We review Revolut, a digital bank that allows users to receive, send and spend money at the interbank exchange rate.
Revolut has finally launched its service in Australia. Up to 20,000 Australians — the first that joined the company’s long waiting list — now have access to an e-money account that provides free international money transfers, a multi-currency account and travel card.
Revolut is among the world’s hottest fintechs, having already secured 5 million customers in Europe and valuations near $2 billion.
The company has said that it will run its Australian operation from Melbourne but will also have presences in Sydney and Perth.
From Revolut’s multi-currency wallet, “Standard” account holders can send money to bank accounts around the world in 110 currencies at the interbank exchange rate — that’s an exchange rate without the usual markups — and without transaction fees, subject to a monthly transaction limit of AU$9,000.
For higher-value payments, Revolut offers a “Premium” account, costing AU$10.99 per month, for which no-fee international transfers are unlimited.
“Sending money between the UK, Europe and Australia has traditionally been costly and time consuming,” the man in charge of Revolut’s APAC expansion, Will Mahon-Heap, said in a statement. But no more, he implied, when he said that Revolut was “tearing down financial borders and will keep money in the pockets of our customers.”
From the Revolut app, users can make instant transfers to phone contacts, can target improved exchange rates using Auto Exchange and can receive card payments from non-Revolut users by way of payment links. Shopping internationally is also a breeze using Revolut’s multi-currency travel card which grants free overseas ATM withdrawals up to AU$350 per month (AU$700 for Premium accounts).
Perhaps the most disliked feature of Revolut is the customer support, which comes in the form of in-app text chat — Revolut offers no phone or email support, not even for business customers.
Due to its successes in Europe and the hype that surrounds the service, Revolut is expected to steal market share from Australia’s established financial services firms at a much faster pace than local neobanks such as Xinja, Volt and 86 400.
“[Revolut] is a different animal,” a source at a major bank told the Australian Financial Review. “This could be a bigger threat [to the banking sector] than the home players,” the source said.
Revolut has also announced the addition of Apple Pay as a funding option but, for the time being, only for users in 15 European countries: the UK, France, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Those in Australia will have to wait for Apple Pay and must instead add money to Revolut balances with a domestic debit card or bank transfer.
For many currency routes, FX costs have been slashed in recent years by a number of industry-disrupting fintechs, allowing such firms to slice great chunks from the banking sector’s lucrative remittance markets. Banks are fighting back, though, by developing low-cost, digital offerings of their own.
Citigroup’s announcement this week of plans to develop its own consumer-payments platform is the latest indication of a fightback by the banking establishment against fintech rivals that threaten its most lucrative markets.
Last update: 10 Feb, 2020
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