In this independent review, we take a look at the banking app Revolut, including how it works, how much it costs and whether you can use it abroad. We recommend reading the full review, however, you can jump to specific sections using the following links:
- How does Revolut work?
- Revolut Key features
- Revolut accounts
- Is Revolut Premium worth it?
- Is Revolut a bank?
- How much does Revolut cost?
- Can you use Revolut abroad?
- Revolut customer reviews
- Alternatives to Revolut
How does Revolut work?
Revolut, which describes itself as a ‘digital banking alternative’, features amongst a raft of companies that are transforming the way that consumers engage with their finances. Revolut* was launched in July 2015 by Nikolay Storonsky, a former trader who worked at Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse, and Vlad Yatsenko, who previously built financial systems at investment banks. Revolut started life as a pre-paid card and app, which allowed travellers to switch cheaply between currencies. It was born out of Storonsky’s frustrations with existing foreign exchange products. Since then, the company has expanded its range of products and services. The fintech company currently has more than five million customers globally and continues to develop its proposition.
Unlike high street banks, Revolut allows you to set up a current account with no paperwork. They say that it is possible to open a Sterling or Euro current account in 60 seconds as initially, they do not carry out any initial credit checks or require proof of address. Revolut customers can order a physical or virtual card. The former is a pre-paid contactless Visa card, which can be used in retailers across the UK and abroad. A physical card can be ordered via the app for free excluding the cost for delivery, which depends on the method selected within the app. Customers with Premium accounts receive a physical card for free.
Revolut’s physical card can be used to transact in your base currency, as well as other currencies. When you load money onto the card you can choose to exchange it into a currency of your choice (i.e. dollars) so locking into the current exchange rate. Or you can just leave it as a cash balance in sterling and whenever you use your card abroad Revolut will automatically apply the exchange rate at that moment in time and deduct the appropriate amount in sterling. This makes it incredibly easy to use although you are playing the currency markets a bit.
Your Revolut account is managed via the app, which can be downloaded for free onto your smartphone or iPad. To become a Revolut customer, you must feel comfortable using your smartphone or device to manage your account. Fortunately, the app is straightforward to use and well designed. Revolut customers can pay for items using ApplePay and contactless, as well as using the traditional pin pad. Revolut also has an Apple Watch app that shows you notifications from Revolut on your watch face. It doesn't matter if you don't have an Apple watch as the notifications are simply shown on your phone instead. To set up the phone app, you will need a four-digit password or fingerprint/face recognition.
How does the Revolut virtual card work?
Both of Revolut’s physical and virtual cards are tied to your Revolut account. The virtual card is free to order and can be set up in a number of seconds. The main difference between the two is that the virtual card does not have a pin, so it can’t be used to withdraw money at an ATM and isn’t valid at some payment terminals. In addition, some of the security features are not available for the virtual card.
Revolut claims that using the virtual card for online payments can help to protect against online card fraud. This is because the card can be deleted every few months and replaced with a new one. Revolut has added another layer of security for its Premium account holders via its disposable virtual card function. This automatically changes the card number every time a payment is made to protect the customer from fraud.
Revolut Key features
- Spending analytics - get weekly insights into your spending with its categorisation features
- Set monthly spending budgets - take control of your spending by setting a monthly budget
- Instant spending notifications - get instant alerts for transactions in and out of your account
- Manage your finances in one place - connect your other bank accounts using Open Banking to track all of your money in one place
- Save money with Revolut's Rewards feature - get cashback and rewards with exclusive retailers when spending on your Revolut card
- Split bills - easily split bills with friends or family
- Transfer money abroad - send money abroad in over 30 currencies using the Interbank Exchange Rate (there's a 0.5% fee for balances above £1,000)
- Fee-free spending abroad - spend abroad without any hidden fees (limits apply)
- Earn interest on your savings - save money in a Revolut savings vault to earn interest on the balance
- Round up spare change - save as you spend with the round-up feature
- Get paid early - get your salary paid into your Revolut account a day early
- Pockets - sort your bills and subscriptions into pockets so that on payday the money is automatically moved out of your account and each bill is paid from a pocket, meaning you never have to worry about missing a payment
- Overseas medical insurance - insure a trip abroad from as little as £1 a day
- Phone insurance - insure your mobile phone against accidental damage with Revolut premium plans
- Apple/Google Pay - Spend using your phone with Apple and Google Pay
- Pockets - Create pockets that are separate spaces within the account to manage your recurring payments. Pockets can be customised or you can choose from a range of suggested pockets such as bills.
- Revolut Junior - Open a Junior Revolut account for a child aged between 7 - 17 years old. More information on Revolut Junior accounts here
- Investments - Manage your investments in the Wealth section of the app. Invest in stocks, commodities and cryptocurrency
Revolut offers a range of bank accounts and we summarise the different types available below.
