This is my review of Monese, the mobile app-based digital challenger bank.
I worked in banking for almost a decade at one of the big 4 UK banks, so I know firsthand what a threat digital challengers like Monese are to the established banks. In fact, Monese was one of the first digital challenger banks to appear on the scene but these days it faces strong competition from rival start ups.
Monese particularly excels at international money transfers, having an accessible platform tailored for when you need to exchange money for low fees. However, you may be limited with the starter, free package. A monthly upgrade might be a necessary option if you like the app and want to fully utilise all of its benefits.
In addition, Monese is not a UK regulated bank and does not come with FSCS protection. If you want to withdraw cash, Monese only allows £100 per month to be withdrawn before charging fees with its Simple account. That’s half the fee-free monthly limit you get for cash withdrawals with a Revolut Basic account.
Overall, Monese is a great digital bank account to have if you regularly travel internationally or often want to send money abroad. It’s also quick and easy to set up compared to its rivals. However, if you want the peace of mind that FSCS protection gives you, then Starling Bank is a better option for you as it offers FSCS protection on your deposits. If you want lots more features from your digital account, Revolut will be the best digital bank option for you.
Read on for my full Monese review so you can see if it’s the right mobile banking app for you or use the links below to skip ahead.
- What is Monese?
- Monese’s Pros & Cons
- How Does Monese Work?
- Monese’s Features
- How Much Does Monese Cost?
- Is Monese Safe?
- How To Sign Up To Monese
- What’s It Like Using The Monese App?
- Monese Insurance
- Apple, Google and PayPal Integrations
- Should You Open A Monese Business Account?
- Monese Avios Partnership
- Monese Credit Builder
- International Transfers With Monese
- Monese Customer Reviews
- Monese Customer Service
- Monese Review – Final Verdict
What is Monese?
Monese was, and still is, a pioneer in the fintech and online banking space, as it was one of the very first companies to offer banking services solely through a mobile app. It set the trend in motion for varying banking alternatives, such as Monzo, Starling and Revolut, to rival the traditional large high street banks like Barclays, Lloyds and Natwest.
Read my reviews of the alternatives to Monese here:
How Did Monese Form? A Brief History
Monese’s founder, Norris Koppel, is an Estonian immigrant who moved to the U.K in 2014. When he tried to open a bank account with a traditional U.K bank, he realised that, without forms of identification to prove his address or a U.K credit history, the process was incredibly difficult. Still, until this day, banks are typically more hesitant to provide accounts to people who have recently moved to the country. However, a bank account is crucial to modern-day living. Without one, Koppel struggled to rent an apartment, or even receive a salary from his job.
To save others from experiencing the same difficulties, Koppel created the Monese Bank in 2015. When the app launched the following year in 2016, it became the very first 100% mobile current account in the U.K.
Now, a few years on, Monese spans all across Europe, allowing anyone to open an account within minutes. The banks’ revenue grew from just over £350,000 in 2016 to almost £10.3 million pounds in 2019. In February 2020, Monese hit 2 million customers worldwide, with the majority of its app downloads coming from the UK.
Monese Pros & Cons
Although it doesn’t have as many features as some of its rival apps, Monese does what if offers very well. Here are my main pros and cons before getting into the details of this Monese review:
Pros of Monese:
- Fast, simple and straightforward to set up an account:
Generally, setting up an account with Monese is very quick and easy. That was certainly my experience (see more below) and the process was faster and smoother than with other digital banking apps I’ve tried. You can open an account and start using it within the same day. Multiple users from Trustpilot cite Monese’s set up as easy and quick, stating- “Great quick and easy to open and use account” and “Easy to set up. Would highly recommend it”.
- Multiple currency accounts:
Monese was one of the first mobile banks to allow its customers to hold different currencies within the same platform. They use a lower-cost foreign currency exchange by utilising the interbank rate instead of setting their own.
