If you want to make the most of your money whilst abroad, then we highly recommend applying for a travel card or a bank account that offers the same kind of features.
There are lots of great options out there, and this guide is going to focus on one of our favorites... Monzo!
We have since used Monzo almost non-stop since, in more than 5 dozen countries all around the world!
Because of their fantastic features, we’re still using them to this day which says it all really!
But of course... Monzo isn't for everyone.
And there may even be some decent alternatives out there better suited to your needs.
To help you decide whether this card is for you, my personal review of Monzo is going to go through all the information you need to make an informed decision.
This includes the features that Monzo offers, the different plans they have, and the pros and cons of using them compared to other alternatives.
Let's get straight into it...
Monzo is an online bank that’s based in the United Kingdom. In fact, it was one of the earliest app-based banks in the UK as it has been around since 2015.
The company aimed to make banking easier, as they weren’t a fan of the way traditional banks do their business. With over 6 million people using Monzo today, I think it’s safe to say that they’ve succeeded.
In 2021, the valuation of Monzo jumped to £3.7 billion and we can only assume that this number is even higher now!
Although Monzo was originally only available to those who reside in the United Kingdom, they’ve now launched in the United States. This allows even more people to have an easier alternative to traditional banks.
As Monzo is an online banking platform it’s completely different compared to more traditional banks.
It’s often referred to as a ‘digital bank’ as everything is done online through an app, and there are no branches available for you to visit.
However, they still offer a variety of traditional services including an overdraft, credit cards, direct debits, standing orders, and withdrawals.
The other great thing about Monzo Bank Ltd. is that they’re a fully-regulated bank. This means your money is protected by the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme), and they follow all the same rules as regular banks.
Other app-based platforms such as Revolut aren’t protected by this scheme. That’s not to say your money isn’t safe with Revolut as they have their own safeguarding procedures and an EU banking license.
However, it’s just something to keep in mind!
So how does Monzo work?
Well, online banks like Monzo can save you lots of cash, especially when it comes to traveling abroad.
If I were to list every way Monzo will save you money, I’d be here all day (and you would too by reading) so I’m just going to discuss the key points…
If you’re not careful ATM fees can cost you a lot of money whilst you’re traveling. Luckily, Monzo is here to help!
There are key differences between withdrawals depending on where you are:
Monzo offers an excellent exchange rate which is why it’s one of the most popular options for spending money abroad.
They use Mastercards’ exchange rate and you don’t have to worry about added fees or charges either. This means you can use Monzo to spend money in any currency, without having to pay a markup.
You can also check Monzo’s exchange rates on their website by simply choosing from their list of currencies. This is usually updated every day so you’ll benefit from seeing the live exchange rate too!
Although an exchange rate may not be something you often think of whilst on holiday, you can save a lot of money by using Monzo.
Unlike other travel cards such as Revolut or Wise, Monzo offers an overdraft feature. We think this feature is really convenient, and it sets them apart from other digital platforms.
These overdrafts are designed for short-term borrowing as they won’t cost you as much if you’re able to pay them back quickly. Not only that but you won’t be charged any extra fees for going into this overdraft.
The conditions of your overdraft will depend on your credit score, but you could get a limit of up to £2,000. The interest rates can vary between 19%, 29%, and 39% EAR (variable), and again this depends on your credit limit.
Just keep in mind that you have to be approved for an overdraft with Monzo. When we first applied, Cazzy was allowed one and I was denied!
One of the best things about using Monzo is that you can spend money anywhere in the world with any currency. But the question is, do you get charged for this?
With Monzo, you won’t be charged for foreign currency transactions as the platform uses Mastercard’s exchange rate (which I just mentioned).
This exchange rate is passed directly to you without hidden charges or fees, so you’re free to spend whenever you like. Other traditional banks can charge you, or they add a markup to your exchange rate.
Either way, you won’t be getting the most of your money abroad when using a traditional bank.
There are no transfer fees for depositing money in a Monzo bank account or any UK bank account for that matter (just for reference, I’m not talking about cash deposits here).
