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A review of Monzo, the app and its 0% FX fees debit card

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This is our review of Monzo and its 0% FX fees debit card.

The Monzo website is here but you need to download their app if you want to open an account.

Why should I get a 0% foreign exchange fee card for travelling?

As the Lloyds Avios Rewards Mastercard is no longer available to new applicants, there are no travel rewards credit cards which offer fee-free overseas purchases.

If you use a rewards credit card when travelling, you will incur a fee of 3% on everything you buy. This can never be justified by the miles and points earned on the transaction. It may be justified if you need to hit a spending target to trigger a sign-up bonus or a voucher such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1.

Over the last few weeks we have been looking at a few no and low FX fee options. We reviewed Tandem a few weeks ago (click here). Here is our review of the WeSwap Mastercard travel money card, here is our review of Revolut and here is our review of Starling Bank.  I summarised all of the standard credit cards with 0% FX fees here.

All of these products have different features – there is no ‘right’ answer.  Some are more fiddly than others, some are prepaid cards and some are credit cards, some have added benefits such as 0% interest on purchases.

If you DO want to earn miles and points from your foreign spending, the best option is Curve Card. Curve is free and has a 1% foreign exchange fee (2/3rd lower than most cards). It recharges your purchase to any other Visa or Mastercard you own in Sterling. This means you earn miles and points on the underlying card without paying the usual 2.99% foreign transaction fee. Curve Card will pay you £5 for trying it outread our article here.

Monzo card reviewed

What is Monzo?

Monzo has moved on rapidly since it launched and is now, like Starling Bank, a full ‘online bank on a debit card’.  Like Starling, but unlike Revolut, it has full FSCS compensation up to £85,000 if the company goes bust.

The original Monzo product – a prepaid travel money card which could be topped up via an app – has now morphed into the current account.  There is no waiting list at present.  The company claims to have over 700,000 users although it isn’t clear how many of those are on the new current account and how many simply have the free prepaid travel money card.

Some of the services offered by Monzo will be familiar to Revolut or Starling Bank users:

the card and account are free

0% foreign exchange fees when you use your Monzo debit card outside the UK

top-up via bank transfer or debit card, or have your salary paid onto your card (no credit card top-up possible)

no cash withdrawal or foreign exchange fees when you use your card at an ATM abroad

you can send and receive money to friends with Monzo accounts very quickly via the app

a £200 per month fee free ATM withdrawal limit, with a 3% fee thereafter (note that Starling Bank has no limits)

free £20 overdraft and after that you pay a fixed 50p per day – this is an optional feature which, if turned on, is included on your credit file

works with Apple Pay

Other features include the ability to lock the card from within the Monzo app if it is lost or stolen, instant notifications for all transactions and the ability to set spending targets in the app for categories such as eating out or groceries.

Monzo Bank Ltd. is a fully licensed bank.  You can, if you wish, pay your salary onto your debit card or ask friends and family to send money to your card using the standard sort code and account number format.

You can also set up direct debits and standing orders to be paid from your Monzo balance, because this is a ‘proper’ online-only current account.

There is another additional feature of using Monzo as opposed to withdrawing cash on a credit card.  ATM withdrawals via a credit card can show on your credit file.  Some potential lenders may take a negative view of this (they may think you are desperate for cash). As Monzo is taking money from your own credit balance, it will not show on your credit file.

The only issue is that Monzo limits free ATM withdrawals outside the UK to £200 per month and charges a 3% fee thereafter.  This could be an issue in countries where card acceptance is lower.  Starling Bank does not have this limit and could be the swing factor if you withdraw a lot of money abroad.

Monzo card bank review

Conclusion

This is only a brief overview of what Monzo Bank has to offer. I have no experience of it myself but, like Starling Bank, a lot of HFP readers have posted very positive comments about it.  The quality of record keeping, and the various ways you can search and track your spending, seem particularly popular.

It is important to note that this is a ‘proper’ current account. You can, of course, download the Monzo app, open an account to get the debit card and use it purely for travel purposes, but you will end up with a 2nd current account.  It’s also not clear how many people are on the waiting list and how long it will take to actually open an account.

There is no obligation to pay your salary into Monzo.  You can fund your account via the app using a debit card from your main bank.

