I assume that most of you have heard about Revolut. It is a popular service that allows you to pay for foreign purchases in a foreign currency, but without the cost of currency conversion. It sounds great, because we all know that the biggest disadvantage of foreign non-cash transactions are high bank fees. Revolut solved this problem, which also encouraged me to test the service. I wish to share my experiences after a year of use. It might be a good decision for people, who are not interested about banking in Poland and do not need e.g. “profil zaufany”. Allow me to break this down for you:
- What is Revolut?
- How does Revolut work?
- How to use Revolut?
- Currency exchange in Revolut.
- How to pay by card abroad and in Poland?
- Where else can I use it?
- Extras and additional features at Revolut.
- How much does it cost?
What is Revolut?
Revolut is a service launched by a British start-up. The idea is simple: they give users a tool to make international payments without incurring the cost of currency conversion. Revolut converts the payment at the interbank rate, which is why – as you probably guessed – is currently one of the cheapest, easily available forms of currency exchange. Sounds simple, right? So how does it work?
How does it work?
A Revolut user has several useful services at his disposal. He can open an individual bank account in British pounds (free of charge), he can also have a free account in euro. Which may be a perfect way to get a bank account abroad. You can also create up to 24 sub-accounts in currencies that are officially supported by Revolut. Currently, these are:
Polish złoty, Euro, American dollars, British pounds, Swiss francs, Australian dollars, Canadian dollars, UAE dirhams, Czech crowns, Danish kroner, Hong Kong dollars, Hungarian forints, Israeli shekels, Japanese yen, Moroccan dirhams, Norwegian kroner, New Zealand dollars, Qatari riyals, Romanian leu, Swedish kroner, Singapore dollars, Thai bahts, Turkish lira, South African rand.
If you want to keep different currencies in one place, Revolut is perfect for that. Especially that ordering international transfers in these currencies (as well as paying for purchases in foreign stores) is completely free – except for a few exceptions, which I will mention later.
You can manage your currencies and sub accounts from the level of the dedicated mobile application. There we have a full preview of transactions, history of payments, as well as a multitude of different additions, such as insurance options. Application works with the highest standards of safety and simplicity, compared to known (best) polish banking apps.
All contact with Revolut customer service is based on an in-app chat. No phone calls, helplines, or e-mails. 100% chat. Some of you may like this solution, while others may not. In addition, in a majority of cases, while using Revolut chat, we would be “chatting” usually with a bot.
Chat Revolut is supported by bots that automatically answer the questions we ask. It may reduce the amount of a cases for the bank to deal with and reduce cost of service desk from Revolut. But sometimes there are situations when we want to talk to a living person on the other side. In this case, it is enough to type the words “live agent” in the chat and the application will connect us with a Revolut employee with flesh and blood. It’s a trick worth knowing!
I also need to add my 2 cents worth. So I could accept such a solution in the case of a Revolut app as a startup, but if we talk about support from a bank – it is not enough for me. I understand that this helps to the reduce the costs of support to a minimum. But on the time of writing this article, I would feel much more comfortable talking with human being face-to-face or at least via phone, for example when I need to discuss different variations of a banking solution personalised to my needs.
How to use Revolut?
This can be done in several ways, but I will focus on the two most popular: physical card and virtual cards. A physical card is a typical Visa prepaid card, which must first be topped up with a certain amount to be able to pay for purchases, e.g. in a stationary or online store. To get a physical card, you must first register with the service. We will come back to it in the next paragraph.
Virtual cards are simply individual payment card numbers that we store in the Revolut application. If you do not intend to use this service to pay in regular stores, you can easily settle for this solution. When paying online, you just need to enter the generated card number, expiry date, CVV and that’s it. It is a great option for people who are over-sensitive about the security of their finances. The virtual card can be deactivated at any time from the application itself and you do not have to worry that the number has been intercepted.
Of course, to be able to pay for purchases with a Revolut card (physical or virtual), you must top up your account in the service beforehand. How do I top up my Revolut account? Here are the available options:
- Via a card issued by any bank – just enter its data in the Revolut application. Your account will be credited immediately, and they will not incur any fees for this.
- When transferring funds from your bank account to an account in Revolut – you must remember that we are dealing with an international transfer, which involves a fee and the need to wait longer for the payment to be credited (usually 1-3 days). Our bank will probably also charge a fee for such a transfer.
- On behalf of Apple Pay or Google Pay – we pay the money to the sub-account in the billing currency of the Apple Pay or Google Pay service. Just like in the case of a card top-up, we will not incur any additional fees.
