We review Revolut, a digital bank that allows users to receive, send and spend money at the interbank exchange rate.
Revolut: A Summary
Revolut is a multi-currency account that allows Standard (free) users to exchange, send and spend money in 24 currencies at the real exchange rate on amounts less than £5,000 per month, beyond which transactions are subject to a 0.5% charge. Revolut’s Premium and Metal account holders (subject to a monthly fee) have no monthly limit on currency exchange.
The Revolut debit card allows users to spend overseas at the same advantageous rates, with no fees.
There are small markups on some exotic currency transactions and on weekend orders.
Revolut serves 4 million customers (as of March 2019) spread throughout the EEA, Switzerland and Australia, and is readying a Singapore launch.
Revolut accounts only take minutes to open.
In 2018, Revolut secured a European banking license, allowing it to offer personal loans, standing order functionality, insurance and other services. This review will focus on the foreign exchange aspects of Revolut.
Revolut Exchange Rates and Fees:
Standard Account (Mainly for Amounts Less Than £5,000 per Month)
Standard (free) account holders can convert funds within the Revolut account, send money overseas and spend via the international debit card at the interbank exchange rate with no fees, subject to a transfer limit of £5,000 per month (that’s 5,000 British pounds or equivalent).
The ability to exchange funds at the interbank rate (the rate at which financial institutions swap currencies with one another) allows for massive savings over money transfers handled by banks. In the majority of cases, users save between 2% and 4% of the transacted amount by exchanging money at the interbank rate.
The exceptions to the no-fee rule are transfers into Thai baht, Russian rubles and Ukrainian hryvnia, for which Revolut charges 1% of the transacted amount.
Weekend transactions are subject to either a 0.5% or 1% charge depending on the liquidity of the currencies in question. For the baht, ruble and hryvnia, the weekend charge will be in addition to the aforementioned charge, for a total of 2.0%.
Revolut transfers might be subject to wire fees where the receiving bank is outside the EU and where sent funds are not in euros, because these transfers are sent via SWIFT. Beneficiary banks might also charge fees for receiving funds (anywhere from £5-£30, or local currency equivalent), but this is out of Revolut’s hands.
If you are a Standard account holder, for each monthly billing cycle (this begins on the day you opened the account, not the 1st of every month), a charge of 0.5% will be incurred on the total exchanged amount that exceeds £5,000.
If, for example, £9,000 was sent to a German (euro) bank account at an exchange rate of €1.16, Revolut would levy a charge worth €23.2 (0.5% * 4,000 * 1.16), or £20.
This means that customers likely to exceed the £5,000 limit should seriously consider signing up for a £6.99 p/m Premium account, which comes with unlimited currency exchange.
Premium and Metal Accounts (Mainly for Amounts Greater Than £5,000 per Month)
Customers likely to exchange more than £5,000 worth of currency per month should consider signing up for a £6.99 p/m Premium account, which comes with unlimited currency exchange. At £12.99 p/m, Metal accounts are also unlimited but are unnecessary for FX purposes (Metal account holders have Premium benefits plus cashback on card transactions).
Premium accounts come with many benefits, including priority customer service, and although you must sign up to a 12-month plan, paid monthly, this can be cancelled at any time by paying the £14 cancellation fee.
In the example of the pound-euro transaction, described under ‘Standard Account’ above, the month’s Premium payment of £6.99 would be easily offset by the £20 saving made from not paying the 0.5% transaction charge (most of the cancellation fee, if needed, is offset too). If you will regularly exceed the £5,000 monthly limit then the savings over time from being a Premium Revolut member are obvious—they are substantial.
With costs so low, we think that a Revolut Premium account offers tremendous value, though be aware that Premium account holders face the same weekend and illiquid-currency markups as Standard account holders.
Auto Currency Exchange:
With the Auto-Exchange feature, Revolut users can choose to convert their funds at improved exchange rates. Within the Revolut app, users can select a rate they’d prefer, and when (or if) the market reaches that level, Revolut will automatically convert funds at the same advantageous exchange rates described above.
Similar functionality has been offered before by payments specialists, but perhaps not so cheaply and conveniently as Revolut’s offering.
Sometimes known as “watch,” “firm” or “limit” orders, what Revolut offers is technically a “market if touched” order, which means that the achievement of an exchange rate will act as a trigger for a transaction; it is not a price guarantee. Since there is a slight delay between the trigger and the transaction taking place, transacted rates might differ from targeted ones when markets are moving rapidly. Revolut is aware of this and has added Auto-Exchange controls to ensure that customers do not change currencies at completely unexpected rates. If the exchange rate would differ by more than 0.75 percent from the targeted rate, Revolut will cancel the exchange and re-attempt the transaction if the market trades again at the targeted level.
By way of Revolut allowing users to configure targets that are both better and worse than current exchange rates (you can choose to sell a currency that has fallen in value or buy a currency after it has risen), Revolut has opened the door with this feature to currency speculation.
Users are allowed up to 30 automatic exchanges per day.
It must be said that Revolut will not please everybody on the customer service side.
Revolut offers no phone or email support, even for business customers, which does appear to cause distress to those with serious account or transfer problems.
Revolut’s 24/7 customer service comes in the form of an in-app chat feature (that’s text chat, not voice), for which customers report waiting times anywhere from 30 seconds to a day. Premium and Metal account holders are given customer service priority and will have shorter waiting times. Once contact with a Revolut agent is made, for most issues, the quality of service is reportedly good.
Revolut offers two English-only automated phone lines (one a UK number, the other Australian) that can be used for little more than blocking a card or reporting one as lost or stolen. You’ll find no humans here.
As of March 2019, Revolut claimed to support 21 languages (via the in-app chat feature) and they are hiring new support staff all the time.
A very common complaint with Revolut is that accounts are blocked for no apparent reason. If this happens to you, know that Revolut agents “cannot share any specific information on why your account has been locked, or how long it will be until the review is over,” which Revolut says is necessary to comply with UK financial regulations. It might be that your account is up and running within an hour, but it could be several days if additional documents are required. Even if you accept that this is Revolut doing their best to battle money laundering and other crimes, this is not something you would normally experience with an offline “bank” (unless you really are a criminal) and it’s a source of frustration for many.
As with any new business, and certainly one growing at the lightning-fast pace of Revolut, there will be teething problems; however, there is a feeling that the company is a little behind where it should be in terms of its customer service options, availability and response quality.
Please note that Revolut is only available to residents in the EU but are expanding internationally soon.
Steps to claim free card:
1. Click on affiliate URL Promo link provided
2. Insert mobile number
3. Follow text message URL to download Revolut on the Google Play or Apple App Stores via the link
4. Open an account (takes 30 seconds)
5. Top up £10/€10
6. Select and order Free Card [Standard Delivery]
7. Verify your identity (Tap more -> Profile -> Verify identity)
This means your Revolut card will be ready to use as soon as you’ve got it.
*This process currently only works for those who do not have Revolut currently.
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