There are many no-fee debit cards on the market. The problem is, they all have at least one fatal flaw. Revolut on the other hand is pretty damn near perfect. In this article I review it and present some interesting usage cases.

 

The review

When I first heard about Revolut, my reaction was to dismiss it as simply another prepaid card. There has been too many of those in the last few years and with no exception, they have all been crap. Sure some people have found them useful in some rare circumstances but their highway robbery fee structures, residency requirements, crap exchange rates and poor web interfaces/apps have made them a poor option for most. That being said, I am a curious man and decided to have a look at Revolut’s website, ready for a good laugh. As you have probably guessed by now, I did not found the laugh I was looking for. What I found is what appeared, at least in theory, to be the perfect prepaid card. I decided to open an account and give it a try, convinced I would eventually find its “fatal flaw”.

Opening an account was refreshingly easy, all I had to do was download their app and follow the instructions on-screen. They did not require much in the way of personal information: my name, email address and mailing address. All in all it took five minutes to sign up and I was issued a MasterCard number on the spot.

I then decided to verify my ID, curious about how they handle that part of the process. Turns out they handle it just as well as they handle everything else, all I had to do was take a photo of my passport information page (using the app) and then tap my passport with my phone and let the NFC reader do its magic. It is important to note that while the ID verification part is not necessary, there are some pretty restrictive limits imposed on the card if you remain unverified.

The next step was to load some money on the card and for this they give you two options, you can use a debit Visa/MasterCard or you can send a wire. Both options are free (except for USD topups) and if you use a debit card, you get access to your money instantly. Not being a patient man I used a debit Visa and loaded some USD. As promised the money showed up on my Revolut account immediately. I made a few purchases online and everything worked flawlessly.

It is important to note that the card is multi-currency and that at this time you can load USD, EUR and GBP to it. The balances are kept separate and you can hold the three currencies at the same time. You can also transfer funds from one currency to another. It is easy and the exchange rate offered is as good as it gets. No really, I have done a few test transfers and got nearly the same rate as quoted by my Forex broker.

I then decided to contact customer service. Sadly, many excellent products are on my “no no” list simply because the support behind them is crap. In the case of Revolut, to contact support all I had to do was to click on the big “Support” button in the app menu. This took me to an easy to use Messenger-style chat interface. I typed a message and was surprised to receive a reply within a minute. The person on the other end seemed knowledgeable and answered all my questions (some fairly technical) very quickly. It is important to note however that their support is not available 24h and that there is no other way to contact them. If there is a problem with your card and they are “closed”, you are royally screwed.

By then I was quite impressed with the product and decided to order the physical card. This too proved ridiculously easy and the process took me less than a minute to complete. Delivery is free and you can use any address, anywhere in the world (does not have to be the same as your registered address). In my case I had the card delivered to my hotel in Shanghai. It took nearly a month to arrive so be mindful of that when you order yours. Surprisingly, the card is coded as a normal MasterCard, not as a debit one. This means that it will work everywhere MasterCard is accepted including on sites where debit cards are usually blocked (Azure for example). It is important to note that Revolut blocks certain types of transactions. For example, you cannot use your card on PayPal.

All in all I am very impressed with Revolut. It is mostly free, smooth and well implemented. I certainly do not recommend parking all your savings with them but I definitely recommend you check them out. You can download the app by clicking here on your phone.

 

Update (2017)

Since I wrote this review back in 2015, Revolut has changed and not for the better. First of all, I have noticed a significant decrease in the quality of the customer service. When I opened my account, it took less than five minutes on average to get a reply. Now I consider myself lucky if I even get a reply and when I do it is hours (or days) later. This is a big deal as there are situations when you really need to have a problem solved and you need it solved now. Secondly, Revolut used to be truly international. Everyone could open an account and get a card delivered free of charge. Not anymore, they only accept EU residents nowadays. Thirdly, Revolut used to be free and truly unlimited. The introduction of a fair usage policy changed that and since then the limits have been lowered to the point where using the card makes no sense at all. As of today, the limit for free withdrawal is a measly 200 $€£ per month while the total transaction limit is 5000 £ or 6000 $€ (cumulative). There is a premium account but if you are going to pay for such a service, why not use a real, solid bank instead? Lastly and most importantly, alternatives to Revolut have gone to market not to mention the traditional banks offering no-forex fee / ATM fee cards. In other words, I see no reason to recommend Revolut anymore.

 

Usage cases

Those who do not have a fee-free debit/credit card

Fee-free cards are common in the US/Canada/China and increasingly in Europe but that being said, even in those regions most people do not have one. This means that a lot of people have to pay anywhere from 1% to 5% for transactions in foreign currencies. Getting a Revolut account solves this problem. Even those who do not have a bank account in USD, EUR or GBP can benefit by using TransferWise or WorldRemit to transfer money to their Revolut account at market-rate. See my article on international money transfer here.