Revolut personal accounts
We summarise the key features of the accounts offered by Revolut in the below comparison table.
|Fee-free spending abroad|
|Fee-free ATM withdrawals||Up to £200/month (or max 5 withdrawal limit)||Up to £200/month||Up to £400/month||Up to £800/month|
|Daily savings interest (AER)||Up to 0.15%||Up to 0.40%||Up to 0.50%||Up to 0.65%|
|Overseas medical insurance|
|Delayed baggage & flight insurance|
|Priority customer support|
|Purchase protection||£1,000 per year||£2,500 per year||£10,000 per year|
|Discounted device insurance (20%)|
|Event ticket protection (up to £1,000 per year)|
|Refund protection (purchase protection for up to 90 days)|
|Unlimited disposable virtual cards|
|Revolut Junior account||1 child||2 children||2 children||5 children|
|Loungekey||You +1 friend||You + 3 friends|
|Cashback||0.1 % in Europe,
1% outside of Europe (capped at £12.99 per month)
Revolut Business account
Revolut offers a global business current account* with the following features:
- The ability to hold, receive and exchange 28 currencies using the real interbank exchange rate
- Send money to other Revolut business accounts instantly with no fees
- Pre-paid multi-currency business cards, which allow the business to set spending limits for each employee and keep foreign exchange costs low
- ‘Connect’ – this allows the business to sync transactions with their accounting platform and receive real-time notifications
- Revolut’s Open API (application programming interface) can be used to automate cross-border business payments, send payments to clients or employees or monitor transactions
- Get exclusive memberships and discounts with the likes of Google, Samsung and Apple
The Revolut app is also easy to use and has greater functionality in comparison to the apps and websites offered by some of the high street banks.
One important point to consider is that you have to manage your account solely via the app. This means Revolut is appropriate for those who are comfortable using technology, as your main interactions with the company will be online rather than on the phone or face-to-face.
For more information on the Revolut business account, read our Revolut Business account review.
Revolut Junior Account
Revolut has introduced the Junior account* for children aged between 7-17 years old. The Revolut Junior account allows you to teach your children about money whilst you still have access and control over their account.
Revolut Junior account features:
- Junior card and app
- Track pocket money
- Set tasks for them to complete to earn pocket money (for premium account holders only)
- Instant spending alerts
- Custom card controls
Revolut is hoping to introduce the ability to support recurring payments and savings targets in the coming months. Unfortunately, with a Revolut Junior account you only get basic features. You can upgrade to a Revolut Plus, Premium or Metal account for more benefits, for other bank accounts or prepaid cards for children check out our article, 'The best bank accounts for under 18's'.
Is Revolut Premium worth it?
Revolut now has an account for everyone and Revolut Premium may be more suitable for you if you are also looking for additional insurance and protection benefits. Most of the functionality is the same across all of the Revolut accounts with the subscription accounts offering additional features such as discounted device insurance and purchase protection but it would be worth shopping around to see if it is cheaper elsewhere.
The cash withdrawal limits are higher but unless you are often abroad or travelling to a country where you need to carry cash, I can't see the need to use them.
A Premium account could make sense if you lead an international lifestyle and need to make a significant amount of foreign exchange transactions. It is also worth considering how the travel and device insurance compares to those available on the market. Do they offer good value and suit your requirements?
Is Revolut a bank?
Revolut had its European banking license approved (13th December 2018) but that doesn't mean it is a bank. It intends to apply for a UK banking license in the future but for the moment it remains a digital payment service.
Revolut released a statement saying 'In the coming months, we'll be doing a lot of building and testing behind the scenes, and working closely with the regulators to have any restrictions on our licence removed, so that we can launch full current accounts, overdrafts and everything else you'd expect from a bank.'
Until the banking license is fully approved, Revolut remains regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, so current accounts are ring-fenced in a Barclays account. This means the money would be safe should any problems arise at Revolut. However, your money is not protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to £85,000.
How much does Revolut cost?
Revolut is free to download but an example of some additional costs you may occur on a basic account can be found in the below table. For further information on the fees associated with a premium or business Revolut account, you can check out the full list of fees on Revolut's website.
|Delivery charge||Can be found within the Revolut app|
|Additional physical Revolut card||£5|
|International transfers (not to another Revolut user and outside SEPA region)||Varies depending on the currency e.g there is a £3 fee to transfer £1,000 to USD and a £13 fee to transfer £1,000 to THB. You can calculate the exact fee here|
|ATM withdrawals||5 free ATM withdrawals a month (or up to £200 whichever is first), 2% fee thereafter (minimum of £1)|
|Spending abroad||Up to £1,000 fee-free per month Monday - Friday (interbank exchange rate markups apply at the weekend) and 0.5% above the £1,000 limit|
|Interbank exchange rate markup||At weekends there is a 1% markup on all currencies and a 2% markup on Thai baht and Ukrainian hryvnia.|
Can you use Revolut abroad?
