Is Monzo really the cheapest way to spend abroad? This is our Monzo Review.
There’s a new banking company which is called Monzo (formerly Mondo) and I am going to explain why this is the best and cheapest solution for spending money whilst you are abroad as well as our review on Monzo as a banking option. We have been using Monzo for nearly two years and to date have not found a single negative to say about them and here is why.
Millions of people are unhappy with their banks. The owner of Monzo, Tom Blomfield, recognised this and decided to build a brand new bank, from the ground up and fit for the digital age.
Now trust me, there are tons of great features I could tell you about and we will do our best to feature these along with things that will help travellers and backpackers the most… Using the Monzo card whilst abroad.
Instantly Freeze your card – The feeling of losing your bank card is one that haunts us to this day. As all transactions using your card show on your mobile phone, the moment you notice a fraudulent transaction has taken place, you can instantly freeze your card using your app.
Easy to use instant chat – We have contacted Monzo a number of times via the chat system and find it super easy to use, almost instant and always friendly. No more waiting in a queue for an advisor, just ping a message and moments later you will get a response!
Tracking your spend – How many times have you heard “I don’t know where my money has gone!” We have heard it and said it too many times, but with Monzo, you can clearly see where your money has gone as it can all be tracked and categorised without the need for separate sheets. This for us was a great feature and one we still use.
Easy P2P money transfer – Transferring money has always been hard work involving a lot of time and effort but it doesn’t have to be. Sending money P2P is now just a swipe away.
No transaction fees or fuss whilst abroad! – this is our favourite feature and one we will go into more detail on.
In my opinion, using my normal bank’s debit card whilst abroad has always been an annoying, confusing and expensive experience.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times my card has been declined, to find out that it’s been blocked for fraud (even though I told my bank I was going to be abroad at that time!). Let me tell you, it doesn’t make Lewis happy when he has to call his bank to get them to unblock his card so he has access his money!!
Fees and charges… How and why are they so confusing? The current banks seem to have a much worse exchange rate, but they also like to add their own flat fees on top of each transaction? Madness!! It’s always a nice surprise to land back home and then log into my online banking to see what I’ve been charged – depressing!
Well, Monzo doesn’t do any of that. No, really, they don’t!
Why does your card not get blocked whilst travelling?
Your card won’t be blocked for fraud. When you make any card transaction, the authorisation message contains the location of the merchant, often down to the street address. Your smartphone has access to GPS, so it knows where it’s located at the time of the transaction. It’s then trivial to compare the geolocation of a purchase with the geolocation of your phone. If the two locations are within 500 metres of each other, it’s probably a legitimate transaction. Update: we have been told that the 500 metres radius is not a definitive number, this was in the early information leaflets but appears to have now been dropped, we are not sure if this is still enforced. What we would say is by having your phone on you, you can unfreeze the card in a matter of seconds to be able to use it should it be frozen.
If Monzo suspect a suspicious transaction, they’ll send you a push notification to your smartphone asking you to confirm using only your thumbprint. Easy eh?
How does it work out cheaper and better using Monzo abroad?
I want to go into brief detail about the fees and charges to explain why Monzo is a better option than standard banks or foreign exchange booths.
For example, on the 4th December 2015, my bank gave me a rate of 10.47 Croatian Kuna for 1 GBP – around 1.1% off the mid-market rate which hovered between 10.55 and 10.62 on that day – but they then charged me an additional foreign purchase fee of £2.85 per £100. So it cost me a total of £3.95 extra to pay £100.
At the same time, Travelex.co.uk were quoting 9.88 Kuna for 1 GBP – 7% worse than the mid-market rates. Put simply, for every £100 you spent abroad, you’d be £7 worse off if you changed your money on Travelex’s website before leaving, versus using the MasterCard costs. And this is an online rate – if you wait to change money in the airport, you’ll sometimes see charges of 15%+, even though the money desks will claim “no fees.”
Some retailers and ATMs will offer what’s called “Dynamic Currency Conversion” – they’ll do the foreign exchange themselves and present a GBP charge to your bank. Every example we’ve seen of this gives the customer a terrible rate – always choose to be billed in the local currency and have your bank do the exchange.
Here’s the best bit… If you made this payment with Monzo, they would pass the MasterCard exchange rate straight through to you. This rate is very close to the midmarket rate for most currencies. So if you spend £100 abroad with Monzo, it might cost 5 or 10 pence. They’ll also welcome you on arrival in a new country, giving you the exchange rate at a glance. So foreign payments cost you practically nothing extra.
How do you keep your account topped up?
It’s so easy to top up. You can top up via debit or credit card and if you’re on iOS, you can top up via Apple Pay. Literally takes under 10 seconds to open the app, and top up.
Another impressive part comes when you buy. In every purchase I have made, it appears on my phone near enough instantly. Obviously you need a data connection which isn’t always easy (and cheap!) when abroad but in the UK, it’s fantastic!
In my opinion, this is the easiest and cheapest way of using your card abroad. As always, if you think I’m wrong, or know of another way, let me know!
How have we found the customer service?
Kieron had his card stolen and was able to freeze his card instantly via his phone. Customer Services via the app chat were super helpful and had a new card sent out in 2 days. They were quick to respond and getting in touch was easy via the chat, no need to spend hours on hold anymore!
A few things to consider before signing up…
It’s an invite system! This means, when you download the app and sign up, you’re put into a queue. They’re sending out 1,000 cards per week but I think they’re increasing that soon.
Their frequently asked questions can be found here.