The battle for dominance in digital banking is in full swing. The traditional banking dinosaurs are losing market share to the digital upstarts and potentially to established tech firms like Facebook (Libra) and Amazon if they go ahead with financial products.
You can read my review of Transferwise.
Don’t Keep All Of Your Eggs in One Basket
Both have their fair share of issues. None is perfect. But I recommend both as a great solution to have in addition to whatever existing banking you’re using. I don’t think it’s a good idea to rely solely on these accounts. Especially since they’re not banks and your money isn’t protected (even though they have financial licenses from Lithuania).
Most traditional banks are covered by a government guarantee which means that if they become insolvent, the government will protect your deposits up to $250,000 in the US, and the same amount in Australia.
What Revolut Has that TransferWise Doesn’t
You can chat with someone from Revolut within a minute or two on their app. Perhaps their aggressive work culture is why.
There’s no such chat in TransferWise’s app and they have phone numbers that ring out (try different numbers if this happens to you). Further, their email replies can take up to 48 hours. That’s kind of annoying. Having said that, they have some nice agents who are keen to help once you do get them on the line.
I love this feature and only Revolut has this. You can create virtual cards and then dispose of them. You’re not tied to a specific card number. This is very useful when you’re buying on a website that you don’t know you can 100% trust.
Sometimes, websites will sell you a $1.00 product, capture your card details and then bill you $99.00 per month without informing you or bury the terms that you’ll be added to a subscription where they know you won’t read it.
Of course, you can dispute the charge but that takes time and it’s annoying. There’s also a chance that you can lose the chargeback dispute. Not a big chance but why take the risk? It means you have to wait on the phone, explain the situation while the rep fills out a form.
With a disposable card, you can just load it with $1.00, buy the product without having that hassle.
You can use one card for recurring transactions and create new ones for one off transactions to minimize your risk.
This is a feature that’s also missing in TransferWise. You can set monthly budgets, how much to allocate to each category of expenses. There are a few small features they could add like changing the date from the start of the month so that freelancers can time their income more accurately in the app.
You can buy shares from a select list of 300 listed companies New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. That’s a bit limiting but what’s cool is that you can buy a fractional amount — even just $1 worth of shares which makes investing more accessible.
Where TransferWise Does Better
For some reason, Revolut doesn’t allow access on a browser. That means you can only manage your account through the Revolut app. TransferWise has full functionality on both the Desktop and Mobile.
Currencies — Borderless Account
With TransferWise, you can hold more virtual bank accounts with account details in:
- Australian Dollar – BSB code and Account number
- British Pound – Account number and Sort code
- Euro – IBAN
- US Dollar – Account number and Routing number
- New Zealand – Account Number
The currencies available to you will depend on the country you’re opening from.
With Revolut, you can have receiving accounts in GBP and EUR only.
I would say receiving payments from Stripe, Amazon, or PayPal is much better with TransferWise than with Revolut.
I personally think there’s a strong case to have both cards. Both are free, though Revolut has a paid plan (metal card with up to 1% off, airport lounge).
To put it simply, TransferWise is the best for receiving money and Revolut for spending money. Transferwise is more mature and established, whereas Revolut feels like they’re pushing growth at the expense of breaking things.
Both are still upstarts and they need to figure out a lot of their processes so it’s a good idea to not hold too much with either. You can run into issues which both seem to have. Revolut seems a bit more unstable and they have occasional card payment issues whereas TransferWise seems more stable.
In terms of the FX fees, they seem quite nominal for the most part. If you do end up having both, you can check the rates on both and just go with the cheaper option.
More Digital Alternatives
- N26 — based in Germany
- Monzo — based in UK and for UK residents only (at the time of writing)
- Starling Bank — another UK only alternative