Fintech Bank Reviews – My Top 3
Banks centered on financial technology innovations (FinTech) are popping up all over the place. As someone who is always looking to maximise my own money, and get the most out of a bank, I want to share my experiences with you. (By the way, if you’re confused as to what exactly FinTech relates to, we’ve got a great little run down here!)
I first came across FinTech banks in 2017 when I opened a Monzo account. I haven’t gone Full Monzo* but I have always used it on trips that I have been on. The central reason is that it’s really easy to use, as well as the app itself being really aesthetic and modern. This is what led me to wonder; what other modern banks are out there?
*Note – Full Monzo is the term Monzo uses for switching your current account to Monzo, including all your direct debits and wage.
To begin, let’s go into more detail with Monzo. One of the most famous FinTech banks out there, Monzo has 3m customers as of September 2019. One of the draws of Monzo is that for travel purposes it is so good to use and saves you money. You can withdraw £200 a month fee free, before paying a 3% fee. However, you can spend as much as you want using the card itself, and as it uses Mastercard its gets very favourable exchange rates.
GOOD NEWS – In December 2019, Monzo announced that due to a change in EU law, cash withdrawals in the EEA (European Economic Area) are now completely free. You can see the full list of countries here.
Withdrawals in non-EEA countries haven’t changed – you can still take up to £200 out for free in a 30-day window, then there’s a 3% fee on top of that to cover our costs.
Another big reason why so many users love using Monzo is the ability to create ‘Pots’. You can create saving Pots and label them however you want. As an example you could have ‘Mortgage’, ‘Travel’, ‘Bills’ etc, where you can deposit roundups, transfer amounts, and also open up money challenges. Monzo allows you to sign up to money challenges, such as the 1p a day challenge, £1 a day challenge, fast food purchase tax and many more. The pots are a really good way to save and organise your money. The only issue I would note; you can’t pay a direct debit out of one of the pots. So if you do make a ‘bills’ pot you will have to manually transfer the pot back over to your normal account. It’s a bit annoying, but it’s not exactly a deal-breaker.
The app is really simple to navigate, and like most FinTech banks, is miles ahead of normal old-school banks. One of the big pros for me is that you can spend/send money and select a description of what that money was for. As an example, if you go to the cinema – you can set the category to entertainment. Why I think this is really helpful, is that it allows you to break down your expenses and categorise them before reviewing your weekly/monthly spend. You can visualise your spending in a way which not many other apps allow you to, so a definite plus here.
Other Benefits Monzo Offers
- Monzo’s Payday Coming Early – Get paid through Monzo and you will receive the money at 4 pm on the day before it’s due. Monzo does not charge for the service.
- You can put your money into one of their savings accounts. Like any bank, Monzo offers different savings options for its customers.
What could be improved?
- Touched on earlier, it would make the whole app a lot easier to use if you could set a direct debit up to come out of a pot.
- Back in 2017, you could withdraw £1000 a month abroad for free before paying a fee. Although Monzo did put three different options to its community. I still feel £200 isn’t the best when you can have a Starling account (which we’re about to come to) and have unlimited withdrawals abroad. * I personally would have prefered to have kept the old policy rather than free in Europe and charged elsewhere.
- *As of May 2020
Money Review: 8/10
Starling is another FinTech bank which works similarly to Monzo, but obviously has some of its own benefits.
Currently the Best British Bank and Best Current Account in 2019 and 2020 at the Oscars of the banking world. Awarded 5 stars by Defaqto too. Starling is really trying to push itself to compete with its rivals in the industry.
My favourite thing about Starling is that it has unlimited withdrawals abroad completely fee-free. I know this might not be a big thing for everyone, but as someone that enjoys travelling, it’s one of the main reasons why I signed up for an account. Unlike other FinTech banks such as Monzo and Curve, Starling doesn’t put restrictions on any countries, wherever you are in the world. If you were withdrawing with a regular bank, you’d be paying a transaction fee and a withdrawal fee.