Note: more recently, Monese’s rates and fees for internatioal money transfers are not as competitive as Wise or Revolut in my experience (see more below). That being said, from a pure user point of view and ignoring fees, making international transfers using Monese’s app is simple and smooth. One user on Trustpilot wrote- “Particularly helpful when making internațional transfers”.
- Spending notifications and categorisations:
Perhaps considered one of the most helpful tools of newer fintech apps, Monese has an in-built, budgeting style tool. It allows you to track your spending in real-time, providing you with categorised spending notifications whenever you buy. Most other digitial banks now do this, though.
- Bills and Purchase Protection Insurance:
Monese has an extensive list of insurance policies that can be convenient if you prefer to keep all your finances and insurance policies in one place. Bundling together insurance policies with current accounts is becoming an increasingly common feature among both traditional and fintech banks. More information about their insurance below.
Cons of Monese
- The regular, free account has limited features:
Although the process of setting up an account is quick and easy, the free account you receive when you initially sign up is very limited, as you are required to buy one of the monthly subscription packages to unlock Monese’s full list of features. You will also face more transaction fees for things like cash withdrawals and foreign exchange. These reduce or disappear entirely depending on the level of subscription.
- Limited wealth building features:
Monese’s offering is quite limited compared to some of its rivals when it comes to wealth building and investing features. It does offer “Pots” which are essentially savings accounts and has partnered with Raisin to offer interest-paying savings options. That’s it though – you won’t get any investing or trading options. If you’re only interested in everyday banking, spending abroad and budgeting then that’s fine. However, if you would like to be able to invest or trade through the app then you will prefer Revolut.
- Unable to spend abroad fee-free with a Standard account:
Despite being able to hold multiple currencies within your account, the standard, free account requires you to pay a fee in order to use this money abroad. This applies to both spending on your virtual or physical card, or when you’re looking to withdraw money from an ATM. In my experience, spending abroad has always been cheapest using Halifax’s Clarity Credit Card but to get one requires a credit check which you won’t require with Monese.
How Does Monese Work?
As mentioned above, Monese is very straightforward to set up and use. You can sign up by either downloading the app and following the set-up process using your phone or by visiting the Monese website on your computer. The setup is significantly faster in comparison to a mainstream bank, which usually requires you to book an in-branch appointment first before opening an account.
Unlike traditional high street banks, Monese doesn’t require you to have a valid U.K home address or credit history. The only main requirement is that you must be living within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Once your account has been set up, you can immediately start to send and receive payments. The one caveat with Monese is that if you want a physical debit card, the delivery costs £4.95 with a free account. They state it can take 3-5 business days or up to 14 days internationally to arrive.
However, once received, the debit card can be used in the exact same way as any regular bank debit card. Alternatively you can set up a virtual debit card in the app and link it to your Apple Wallet to make purchases. Purchases can be made in-store and online with contactless payments, and you can withdraw money from ATMs anywhere in the world. Alternatively you can set up a virtual debit card in the app and link it to your Apple Wallet to make purchases.
Any changes to your personal information can be swiftly made through the app at any time.
Below are the main features of Monese:
- Track your spending- Monthly/weekly budgets and instant spending notifications.
- Instabalance- See your exact balance when you open the app in real-time.
- Savings- Set up to 10 savings pots to save towards a goal, and round up your spare change whenever you spend to automatically put towards your saving goals.
- Multi-currency accounts- Transfer money abroad in 8 different currencies and free worldwide cash withdrawals (up to a certain amount each month and depending on which plan you choose).
- Debit card- Mastercard, pre-paid and contactless.
- Safety- Lock and cancel your card via the app if lost or stolen.
- Earn interest– using Raisin, which can be opened via the Monese hub.
- Up-to-date tech- Apple and Google pay integrations.
- Connected- Link your Avios and Paypal accounts.
- Opportunity to earn- by inviting a friend to Monese you can earn up to £20.00.
