One of the drawbacks of being abroad is that you need to do a lot of paperwork. Utilities, banks, housing, permits, etc. I especially feared bank contracts. It is difficult to know all the conditions and when a fee applies. Especially when you are not used to the general rules of that country.
But luckily things are changing lately. The increase of people moving around and the access to technology are opening doors to new start-ups that make our lives easier. For me the revolution started with Transferwise. We started using it back in 2013. Whenever we had to do transfers with currency exchange we used Transferwise and we continue doing it today because it is safe and it is easier and cheaper than banks. I have not calculated it but I estimate we have saved hundreds of euros in fees.
Avoiding fees abroad
When I came to London it I was sure I didn’t want to do all the paperwork of setting up an account in a traditional bank. Using my Spanish accounts was not an option either because the cards I have in Spain charge fees to use them with a different currency. Well, some don’t charge fees but they use their “own” currency exchange rate. So they end up hiding the fee in the exchange rate.
As I mentioned, I had a good experience with Transferwise so it was one of the first options I looked at. But when I arrived in London their Borderless account had not yet been released. If it had, I may have chosen it as my only account in £. Today, I have it and although it seems very good I have not used it much.
Because before getting my Borderless account I opened an account with Revolut. And I have been so happy that I have not considered changing.
It is worth mentioning that there are other fintech that can be interesting, such as N26 or Monzo to name a just a couple.
Making it easy with fintech: Revolut
You start by opening a local account for your currency of origin. In my case, euros. Everything is done from your smartphone. I had to pay 5 euros to receive the card. I think it’s the only fee I’ve had to pay since then.
From the application you can top-up money through your other cards. I top-up in euros with a debit card from my Spanish bank. Once you have a balance in Revolut you can move it to other currencies.
If I’m not wrong you can have an account for each currency. I have opened dollars, euros, pounds and rupees. There are no fees for transferring money between your accounts and the exchange rate is updated on the spot. I have checked it several times with the realtime exchange rate and it has always been almost the same.
Knowing that this year I would go to the US to visit Mrs. Lyn, she insisted that I exchane some euros to dollars because the change was “very good”. I don’t know how she came to that conclusion but luckily he nailed it. I made the exchange at 1.23 the euro and it was around 1.15 when I visited.
When we went to India, I put money in my rupee account and paid with my Revolut card everywhere as if it were a local card. I also had no issues withdrawing money in ATMs. In fact at a hotel they told me that they couldn’t take my card because their system only worked with local cards. My Revolut ended up working perfectly. Which makes sense because the payment is made directly in rupees. Moreover it is accepted virtually everywhere because it is a MasterCard prepaid card (although I think they now use Visa).
The only major drawback I see is the limit for withdrawing money. There is a limit of 200 euros per month. In total, not by account. Honestly, so far I have never had any problem with this because in London I pay everything by card but it can be a problem if you visit a country that uses more cash or if you are in rural areas.
Have you tried Revolut? Do you use something better?
Note: all this is my honest personal opinion, I am not sponsored by any company.