*TransferWise offers a “borderless” account, which is like a current account. Users can send, receive, spend, and withdraw money at mid-market rates. Accounts are available for the UK, EU, US, Australia, and New Zealand.

Category Winners
  • Best for sending money: Revolut and TransferWise
  • Best for holding multiple currencies: TransferWise
  • Best for saving: Monzo
  • Best for personal loans: Starling Bank
  • Best overdraft: Monzo
  • Best insurance products: Revolut
  • Best for global citizens: N26 and Revolut
  • Best card design: N26
  • Best perks: Revolut
Final Word

Challenger banks aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they’re improving and simplifying how wheels turn. They offer similar products, compared to traditional banks, but focus on expediency through mobile platforms. Secondly, they provide products and services for customers who entertain global opportunities and experiences. Finally, they go the extra mile to offer perks and discounts via partnerships with other companies.

Monzo, N26, Revolut, Starling Bank, and TransferWise are just a few of many fintechs that are making waves. They are raising the bar on efficiency, transparency, costs, and customer support. Those value propositions make them viable candidates for your financial goals and activities. Currently, Revolut offers the widest range of financial products and services for British customers.

 

Chad Tennant

Chad is an online marketer, consultant, and publisher. He helps businesses and individuals achieve growth and financial success. Learn more at digitalfodder.com/about