As this is a travel site, I don’t want to go into the specifics of how Monzo Bank works as a current account provider. What we can say is that – with 0% fees on foreign spending and cash withdrawals – it ticks the two main boxes you want in a card to use abroad.

If you are not willing to use Monzo Bank as a full current account, you may find a product like Revolut (albeit that Revolut is also transitioning into being a ‘proper’ current account and also has a low ATM limit of £200 per month) or a standard 0% foreign exchange credit card cleaner. Remember that as your Monzo card is a debit card and not a credit card, you do not get Section 75 protection if you have problems with any item purchased abroad.

If you currently use Monzo, please let us know via the comments how you find it.

The Monzo website is here if you want to find out more. To apply, download their app.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. As this is the credit card thread: can you have the plat and gold amex at the same time at the moment, given that one is a charge card & one a credit card?

    Thanks!

  2. DaveTMG says:

    You are way out of date on Monzo. All prepaid cards were shut down months ago and there is no waiting list any more,

    You also refer to Monzo as Mondo in the article – perhaps a rehash of an old article without the additional research needed?

  3. Hamish says:

    I believe there is no longer a queue or waiting list to join Monzo. New users should get their card the day after signing up.
    https://monzo.com/blog/2018/05/24/no-more-monzo-waiting-list/

  4. Thanks for this. A small point of detail is that as far as I know, the prepaid card is defunct. I have had messages saying that mine would stop working on a given date. As a travel product, Monzo is the same as Starling, but with ATM restrictions. Therefore, I can’t see why anyone would choose it. Am I missing something? Other than this, I have found the customer experience pretty similar for both.

    • Totally agree. I started off with Monzo but when the restrictions came in I switched to Starling.

      • The ATM restrictions were explained at length in the Monzo community and ultimately the community itself decided that the £200 free limit was the way to go.

        The fact is it was completely unsustainable to continue offering no fee cash withdrawals abroad due to the costs involved. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Starling and others end up imposing the same restrictions at some point

  5. Pascal says:

    I have used most of these “new banks” (and actually worked for Revolut at the beginning). Monzo is the clear favourite. By far the best customer service of these, great UX and a transparent communication with the users/community. There are tons of monzo “fans” because they actually care and put the customer first in New product devolopments.

    • Moily says:

      As a Curve, Revolut, Monzo and (ex-) Starling customer I agree that Monzo is a great product. Customer Service is by far the best out of the 4, and the Community and social media updates are light years ahead of the others. Travelling abroad I take Monzo and Revolut as primary cards.

      One other thing to note about Monzo – Joint Accounts are being trialled by staff now and will be launched imminently.

      • Yatin says:

        +1 on the above – Monzo has now become my main current account and I’m actually in the process of closing down old accounts – each time I go through that process it reminds of of why Monzo is so great.

  6. Andrew Clark says:

    I see others have beaten me to it but, more than 700k users of the full current account now (prepay beta fully closed on April 4th) and the queue formally disappeared in the past two weeks.

    As a travel card there are additional features such as a spending report when you return from your travels.

    Worth saying that they are a bank replacement rather than credit card replacement. Their new features, customer service and technology stack is massively disruptive.

    I know this is sacrilege on here but I’m taking no rewards currently on Amex ior Curve as the insights I’m getting from Monzo are changing how I spend.

    Love this site but, as you can tell, I’m also a Monzo fanboy. Try it, you’ll like it.

    • Genghis says:

      “the insights I’m getting from Monzo are changing how I spend.”
      Could you tell us a bit more Andrew? I’ve never even bothered with the analytics part of Curve, for instance, but should I be?

      • David says:

        No – use Money Dashboard instead for your analysis. Any of the Curve/Monzo options will only give you transactions spent on that card, but Money Dashboard imports data from all your bank accounts and credit cards (except Creation) and puts them all in one place.

        • Genghis says:

          Thanks. But what then? How are the data cut to help me decide, “Oh, I needed that foie gras but not those Tod’s driving shoes, I can cut back there”?

        • Hehe I still use Quicken XG 2004 😀

        • the real harry1 says:

          It’s rather like the Willy Wonkerish drive to get people to install smart meters to monitor energy use – huge cost to all concerned (£200 per meter, £11 billion total) with no perceivable benefit. How’s seeing that turning on the central heating or cooking a meal is costing me energy going to change my usage at all? I know all that already.