- Insurance- Monese Bills and Purchase Protection
- Personal loans- You can connect through Monese’s app to Monevo, a loans comparison provider
Features we like:
- Multi-currency accounts:
Monese excels at international transfers, providing an array of currencies and accounts. If you’re frequently making international transfers and want a single bank for convenience, Monese should be well suited for you.
- Modern tech and integrations: Having Apple and Google pay integrations into the app are incredibly useful if you mostly spend through your phone. Moreover, the opportunity to connect your Avios and Paypal accounts further improve your overall finance accessibility.
How much does Monese cost?
This section of my Monese review looks at the costs and benefits of each of the personal account types. Monese offers 3 types of personal account. The table below summarises the different account types and how much they cost.
|Monthly Fee||FREE (a delivery fee of £4.95 applies for a physical debit card)||£5.95/month or £49.95/year||£14.95/month or £124.95/year|
|Contactless debit card||YES||YES||YES|
|Currency account (open EUR & RON account at no extra cost)||YES||YES||YES|
|Direct debits & Standing orders||YES||YES||YES|
|Cash withdrawal||£100 free per month (2% fee thereafter)||£500 free per month (2% fee thereafter)||£1,500 free per month (2% fee thereafter)|
|Physical cash top-up at Post Office & PayPoint||3.5% fee||£400 free per month (3.5% fee thereafter)||£1,000 free per month (3.5% fee thereafter)|
|Debit card top-ups||0.3% fee||FREE||FREE|
|Card spending abroad||£2,000 FREE per month||FREE||FREE|
|International transfers||2.0% fee||From 0.5% fee||FREE|
|Bills Protection Insurance||NO||Up to £1,200||Up to £1,800|
|Hospital stay insurance benefit||NO||£40 per day (up to 30 days)||£60 per day for 30 days|
|Purchase Protection Insurance||NO||Up to £1,000 per claim £2,500 per year (for purchases made in the last 120 days, £50 excess)||Up to £5,000 per claim, £10,000 per year (purchases made in last 180 days, £50 excess)|
|Priority customer support||NO||NO||YES|
Monese limits and account restrictions:
The following account limits apply to a Monese GBP account and vary slightly for EUR and RON (Romanian leu) accounts.
|Monese GBP Account||Maximum limits|
|Maximum account balance||£40,000|
|Cash top-up (via Post Office)||£250 per transaction/£500 per day/£1,300 per month|
|Cash top-up (via PayPoint)||£249 per transaction/£500 per day/£1,300 per month|
|Debit card top-up||£3,000 per day (max 2 top-ups)/ £1,500 per month (max 10 top-ups)|
|Card purchase limit||£4,000 per transaction/£7,000 per day|
|ATM withdrawal||£300 per day|
Is Monese Safe?
Monese operates slightly differently from mainstream banks. It is classed as an e-money institution and does not hold a banking licence. Your money isn’t covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which covers up to £85,000 of your money if an institution goes bust.
However, Monese is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority as a registered electronic money institution, which follows Electronic Money Regulations. They must therefore separately store and protect 100% of their customer’s funds by keeping them separate from their own finances.These rules are known as ‘safeguarding’ and are regulated by the FCA.
Given these safeguarding regulations, there is a level of protection in place that means you should be able to recover your money in the event that Monese went out of business. This is not guaranteed though and you may not recover all of your money.
How To Sign Up To Monese
Setting up the Monese app is relatively quick and easy. They first ask for a few details, including your email, phone number and a form of identity verification. Afterwards, you’re required to answer a few questions regarding your current financial situation.
One small yet rather annoying problem with the set-up was that, in order to use a ‘virtual’ debit card, (which you can then use via Apple Pay, instead of ordering a physical card), you have to use your phone’s GPS to track and confirm your home address. Therefore, if your phone’s GPS signal is not entirely accurate, it might be a struggle to complete this step. It makes you wonder why you can’t simply enter your home address manually.
What’s It Like Using The Monese App?
