Revolut – is this the best card for travel? How much does it cost? And how does it stack up against contenders such as Monzo and Starling?
It turns out Revolut offers some great value accounts, hefty perks and a seriously good looking metal card. Plus, Eat Sleep Money readers can get a FREE card worth £5.
Quick Summary – Is Revolut for me?
- Ideal for frequent travellers constantly changing between currencies.
- The best currency exchange rates beating Monzo & Starling
- Offers the cheapest metal card (£12.99 p/m) with some great perks.
- The paid upgrades are good value…if you need them.
- Everything is in one app making it ideal for those short on time.
- Paid account needed for access to cryptocurrencies.
- Eat Sleep Money readers get a card delivered for FREE by signing up with this link (normally £5 for delivery).
Heads up: some links on the site will take you directly to pages where you can sign up for relevant services. Any cost, if anything, is the same to you but provides us with a small commission that helps keep the site running for free, so thank you for using these links if you need them, we appreciate it. It doesn’t change what we write about. Check out Our Philosophy to know more.
What is Revolut?
Revolut is one of the new breed of digital challenger banks (although technically a financial technology company offering banking services).
It was set up in 2015 by two guys with previous experience in investment banking and finance systems. They were passionate about creating change within the foreign currency system and wanted to disrupt the astronomically high fees people were expected to pay when transferring money between currencies.
Four years later, Revolut now has 5 million customers and operates across the globe. They are backed by large investment firms and the company has completed over £40 billion in transactions.
Revolut has carved out a niche in the digital banking space by being focused on customers who want to either spend or transfer money abroad.
“The smartphone app revolutionising foreign currency exchange”The Guardian
Revolut – the best card for travel?
Revolut is known as one of the best travel cards and for good reason, as it was set up with this specifically in mind. However, there is a catch so continue reading to ensure you don’t get any unexpected surprises when abroad.
Revolut provides a unique banking service that allows you to hold money in different currencies, all at no charge. Why would you want to do this? Well, if you travel abroad frequently then you’ll know the hassle and charges involved in constantly converting currencies. With Revolut, it’s continuously converted, saving you time and money.
You can hold multiple currencies all under one account (personal or business) and convert between them as and when you see fit. This could be when you need the money for travelling or even when you think the exchange rate is at its best.
Getting the best exchange rate
When you convert your pounds to another currency, the conversion is based on the exchange rate. At the time of writing, the current exchange rate is £1 = $1.25. This means if you converted £100, then you’d get $125 back (without fees).
However, it’s during this conversion transaction when traditional banks make their money, as you typically get a worse exchange rate. At the time of writing this article, HSBC’s exchange rate offered was £1 = $1.19. As a result, for every pound converted, HSBC takes a $0.06 cut. May not sound a lot, but it soon adds up.
With Revolut, you pay the same rate as the banks. This is called the interbank exchange rate, which makes converting currencies cheaper than traditional banks and gives you more spending power! Small gains, perhaps, but it all helps.
Furthermore, if you choose to spend money in real-time, rather than convert in advance, you still get the same great currency exchange rate. However, you are prone to market price fluctuations so bear this in mind, because on the flip side, converting in advance ensures you get a rate you are happy with at the time.
Overall, there’s lots of flexibility as you can hold all the major currencies including Euros, US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Australian Dollars etc.
Fee wise. you can spend up to £5,000 per month abroad for free with your Revolut card. Beyond this, a 0.5% commission applies.
All sounds great, right? Indeed, but here’s the catch – rates change at the weekend.
Revolute weekend rates
So it’s all sounded good so far: minimal fees, flexibility and cheap. But there’s a catch that hit’s the city-breaking, weekend-warrior traveller the most.
Revolut applies a markup fee of between 0.5% and 1% to foreign currency transactions that happen over the weekend. Major currencies like the Euro and US Dollar get the 0.5% markup. Only a few outliers suffer the full 1% hike (Source).
It’s during the week you get the best possible rates. The reason is that because Revolut uses the interbank exchange rate, they only have access to this during the times that the currency markets are open. At 5pm New York Time the markets close and at 7am Auckland time the markets re-open. This is about 9pm Friday night and 7pm Sunday night but only use this as a guide.
The weekend rate is fixed at the closing rate on Friday and a 0.5% (or higher) markup is added to all transactions that require currency exchange. The purpose of the 0.5% markup is to protect Revolut from any differences in the exchange rate on Monday morning vs Friday night.
To get around this, you can change your money in advance during the working week and hold a foreign currency balance over the weekend. Your foreign currency will be drawn down from first before trying to convert the balance in your sterling (£) account.
8 Top Revolut features
As well as being a great travel card Revolut also offer a plethora of services we have come to expect from the new “challenger banks”. And there’s a few we haven’t seen before. Some features are free, whilst others are reserved for the Premium & Metal “paid” accounts.
