Alternatives to Monzo: A list of alternative banks and apps
The digital banking revolution is in its golden years, so consumers have never had more banking options. If you don't know how to choose, we've got you covered.
Top alternative banks and apps to Monzo
The main alternatives to Monzo are Starling and Revolut. N26 was a big player here but has recently closed down in the UK. Cashplus and Monese are a bit smaller, but should fill that gap in the market.
- Starling: A digital banking app with savings goals, marketplace and accessible via app and desktop.
- Revolut: A digital banking app with many features including buying crypto, fee free spending abroad and rounding up spare change.
- Cashplus: A bank account that is great for improving your credit score.
- Monese: A digital banking app that lets you open an account really easily.
- Yolt: A banking app that is great for budgeting.
- Curve: A banking app that helps you connect all your cards together under one card.
Main alternatives to Monzo
The two main rivals to Monzo are considered to be Starling and Revolut. These three banking brands all launched within a few years of one another in the UK, they all operate digital-only accounts, and their free accounts all have similar features.
Like Monzo, Starling’s personal current account is free, and you can open and manage it all through a mobile app. You’ll get notifications when payments leave or enter your account, and can analyse your spending, to assist with budgeting. You can also set “goals” to help you put money aside to save up for specific things, plus there is an overdraft facility available, if you qualify.
You’ll also get a physical card to make purchases in-store or online, and to withdraw money from ATMs. One of the big plus-points with Starling is that it’s completely fee-free to use your card in the UK and abroad, for both spending and cash withdrawals.
Although there are no Starling bank branches, you can deposit cash into your Starling account at a Post Office. You can also deposit cheques through your app via cheque imaging (although cheques worth more than £500 will need to be sent to Starling through the post, for free).
Starling Bank: award-winning banking on your mobile
- No monthly fees or fees overseas
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- Winner 2020 - Best Current Account, British Bank Awards
Similar to Monzo and Starling, with the free Revolut Standard account you conduct all you day-today banking in an app, which you can also use to analyse your spending and create savings pots called “vaults”. However, there is not currently an option to deposit cash or cheques.
The card use limits with Revolut are not quite as generous as Starling. Making purchases in the UK and abroad is free, but you will be charged to use an ATM if you withdraw more than £200 in a month, in either the UK or overseas.
Revolut does have some other attractive international options though – you can hold a balance in up to 30 currencies, and you get the interbank exchange rate when making money transfers abroad. Revolut is also the only one out of the three where you get the option to access a share dealing and cryptocurrency buying platform.
Revolut also operates several paid-for current accounts, which come with extra features and perks, in exchange for a monthly or annual fee. The three plans available are called Plus, Premium and Metal.
Cards like Monzo for day-to-day banking
If you’re looking for a challenger banking brand that can provide you with a main current account and cover as many basic financial needs as possible, you will have to think about what you normally use your mainstream bank account for, and what your priorities are.
Challengers are constantly widening their range of services, but there are a bunch of things that they still don’t do. Chances are that in return for low fees, better working apps and less bureaucracy, you’ll end up giving up on something you didn’t realise you liked about your traditional bank.
Here are some of the features you may be most interested in:
- ATM withdrawals. Starling is probably the top player here – UK and overseas ATM withdrawals are free.
- Cash loads. Starling allows you to deposit cash in your account at Post Offices for free, whereas with Monzo you can do it at PayPoints and it costs £1 a transaction. There’s also Monese, which allows you to do it in both places, and it’s free up to £200 a month (there’s a 2% fee after that). You can’t load cash into your account with Revolut.
- Direct debits. Most challenger banking brands support direct debits (which you can set up to pay your bills automatically), while Revolut allows direct debits from its accounts in euros as well as sterling.
- Overdrafts. Monzo and Starling both allow planned overdrafts, but Starling is cheaper.
Alternatives to Monzo for travelling
Overseas transactions and payments are usually challenger’s strongest points. Traditional banks often charge extra fees when it comes to using their cards abroad, and since the beginning the new players in the game have prided themselves in being different.
You can pay with your card abroad without any fee with Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Monese.
Starling also allows free ATM withdrawals abroad.
Revolut and Monese allow free ATM withdrawals abroad up to £200 a month (there’s a 2% fee after that). With Monzo, there’s also a £200 fee-free withdrawal limit for overseas ATMs (and a 3% fee beyond that).
Alternatives to Monzo for saving
Challengers aren’t big on savings accounts yet, and if that’s what you’re looking for you may be better off with a traditional bank. However, things are starting to move in this area too.
If you are considering a challenger for a savings account, then Atom is probably your best bet. It offers saving accounts and mortgages instead of regular current accounts – something its competitors haven’t quite started experimenting with yet.
Atom offers fixed-rate saving accounts that last up to five years and come with competitive interest rates that vary according to the number of years you keep your money in the account (and you cannot withdraw your money until the product term ends).
Are challengers safe?
Monzo operates a full UK bank account, so deposits of up to £85,000 are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), as is standard for licensed UK banks.
Atom Bank and Starling also both have a UK banking licence, and therefore offer the same deposit protection as Monzo.
Revolut and Monese aren’t banks, but they are registered with the FCA as electronic money institutions. This means they have to keep all their customers’ money in segregated accounts at licensed UK banks, so the funds can’t be touched even if the companies were to go bankrupt.
So the short answer is yes – main challengers are all safely regulated and if anything were to happen to them your money is as protected as it can be.
Cards and apps like Monzo
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