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There’s been some fantastic innovation in the debit and travel card space in the UK over the past few years. Every year or so, a new product seems to pop up offering something new, often with a compelling offering and introductory offer. I currently have both a Monzo and Starling card.
So, what is the current state of these cards, and which is the best offer?
You may have seen Monzo’s eye-catching bright fluorescent orange cards around the UK. I understand the design of these strikingly bright cards is for this exact reason — they’re memorable and they get people talking.
The basics of the product are:
- Monzo is an online bank with a debit Mastercard issued for purchases and cash withdrawals.
- There are no fees for purchases in any currency, and Monzo uses the Mastercard exchange rate.
- There are no account keeping fees.
- You can withdraw up to £200 from foreign ATMs every 30 days, with a 3% fee for any withdrawals over that limit.
- You can earn 1% interest each year, paid monthly for amounts kept in ‘saving pots’.
- Monzo has a comprehensive app, which has a simple application process and tracks spending habits.
Monzo is available here by downloading the app to get started.
Starling has been around for some time, but became attractive to me when Monzo introduced limits on monthly overseas cash withdrawals.
The basics of the product are the same as Monzo with the following differences/benefits:
- You will earn interest on the money you keep in your Starling account in the following amounts: 0.5% AER on balances up to £2,000 and 0.25% on balances above £2,000 up to £85,000.
- There are no limits on how much you can withdraw for free from foreign ATMs each month.
- Starling allows easy money transfers to bank accounts in 19 different currencies to 37 different countries.
- The Starling app also has the ability to lock your card from the app if you misplace it.
Starling accounts are available here.
N26 works in the same way as Monzo and Starling, although it offers three different products.
- N26 is a free card that offers fee-free purchases in any currency, but does not allow free ATM withdrawals worldwide.
- N26 Black costs £4.90 per month and allows unlimited ATM withdrawals worldwide as well as the ability to keep the money in your N26 account in 10 different ‘spaces’ to more easily track and reach savings targets.
- N26 Metal costs £14.90 a month and has all the features of the N26 Black card as well as a LoungeKey membership with discounted airport lounge visits at £15 per person, as well as travel insurance and purchase protection. The card is available in three different metal finishes.
You can apply for any of the N26 products here.
Like N26, Revolut has three different card types. It offers the same basic features of Monzo and Starling, but also has a euro currency IBAN account. The different card types are as follows:
- Standard is a free card that offers fee-free purchases in more than 150 currencies, and allows up to £200 per month in ATM withdrawals, 2% after.
- Premium costs £6.99 per month and allows up to £400 per month in ATM withdrawals (2% after), medical insurance, delayed baggage and delayed flight insurance. There’s also a LoungeKey membership with one entry free and a fee of £25 for each entry after and a choice of three card colours.
- Metal costs £12.99 per month with all the above features but allows up to £600 per month in ATM withdrawals, a metal card, 0.1% cashback within Europe and 1% outside Europe on all card payments and an ‘exclusive concierge service’.
You can apply for Revolut products here.
Curve is not a debit or credit card, it is just a payment method that works very differently to these other products.
So Which Is the Best Card?
This will depend on your travelling and spending habits. But, in my mind, if you want a free product, the Starling card is the best overall value product.
This is primarily because there is currently no cap on fee-free overseas cash withdrawals with this card, which is a hugely valuable perk for anyone frequently traveling overseas and wanting to avoid a 2.99% foreign exchange fee using a credit card abroad.
I have always believed Starling has only offered this perk to take customers away from the established and very popular Monzo. It costs Starling a lot of money to offer this perk for a no-fee account, so I would expect it to become capped at some point. Note that some ATMs will charge you a fee for using their machines, regardless of which card you use. You will still be charged this by each of these card issuers, but you will not be hit with a further cash advance fee by the card issuer provided you stay within any applicable limits mentioned above.
For the paid monthly products, I don’t value the £25 LoungeKey passes because I’ve visited dozens of these lounges in the network with my Priority Pass membership and would not pay more than £20 for entry. If you do travel a lot consider a Priority Pass or a credit card that comes with a complimentary Priority Pass membership like the Platinum Card from American Express UK, which will provide complimentary lounge visits for each card holders, rather than a £15/£25 fee.
As for the other benefits, if you can live with the £600 per month ATM withdrawal limit, the Revolut Metal provides a great range of travel protection including travel insurance and has a great cashback benefit for a monthly fee lower than that of the N26 Metal.
Featured photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy.
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