When packing for a trip abroad, one of the biggest things you need to consider is which travel card to take with you.
Ever since we began backpacking in 2016, we have taken our Revolut and Monzo cards with us on every trip.
We first started with Revolut on our journey around South America and then also started using Monzo shortly after.
As of 2020, we have used these cards in 40 countries, and have worked out the many pros and cons that each card offers.
Below I’ll take you through these differences we’ve picked up on and give you, what we believe to be, the clear winner in the battle of Monzo vs Revolut.
Just one thing to note, this review and our decision is based purely on the purpose of using these as travel cards to get the best bang for your buck when abroad.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in ...
To help give you a basis for this review, here’s all of the countries that we have used our Revolut and Monzo cards in.
As you can see, collectively this involves 5 of the 7 continents and dozens of different global currencies.
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
England / Ireland / Austria / Bosnia & Herzegovina / Croatia / Czech Republic / Estonia / Finland / France / Germany / Italy / Latvia / Lithuania / Malta / Netherlands / Norway / Poland / Spain / Sweden
Indonesia / Thailand / Cambodia / Vietnam / Laos / Sri Lanka / India / Nepal / The Philippines
Mexico / Guatemala / Nicaragua / El Salvador
Brazil / Argentina / Chile / Bolivia / Peru / Colombia
Here’s a quick overview of the key features that help make Revolut an awesome choice for your next travel card.
If you wish to pay to upgrade your Revolut account, then you get access to a whole host of great perks for a small monthly sum.
It’s worth noting that Revolut is always expanding these perks so check ahead of time to see if this list is still up-to-date.
When we first started using Revolut 4 years ago, the perks were only a fraction of what’s on offer today, and the option to upgrade now makes much better financial sense.
Includes all of the above, plus:
Based on important features when it comes to travel, here’s a look at how I think these 2 awesome challenger banks stand up:
Under the free plans, each allow £200 of free withdrawals each month. Above this you are charged a fee. With Revolut this is 2% and with Monzo this is now 3%. It used to be just 2% from Monzo as well, but this has now changed. As such, Revolut wins here.
Monzo wins purely because of the overdraft feature. Having this on Cazzy’s card means we never have to worry about running out of money when out and about for the day. Be aware though that you do have to apply for the overdraft and not everyone gets approved.
Both Monzo and Revolut offer a feature where you can request money from another user in order to split a bill. A really great feature that both apps do really well.
When you start to move your banking ever more online, there is always a fear of fraud and other people somehow getting a hold of your details. Both Monzo and Revolut have advanced safety features in place to help prevent this.
Namely, the ability to freeze your card at any time and reactivate it at the click of a button. I also like that, if you enter the wrong access pin to the app, you actually get blocked from accessing the bank account and have to verify your identity in order to regain access.
With Monzo, this requires you to take a picture of your photo ID and record a quick video of you saying something, in order for the Monzo security team to verify it is you who is trying to access the app. We have had no issues with either, except for with Revolut back in 2016.
Somehow, when paying for something online in South America, a man in Canada got a hold of Cazzy’s card details and used them to buy flight tickets out of Canada (valued at just under £200). I believe that them accessing the details in the first place was our fault and nothing to do with Revolut.
Either way, we contacted Revolut about the issue and after a few weeks managed to get the money refunded! At the same time, there are plenty of stories online about both Monzo and Revolut where users have been unable to recover stolen funds.
Whether this is the fault of Monzo and Revolut isn’t always clear; but from personal experience we can vouch for Revolut. Overall, we’ve had great experiences when it comes to fraud with both companies.
For some reason, Cazzy and me have a bad habit of leaving our cards in ATMs! We’ve each done it a couple of times and luckily it’s never been a major issue as we each always have a backup card.
What I love about both apps is that you can immediately freeze and block your card if you’ve lost it or had it stolen, so that no money can be taken. If you do need to order a replacement card outside of the UK, then this is 100% possible with both Revolut and Monzo.
With Monzo it’s free within the UK and they charge a flat £30 fee to ship outside the UK (sent with DHL tracking). With Revolut this is at least €19.99 and possibly more depending on which international country you are in. To ship within the UK, Revolut charges £4.99.
It’s hard to give a winner here, because I think both services are very similar in price and incredibly easy-to-use.
Both Monzo and Revolut have a very modern and straightforward feel to them. All of the features are easy to access, except for the currency conversion tool which to me can often seem a bit clunky and delayed. Though this does depend on the quality of the internet connection.
For some reason, I personally prefer the feel of Monzo, possibly because I seem to use it more often these days. That being said, I would have to give the overall award for user-friendliness to Revolut.
Simply because of the fact that they let you save a UK bank card to your account allowing you to top up directly from within the app, rather than having to head to your alternate internet banking app.
Also, their currency conversion tool is extremely handy, and gives you a very quick overview of whichever exchange rates you choose.
As you can see from the detailed description above, Revolut has clearly put a lot of work into the paid plans. Great travel-related perks include the chance to access free travel insurance included within your plan, as well as the chance to get free lounge passes with flight delays.