Once the funds are in your Revolut account, you can start using the service in stores or other places. The automatic top-up option is also worth mentioning. If we set a minimum balance, then after it is exceeded, a payment will be made from the attached bank card to the account in a defined amount, e.g. PLN 500. Thanks to this, you can avoid a situation in which you run out of money on your Revolut card.
Currency exchange in Revolut
As I already mentioned, in Revolut we have the possibility to set up as many as 24 sub-accounts in the most popular currencies. In addition, we can pay in the application in over 150 different currencies. If we deposit, for example, 1000 zlotys on our account, but we want to pay for purchases in a store in the US, it is enough to exchange zlotys for US dollars, which will automatically go to the sub-account for this currency.
The exchange will take place with the interbank rate, which is more favorable than at the exchange office (and actually the best one we can get). Below a comparison of the buy/sell rate of Euro (EUR) in Revolut, Cinkciarz (online exchange office), PEKAO bank exchange rate and in the nearest local stationary exchange office in Kraków (as at the date of writing this article):
|Revolut||Cinkciarz||PEKAO bank||Local office|
|Sell Euro||4.51 zł||4.51 zł||4.35 zł||4.50 zł|
|Buy Euro||4.53 zł||4.53 zł||4.69 zł||4.55 zł|
There are few things worth mentioning here. Number one: at Revolut, the best currency exchange is only available on business days, because the service adds a commission of 1% on the weekend. It is a form of hedging against exchange rate risk (interbank rates are not updated at the weekend). Number two: as you may see, exchange rate for Cinkciarz is the same as in case of Revolut. Once again, Cinkciarz is a Polish online exchange office, which I started using back in 2011.
They are on the market over 10 years (long before Revolut). And now, as I was checking the currency rate at their website, I noticed that they are offering the payment card and mobile app with similar functionality, as Revolut does. So, is it a Polish competitor and challenger for the British Start up? I will check this and let you know about my findings. Number three: do not use bank currency exchange, unless you have no other choice.
And last but not least, point number four. I need to bring your attention to the fact, that “No fee currency exchange” allows you to exchange up to 5000 zł per month with the standard card. We also have an ATM withdrawal limit which is 800 zł or 5x per month. More details in the link here, which will bring you to the price list of individual plans. Yes – they do have individual plans as well.
How to pay by card abroad and in Poland?
The main advantage of Revolut is that the issued card will work in any country and will probably save the user from the high cost of currency conversion. Of course, within the limit of your plan (aka. subscription). 24 currency sub-accounts are a lot, so when traveling, for example, in the European Union or USA, you can pay for purchases and services without any worries, as well as withdraw funds from ATMs and not worry about the exaggerated exchange rate. However, the method of payment settlement depends on the circumstances in which the payment is made.
- If we pay for purchases in one of the 24 currencies supported by Revolut, all you need to do is exchange the currency in advance and add it to the sub-account – we should do it on a working day to avoid commission. The funds will be deducted from this sub-account.
- If we want to pay for purchases in one of the 24 supported currencies, but we do not have it physically on the sub-account, then the funds will be deducted from the sub-account with the currently highest balance. The operation will be converted at the interbank rate, and if we make it over the weekend, Revolut will add an additional 1% commission.
- If we want to pay in a currency that is not supported by Revolut within the 24 currency sub-accounts, then the funds will be debited from the sub-account with the highest balance and converted at the interbank rate. Note however! If the transaction is made over the weekend, Revolut will add a 1% commission.
All aside, I will also mention a separate category of currencies, which at the moment includes the Ukrainian hryvnia, the Russian ruble and the Thai whip. These currencies are very unstable, with high exchange rate risk, therefore Revolut charges a commission on their exchange each time. During the week it is 1%, and at the weekend as much as 2%.
Where else can I use it?
You can use Revolut for much more complexed purposes than almost spread less shopping abroad at international exchange rates, better than the most banks.
- The first use of foreign currency accounts is the willingness to buy currency earlier, at a fixed rate. You might buy foreign currencies from time to time in order to be able to spend their stocks later, e.g. on the occasion of a trip abroad. With Revolut currency subaccounts, you can buy currency any amount and at any time. And thanks to this, try to “hunt down” a good time to buy or sell the foreign currency you are interested in.
- The second use is the desire to avoid the commission (currency spread) that is charged by Revolut on weekends. On Saturday and Sunday, Revolut exchange rates are 1% higher than interbank rates, so you might buy the currency cheaper before the weekend to “spend” it during the weekend. It is “cheaper”, of course assuming, that the exchange rate itself will not change.
- The third application is undoubtedly using Revolut as a bank account when working abroad. If someone works abroad and receives a salary, e.g. in euros or pounds, he must provide his employer the bank account details to which he will pay the salary. Which later, for example, can be exchanged for PLN in order to send them to your family or pay bills in Poland. But! In cases like this, I highly recommend having a look at paid plans which allow you to exchange the currency without any limits.