However, when it comes to transfer fees with Monzo, there’s one key thing to remember. They have a partnership with Wise that allows you to do international transfers.
This means the overseas payment fees are set by Wise, and as such, you’ll have to research those accordingly. I do know that they change by currency, and are determined by the amount of money you’re sending or receiving.
You also can’t receive international transfers directly to your Monzo account. Instead, you’ll have to have a Wise account and then send the money through to Monzo via a domestic bank transfer.
Here are some other features that Monzo offers:
Aside from Monzo’s current accounts, you’ve also got paid plans that you can purchase too. Some features are only available on these accounts and that includes:
If you’re interested in some of these paid features, then let’s take a look at the different plans that Monzo offers!
When it comes to Monzo's current accounts, there are three plans to choose from; Monzo, Monzo Plus, and Monzo Premium.
The screenshot below will outline the key differences, and then we’ll go into this in a little more depth.
To give you more of an idea of the differences between these Monzo personal accounts, I’ve broken down the key points into a table.
If you’re looking for a paid plan, then here’s a more in-depth comparison between the Plus and Premium accounts…
As you can see the paid plans offer a lot of extra features compared to the free current account.
Don’t get me wrong, the free account offers all the basic things you’ll require from a bank, but there are plenty of great reasons to upgrade your plan.
This includes a higher monthly limit of no-fee ATM withdrawals, virtual cards, and free cash deposits. You’ll also benefit from other features such as free travel insurance, discounted airport lounge access, and a credit tracker.
Another great thing about using Monzo is that you can apply for a joint account like you can with any traditional bank.
To sign up, you’ll both need a regular account, and from there opening the account will only take a few minutes. There are no new ID checks required or lengthy applications which is always handy!
After opening a joint account you’ll both be sent a new ‘Monzo Joint’ card. To make things even easier, the cards will have a different design so you know which one is which.
Then you can easily check and manage transactions through your feed, as it breaks down who made each transaction, and where the money is going!
Monzo also has their own alternative to loans called Monzo Flex. It’s essentially a new take on a credit card, where you can spread the cost of purchases.
You can spread the cost over three months (which is free), or 6-12 months but keep in mind, you’ll be subject to a 24% APR representative (variable).
If you’re eligible for Monzo Flex, you’ll be given a pre-approved credit limit that you only need to apply for once. After that, you can flex as many purchases as necessary as long as the amount is within that limit.
You can use Monzo Flex both online and in-store, and when you choose an installment plan everything will be broken down for you. That includes how much each payment will be, when it will come out of your account, and how much interest you’ll pay (if any).
If you’ve got a child aged 16-17 then you’ll want to take a look at this type of Monzo account.
This isn’t a junior account, instead, your child will typically have access to everything you do. The only major difference is that there will be blocked spending on anything that’s illegal for those under 18 e.g. gambling and drinking.
Aside from the age restrictions, a 16-17 account works the same way. You’ll have a contactless debit card that you can use both at home and abroad and a full current account.
This means you can send and receive money, withdraw from ATMs, set up direct debits, and manage your own money effectively.
If you need to open a business bank account then not to worry as Monzo has two options available; Monzo Lite and Monzo Pro.
We haven’t used this company for business specifically, but we’ve read great things in the company’s reviews.
To give you an idea of what a Monzo business bank account offers, we’ve broken down the key features in the table below.
As you can see there are significant differences between the free account and the paid account. For example, with Monzo Lite you won’t have multi-user access, tax pots, or virtual cards.
When it comes to business banking, sometimes it pays to upgrade the plan. This will all depend on the logistics of your business and the money you’re making and is only a decision that you can make.
To give you an idea, here are additional features that only Monzo Pro includes:
As Monzo can be used as a main bank account, many people tend to primarily use it in their home country.
However, if you’re traveling abroad for a long period of time or you’re on holiday, it has huge advantages then too!
For starters, if you have a Monzo card then you’ll benefit from fee-free ATM withdrawals (up to a certain limit), a fantastic exchange rate, and no transaction fees.
Monzo has also partnered with Wise, so you can use their integration to send international transfers which will come in handy.