Their concierge service is also an interesting idea, though reviews online seem to be more negative than positive. Finally, you get the chance to increase your free monthly withdrawal limit, which is something that Monzo simply doesn’t offer. So in the world of additional perks, Revolut is the winner.
As you can see, both Monzo and Revolut offer a very appealing travel card service, well suited to help you save money when travelling almost anywhere in the world.
Our policy is to take both our Monzo and Revolut cards with us everywhere we go, partly due to the fact that one is a Mastercard (Monzo) and the other is a Visa (Revolut), so we are covered no matter what.
It also means that we don’t have to pay a monthly subscription charge in order to maintain free withdrawals.
With 4 cards, it means we can access £800 worth of free withdrawals between us each month, which has never proved to be an issue.
However, if I had to pick one that I prefer, it would have to be Monzo, purely because of the overdraft feature.
It has come in handy so many times when we unexpectedly need access to money and don’t have any WiFi or data to top up at that time.
It’s not to say that Revolut is bad, but up until now Monzo has proved more reliable.
That being said: I’m wondering if Revolut will soon overtake Monzo as my favourite.
They already have a lot of very obvious perks.
Notably that once you add a card, you can then top up from within the app and never have to leave.
With Monzo, once you've checked your balance and seen you need more money, you have to go to your banking app and send a bank transfer from there.
Also, many of the premium features listed above are relatively new and we haven’t yet had a chance to trial them.
On previous trips, the paid Revolut plans have never been very financially appealing, but with the addition of the lounge pass system and their awesome perks; they could be well worth the small monthly fee.
I’m also keen to start using their stock trading system, and by having the paid plan I won’t have to worry about commissions.
As such, I will update this article accordingly in the coming months as we trial out these cool features.
So, what would be my advice if you’re planning a trip and trying to decide whether to download Revolut or Monzo?
If you want to just go for one and be done with it, opt for Monzo.
Or if you want to access all of the other cool features, like cryptocurrency and stock trading, then Revolut is the obvious choice.
However, one of my favourite travel tips is to download both and order cards for each one.
Take them each with you abroad and give them both a go.
The fact that they are each free to use and download means that it’s more than worthwhile trying each one.
Plus, you get the bonus of twice as much free ATM withdrawls each month.
It seems that the aim of both Monzo and Revolut are to become a well-rounded financial services provider, helping you to handle all aspects of your finances.
As of writing, it seems to me that Monzo has done a better job of diversifying these offerings.
Joint accounts are a particularly useful tool for me and Cazzy, and we intend to open up a Monzo business account in the near future.
What with the ability to easily access overdrafts and loans, Monzo seems to be ahead in the race to help people more easily and comfortably switch from traditional banking to this new digital banking revolution.
But in the 4 years we’ve been using each of these services, they have both come a long way.
And it’s exciting to see what the future holds and which new services each one stars to roll out.
In particular, Monzo is set to roll out paid plans sometime in 2020, so keep your eyes peeled!
Getting your hands on a Monzo or Revolut card is sooooo simple!
Just go ahead and download the app.
You’ll then need to go ahead and enter a few basic details such as your name, email address and home address.
When you’re all signed up you can then request your card to be sent out to you and you’re good to go!
As well as Monzo and Revolut, there are 3 other travel cards that we have tried abroad.
The main appeal they offer above Monzo and Revolut is that they have no cap on free monthly withdrawals.
Which is obviously a massive perk if you are worried about paying high monthly fees with Monzo or Revolut.
That being said, Starling is well behind in offering any additional features and Cazzy and I never really grew very fond of it.
Perhaps the biggest issue we had was that the exchange rate we received with them often tended to be slightly worse than what Revolut and Monzo offers.
I’m not sure why as it’s meant to be the same but hey that’s just what we’ve found.
I do know that both Starling and Revolut apply a 0.5% surcharge to exchange rates on weekends so as to protect themselves against big currency fluctuations (markets close over the weekend).
However Monzo doesn’t do this.
I used this a few times abroad and just never got on with it.
At least with Starling they have the clear bonus of no maximum withdrawal amount each month, but N26 just never offered any benefits above Monzo and Revolut so we quickly stopped using them.
Their card also just seemed very tacky (a poor excuse I know!).
Anyhow, they’re no longer available in the UK anyway so best to just ignore them.
When it comes to using these cards for travel, Transferwise simply can’t compete with Monzo or Revolut.
This is because they charge you transaction fees (0.35-2.85%) for using your card abroad.
What I absolutely love about Transferwise is that they have the lowest conversion fees when it comes to receiving international money transfers and converting it into GBP.
As such we use our Tranferwise account a lot for our business. Beyond that I wouldn’t recommend it for travel purposes.
Well that’s about it!
I hope this has been a pretty useful and detailed comparison between Monzo and Revolut, more specifically with regards to how they can help you when travelling abroad.
Once again, be aware that both of these companies are constantly upgrading their features so exact prices and services may be different at the time you sign up.
Now over to you, have you used Monzo or Revolut?
If so, which one do you prefer?
Drop a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. Be sure to check out these other trip planning guides we've put together: