Neobank Comparison 2021 (Monzo, Paysend, Revolut etc)

Introduction

This post is a comparison between the new type of online banks with special focus on how they deal with currency exchange rates and fees. Althought not directly related to wine, wine travellers often need to exchange currencies and every pound saved on currency exchange fees the more wine you can buy :). As the theme of the website is wine, food and travel there might be some posts related to this such as an upcoming Airport Layover Guide or Michelin Restaurant Maps and so on.

Please be advised that you should almost never ever exchange the currency at any physical Forex or other shop as you will find the fees at least 3x times the online neobanks so if you are planning on using these anyways, make sure it would only be for pocket change.

This comparison with a winner is based in this post mainly about exchanging a medium size quantity of money and does not factor in function or other “soft” factors as the experience is relatively similar on all of them.

Fees versus exchange rates

It is typical for businesses to hide their fees in smart ways and foreign currency exchanges are no different. The most common and semi-shady way is to offer “no fee” exchanges which usually means that they will use a worse rate to make up their profit. These will almost always be bad deals and will require you to do some work to understand the real fee so normally this is big warning sign.

Example: Currently the EURO/USD is  1,00 vs 1,22 and the USD/EURO is 1,00 vs 0,82. This way if you exchange €100 for $122 it is a clean trade. However, if you want to make 5% profit you can simply offer a rate that is 5% lower such as 1,00 vs 1,16. This means that €100 will translate into $116 meaning a $6 fee.

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There might also be a fixed fee per transer etc so you can get fined 2 ways but it is usually one or the other. The main point is that you need to be aware of what rate you are getting. Ideally it will be the no-fee one available on www.xe.com and you can always use this website to compare rates.

Sample Transfer

On the 9th January we wrote in £2000 to be converted to euros in 3 different applications within 5 minutes of each other and we list the cheapest option below. The www.xe.com transfer showed £2000 = 2220€ being the actual transfer fee at the time about 20 minutes after the comparison while the 3 alternatives quickly in between. As the currency rates are real time and changes every minute it may mean that you could either consider the stated fee or compare the final amount with the 2220€ from www.xe.com  

  1. PagoFX – 2219€ (2212 without the first promo) – 0.35% or 0.7% stated fee
  2. Transferwise – 2211.6€ (no bonus) – 0.7% stated fee
  3. Paysend – 2190.89€ (no bonus) – 1.4% fee based on comparison with £2220 xe.com-rate.

Paysend – Worst Alternative

This option will probably pop up online and got good reviews but given the price you pay it is not a great alternative currently.

Sample rate 9 jan 2021 – £2000 to euro will be 2190.89€. This is 31 € in total fee due to the poor conversion rate as you will lose approximately 1.4% in bad exchange. On top of this, Paysend has a limited numbers of currencies to exchange. It often lists the country with the wrong currency but it should work for the big ones. 

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PagoFX – The bank transfer winner (smooth and cheap)

This is a new neobank set up with the physical bank Santander. You get one free transfer up to £1000 (one time) and then anything above this is of a fee of 0.7%. This fee is paying with credit card which could be considered an advantage of the similar service of Transferwise where paying by creditcard is an option but to a higher fee.

Sample rate 9 jan 2021 – £2000 to euro will be 2212€ with the fee of 7 gbp with the first discount). This means a total fee of 0.7% or with the bonus 0.35%

Transferwise – Decent allarounder

It is mostly famous for transfering money over different currencies but also allows accounts in other currencies and offers credit cards.

Their fee is 0.7% currently.

Monzo – Only for pocket money.

This british neobank does not offer several currencies but it allows free currency conversion and withdrawals up to around £300. The account is free and the app works well overall and even offers saving towards goals or interest accounts. It is therefore not suited for making larger international transfers as it can only send in £.

Revolut – Good rates but shady practice

This is probably the best alternative as it allows you to have several currencies and exchange completly for free up to a certain amount per month (and unlimited with a premium account). However, Revolut has often been having negative press with shady business practices and the writer of this post also have had issues with Revolut and is since not using the service. You can send and recieve local bank transfers for free in various currencies which is great but as the business was previously losing over hundred million and more and more restrictions/fees are being applied then it appears likely that the app would introduce further limits to this.

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