- The fourth and final use that I want to mention is the repayment of a foreign currency loan (e.g. in CHF or EUR). The mechanism is simple – you transfer the desired amount in PLN to your Revolut account, convert it at the interbank rate, e.g. to Swiss francs, and finally with Revolut you make a transfer to your bank where you pay off the mortgage. Thanks to these mechanisms, you might save on more favorable exchange rates and have the opportunity to buy the currency from time to time (e.g. when the franc is subjectively cheap).
Of course, I mentioned here things which are the most obvious. Actually, only our own imagination makes limitations here. Revolut itself has many more additional features which keep evolving from month to month. Therefore, I will try to focus on the most important ones.
Extras and additional features at Revolut
I will start with a straight forward description of mentioned features, divided into categories, by the way! just like Revolut has done it.
- Accounts. You have access to the history of your account, what allows to have a better control over your expenses. In addition, your payments are divided into categories. Also, you can create “Junior account” for your child (or children in a paid subscription model), order credit card or have a loan with Revolut.
- Wealth. Revolut allows to trade on the global market with stock, crypto and for example commodities. Functionality is very simplified (if we compare it to, for example XTB) but allows you to perform basic “trading” actions. In addition, you get the opportunity, to create Vaults for savings with specific goals. Actually, features mentioned in the first two points, are the services from the scope of a regular bank.
- Payments. I do not need to explain “how does a transfer works”, but there is a very interesting option in Revolut, called “Group Bills”. You can divide the costs of a specific bill into a group of people. Obviously, they also need to have an account with Revolut. However, sharing the cost of a trip which you had together with your friends, might become much easier 😊
- Extras. “The platform” (it is not just an app anymore) A PayBack system offers rewards for shopping with them. Additionally, with higher monthly subscription fee, you get “unlimited currency exchange” and additional insurance, for medical care or a delayed flight.
This is a lot, but what is the final cost?
How much does it cost?
Using Revolut is free of charge – creating an account, currency sub-accounts and using a card. However, this is a business, so there is no need to count on the fact that free use of the service is unlimited. There are specific thresholds and limits, beyond which you will be charged additional fees. For example:
- ATM withdrawals – are free only up to EUR 200, USD 200, PLN 800 or the equivalent in local currency per month and up to a maximum of 5 withdrawals per month. Users of the paid Premium (PLN 1,600) or Metal (PLN 3,000) versions are entitled to higher limits, and there is no limit of the free number of withdrawals there. After exceeding the threshold (amount or quantity), Revolut calculates a commission of 2% of the amount paid out (minimum PLN 5).
- Currency exchange – commission-free on business days up to the amount of PLN 5,000 or the equivalent in local currency per month. Revolut will add a 1% commission to the surplus. You will also pay 1% of the transaction when exchanging currencies outside the 24 basic ones and exchanging currency on weekends. The limits have been lifted for Premium and Metal users.
- Account top-ups – you can top up your Revolut account up to PLN 400,000 per year for free. This is a high limit so I don’t think it will be a problem for most or regular users. Additionally, it is always possible to increase this limit.
- Transfers – transfers from Revolut to other users of this service are free. Just like international SEPA transfers (in EUR). If we make another transfer to an account outside the European Economic Zone, Revolut will add a fee of PLN 1.5 to even PLN 25 to each, depending on the number of transfers and the recipient’s country. Premium plan users get one free international transfer, and Metal plan users – 3 free international transfers per month.
If you are interested about more details for pricing, I am providing here once again the link to the table with a comparison of the prices for specific plan/subscription.
Revolut has evolved a lot. At the time, when I joined them one year back, “Plus” plan did not exist yet, so I paid nothing with my card. From the moment I heard about this for the first time, they added a lot of features and became a bank. They have also informed customers that they transferred their accounts to an entity registered in Lithuania in relation with the hard Brexit. Also, as I mentioned already, we can find on the market clones of this popular financial platform, as for example Cinkciarz (Contoxia). Is it going to be a new order and competition for local banks? I can’t say it. But for sure, Revolut and its clones, with all the positive features are very useful and can make traveling much easier.
However, not having phone or local support, or the fact that they are still pretty fresh on the market, with no option to use a Trusted Profile, as well as limited trust from local banks if we would try to get a mortgage, brings me to one conclusion. It is a nice platform to have, especially if you travel a lot or work abroad. But I still have not given up with regular local banks.
Special thanks to Eamon Gosney, who has helped with proofreading of this article.
Revolut.com; JakOszczedzacPieniądze.pl; ZaradnyFinansowo.plSource