        • Genghis says:

          @TRH1 my thoughts exactly. I’ve resisted so far.

        • RussellH says:

          My preferred way of saving cash is not to have a fancy smartphone or (horrible) tablet. Unless I am visiting the USA, £10 on my ASDA PAYG lasts me a year at least.

          And what does the intelligenmt readership here need ‘analysis’ for? That is what one’s brain is for.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Real benefit to the companies is real time meter readings and no need for anyone to pop round.

          As mad as it sounds it can remind you that an extra tv etc might be on

    • I don’t use Monzo, just because I have a good budget already (so don’t really need the analytics), and also have various financial produces (Interest paying current account, ISAs, credit cards) that Monzo don’t offer. But I think the product is maybe not aimed at business travellers, but younger spenders who really like the data you get from using the card. You can set interactive spending/saving targets, split and pay bills really easily (a few of my friends do this and it’s really cool), get spending notifications, and you can sort this data by day, type etc. I do see the appeal, but it’s obv not for everyone.

      • *products…

      • Yes, these are very much millennial products, which is a bit of a business risk because it limits your market.

        • Yes – none of this appeals to me full stop. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good product at all but I don’t care about paying sums to other individuals, or splitting bills. Also I’m not really on much of a budget, particularly on holiday so I don’t want to be presented with an analysis of what I’ve actually spent. I’ll leave this to the younger market even though I love my gadgets and tech and am not a dinosaur. I’m just pleased to be getting the Horizon CC.

  7. Vistaro says:

    I use Revolut quite a lot and in general have found it to be really good. I’m now concerned about the lack of FCS cover should things go wrong, I’m sure they told me it did have this cover when I joined, does anyone know if they have cover or not?

    • Memesweeper says:

      Didn’t last time I checked a few weeks ago. I got nervous and pulled out my holiday ‘savings’ in foreign currency

    • callum says:

      As I understand it, Revolut itself doesn’t have FSCS cover, but they put your money in an account with Lloyds or Barclays which does have FSCS cover.

      If Revolut goes bust, you can therefore claim the entire amount from Lloyds or Barclays (I think it’s mainly Barclays).

      If Lloyds and/or Barclays goes bust, the first £85,000 in your account should be covered – though this limit will presumably be shared with any other Lloyds/Barclays accounts you have.

      • Genghis says:

        The Lloyds / Barclays accounts are normal client money accounts (needed under FCA CASS rules). No £85k FSCS protection per customer.

        • callum says:

          Ah seems I was mislead before! Regardless I now see Monzo accounts are directly covered by the FSCS.

  8. Memesweeper says:

    Not sure about Debit Card top ups — my app just shows bank transfers, add salary and cheques under ‘add money.

    • Genghis says:

      Look a bit harder. They change it round all the time as it costs them to top up from debit card. It’s button to the top right of the written options.

      • Moily says:

        They’ve actually disabled it for new sign-ups. You can request it to be enabled via Support, however.

  9. Swiss says:

    A little OT but has anyone compiled a list of which credit cards definitely treat Revolut as a purchase? Limited of course to the types of cards readers of this site will hold. Hilton Honors, IHG, new Virgin etc. Or does anyone have specific experience of these 3 in particular?

  10. I use Monzo everyday and I really love the product.
    When I’m abroad, it is now the only card I use.

    Note that the following feature is not available.
    “you can send money via their app to bank accounts in different countries”
    Can you remove it from your list?

    • Will do.

    • Chen W says:

      Well it will be very shortly as they’re in the process of integrating with another company’s system. Perhaps Rob could also review that particular company’s card product as well at some point in the future? Disclosure: I work for this company but don’t want to name the name. Happy to make an intro to the card product which I think is worth a review on this site as well.

  11. Iain findlay says:

    I’m not sure I would recommend Curve. I had it linked to my Tesco Mastercard and as it turns out stupidly withdrew Euros while abroad and have now been charged £42 in cash transaction fees. I need to check that this is all against overseas transaction but I suspect the two £6 charges are for two £200 I have withdrawn from UK ATM.
    I also got an email from Curve alerting me to this. Curve have washed their hands of it.
    Isin

    • TGLoyalty says:

      See article yesterday. This affects all of these new fintech companies not just Curve.

      IHG is fine atm

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