Revolut’s customers can use the physical, pre-paid currency card to make payments abroad fee-free using the interbank exchange rate in over 150 currencies. This is the rate that banks offer to each other when exchanging currencies and is much more competitive than the rate offered at a bureau de change or by most other pre-paid cards. This makes Revolut one of the most attractive app-only current account cards available on the market.
It is worth noting that on the weekend Revolut typically applies a mark-up between 0.5% and 2.5% to the interbank rate (depending on the currency). This is because foreign exchange markets are closed.
Customers with a current account can take out £200 per month fee-free (or withdraw a maximum of 5 times, whichever comes first) at an ATM, after which point a 2% fee is applied. Up to £1,000 can be spent, transferred or exchanged each month with a standard current account. After this point, a 0.5% fee is applied. Premium/Metal account holders are entitled to £400/£800 of fee-free ATM withdrawals per month and unlimited foreign exchange transactions at the interbank exchange rate.
Revolut’s customers can also transfer money to bank accounts for free in over 150 countries using the interbank exchange rate. Revolut offers fee-free transfers in 30 currencies to banks, businesses or friends using the interbank exchange rate.
If you have any money left over from your holiday that you wish to change back to your home currency, you can do this straight away fee-free. However, as mentioned earlier you can just leave any funds you upload to the card in pounds and Revolut will apply the correct interbank exchange rate in the correct currency whenever you use your Revolut card abroad.
Revolut customer reviews
Revolut is rated as 'Excellent' on Trustpilot with a score of 4.4/5.0 stars from over 93,000 reviews. 76% rated Revolut as 'Excellent' citing great customer service and an easy to use app. 9% of customers rated it as 'Bad' citing problems with cashback, logging in to the app and uploading documents.
Alternatives to Revolut
In the following section of the review, we compare Revolut to other app-only banks and currency cards.
Revolut vs Monzo vs Starling Bank
Below is a comparison table comparing a basic Revolut account with a Monzo and Starling Bank personal account. To find out more about the other app-only banks, read our reviews:
|UK registered bank account|
|Fee-free spending abroad||Free (up to £1,000 per month then a 0.5% fee applies)||FREE||FREE|
|Fee-free cash withdrawals abroad||Free up to £200/month||Free up to £200/month||FREE|
|Interest on current account|
*Starling Bank is not currently offering loans
Revolut vs pre-paid currency cards
If you are travelling abroad and considering other pre-paid currency cards, here are two alternatives to consider:
Travelex Money Card
You can top-up this card with up to 10 currencies and lock in exchange rates in advance with a minimum load of £100. If you don’t have enough money converted into a particular currency, you can draw funds from a different currency on the card. However, to do this Travelex will levy a 5.75% fee on each transaction. On the plus side, there are no overseas ATM charges or ATM withdrawal limits. However, there is an ‘inactivity fee’ of £2 per month if the card has not been used for 12 months.
Caxton FX Currency Mastercard
This card can hold up to 15 currencies and does not charge transaction fees. There are no fees for overseas purchases or international ATM withdrawals. In addition, there are no monthly ATM withdrawal limits. However, the card must have a minimum of £100 loaded up.
Caxton levies a £4.50 charge plus 2% of the amount withdrawn for over the counter cash taken out abroad and at home. If you wish to complete a foreign exchange transaction in a currency that isn’t loaded on the card, Caxton applies a 2.49% mark-up. In addition, if you want to use the card in the UK, there is a £1.50 charge for purchases and ATM withdrawals. Caxton also applies a £0.85 charge per month if you stop using the card for more than 12 months.
To provide you with a better idea of how the exchange rates compare, here’s how much Revolut, Caxton and Travelex were offering to convert £1000 into dollars and euros on 13th October 2021:
- Revolut = €1177.76 & $1361.92
- Caxton = €1151.40 & $1331.48
- Travelex = €1150.00 & $1327.00
Revolut's exchange rates are clearly the best.
As you can see from the rates quoted above, Revolut offers its customers real savings by using the interbank exchange rate and cutting out commissions. It represents a market leader in this respect and I think it is a great solution for anyone looking to use a card for their next holiday.
Revolut’s analytics function and budget spending limits could also prove useful for day-to-day spending, while the savings vaults can help you to squirrel money away unwittingly.
The monthly ATM withdrawal limits represent a niggle, particularly if you are travelling to a country where you need to carry cash. With this in mind, you need to consider whether the charges you will incur outweigh the savings you can make on the underlying exchange rate.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to Revolut is that it is not a licensed bank, which means its customers are not protected under the FSCS, but this should change in the coming months now its European banking license has been approved. Once this is finalised, it could be worth considering using Revolut for everyday banking. One way to limit exposure in the meantime is to only top-up your Revolut card as and when you need to rather than leave large balances on the card. This isn't a problem as top-ups happen instantly when you process them via the app. So you can even top-up the card while you are in a shop queue waiting to pay.
Revolut claims that the customer stands at the heart of the proposition – let’s hope this continues.
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