Once inside the app, it’s incredibly easy to navigate. There’s a bottom ribbon of buttons and a sidebar that creates easy accessibility.
The home page (pictured above) provides a clear overview of the total amount in your account at the top, as well as, an overview of different sections within the app, such as your most recent transactions, spending and savings pot. The bottom of the home page shows a live table concerning different currencies and their most up-to-date transfer fees.
Your virtual card is shown on the card page, which you can easily add to your Apple Wallet and Paypal. You are able to order a physical contactless debit Mastercard, but under the free package, this will cost you £4.95 for delivery. There’s also an option to lock your card in case it’s lost or stolen.
The top left sidebar also brings up different options to help you navigate through the app (pictured above), including navigation to add an extra account, change your subscription plan and get a physical statement. The top right speech bubble can be useful if you’re struggling with any part of the app as it brings up help and commonly asked questions.
Monese has launched its own bills protection and purchase protection insurance for its premium account holders. Both Classic and Premium account holders will automatically get insurance with their account.
The level of cover provided is slightly higher with the Premium account than with the Classic account. Simple account holders do not get insurance included. Both insurance policies provided by Monese are underwritten by Chubb European Group SE.
Monese Bills Protection Insurance
The bills protection policy protects your monthly expenses following an accident, sickness or involuntary loss of employment up to £1,800 for Premium account holders (up to £1,200 for Classic accounts).
Bills paid for using your Monese account are eligible, and include the following:
- Rent and utilities
- Monthly subscriptions such as streaming services
- Gym membership
- Hobby fees
- School fees
- Nursing care
- Instrument lessons
- Regular charity donations
It does not cover mortgages or any finance expenses such as credit card bills and loan repayments. Given that your mortgage payment, if you have a mortgage, is probably your largest monthly expense then the usefulness of this cover is questionable. If you want mortgage cover you will need to find it elsewhere. If you’re renting however, then the cover is quite comprehensive still and is a good perk of the Classic and Premium accounts.
Monese Purchase Protection Insurance
The purchase protection policy provides you protection if you buy something that gets damaged or stolen up to the value of £5,000 for Premium account holders (up to £1,000 for Classic accounts).
It includes electronic devices which means your mobile phone will be covered against theft and damage. Plus items such as laptops and tablets. You must use your Monese account to make the purchase and the items must be bought brand new. In my view, this is a great perk of the paid-for Monese accounts, especially if you travel frequently and regularly use a laptop or tablet – assming you bought them using your Monese account. You’ll have that extra peace of mind that the purchase protection provides, and you don’t need to do anything extra to get it if you’re a Classic or Premium customer.
A £50 excess charge applies to each claim. Premium account holders have up to 180 days to make a claim, and Classic account holders get up to 120 days.
How To Make A Claim With Monese Insurance
Starting a claim is quite simple and can be done directly through the Monese app. Navigate to the ‘Explore’ sectoin in the app and then head to the ‘Insruance’ section. From there you will see the option to ‘Start a claim’. As with any other insurance claim, have your relevant details to hand and follow the steps to submit your claim.
The combination of purchase protection and bills protection included within the cost of a Classic and Premium account does represent decent value for money compared to standalone insurance policies.
These policies are useful for you if you want to have your insurance and finances all included within the same app and current account. Given Monese’s focus on international payments and foreign exchange, it would be nice to see it add travel insurance to its insurance packages.
Apple, Google and PayPal Integrations
Monese supports both Apple Pay and Google Pay for its UK and most EU customers. This allows you to add your virtual Monese debit card to Apply Pay or Google Pay, depending on your device, and make payments anywhere that they are accepted.
To set up Apple Pay, simply add the Monese debit card to your Apple Wallet. You’ll be prompted to do this in the Monese app when you set up your virtual debit card. Once done, you can then tap your phone on any contactless card reader to pay, instead of relying on a physical debit card. Setting up Google Pay works in the same way.
