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Cheque-mate! The digital banks that are here to stay


How would you feel about a bank without a branch? What if you could swap the trip to the bank for just opening an app? Pay in cheques from your phone, split bills with your mates - it might sound too good to be true, but you can do all that and more with app based banks.

Banking is just one of the things that have evolved into something unrecognisable thanks to the internet. Banking startups have been gaining more and more popular over the last five years, particularly for those who want to be able to do more with their money.

We’ve been looking at three of the biggest digital banks taking a sledgehammer to traditional notions of banking, leaving the bricks and mortar premises behind in favour of something online, accessible and smartphone centered.

Revolut

Revolut is a huge digital bank, which currently has 8 million users worldwide. Like all of the banks listed its predominantly application based, and you can pay through a smartphone, or if you’re very fancy, a smart watch. 

The main selling point of Revolut is the ease at which you can change your money from one currency to another. There are no charges involved at all in doing this, so for those spending abroad there’s no more guessing how much money you’re going to need at the beginning of your holiday. Just top up when you need it, and change everything bank to GBP at the end. They cover 150 different currencies, so the likelihood is you’ll be covered no matter where your travels take you. You can even withdraw up to £200 a month from cash machines abroad with no charges at all. Crypto-currencies are included too!

From a security point of view, you can freeze your card from the app, and set up location based-security which prevents payments being made from a different country. Your money is safeguarded with Barclays/Lloyds, but your money is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This means that if Barclays/Lloyds went under, so would your cash. Revolut says, ‘In the event of an insolvency of Revolut, you will be able to claim your funds from this segregated account and your claim will be paid above all other creditors.’

Monzo

Monzo is a digital banking heavyweight too, boasting a membership of over 3.4 million. It definitely sells itself as a more comprehensive than Revolut; it has pretty much identical currency changing options (although with Monzo you can spend in any currency at all, as it just uses Mastercard’s exchange rate) as well as cash withdrawals up to £200 without any charges. Monzo even tells you the exchange rate when you land, and it’ll tell you exactly how much you’ve spent when you get back (presuming, of course, that you want to know).

Their regular notifications really set Monzo apart as a digital bank which is keeping you informed. When you make a payment it can tell you how much you’ve spent, and what the transaction brings your total spending to that day. With their full current account you can really analyse your spending, and you can also use their Savings Pots to divide up your money; you can have a Saving Pot for bills, one for spending money, one for your Amazon basket, the options are seemingly endless. 

What about cash and cheques in this new digital banking landscape? Well, you can pay physical cheques in via post (if you are still in the business of writing cheques, the postage is free and tracked). You can pay cash in at a PayPoint (we hadn’t heard of them either, but apparently there are 28,000 of them in the UK and one only 0.16 miles from our office). From a security standpoint Monzo surpasses Revolut in that your money is protected by the FSCS. That means if the bank goes under, up to £85,000 of your money is protected. Monzo also don’t spend your money the way traditional banks do; the money simply sits within the Bank of England.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with Monzo; if you want to find out more about the bill splitting features, save the change features and how you get paid a day earlier than other banks, check out their website.

Starling

Starling are so confident that they’re head and shoulders above the competition that they’ve got a comparison app on their website, so you can figure out exactly which digital banking app you’d be better off with. https://www.starlingbank.com/current-account/compare-best-bank-accounts/

Like Monzo, you can save with Goals; divide your money up into different goals, and easily see how much money you’ve put aside for each. Starling have really taken this and ran with it; you can analyse your spending in detail to see where your money is going each month. Just like Monzo you get your regular notifications every time money leaves your account - Starling say that this is a great way to protect yourself against fraud. From there it’s all the same stuff you’d get from a regular bank; card freezing and unfreezing, 24/7 UK support available whenever you need it.

Cheques are again sent in the post (for free) to be deposited, but you can deposit cash at any Post Office in the UK. Again, with Starling you’re looking at no-fees travel all around the world, as well as instant notifications when you spend with figures listed in your home currency, as well as the currency you’ve spent; a great way to keep track of your spending without trying to do complicated mathematics on holiday. Like Monzo, with Starling your money is covered up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

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