Built-in budgeting features allow you to instantly see the areas where you are spending money. We’re big fans of these as it makes budgeting easy, simple and automated.
Monthly budgets are broken down into areas like Groceries, Shopping, Restaurants etc and you can set how much you plan to spend on each.
Furthermore, you can set a monthly ‘master’ budget figure, such as £1,000, that alerts and tracks how over or under that figure you are.
Instant spending notifications ensure you are aware of all transactions as soon as they occur, which is great for security. If you don’t recognise something, you can instantly and remotely freeze your card.
Save your change by rounding up every card payment to the nearest whole number, and Revolut will stash the change away and help you save for your goals.
2. Money Transfers
Transfer money quickly and easily between other Revolut users without having to know their bank details.
And as we now know, you can transfer money abroad in 29 currencies with the interbank exchange rate, with a small 0.5% fee for anything above £5,000 each month. However, a flat mark-up on weekends and on certain currencies may apply.
Send and request money in seconds from your friends at the touch of a button, and attach notes, images and GIFs to make things a little more interesting.
3. Security & protecting your money
If you lose your card or notice anything wrong you can freeze your card instantly via the app. If and when you find your card, simply unfreeze it.
This is a huge improvement compared to the hassle of having to phone the traditional banks to freeze you cards, which then can’t be undone when you, of course, find you wallet down the back of the sofa.
Want total control of your card? Then Revolut allows you to choose whether your card works at cash machines and/or for online payments. You can restrict your card usage to certain transaction types, which is a neat feature we’ve not seen before.
Ready to take security even further? If so, you can turn on location-based security. This ensures any transactions that happen which are not close to your location will be blocked and you will be notified.
4. Spend abroad
Revolut lets you access the best exchange rates via the interbank
exchange rate and is available for over 150 currencies. However, there are a few catches to consider:
- Revolut charges a 0.5% fee (on major currencies) at weekends. This means you WILL pay for spending at the weekend.
- You can withdraw up to £200 in cash from cash machines per month. After this, a 2% fee applies. Paid accounts provide higher limits
- 0.5% fee for spending abroad above £5,000 each month.
5. Saving with ‘Vaults’
Vaults are mini savings accounts within your Revolut account. You can put money in or take it out whenever you want.
When money is in a Vault, you cannot spend it using your card, it must be transferred back first.
This may sound like a hassle, but it’s actually a top Money Mindset hack to put in a few extra steps when accessing your savings, which prevents over-spending.Eat Sleep Money
Vaults can be in any currency or even cryptocurrencies. You can set up regular payments into a Vault or do single transactions. You can even round up spending transactions from your main account and put the change into your chosen Vault.
Unlike any of its rivals, Revolut allows you to buy, sell, receive or spend cryptocurrencies directly from your app. To enable this feature you must have a paid account (see our table below).
- Bitcoin Cash
Top Tip Rather than paying for the required account, get access to crypto features by signing up 3 friends to Revolut and then register your interest via the Cryptocurrency area of the ap. Revolut advises it can take a few weeks to get you set up due to popular demand.
7. Mobile Phone Insurance
Mobile Phone Insurance can be added directly from the app and can cover you for accidental damage anywhere in the world. Cover starts from just £1 per week.
To see if the £1 figure is true, I tried out a Samsung Galaxy S9 and the insurance came out as £1.44 per week (about £6.50 per month) with a £70 excess.
For comparison, ProtectYourBubble.com came out as £7.99 per month with a £75 excess.
8. Overseas Medical Insurance
Revolut offers Overseas Medical Insurance via Pay As You Use or through one of the paid accounts. Pay As You Use cover can be added instantly within a few minutes directly within the app. Charges start at around £1 per day up to a £30 cap, which then gives you the rest of the year free.
Insurance is provided by Revolut Travel which is underwritten by White Horse Insurance. White Horse is also used by other travel companies like Thomas Cook.
More information on Overseas Medical Insurance can be found on Revolut’s site here.
How much does Revolut cost?
|Currency exchange limit||£5,000 p/m||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Free ATM withdrawal||£200 p/m||£400 p/m||£600 p/m|
|Overseas Medical Insurance||No||Yes||Yes|
|Delayed bags/flight insurance||No||Yes||Yes|
|Global Express Card Delivery||No||Yes||Yes|
|Priority Customer Support||No||Yes||Yes|
|Disposable virtual cards||No||Yes||Yes|
|LoungeKey Pass Access||No||Yes||Yes|
Setting up a Revolut account
Setting an account up is easy. Simply follow this link to the Revolut site and you will be asked to complete the steps below.
- Download the app (links to play and iPhone)
- Choose what type of account you want
- Transfer money (£10 minimum) using a debit card
The Revolut card
There are two types of card with Revolut.
- Virtual Card – This lives in your app only
- Physical Card – Standard debit card (and yes, there is a metal version!)