Having Apple Pay or Google Pay is a particularly useful feature in those times when you’re in a hurry and can quickly use your phone to pay. Or if you forget your purse or wallet at home. The majority of us always take our phones wherever we go, so you’ll likely never be in a situation where you won’t be able to pay for something. Just make sure you keep your phone charged!
You can also integrate Monese with your PayPal account. If you do this, you can see your PayPal account in the Monese app alongside your GBP, EUR and other accounts. You can then add your Monese card to your PayPal account and make it your preferred way to pay online. This is useful if you have a Classic or Premium account with Purchase Protection insurance as your online purchases will be covered if you use PayPal to pay for them.
Should You Open A Monese Business Account?
In addition to providing personal accounts, Monese also offers accounts for businesses. For a fee of £9.95 a month, you’ll receive a free contactless debit card, free local payments and low-cost transfers for foreign exchange.
If you’re planning on registering a business, or even a side hustle, and are looking to keep all of your accounts in one place, having the option to open a business account is useful and convenient.
However, Monese’s business account looks slightly limited when compared to Revolut’s business account, which has different account levels for different types and sizes of businesses.
Monese and Avios Partnership
As well as business accounts, Monese is also partnered with Avios. This means that, whenever you spend with your Monese account, you can collect air miles that can be subsequently used towards various trips and holidays.
You can use your Avios points towards trips with British Airways and Vueling only, so this might suit you perfectly if you’re a frequent traveller, as it means you can save some travel money just by spending as you normally would in your day-to-day life. You can view your Avios points directly in the Monese app once you’ve linked it.
To link your Avios account you simply need to log in using your British Airways or Vueling account by visiting the ‘Avios’ section of the ‘Explore’ page in the Monese app. It took me around 30 seconds to link my account.
Monese Credit Builder
So-called ‘credit builder’s are becoming increasingly common, and in early 2022 Monese launched its own offering.
How Does A Credit Builder Work?
A credit builder is a service aimed at those with little or no credit history or those with a poor credit score. The idea is that you take out an interest-free loan with the credit builder and repay it over a fixed period. Note that you do not actually receive any money as part of this ‘loan’, you will just be making monthly payments as if you had received the money.
Successful repayments are then reported to the main credit reference agencies, such as Equifax and Experian. At the end of the repayment period your money is returned to you. This should then boost your credit score with these agencies and make it easier for you to borrow in future, and possibly have access to better credit deals.
For this service, the credit builder will charge you a fee. This is usually a fixed monthly fee for the duration of the credit-building loan. Needless to say, I am not a fan of the idea that you must pay to borrow money to boost your credit score, so that you can then borrow more money. But without getting into the pitfalls of our modern credit-based economy, it is a potentially useful option for those with little credit history who want to obtain meaningful credit in the future, such as a mortgage.
How Does Monese’s Credit Builder Work?
As outlined above, Monese will allow you to ‘borrow’ £360-£1,200 over a 12 month period. Again, you will not actually receive the value of the loan but you will make payments as if you had done so and were repaying the loan. At the end of the 12 months the total repayments are returned to you.
Monese will report your successful repayments to the credit reference agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. It will take 3-4 months before your credit score sees any effect, and even then it may not be a significant effect. So the real benefit to your credit rating will likely only come once the 12 months is up. To be eligible for Monese’s Credit Builder you must be UK based and have a GBP account.
As a side note, this means the money you commit to a Credit Builder is effectively putting away savings without getting a return on them. On top of that, you will pay a monthly fee to Monese of £2.50 for using this service. Using Monese’s example of a £600 ‘loan’ over 12 months, the monthly fee equates to 9.1% APR.
If you are really in need of improving your credit score, and cannot do so using any other methods that don’t incur charges, then using Monese’s Credit Builder may be a good option. Otherwise, I would avoid using it – or any other Credit Builder.
International Transfers With Monese
International transfers are where Monese truly excels. In accordance with Monese’s founder’s background and initial worries and struggles, his dedication to making international transfers accessible for multiple currencies is clearly visible in the Monese app.
