7 Online & Mobile Banking Options for Digital Nomads

Mobile Banking Options for NomadsThere are a growing number of online banking alternatives for digital nomads. Most of these options began as e-money payment systems with pre-paid credit cards. But, more and more they are offering the same services as traditional banks, with lower fees and more features.

Not all banking apps are created equal. Some require proof of residency. Some only allow deposits through bank transfers or stored-value cards, others cannot accept bank transfers and require deposits through payment systems like SOFORT or iDeal.

This means they cannot completely replace everyone’s traditional bank account, yet. But the added features of these banking options can make travel and international banking much easier.

Here are the best known and established mobile banking options at the moment, with their main characteristics:

1. Revolut – revolut.com

UK-based bank offering both UK and Euro accounts with IBAN; US accounts coming soon.

Special Features

  • Free global ATM withdrawals up to £400/€400 per month
  • VISA and MasterCard
  • peer-to-peer lending scheme
  • No residency requirement
  • Transfer in 26 currencies at interbank rate
  • Send and request payments

Fees

  • Free standard account
  • £6/month premium account

Restrictions

E-money account deposits must be made via bank transfers or stored-value card top ups

2. N26 – n26.com

German bank offering accounts with IBANs.

Special Features

  • No foreign exchange fee on Mastercard
  • Withdraw from any ATM
  • Expense tracking and spending reports
  • Transfers via Transferwise

Fees

  • Premium account €5,90 per month
  • Free account has transaction fees

Restrictions

Eurozone residents only

3. Monzo – monzo.com 

UK-based bank offering a no-fee UK current account.

Special Features

  • Maestro card for Europe and world-wide Mastercard
  • Group bank accounts available
  • Responsible investing
  • Send payment request via text message

Fees

Zero fees

Restrictions

UK residents only

4. Bunq – www.bunq.com 

Dutch bank for EU residents offering IBAN account, Maestro and Mastercard.

Special Features

  • Prepaid Mastercard
  • Free transfers to Monzo users
  • Spending notifications and budgeting
  • Direct debits and other banking services coming soon

Fees

Free basic account

Restrictions

EU residents only; no ATM or bank transfers: deposits must be made by iDeal or SOFORT, withdrawals made by payment to SEPA bank account

5. Monese – monese.com

Offers a UK current account without a UK address for credit history.

Special Features

  • Foreign exchange at interbank rate
  • Payments, direct debt, and online shopping
  • No credit history required
  • Cash deposits available

Fees

  • £4.95 per month additional transaction fees
  • Additional transaction fees

Restrictions

Maximums on balance, deposits, and transfers

6. Leopay – www.leopay.eu

E-wallet account with IBAN available in multiple currencies.

Special Features

  • No foreign exchange fee on Mastercard
  • Withdraw from any ATM
  • Expense tracking and spending reports
  • Transfers via Transferwise
  • Pre-paid VISA
  • Send and receive transfers in 10 currencies
  • Accounts available in EUR, USD, GBP, CHF, HRK, BGN, JPY, and RON
  • Available to non-residents of EU
  • All transfers between LeoPay users will be free of charge

Fees

  • No monthly fees
  • €2 – €4 ATM withdrawals
  • Other service fees

Restrictions

  • Available to non-residents of EU

7. Transferwise – Borderless by Trasnferwise

E-wallet account with IBAN and SWIFT

Special Features

  • Works like local bank in UK, US and Eurozone
  • Transfer via TransferWise
  • 25+ currency options

Fees

  • No monthly account fee
  • Small fee for currency exchange
  • Some additional fees

Restrictions

No ATM withdrawals; some restrictions on USD transfers.

For North Americans

You may have noticed that these e-money online bank options are based primarily in the UK and EU. While some, such as Revolut are open to anyone (and coming to the US soon), others are really for residents of Europe only.

Despite the U.S. having a relatively unregulated banking industry (see 2008 Global Financial Crisis), it is actually more difficult to get a bank charter in the U.S. than in other countries. This means that U.S.-based online banking options are usually backed by existing traditional banks. Examples include Simple (from BBVA) and Moven (from CBW bank).

But, the competitive nature of the U.S. banking industry does provide good options for nomads. Several banks have introduced accounts and credit cards that offer low fees or no fees for international ATM withdrawals and foreign exchange fees.

In comparison, the Canadian banking system is more regulated and less competitive—ironically, with the same result. Canadian online banking options are also limited to banking options backed by traditional banks. There are some low fee or no fee online options, such as Simplii (formerly known as PC Financial) and Tangerine (formerly known as ING Direct), but credit card options with free foreign transactions are virtually non-existent for Canadians. Luckily, the traditional banks in Canada do offer decent online service, including mobile banking and mobile check deposit. And Canadians can do easy bank-to-bank transfers via email.

About IBAN

IBANs (international banking access numbers) are used throughout Europe and the UK and in several countries across the globe. But IBAN has not been adopted in the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand; SWIFT codes are needed for transfers to these countries.

Comments (4)

  1. Don’t know about Revolut and “No residency requirement”. I tried, and when I entered my phone number it got “Not avaiable to Canada yet”. To me that is a residency requirement. Even with a EU phone, they want to see a proof of address in EU.

    raul
    23 January, 2018 Reply
  2. same that raul said “Not avaiable to Canada yet”

    Lesly
    5 April, 2018 Reply
  3. Those of you who love to hack together your own automation Bunq has really nice APIs. Negative site default card is Maestro which outside of Netherlands is pretty useless in Europe… MasterCard is on the paid plans.

    What his article doesn’t tell is Bunq does business banking as well for both limited companies and freelancers.

    N26 customer support can take more than 30min to show up in the chat and that is a disqualifier for me right there.

    Kimmo Hintikka
    14 August, 2018 Reply
  4. Same, Revolut is still not available in Canada yet (Aug, 2018) and there is a wait list when I signed up.

    Jeez
    16 August, 2018 Reply

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