 

Those who do not have access to stable currencies

People who live in developing countries often have to live with unstable currencies. For them, a Revolut account can be godsend. They can transfer their pay into their Revolut account using TransferWise or WorldRemit at market-rate and keep it there in USD (I do not recommend holding EUR or GBP). Using the plastic card, they can access their money in their country of residence with no restrictions, at any time just as they would with a local bank card. In some cases, they can even avoid local sanctions (Greece for example).

 

Those who get paid via services like Payoneer

A lot of people use Payoneer and their ridiculously overpriced debit card to get paid online. For these people, Revolut is a game changer. They can continue receiving money via Payoneer but instead of spending their income using the Payoneer card, they can load it for free to their Revolut account and use the Revolut card to spend the money. That way they avoid the Payoneer fees and crap exchange rates. Please note that there is a fee to load USD from Payoneer to Revolut.

 

Those who want to hold foreign currencies

For those who travel on a regular basis between certain regions, holding the local currencies of the countries they regularly visit makes a lot of sense. For example, an American visiting Europe on a regular basis would benefit from buying EUR when the exchange rate is favorable and holding the currency until the next trip. At the moment it is only possible to hold USD, EUR and GBP but I expect the list to grow in the future.

 

Revolut for Business

In late 2016, Revolut announced the launch of a business bank account along with a host of other business services. Revolut initially planned to launch the product before the end of 2016 but as of now it still has not launch. It is unclear when it will. To pre-register, simply click here and fill in your details.

  • Dave Wooldridge

    This sounds almost too good to be true! If there the exchange rates are the same rate as quoted by your Forex broker and it’s fee free, I don’t see how they can survive as a company – how do they make their money?

  • Dave Wooldridge

    This sounds almost too good to be true! If there the exchange rates are the same rate as quoted by your Forex broker and it’s fee free, I don’t see how they can survive as a company – how do they make their money?

  • From what I know, they make their money from the fee merchants have to pay when accepting credit/debit cards. If for example the merchant is paying 2% to accept a payment maybe Revolut gets 0.5%. I don’t know how expensive it is to run Revolut but I bet they’ll need significant transaction volumes if they are to stay in business (or eventually introduce other fees but as far as I’m concerned that would kill the card).

  • From what I know, they make their money from the fee merchants have to pay when accepting credit/debit cards. If for example the merchant is paying 2% to accept a payment maybe Revolut gets 0.5%. I don’t know how expensive it is to run Revolut but I bet they’ll need significant transaction volumes if they are to stay in business (or eventually introduce other fees but as far as I’m concerned that would kill the card).

  • Dave Wooldridge

    I guess if they kept their overheads down, that would make sense then – thank you

  • Dave Wooldridge

    I guess if they kept their overheads down, that would make sense then – thank you

  • Alex Strong

    This looks great, can you withdraw cash with the card as well ?

  • Alex Strong

    This looks great, can you withdraw cash with the card as well ?

  • Yes you can withdraw cash from an ATM, free of charge. You can also transfer the card balance to a normal bank account free of charge using the app.

  • MichalisP

    Hi,

    Wondering if somebody has used this with payoneer successfully. Load money to revolut with payoneer(USD) for a EU based person.

    Kind regards,
    Michalis

  • MichalisP

    Hi,

    Wondering if somebody has used this with payoneer successfully. Load money to revolut with payoneer(USD) for a EU based person.

    Kind regards,
    Michalis

  • I’ve given it a try and it works. Payoneer processes it as a POS transaction so there are no charges. It’s a nice way to access the money on your Payoneer account for free. I’ve attached a scan to show you how the transaction looks like in Payoneer.

  • I’ve given it a try and it works. Payoneer processes it as a POS transaction so there are no charges. It’s a nice way to access the money on your Payoneer account for free. I’ve attached a scan to show you how the transaction looks like in Payoneer.

  • MichalisP

    Thank you very much sir.

  • MichalisP

    Thank you very much sir.

  • Dejan

    They say that the service will be free for the first 12 months. A classic marketing scheme, once they get enough customers, they can start charging. The main thing that they have compared to other services (like transferwise) that allows them to do this scheme is sending money to cell phone numbers. They hope to be something like whatsapp – even though I don’t like it, I have to use it as all of my friends are on it. So when the time comes that few times per month someone asks you for your revolut account so that he sends you money or receive payment from you, you’ll just have to install it no matter if you like the fees or not.