Like Monzo, Starling has its own little place for you to categorise your spending – known as ‘Goals’. Save up for the things you want by setting money aside for your ‘Goals’. You can also give a connected card to a trusted person, who can then buy the things you need on your behalf. I haven’t used this function myself, and personally, don’t think I ever would. However, it gives people more flexibility and options, so therefore I do like having the opportunity there.
Although from the 18th May 2020, with the Bank of England changing it’s interest rates, the interest here will be minuscule; you can earn 0.05% on your account balance up to £85,000. So yes, that means you need £2000 to even earn just a £1 a month, it is still a nice little extra to have if you’re going to use this as your main account. As an example, when I go away I will be transferring money into this account in order to get the free withdrawals, so really earning even the smallest amount of money for using what I would use anyway seems like a win-win to me.
Other Benefits Starling Offers
- Round-ups – Every purchase you make can ’round up’ and put your change into your savings account.
- Mobile cheques – I do like the easiness of depositing a mobile cheque with Starling. Simply take a photo of the cheque in the app, once it has been accepted within two working days you will receive the funds. Simple.
What Could Be Improved?
- Although most banks and building societies are changing their interest rates, it’s disappointing to see Starling move from an already low-interest rate of 0.5% AER to just 0.05%.
- Like the issue with Monzo, you cannot pay a direct debit out of one of your saving ‘goals’. Again, I just think it would make the whole experience a lot smoother if this as the case.
Money Review: 8.5/10
Curve is a debit card where you can spend money, and use it as a conduit for any other debit or credit card you actually have. As an example I have a HSBC and a Halifax credit card, I can spend money on my Curve card and then pick which bank I wish for it to come out off. Personally I really like having the flexibility to be able to choose. This card is, in essence, all my cards in one.
Ultimate flexibility – Time Travel
Okay, so this is probably the coolest feature on any FinTech bank I’ve come across. On the Curve Blue Card (the standard free card), you can ‘Time Travel’ 14 days back and change how you paid for your purchase. For example, let’s say you bought lunch with your normal current account but you now wouldn’t have enough to cover a direct debit, you could change which card you paid for your meal on up to 14 days. You can do this if the transaction is under £1000.
Like most FinTech banks, Curve allows you to withdraw money abroad with no charges. The Blue card has a limit of £200/month fee free, but there are weekend charges. Ultimately, this means you would need to withdraw during the weekday IF you don’t want to be charged. Like Monzo, there isn’t currently a limit on how much you can spend on the card abroad, and most places take Mastercard meaning you should be okay with the £200 a month WEEKDAY free limit.
You get 1% instant Curve Cash cashback as a 90-day introductory offer at your choice of three popular retailers from a list of 100+ brands. What I like about this is that – let’s say you have a Visa or Mastercard* rewards card/cashback card, here you can then use your Curve card to get Curve’s 1% cashback as well as your credit card rewards as well. It’s two rewards for the price of one!
*Note – Curve currently does not allow American Express cards on their platform.
Other Benefits Curve Offers
- Curves App is really easy and simple to use. Find out exactly how much you’ve spent from every card you sync, as soon as you spend it. Curve automatically categorises your transactions so you don’t have to.
What Could Be Improved?
- What is quite frustrating is on the standard blue card, as soon as you have picked your 3 retailers you cannot change them + this expires after 90 days.
- The Blue card is free and I like this, but Curve have made the upgrade quite expensive per month, if you want to upgrade your card. With the current crisis, I can’t see how you would benefit from airport lounge access and travel insurance at £14.99 per month for the top card.
- The weekend charge for cash withdrawals abroad is something that really annoys me. I’m not sure why they have to charge a fee for this, when other FinTech banks can do it for free.
Money Review: 7.5/10
Obviously there are more FinTech banks out there, with more popping up every year, but these are the top three in my opinion. Feel free to comment below what you think is the best bank and why!