Revolut Metal Card
The Revolut metal card is currently one of the cheapest on the market at £12.99 per month. On top of an actual metal card, the account has some nice benefits, including free insurance, cashback and crypto.
Metal cards are really gathering momentum as more and more people clamour for the status symbol.
We have to admit, it’s one sexy looking card and would pimp-up any wallet. If James Bond carried a debit card, you know it would be a metal one!
Revolut offers the metal card in a range of colours:
- Rose Gold
Revolut Metal Card accounts are particularly well suited for those who travel, as it comes with free overseas medical insurance, free travel delay insurance and the ability to withdraw up to £600 abroad without charge.
Furthermore, it also gets you access to trading cryptocurrencies, which is usually a chargeable extra.
On top of this, the Metal Card offers cashback. At 0.1% on transactions inside Europe it doesn’t feel very compelling. But if you are travelling outside of Europe you will get a whopping 1%!
If you transfer money abroad the Metal Card account offers a “Turbo Transfers” service, allowing you to rapidly transfer money abroad.
Revolut has also just activated Stock trading for the American paid accounts. This function should be coming to the UK soon so if you want to be the first to get access, then Metal customers typically get priority.
The feedback about the “Concierge Service” is that it is very basic and usually takes a day or two to get an answer. Sorry, but this is not your own Giovanni! At least not yet.
Metal Card Comparison Table
So, how well does Revolut Metal stack up against its competitors? If you are looking for a metal card that you can get today, Revolut is currently the cheapest.
Monzo has said it is looking at a metal card offering and might even sell it for as low as £7.50 per month, however, details on this are still light.
That said, metal cards seem to be on the up and more and more banks, particularly the new challengers, are offering one.
|£ per month||£12.99||£14.90||£14.99||£7.50*|
*Monzo is currently teasing us with a metal card offering however no pricing or release date is available yet.
How long will it take to get my Revolut card?
The Revolut card normally takes less than a week to arrive. You will have to pay £5 for your card however if you use this link our friends at Revolut will send you a card for FREE.
If you just can’t wait, then you can use your virtual cards instantly.
Is Revolut a bank?
Yes. Revolut was officially made a European Bank in December 2018 after securing a European Banking licence. The European banking licence was issued by Lithuania and it is understood Revolut are pursuing a full UK bank licence.
That being said, Revolut does not offer it’s account in the UK as a bank yet. Think of your Revolut account as a pre-paid card. You can transfer you monthly spending money into Revolut but you can’t set up direct debits or standing orders.
As Revolut is not currently offering current account banking to UK customers it is not protected by the FSCS. Banks like Monzo & Starling are FSCS protected and offer monetary protection for up to £85,000 of your money. With this in mind, Revolut makes a good card for spending but doesn’t have the reassurances to store large sums of money.
Watch this space as full bank accounts should be available towards the end of 2019.
How safe is Revolut?
Revolut states “We hold all client funds in ring-fenced accounts with a large global bank. This essentially means that we, nor our partner bank, never lend out or invest your money.”
Revolut vs Monzo vs Starling
Revolut made its name being one of the best travel cards and rightly so. They led the way in a new wave of banks offering better currency services for its customers.
Monzo and Starling also have the ability to easily spend money in multiple currencies and take advantage of the current exchange rate without charging extortionate commissions.
However, Revolut stands out by giving customers the ability to hold multiple different currency accounts. This allows you to exchange money when you see fit, which is currently a unique feature that Monzo and Starling do not offer.
Revolut offers the best exchange rate however it does not offer FSCS protection.
Revolut is also the only one to offer a metal card and give access to cryptocurrencies. Stock trading is also coming to the UK customer base very soon meaning this will be yet another unique offering from Revolut.
So, is Revolut right for you?
Revolut offers some great perks and the lowest comparable fees. If you also want a card that your mates will drool over, then the Metal account is for you.
Revolut offers some unique features that other challenger banks don’t have. The fees are very competitive for what’s on offer so if you are going to use the features then Revolut offers great value for money.
Revolut won’t replace your current account like Monzo & Starling but it can be a great spending card.
The app is easy to use and the design is clean and intuitive. We really like the fact that Revolut will be offering stock trading soon directly from the app and we will be one of the first to test this functionality out.
If you like Revolut and want to try it out, we have got you a special link that gets you a FREE card (usually £5). Try Revolut here. Remember, suing this link costs you no more and keeps your site running for free.
One more thing – we want to know what you think. Do you agree with us? Would you spend £12.99 a month on a metal card? Will we all be trading crypto from our banking apps in future? Leave a comment or send us a pic of your shiny metal card on our Facebook page.
Until the next time – here’s to financial fitness!
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EatSleepMoney.co.uk does not offer financial advice and is intended for reference/information only. Remember, you should always carry out your own research and/or take specific professional advice before choosing any financial products or services or undertaking any business or financial venture. Investments may go up as well as down and you may get back less than you put in.