  • Dejan

    They say that the service will be free for the first 12 months. A classic marketing scheme, once they get enough customers, they can start charging. The main thing that they have compared to other services (like transferwise) that allows them to do this scheme is sending money to cell phone numbers. They hope to be something like whatsapp – even though I don’t like it, I have to use it as all of my friends are on it. So when the time comes that few times per month someone asks you for your revolut account so that he sends you money or receive payment from you, you’ll just have to install it no matter if you like the fees or not.

  • Jose

    Great post.
    I get pay from a US company through payoneer to my English account but I don’t know if I could add payments from Payoneer to my Revolut account. It is possible? mnay thanks in advance

  • Jose

    Great post.
    I get pay from a US company through payoneer to my English account but I don’t know if I could add payments from Payoneer to my Revolut account. It is possible? mnay thanks in advance

  • Yes, you can use the Payoneer MasterCard to reload your Revolut account.

  • Yes, you can use the Payoneer MasterCard to reload your Revolut account.

  • Fredrik

    Good tool for individuals like us.
    But as any tool, it comes with flaws.
    In this case, because Revolut keeps its overhead low as a company it reflects on its operations and customer support. Just have a look at its FB page, they’ve got a ton of user complaints weekly.
    For someone like myself, who spends most of his time in frontier markets/developing geos, using Revolut is risky.
    The truth is, there’s no better option outthere anyways.

  • Fredrik

    Good tool for individuals like us.
    But as any tool, it comes with flaws.
    In this case, because Revolut keeps its overhead low as a company it reflects on its operations and customer support. Just have a look at its FB page, they’ve got a ton of user complaints weekly.
    For someone like myself, who spends most of his time in frontier markets/developing geos, using Revolut is risky.
    The truth is, there’s no better option outthere anyways.

  • There is no doubt that Revolut’s customer service is about as bad as it gets. I once had my card locked and had to wait until the next day as their “chat” was closed. It would have been a disaster if it was my only card. That said, there are better options out there but non as accessible as Revolut. You can’t open a no-fee bank account in Hong Kong, Singapore etc remotely using an app.

  • There is no doubt that Revolut’s customer service is about as bad as it gets. I once had my card locked and had to wait until the next day as their “chat” was closed. It would have been a disaster if it was my only card. That said, there are better options out there but non as accessible as Revolut. You can’t open a no-fee bank account in Hong Kong, Singapore etc remotely using an app.

  • Matt

    If you’re not from any of the countries where revolut is available…can you still get a card?

  • Matt

    If you’re not from any of the countries where revolut is available…can you still get a card?

  • Currently not. They used to accept applications from all countries but for some reason they only accept European residents now.

  • Currently not. They used to accept applications from all countries but for some reason they only accept European residents now.

  • Φρονιμίτης

    So, if I understood well, you are saying that we should stop using payoneer for purchases and transfer all payoneer money to revolut and use revolut card? How much do I lose when I use payoneer card for purchases?

  • Yes. Payoneer charges a 3.5% currency conversion fee so if you are using their card you are being ripped off big time.

  • Φρονιμίτης

    My Payoneer card is in euro currency, and I use it for purchases in euro, and I load it from PayPal in euro. I guess there is no currency conversion fee.
    Is there also a transaction fee for purchases?

  • Then you are fine, as far as I know Payoneer doesn’t charge a purchase fee for same currency transactions. You could still get the Revolut card or something similar as a backup and for your travels though.

  • Genilson Israel

    Your article was making me feel excited about this fee-free debit card, and I was already making plans to load it with USD through TransferWise and use it during my tripe to the US. Then I read your 2017 update. What a disappointment.

  • Aleksey Voznessenski

    what are the alternate options you mention in your 2017 update?

  • They are mostly local alternatives. For example, N26 in some EU countries. Monzo in the UK, Koho in Canada etc.

  • Fabbarry

    A most unpleasant experience

    Initially, I gave this app 5 stars. The app is excellent as is the sign up procedure, customer service and facilities such as second card and virtual card, UK bank account number etc. So far, so good.

    One week later, I have since had problems linking a bank card from my main account to top up the account. The app demands verification and has blocked the account.

    Customer service is only available through the app and the Eastern European staff appear unable to comprehend explanations or the workings of UK bank accounts required for verification One example of this is the request for copy of a bank statement that shows my name, address, as well as the card number that I have used to top up the account. Neither of my UK accounts show a card number on their bank statements. Result – card blocked and no access to cash paid in, and no-one to contact.

    This experience has led me to question the overall reliability and sincerity of the service. Yes, I told it is “for my own security” (which, of course, is never really the truth), but I would not feel confident depositing more than a few pounds with them. No doubt my issue will eventually be sorted, but confirms the view that Revolut and others entering the market should be regarded as ‘toy/pretend banks’ that should not be taken too seriously. They are useful, but cannot be relied upon. If you open an account do please maintain your regular bank account as well. As for me, I will be closing my account, but something tells me that I will not get my cash returned.