6 Mobile Banking Options for Digital Nomads

Mobile Banking Options for NomadsThere are a growing number of 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:


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

£6/month premium account

E-money account deposits must be made via bank transfers or stored-value card top ups
German bank offering accounts with IBANs.
  • No foreign exchange fee on Mastercard
  • Withdraw from any ATM
  • Expense tracking and spending reports
  • Transfers via Transferwise
Premium account €5,90 per monthfree account has transaction fees

free account has transaction fees

Eurozone residents only
UK-based bank offering a no-fee UK current account.
  • Prepaid Mastercard
  • Free transfers to Monzo users
  • Spending notifications and budgeting
  • Direct debits and other banking services coming soon
Zero fees UK residents only
Dutch bank for EU residents offering IBAN account, Maestro and Mastercard.
  • Maestro card for Europe and world-wide Mastercard
  • Group bank accounts available
  • Responsible investing
  • Send payment request via text message
Free basic account EU residents only; no ATM or bank transfers: deposits must be made by iDeal or SOFORT, withdrawals made by payment to SEPA bank account
Offers a UK current account without a UK address for credit history.
  • Foreign exchange at interbank rate
  • Payments, direct debt, and online shopping
  • No credit history required
  • Cash deposits available
£4.95 per month additional transaction fees

additional transaction fees

Maximums on balance, deposits, and transfers
E-wallet account with IBAN available in multiple currencies.
  • 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
No monthly fees

€2–€4 ATM withdrawals

Other service fees

Available to non-residents of EU
E-wallet account with IBAN and SWIFT
  • Works like local bank in UK, US and Eurozone
  • Transfer via TransferWise
  • 25+ currency options
No monthly account fee
Small fee for currency exchange

Some additional fees

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.

One Comment

  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.

    23 January, 2018 Reply

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