How To Choose The Best Mobile Bank For A Traveler

Do foreign transaction fees, ATM withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees sound all too familiar to you? Have you ever thought that your normal banking and consumer habits need a serious adjustment when you are abroad?

Every time you pay for goods or services with your credit or debit card in a foreign country, you are actually paying your bank a sizeable fee for the very fact of it, and on top of that, your money is being converted into foreign currency with an unfavorable exchange rate.

Choosing the right bank and the right card to take with you when you travel is a very important decision, which can potentially save you thousands.

For one-time travel, the extra 3–5% in transaction fees and unfavorable exchange rates for international card use are bearable, but as soon as you start spending more time out of your local banking area, the extra expenses start to build up quickly.

If you consider yourself a frequent traveler or digital nomad spending most of your time abroad, you might be looking at hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of extra charges to your bank, so finding the best banking solution is crucial.

Thankfully, there are a bunch of modern, efficient and high-tech digital mobile banking apps offering borderless banking solutions, so you can keep spending (and enjoying your trip) without the hassle and worry of extra fees.

Today, the top Mobile Banks in Europe/UK are:

Monese

Monese, founded and based in the UK, is available for European Economic Area residents, offering a current account in EUR and GBP, money transfer services, contactless Mastercard, 100% deposit guarantee and more through a mobile app.

Monese app is a great fit for digital nomads and migrant workers who need a UK bank account but do not have a fixed UK address, as no usual proof of address or credit history is needed — a huge benefit for travelers and expats.

Monese preview download on app store

Read more about Monese in our Monese Review.

N26

Berlin-based N26 offers transparent, flexible banking via its mobile and web apps. Partnering with leading European financial and fintech companies, and offering extensive travel insurance, N26 is a good choice for wandering around Europe. There’s no limit to the amount of money you can add to your N26 account and the first €100,000 of your balance is protected by the German Deposit Protection Scheme.

Read more about N26 in our N26 Review.

Revolut

Revolut is a UK-based fintech company offering mobile-only banking services, including a prepaid debit card, currency and cryptocurrency exchange as well as peer-to-peer payments. The mobile app supports spending and ATM withdrawals in 120 currencies and money transfers in 29 currencies.

Read more about Revolut in our Revolut Review.

What to look for when choosing the best mobile bank for frequent travelers and digital nomads

Multi-currency wallets

When living between two or more countries, and constantly going back and forth, traveling a lot, or working online, one of the basic features you would need is the ability to have multiple currencies available to you, and the option to transfer your funds back and forth between the currencies. 

Monese, for example, offers their customers an additional Eurozone account for free, while Revolut offers a handy prepaid travel card that can hold a range of currencies. 

Payments & Currency Exchange

When you are paying for goods or services in a different currency, the exchange rate is crucial and can be your single biggest expense abroad- not to mention the service fees taken by traditional banks for every currency conversion.

With Monese, you have the option to pay in the local currency, saving a lot on undesired, expensive conversions. Based on the average cost of transferring £400 from the UK into the 10 most popular currencies, customers could save an average of 88% by using Monese over the traditional UK banks to send money abroad. 

N26 utilizes free payments in any currency, both online and at points of sale. It also enables the users to transfer money internationally via TransferWise, from within the N26 app. Transfers can be made in 19 different currencies, at a rate up to six times cheaper than traditional banks. 

Monzo charges no FX fee for card spend in any currency (you get the official Mastercard rate). Monzo only supports domestic UK bank transfers, for transfers to other countries you can use the built-in TransferWise integration.

Cheap International ATM withdrawals

The ATM fees in Europe vary a lot, and while in the UK, for example, there are mostly no withdrawal fees, it is a standard in Germany, especially if you use an ATM not belonging to your domestic bank. An average fee of €4 is common for this scenario in Germany.

One of the main cross-border benefits of a good challenger bank is the ability to withdraw money in local, as well as foreign currency cheaply or, in some cases, for free.

Monese offers their account owners global ATM cash withdrawals (£200 – £800/month guaranteed free at any ATM, depending on the pricing plan, and only 2% fee after. If you opt-in for the Premium plan though, all ATM withdrawals and top-ups will be free, unlimited.

N26 customers don’t pay fees for ATM withdrawals in Euros, and a 1.7% conversion fee on withdrawals outside the Eurozone. However, N26 Black/Metal (premium accounts) get to enjoy free withdrawals worldwide, in any currency.*

*In countries like the UK, Italy, and Austria, ATM withdrawals from an N26 account are always free. And in other countries such as Spain, Germany, and France, customers get several free withdrawals each month.

Accessibility

When exploring a new exciting place abroad, or dealing with your foreign customer transfer, the last thing you want to be worried about is some nonsense, like your bank’s working hours, a different timezone or the bankers not speaking your language. 

Most mobile banking apps offer in-app card lock/unlock options, in case you lose/misplace your card and real-time notifications for every transaction – so you can keep track of your international spending and card usage at all times.

The Monese App is available in 12 languages, including English, Bulgarian, Czech, French, German, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, & Turkish.

Monese can also be reached by phone and offers dedicated phone numbers for each country it services. 

N26’s customer support is available in five languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Italian.

Travel Insurance

When you are constantly moving and far from your home, things can go wrong, which is why travel insurance is so important.

All premium plans with N26 mobile bank provide customers with worldwide extensive travel insurance by Allianz: 

  • Foreign medical expenses
  • Flight and luggage delay cover
  • Theft insurance
  • Extended warranty

If you opt for the premium plan with Revolut, you get basic travel health insurance for short trips for free.

Cashback/Miles

When traveling is not a once-a-year activity, but rather a way of life, the air tickets might become one of your main expenditures. However, if you have the right tool, the more you travel, the more benefits you can collect, by “reinvesting” and saving big time.

Monese has a special offer for its UK-resident clients. Their “Avios” Integration, allows you to collect Avios for retail and travel purchases and use them on flights, hotel bookings, activities. 

On the other hand, N26 promises direct reinvestment with 0,1% cashback on all purchases made with your N26 Mastercard.

Recap

Thinking through your financial strategy and preparing for your travels or life abroad is an essential stage of planning a journey. By finding the right service and tools, you can safeguard yourself a peaceful, handy day-to-day banking routine, and save a lot, whether home or abroad.

European mobile banks like N26 and Monese offer the most beneficial packages for travel, offering you freedom and flexibility with cheaper, borderless banking. 

Choose the best mobile bank