Some other travel benefits of using Monzo abroad include:
We’ve used our Monzo cards in dozens of countries, and it’s allowed us to travel around the world without having to worry about exchange rates and ATM withdrawals.
Here’s a rough idea of the countries we’ve used Monzo in:
England / Ireland / Estonia / Finland / Germany / Latvia / Lithuania / Malta / Norway / Poland / Spain / Sweden
Indonesia / Sri Lanka / India / Nepal / The Philippines
Mexico / Guatemala / Nicaragua / El Salvador / United States of America
Every company has pros and cons, no matter what sector it’s in. In our opinion, the pros of having a Monzo bank account definitely outweigh the cons.
However, any balanced review needs to show both sides, so here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of using Monzo…
Before you sign up for a Monzo current account or business account for that matter, it’s important to do the research yourself.
When it comes to banking and money, you can’t just take the opinion of someone else. What works for them may not work for you, so weigh up the pros and cons yourself first.
So you don’t just listen to our opinions, here are what other users think of Monzo.
First of all, what scores have they achieved on app scores?
Now let’s take a look at some of the user reviews for Monzo!
The negative Monzo bank reviews seem to be centered around problems with the customer support team.
In our opinion, we’ve never had a problem with this but many people do seem to have an issue with the chat feature on their app.
Signing up for Monzo is super easy so I’m going to quickly take you through it.
You can find the Monzo app here.
After you’ve downloaded the app you’ll be asked for some information including your address and phone number. You’ll then be asked some other information like what you do for a living and how you plan to use the account.
After you’ve finished answering these questions you’ll need to verify your identity. The app will first ask for a picture of your ID and then you’ll need to take a selfie video for comparison.
Then you can just pick the plan you want and wait for your Monzo card to arrive in the post. It usually takes a couple of days.
Here’s some more detailed information on how to open a Monzo card!
Monzo also offers a virtual card that essentially does everything a physical card does. These can be used for online purchases, in-app purchases, and mobile payment services like Google Pay.
The main purpose of using a virtual card is to increase security as each one has its own unique details, rather than your actual card details. This means the card number, expiry date, and CVC will be different.
It’s important to note that virtual cards aren’t available with free accounts. Instead, you have to have Monzo Plus, Mono Premium, or Monzo Business Pro.
If you have one of these paid plans you can simply create a virtual card in the app, and you can have five at a time.
Revolut is one of our favorite travel cards and for good reason!
They offer one of the best exchange rates around and allow you to save lots of money when it comes to foreign currency fees and transfer fees.
Another great thing about Revolut is that they offer plenty of additional features including the ability to ‘share bills’, cashback on some purchases, and cryptocurrency trading.
The paid plans even include travel insurance, with some of them offering FREE airport lounge passes too! You’ve also got four types of business bank accounts to choose from.
These are just some of the reasons that we love Revolut, but you can read more in our in-depth Revolut review if you’re interested…
In fact, we've actually written a Monzo Vs Revolut comparison article, which will be useful for those who want to compare the two!
Formally known as TransferWise, Wise is another fantastic option.
With this company, you can hold money in 50+ currencies and convert between them for the real exchange rate. Wise is available in 60+ countries too which makes it a great option for frequent travelers.
Not only that, but Wise also offers virtual cards which can help to keep your money safe!
If you’re self-employed or a business owner, then you’ll want to get a business account with this online platform too.
Their business accounts offer some of the lowest conversion fees when it comes to receiving international transfers, and you can also do international invoices and batch payments.
If you’re looking for banks like Monzo then you can check out Starling Bank.
Like Monzo, it offers fully-regulated bank accounts and these are protected by the FSCS (the Financial Services Compensation Scheme).
You can apply for an account in minutes, and you’ll benefit from 24/7 UK-based customer service.
The best thing about Starling Bank is that there’s no cap on FREE monthly withdrawals. This is a huge bonus for those traveling abroad and isn’t offered by many banks or travel cards.
Although they do have a lot to offer, I’ve never really been a fan of Starling.
Unlike Monzo and Revolut, they don’t seem to offer many additional features and the exchange rate didn’t seem to be as good when we looked into them.
To give you an idea of How Monzo compares to these alternatives, here’s a quick breakdown of the key differences.
Each of these alternatives has something to offer, but here are some of the key highlights:
Wise and Starling bank do have great features, but we primarily tend to use Revolut and Monzo.
For the purpose of this guide, let’s take a look at why you should choose Monzo…
To make this section easier to digest, I'm going to split it up into two sections.
There are plenty of mainstream banks out there, so the question is why would you opt for a current account with Monzo.
First of all, opening an account with Monzo is incredibly easy, and can be done right from the app. This means you don’t have to enter a branch, and yet, the process is still extremely secure.
This is especially handy if you’re traveling a lot or you’re a digital nomad.
Hopefully, this Monzo card review has given you a good idea of all the benefits you’ll be entitled to if you chose to open an account. This includes having access to saving pots, virtual cards, and a handy bill-splitting feature.
Aside from this, using your Monzo card abroad will save you lots of money when it comes to foreign currency transactions, ATM withdrawal fees, and excellent exchange rates.
Some traditional banks just can’t offer these types of features or savings, which is why Monzo is such a fantastic option!
There are plenty of alternatives out there, but this review of Monzo aims to put forward the fact that it’s one of the best options for travelers.
For starters, Monzo is covered by the FCSC like any traditional bank whereas other digital platforms aren’t because they’re not fully licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Aside from that, Monzo has some fantastic features that set it apart from other options currently available.
One of these is the awesome overdraft feature, which is extremely handy. You’ve also got their tax pots which are super easy to use and very popular with users.
To continue with what they offer compared to other digital platforms, you’ve got ‘Monzo Flex’ for flexible payments, a credit tracker, and the ability to sync up your salary.
Just keep in mind that some of these features are only available with the paid plans, so do your research first.
Another bonus of using Monzo is that they’re also extremely user-friendly. Not to mention, having a bright orange card with you when you pay abroad is always a good conversation starter too if you’re a social butterfly, and are looking to meet other travelers!
Revolut is a fantastic alternative to Monzo, and we actually have an account with both platforms!
Each one has its advantages, but in our opinion, it’s always handy to have one of each. That way, you can benefit from an extensive range of features.
Having a card from both Monzo and Revolut allows you to withdraw two lots of money from an ATM. This way, you can benefit from an increased amount when it comes to fee-free ATM withdrawals.
There’s always a risk of you losing a travel card too (been there, done that), so having two means you can keep them in separate places. You’ll also have a fallback this way!
Monzo Bank Ltd is a fully authorized bank in the United Kingdom, and as such is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the PRA.
It’s an app-based bank where your money will be fully protected so it can be used as your normal bank account if you wish.
Monzo offers both free and paid plans so it’s up to you which one you choose. If you go for the free current or business account then you won’t be charged monthly fees.
However, if you opt for a paid plan then monthly fees vary between £5-15 depending on which plan you choose.
There are many reasons why Monzo is so popular but being protected by the FSCS is right up there at the top.
Other reasons include being able to hold and exchange international currencies, fee-free transfers, no-fee international ATM withdrawals, and the opportunity to have virtual cards.
Monzo doesn’t have any hidden fees which is always good to hear. Aside from the monthly charges (if you opt for a paid plan), all the other fees will be documented clearly.
This includes withdrawal fees if you withdraw more than the ‘no-fee’ amount, card replacement fees, and international transfer fees.
There are plenty of fantastic options out there that can help you manage your money both at home and whilst abroad. However, in my opinion, Monzo is undoubtedly one of the best choices!
Hopefully, this Monzo review guide has given you a good idea of what this bank has to offer and why it’s suitable for everyone.
Whether you’re a digital nomad, self-employed, or work full-time, opening a Monzo account is a great way to save money whilst you’re traveling. In fact, having a Monzo card is one of our top travel tips!
As companies are constantly updating their features, make sure you check out the Monzo website yourself. This way, you can decide whether the card is for you rather than just going off my opinion.
If you found this article helpful, then here are some other guides that you may want to read: