The new wave of digital banks appeals to young people, but which is the best bank specifically for international travel? Let’s compare features.
Here are the features that matter when travelling abroad, compared across the 3 banks. There is a summary table of key facts at the bottom. Let’s find the best bank for travel – Monzo vs Starling vs Revolut.
Many destinations still use cash much more than we do, especially poorer regions like South America and Asia. Locals often like to be paid in notes, because it’s better for them when it comes to tax. Plus, it’s always handy to tip waiters at restaurants, taxi drivers, etc.
Revolut allows up to £200/month of cash withdrawals on the free plan, up to £400/month on the £7/m Premium plan, and up to £800/month on the £13/m Metal plan.
Monzo lets you withdraw up to £400/month with the £5/m Plus plan, or up to £600/month with the £15/m Premium plan.
Starling has a flat limit of up to £300/day for all users.
For exchanging money into different currencies, eg GBP to Euro. You’ll exchange money when going abroad, when crossing the border into another country. Exchanging the funds in your bank account into the local currency is always going to be necessary, so it’s best to obtain favourable exchange rates to make your money go as far as possible. Meaning, you want to get the most dollars/yen/lira for your pound.
Monzo and Starling use the same real-time exchange rate as Mastercard, which is about the best you can get.
Revolut also uses the Mastercard exchange rate, with no fees up to £1000/month. However, after £1000 you will incur a 0.5% fee. If you get the £7/m Premium plan, there are no fees and it becomes the same as Monzo and Starling.
Winners: Monzo and Starling
Tip: When paying abroad with your card, the card reader often gives you the option to pay in their local currency or in your home currency. Always select to pay in their local currency (yen, lira etc.) because the store’s exchange rate is likely quite poor. Paying in their local currency means your bank will do the exchanging, and Starling, Monzo and Revolut have better exchange rates than the shop itself.
Locking Card Remotely
If your card is lost or stolen – for example, if your luggage goes missing – you need to take action quickly. All 3 platforms allow you to go on their app and freeze your card, to stop it from being used by anyone who finds it. If you later get your wallet back, you can unfreeze, or “defrost”, your card and continue using it.
Travel insurance can be bought separately, but it’s a bonus if your bank already includes it.
Revolut has travel insurance included in its £7/m Premium plan. It covers worldwide trips up to 90 days in length.
Monzo also includes travel insurance on its £15/m Premium plan. It only covers trips 45 days or shorter, and has a £45 excess.
Starling does not do travel insurance.
Tip: Many travel insurance policies that come with your normal bank or bundled with other insurance policies are only valid for short trips. Check the maximum length of stay that’s covered before travelling. You don’t want to claim for lost luggage during your gap year, only to find that the policy only covers trips up to 14 days.
Savings Interest Rates
With inflation sky-high at around 10%, money sitting in the bank is constantly losing value. For example, £10 in 1990 is equivalent to our £29.08, so if it was just sitting in a piggy bank, it’s lost a lot of value. Any interest gained on savings slightly offsets inflation and helps your money retain value.
Revolut has a savings pot that offers up to 1.35% interest.
Monzo has a range of savings options that yield up to 2.76% interest on a fixed term, or up to 1.55% with easy access.
Starling does not have a savings account, but has up to 0.05% interest on current accounts.
FSCS is the UK’s statutory deposit insurance and investors compensation scheme. In short, it protects your money up to £85,000 if the bank goes bust.
Monzo and Starling are officially FSCS registered, so your money has some claim to security in their accounts.
Revolut claims not to be an official bank, and has no FSCS guarantee, so they could, in theory, go bankrupt and lose all your funds. Here’s how Revolut claims to keep people’s money safe. For this reason, I recommend NOT using Revolut as your main/only bank.
Winners: Monzo & Starling
Monzo insures your mobile phone on their £15/m Premium plan.
Neither Starling nor Revolut offers this benefit.
Transfer Money Abroad
Sending money abroad in a different currency usually has a fee.
Revolut charges £10, with a 20% discount for users on their £7/m Premium plan, and a 40% discount for users with the £13/m Metal plan.
Monzo partnered with the solid international transfer platform Wise, and transfers can still be done within the Monzo app. It charges around £3.75 for transfers up to £1000.
Starling has 2 options, either a riskier low-cost transfer that can’t be tracked if something goes wrong for £4.30 up to £1000, or £9.50 fee for a proper SWIFT transfer.
Overall Winner – Best Bank for Travel
Adding up points for these features, Monzo wins, followed by Starling and Revolut in last place.
However, remember that Starling is free. For travel insurance, Revolut will be £7/m, and for travel and phone insurance, Monzo sets you back £15/m.
Bought separately from another provider, phone insurance is about £7/m, and travel insurance is quite expensive.
Revolut also does not have FSCS protection, which is a concern. It cannot be the best bank for travel on its own, as your savings shouldn’t be kept there.
My personal winner for the best bank for travel is either Revolut £7/m Premium plan in combination with another, FSCS protected, bank. Or Monzo £15/m with travel and phone insurance.
Summary of Key Facts – Monzo vs Starling vs Revolut
|Cash Withdrawals||Up to £200/m, £400/m Premium £7/m plan, £800/m £13/m Metal plan||Up to £400/m with £5/m Plus plan, £600/m with £15/m Premium plan||Up to £300/day|
|Exchange Rates||Same as Mastercard. No fees up to £1000/month, then 0.5%. Unlimited on £7/m Premium plan||Same as Mastercard||Same as Mastercard|
|Lock Card Remotely||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Travel Insurance||Yes £7/m Premium plan, up to 90-day trip||Yes in £15/m Premium plan, trips under 45 days, £45 excess||No|
|Savings Interest Rates||Up to 1.35%||Up to 2.76% fixed, up to 1.55% easy access||Up to 0.05%|
|Phone Insurance||No||Yes on £15/m Premium plan||No|
|Transfer Money Abroad||£10 fee. 20% discount on £7/m Premium plan, 40% discount on £13/m Metal plan||Partnered with Wise. £2 fee up to £500, £3.75 fee up to £1000||£9.50 fee up to £1000, or £4.30 fee on low-cost transfer|
Compare Revolut accounts here.
Compare Monzo accounts here.
View the Starling account here.
See more travel posts here.