You’re able to transfer between most major currencies around the world at lower-cost foreign currency exchange by utilising the interbank rate instead of setting their own. All the currencies included in the Monese app are listed below:
- Australian Dollar- AUD
- Great British Pounds- GDP
- Bulgarian Lev- BGN
- Canadian Dollar- CAD
- Czech Koruna- CZK
- Danish Krone- DKK
- Euro- EUR
- Hungarian Forint- HUF
- Indian Rupee- INR
- Mexican Peso- MXN
- Norwegian Krone- NOK
- Poland zloty- PLN
- Romanian Leu- RON
- Swedish Krona- SEK
- United States Dollar- USD
Monese Customer Reviews
Rated 4.0 stars on Trustpilot (as of December 2022), Monese contains a mix of excellent and poor reviews:
Excellent, 5 stars reviews:
- “Super app! It’s so easy to transfer money now”.
- “Good bank! Use everyone!”
- “When you say you’re at home, it tells you it’s not working and doesn’t let you go to the card, it’s a weak application in my opinion”.
- “They ignore my messages, I can’t withdraw my money for a very long time…”
Monese’s rating is below that of Revolut (4.3), Starling (4.4) and Monzo (4.4) and does seem to have quite a bit more negative feedback than its rivals. Overall, though, a 4.0 rating is still considered ‘Great’ on TrustPilot.
Monese Customer Service
For this Monese review I tested out their customer service. Monese’s customer service and support is OK. It’s certainly by no means awful, but could definitely use some improvements. There are multiple ways you can contact them if you’re in need of support:
Chatbot: You’re able to connect with a chatbot within the app or on their website. Despite being easily accessible, the bot was rather limited in its functionality. A more personalised and precise reply would be better. So if you’re in need of urgent support, the chatbot probably won’t be the best option.
Phone: Better suited for more immediate communication. It only took a quick 20-30 minutes to connect to an operator (which is becoming increasingly rare nowadays).
Email: It took a few days for Monese to reply to our email. Again, this option is not suited if you’re in need of more urgent help and communication.
It is also important to note that Monese’s customer services are not available 24/7, which could be a problem if you’re in a situation that requires immediate assistance, for example, in the case of hacking and fraudulent activity on your account.
Monese Review – Final Verdict
The Monese app is great to use and easy to navigate, more so than its rival challenger banks. Signing up and getting started is also very simple and fast. It’s a great account to have if you travel frequently and need to switch between currencies. Particularly between GBP and Euros.
Although Monese doesn’t have as many features as some of its competitors, particularly Revolut, it does have some nice budgeting and saving tools. Their partnership with Avios will be appealing to you if you have an Avios account as you can seamlessly earn points as you spend with Monese.
On top of that, Monese has the payment integrations you would expect with Apple, Google and PayPal which is important in our increasingly digital world. Its payment protection and bills protection insurance is automatically packaged with the Classic and Premium accounts and make both of them very competitive offerings. Having said that, it would be nice to see travel insurance included – especially given Monese’s focus on international payments and those who frequently travel.
As I discussed in this Monese review, Monese’s lack of FSCS protection may put some people off. If FSCS protection is at the top of your criteria for a digital bank account then you will prefer Starling or Monzo, currently the only two digital challenger banks to offer it. There’s also a low monthly cash withdrawal limit of £100 on Monese’s Simple free account.
To make the most of your Monese account and its features you will need to sign up to one of its paid options, costing up to £14.95 per month which will put some people off. However, subscription bank accounts are becoming more and more common – Monese’s main rivals are the same in this regard.
Compared to traditional bank accounts, Monese doesn’t have much of a borrowing offering. You can find and apply for personal loans through the app but there’s currently no overdraft facility. If you like the comfort of having an overdraft as backup then you should consider Starling or Monzo.
Overall, Monese is a solid app with a good, but not great, range of features.