Revolut has proven itself to be a more than useful financial app. But is the fintech's current account up to the challenge of meeting the needs of everyday banking customers? We decided to investigate.
However, the fintech is still waiting to be granted an Irish IBAN for its current account here, despite the bank now offering personal loans and other everyday banking services to Irish customers.
While the IBAN issue doesn’t necessarily prevent people from using Revolut as their main current account, it is still posing a mental barrier too those who are considering moving to the bank, along with a few more issues.
And at a time when plenty of people are looking for a new current account before Ulster Bank and KBC leave the market, we decided to take a look at the main things consumers should be aware of before moving permanently to Revolut.
Revolut is a fintech, or an online-only bank, which means not only does it not have an extensive branch network, it doesn’t have one physical branch; the entirety of a customer’s banking must be conducted online via its mobile app.
This may pose a problem for people for two main reasons.
Firstly, many people enjoy dealing with a teller in a branch, not least for the personal experience it provides, but also, should anything go wrong, there’s a human there to discuss things and get it sorted for you eventually. There’s no such thing with Revolut, or with any other online banking provider for that matter.
The second reason is that bank branches provide customers who deal in cash the option of making a deposit, whereas Revolut doesn't offer this. But more on the cash point shortly.
Generally speaking, if you don’t visit a bank branch more than once a month (for whatever reason), having a Revolut account might work for you as your regular day-to-day account. But there are of course other points to consider…
Verdict: If you don’t need a branch, Revolut might be for you.
As alluded to above, online-only banks such as Revolut don’t exactly go hand-in-hand with those who deal frequently in cash, unless of course you have a premium account, but these still put a limit on how much money you can withdraw.
For a start, there’s no way of depositing any cash into your account because, as mentioned above, Revolut has no bank branches. For example, if you have €50, the only way to deposit this would be to ask a friend to transfer you money and for you to give them the cash you have. This, of course, is quite impractical for day-to-day banking purposes.
There is also the cash withdrawal element to consider. Each Revolut plan allows for a certain amount of cash to be withdrawn from ATMs per month before a 2% fee on all funds over that amount is charged, with a minimum fee of €1 per withdrawal being levied.
Here’s a look at how much customers are allowed to withdraw fee-free each month:
- Standard account - up to €200 (or five ATM withdrawals, whichever comes first)
- Plus - up to €200
- Premium - up to €400
- Metal - up to €800
As can be seen above, the only plan that would really benefit customers who use quite a bit of cash is the Metal plan, and that comes with a subscription fee of €13.99 per month.
In short, Revolut can be prohibitively expensive for customers who deal primarily in cash, especially if you know you will breach the above limits. And with the added inconvenience of not being able to make cash lodgements, this is something to weigh up before making it your permanent account.
However, for the salaried individual who gets paid directly into their account via an employer, this likely won’t pose too much of a problem, especially if your main purchases are either online or using your card.
Verdict: Revolut is not a current account for those who like to use a lot a cash.
Like any other bank or business, Revolut provides customer service for those experiencing an issue with their account or for those who simply have a query.
The main difference, surprise, surprise, is that Revolut’s customer service is all carried out online, mainly via its in-app chat function. However, customers can also send an email to its customer service address to try get an issue resolved.
Directly linked to the fact that it has no branches, Revolut customers won’t be able to meet an agent in person should they need help, but will rather have to go in-app to discuss an issue.
For some people, this won’t be a problem. However, it might be a deterrent for those who prefer to at least hear someone’s voice over the phone should they need an issue resolved immediately - which is more than understandable. It's also usually easier to resolve a complaint in person or over the phone than by typing.
It’s worth noting that Revolut’s in-app chat is 24-hours and runs from Monday to Sunday too, unlike exiting bank KBC for example. So if you were worried about an issue arising on a weekend, a customer service agent should be on hand to help.
What’s more, customers of the Premium and Metal plans benefit from priority customer service so if you’re willing to pay you won’t be waiting as long should you need help with anything.
An issue to flag however is around customers getting locked out of their accounts. This usually happens if Revolut suspects fraud on the account. Although rare, as Revolut has gotten more and more popular (it now has around 2 million customers in Ireland alone) it’s becoming more of an issue.
Increasingly strict anti-money laundering legislation and big fines for companies that breach it means online banks in particular often take a heavy-handed approach to even the slightest suspicion of fraud. The fact that online banks usually use artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor accounts, as opposed to real people, means legitimate accounts can sometimes get incorrectly flagged.
In addition, under money laundering laws, if suspicious activities are being investigated, bank staff are not allowed to tell customers why they have frozen their account, which can leave many frustrated, as they don’t know what to do to regain access.
