Monese review: is it the best bank for your money?

20 min Read Published: 29 Sep 2021

Monese reviewWhat is Monese?

Monese was one of the first app-only banks to launch in the UK.

The challenger brand was founded by Norris Koppel who found he was unable to open a bank account due to having no UK credit history or utility bills. This is a problem shared by many people who do not have loans or credit cards or who have recently moved to a new area, making it impossible to receive a salary or pay bills. Koppel decided to set up his own 100% mobile current account in 2016 and it now has almost 1 million customers processing more than 3 billion transactions a year. It has also been recognised as the best challenger bank at the European Fintech Awards and received €1.1m of funding from the European Commission for research and innovation.

Monese features

  • Multi-currency accounts (£ & €)
  • Free worldwide cash withdrawals (up to a certain amount each month depending on which plan you choose)
  • Mastercard pre-paid contactless debit card
  • Lock your card in-app if lost or stolen
  • Instabalance - see your exact balance when you open the app
  • Track your spending
  • Instant spending notifications
  • Monthly/weekly budgets
  • Set up to 10 savings pots to save towards a goal
  • Round up your spare change to save as you spend
  • Earn interest on your money with a savings account with Raisin which can be opened via the Monese hub
  • Transfer money abroad in 8 different currencies
  • Top up your account in a post office or PayPoint
  • Apple and Google pay
  • Link your Avios and Paypal accounts
  • Invite a friend to Monese and earn up to £20
  • Monese Bills and Purchase Protection

How does Monese work?

A Monese account can be opened by anyone living within the European Economic Area (EEA). You can either open an account by downloading the app through your smartphone or by using a link sent to your device via the Monese website.

There are no high street branches so you don’t need to trudge into town to open an account. You just need to get online, download the app and follow the step-by-step instructions. Unlike mainstream current account providers, you won’t need to provide proof of address or have a good credit history. You will be asked to take a selfie video using your smartphone’s camera and to snap an ID document such as a passport issued by any country in order to pass Monese's money laundering checks. The Monese system will then verify your identity and you will receive your account number and sort code within minutes. This is much faster than a mainstream bank, where you may have to book an in-branch appointment and then wait for your card to arrive in the post.

You can immediately send and receive payments but will need to order your contactless MasterCard debit card through the app. Monese users still have to wait for their card to be delivered, usually within three to five business days or up to 14 internationally. Once it arrives, you can set up the card through the app using a four-digit activation code. If you opt for a free account this comes with a £4.95 delivery charge.

The Monese debit card has the same functionality as any other debit card. You can shop online, make in-store purchases, make ATM withdrawals anywhere in the world and use contactless payments. You can make top-ups, change personal information and access bank statements through the app at any time of day.

The app also supports Google Pay and Apple Pay, letting you make contactless payments with your phone. You can also access lower-cost foreign currency exchange and international money transfers as Monese uses the interbank rate rather than setting its own fees.

Is Monese a bank?

Monese is not a UK registered bank account and is in fact an e-money institution that is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. This means that if you bank with Monese, your money is stored as e-money with PrePay Solutions (PPS). As Monese is not a fully-fledged bank account it does mean that your money is not protected by the FSCS but Monese says it 'safeguards' your money by placing it in a separate bank account with an authorised bank.

How much does Monese cost?

There are four types of Monese products, all offering free card usage and direct debits in your home currency. The table below summarises the immediate differences between the different account types.

Starter Essential Classic Premium
Cost FREE (a delivery fee of £4.95 applies) £1.95/month or £19.95/year £5.95/month or £49.95/year £14.95/month or £124.95/year
Contactless debit card
Replacement cards £9.90 £4.95 £4.95 FREE
Currency account (open EUR & RON account at no extra cost) 
Direct debits & Standing orders
Apple/Google Pay
Roundups
Cash withdrawal £1.50 fee £200 free per month (2% fee thereafter) £500 free per month (2% fee thereafter) £1,500 free per month (2% fee thereafter)
Free manual cash top-up at Post Office & PayPoint 3.5% fee 3.5% fee £500 free per month (3.5% fee thereafter) £1,500 free per month (3.5% fee thereafter)
Spend abroad 2% fee 0.5% fee FREE FREE
Local transfers  FREE FREE FREE FREE
International transfers 2.5% fee (3.5% on weekends) 2% fee ( 3% on weekends) From 0.5% FREE
Bills Protection Insurance  Up to £600 Up to £1,200 Up to £1,800
Hospital stay insurance benefit  £15 per day (up to 30 days) £30 per day (up to 30 days) £50 per day for 30 days
Purchase Protection Insurance Up to £1,000 per claim £2,500 per year (for purchases made in the last 90 days) Up to £4,000 per claim, £10,000 per year (purchases made in last 180 days)
Priority customer support

Monese Insurance

Monese has launched bills protection and purchase protection insurance for its premium account holders. Both insurance policies provided by Monese are underwritten by Chubb European Group SE and in this section of the review, we look at the amount of cover you get with each of the Monese insurance policies.

Monese Bills Protection Insurance

Monese launched its Bills Protection Insurance in September 2021 and is included in the cost of its Essential, Classic and Premium account. In the event of an accident, illness or involuntary loss of employment, Monese will pay up to £1,800 to cover bills and expenses, so long as they are paid out of the Monese account. How much cover you have for your bills will vary depending on the account you have, a Monese Essential account provides cover up to £600, a Monese Classic account provides cover up to £1,200 and a Monese Premium account provides cover up to £1,800. Additionally, Monese Essential, Classic and Premium account holders can claim up to £50 for each day they have been hospitalised (up to a maximum of 30 days). Those who are employed are able to make full use of the bills protection insurance policies however, those that are self-employed are only covered for the hospital benefit.

It is worth noting that any pre-existing conditions, back or spine problems, psychiatric conditions, cosmetic and beauty treatments or a disease outbreak declared a public emergency by WHO will not be covered with the Bills Protection Insurance. There are also additional restrictions in cover such as waiting periods on how long you have to wait before you claim and a limit to the number of claims in a year. More information on the insurance policies can be found in the policy documentation.

What bills are covered by Monese Bills Protection Insurance?

Monese's Bills Protection Insurance provides cover for recurring bills that you have paid via your Monese account. If you need to make a claim, how much you will receive will be based on the average of your recurring bills for the previous 6 months.

With Monese Bills Protection Insurance you can get cover for the following bills:

  • Rent
  • Utility bills
  • Groceries
  • Monthly subscriptions including streaming services
  • Any fees for your hobby including golf club fees
  • Nursing care
  • Musical lessons
  • Gym subscriptions
  • School fees
  • Regular charity donations

Monese Purchase Protection Insurance

Monese's Purchase Protection insurance is included in the cost of the Monese Classic and Monese Premium accounts. It provides cover for accidental damage and theft and applies to brand new personal items purchased through the Monese account. Cover of up to £1,000 is included with the Monese Classic account and cover up to £4,000 is included with the Monese Premium account. Monese Classic account holders have 90 days from the date of purchase to claim on an item and there is an annual claim limit of £2,500. Premium account holders have 180 days from the date of purchase to claim on an item and there is a £10,000 annual claim limit. Those who make a Purchase Protection Insurance claim will have to pay £50 excess per claim.

How to claim on a Monese Insurance policy

If you need to claim on a Monese Insurance policy you can do so by visiting the 'Insurance' section which can be located under the 'Explore' tab. You then need to click 'Start a claim' and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the claims form. It is important you have any required documentation to hand in order to properly submit a claim. You can also submit a claim by clicking on the transaction you wish to claim for, as this will open a separate screen where you can click on the three dots in the top right corner of your page to start your claim.

Monese limits and account restrictions

The following account limits apply to a Monese GBP account and vary slightly for EUR and RON accounts.

Monese GBP Account Maximum limit 
Maximum account balance £40,000
Cash top up (via Post Office) £250 per transaction/£500 per day/£1,300 per month
Cash top up (via PayPoint) £249 per transaction/£500 per day/£1,300 per month
Debit card top up £500 per day (max 2 top ups)/ £1,500 per month (max 10 top ups)
Card purchase limit £4,000 per transaction/£7,000 per day
ATM withdrawal £300 per day

Is Monese safe?

Unlike mainstream banks, your money isn’t covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which covers up to £85,000 of savings if a provider goes bust. However, Monese is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority as a registered agent of electronic money institution PrePay Technologies, which follows Electronic Money Regulations. Monese says that under these rules, it must separately store and protect 100% of customer funds by keeping the funds separate from their own finances.

Monese customer reviews

Monese has a Trustpilot rating of Excellent with 3.5 out of 5.0 stars from over 20,000 reviews. 68% of reviewers rate it as 'Excellent' citing excellent customer service and claiming it is easy to transfer money between accounts.

17% of reviewers rate Monese as 'Bad'. There are a lot of comments regarding slow account opening, slow international transfers and some accounts being locked out. Recently, customers have complained about their accounts with Monese being blocked and having trouble regaining access to their money.

Alternatives to Monese

In this section of the review, we compare the basic account for the app-only bank Monese to some of its competitors' basic personal accounts. Each provider has additional accounts and more information about these can be found in the reviews.

Monese vs Monzo vs Starling vs Revolut

Monese Monzo  Starling Revolut 
Monthly Cost  Free Free Free Free
UK registered bank account  cross tick tick cross
Personal account tick tick tick tick
Business account  tick tick tick tick
Overdraft  cross tick tick cross
Loan  cross tick cross cross
Fee-free spending abroad  cross tick tick tick (limits apply)
Free ATM withdrawals cross tick (limits apply) tick tick (limits apply)
Round up spending  tick tick tick tick
Budgeting features  tick tick tick tick
FSCS protection  cross tick tick cross

*Limits apply

Monese is not the only digital-only bank. One of its closest competitors when it comes to international use is Revolut, which offers free card transactions in 120 countries, fee-free transfers at the interbank rate in 23 currencies and free ATM withdrawals up to £200 a month followed by a 2% fee compared to Monese that charges £1.50 for each cash withdrawal on its basic account. You can also buy Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum cryptocurrencies through the Revolut app. It has a basic free package as well as £6.99 or £12.99 monthly packages offering extras such as higher withdrawal limits, overseas medical insurance and concierge services. Monese offers insurance policies for its premium customers which is something that premium Revolut account holders can also benefit from. Monese, however, is currently the only app-only bank to offer bills protection should you be unable to work due to illness, accident or a job loss.

There are other app-only providers that offer extra services beyond international spending, particularly when it comes to savings. Monzo lets users track their spending and build separate savings pots within the app. Users pay nothing abroad, subject to a maximum withdrawal of £200 a month and 3% after that. It also offers free cash withdrawals and an optional overdraft.

Similar to Monzo, Starling lets you set savings goals and even offers interest on your balance at 0.05%. There is no charge for having an account and nothing to pay on UK or international withdrawals, but you will need to pay the MasterCard exchange rate. Starling also charges 0.4% on international money transfers. Monese's basic account charges a 2% fee for any international spending on its Starter and Essential accounts but its Classic and Premium account holders can spend abroad at no extra cost.

Pros and cons of Monese

Pros of Monese

  • Bills and Purchase Protection Insurance
  • Quick and easy to set up an account
  • Spending categorisation and notifications
  • Dual currency accounts

Cons of Monese

  • No overdraft or loans
  • Several account limitations as explained here
  • Free account has limited features
  • Unable to spend abroad fee-free with a Standard account

Summary

In a world where people are increasingly mobile, both in terms of where they live and work and how they transact, Monese definitely has a role to play. Its app is useful for those regularly on the move between different countries and who need to send money abroad. It is especially useful if you travel between the UK and Europe regularly as you can easily switch between a UK and European account.

However, it does not offer any interest, an overdraft or any help with savings goals and it charges for some items that others provide for free. However, the easy setup process makes it worth considering if you are struggling to get a current account elsewhere.

Additionally, Monese is the first app-only bank to launch a Bills Protection Insurance policy for its premium account holders which allows users to get cover for their bills if they are unable to work due to illness, an involuntary job loss or an accident. It has also launched a Purchase Protection policy which means some account holders can benefit from cover against theft and accidental damage of personal items. The move to add insurance policies to the list of features should be applauded, but it is only those that are happy to pay a subscription fee that will benefit. Those that enjoyed the perks of the free 'Starter' account may feel a little aggrieved, however, as Monese will now start charging £1.50 for cash withdrawals as well as 2% for spending abroad.