And as Revolut is licensed by the Central Bank of Lithuania you have no recourse to either the Central Bank of Ireland or the Ombudsman here if you have a grievance. You have to complain to the Lithuanian authorities.
Verdict: Fine for the average customer, but perhaps not if you prefer a more hands-on, in-person approach to customer service.
Before we discuss making payments with Revolut, we should explain the difference between the two main payment types: Direct Debits and Standing Orders.
With a Direct Debit, you're giving permission to someone else to debit money from your account on a periodic basis. And the amount can vary. So your electricity bill for example.
A Standing Order is for a fixed, regular amount that you agree to pay yourself to someone else. Money into your savings account for example.
Both payment types can be set up with Revolut like any other current account. There are just a few things to be aware of, especially when it comes to Direct Debits as Revolut doesn’t have an Irish IBAN.
To set up a Direct Debit with your Revolut account all you have to do is provide your account details to the company you’re paying e.g. your gas, electricity or broadband provider.
However, there are usually a few more steps involved because Revolut’s IBAN is Lithuanian. Most businesses will require you to fill out a SEPA Direct Debit form, or to contact their customer service team, or to pop into a store (if applicable) to update your details instead of simply updating your IBAN yourself online.
That being said, it usually only requires filling out one form and sending it via freepost, or a quick call to your service provider, whoever that may be.
However there are still some utility providers who may refuse to accept a non-Irish IBAN as their payment systems aren't modern enough so you might find yourself stuck. Some employers, including Government departments, encounter the same issue when trying to pay money into your account, even though this is illegal (it's referred to as IBAN discrimination).
A standing order is straightforward to set up with Revolut and can be done in the ‘Scheduled’ tab from the Hub in the app. From there, customers can schedule a regular transfer to another Revolut account or separate bank account, as long as the relevant details are included.
These can be handy for regular payments such as your rent or other recurring payments to an individual, for example. And because it can all be done in-app, there’s no need to reach out to your bank.
Many banks charge for both Direct Debits and Standing Orders but Revolut does not charge for either.
Revolut customers are issued with a standard Visa debit card or Mastercard, depending on the type of account you sign up for (paid or unpaid subscription). So the same as any other standard bank account.
With your debit card you will be able to make purchases easily in-store or online.
And because Revolut is a fintech, it also allows you to create temporary virtual cards to make purchases safely online, which are then destroyed immediately after use so they can’t be linked to your bank account.
And if you're travelling abroad to a non-eurozone country, each Revolut plan allows you to make payments free of foreign exchange fees before a small 0.5% charge is added. For the average customer however, Revolut’s standard account should be more than enough.
Verdict: Revolut customers will have no issue setting up Standing Orders or making payments with their card. However setting up Direct Debits will usually take a bit of work (until Revolut has an Irish IBAN) and some providers might refuse to accept your details. At a minimum check that your employer and social welfare is able to pay money into your account.
Revolut makes sending money to bank accounts, both domestic and foreign, very straightforward - perhaps more so than traditional banks because it can all be conducted via the Revolut mobile app.
For domestic payments you can choose to either send money directly and instantly to a Revolut account, or to another bank by simply inputting the relevant bank details in the ‘transfer’ section of the app.
International payments can be done equally as quickly, but like any other bank, Revolut charges a fee for doing so, albeit comparably lower because it uses the interbank exchange rate.
Verdict: Customers should have no issue sending money to other accounts.
Loans and overdrafts
For those who like to do all their banking with one provider, Revolut might not be for you unfortunately.
While the fintech officially became a bank recently, and now offers personal loans to customers, that’s unfortunately where its ‘traditional’ services stop (for now).
Revolut doesn't offer an overdraft facility, a credit card, or mortgages for example. At least not yet anyway. So if you’re an Ulster Bank or KBC customer looking to set up a new overdraft, a mainstream Irish bank might better suit your needs.
That being said, Revolut has promised to expand its product offering in the near future.
Verdict: Irish banking providers might better suit those looking for supplementary banking products and services.
There aren't too many real barriers preventing consumers from using Revolut as their main current account, apart from maybe taking the plunge itself.
What matters most are your own banking preferences and what services you require to carry out your day-to-day banking.
So before switching, think about whether you use cash a lot, the type of customer service that's important to you, and whether or not most of your banking is conducted online. And of course check that your employer - including social welfare - can pay money into your account.
But if you don’t use a lot of cash, are happy to use the app for all your everyday banking needs, then a move to Revolut might be right for you. And you could save a good bit of money on fees.
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