FinTech Game Changers
Apple Card takes on Revolut, Starling Bank and Monzo
Brian Weakliam Founder & CEO Bankhawk
The minimalist titanium card steals a march on even American Express’ most exclusive cards. Visa and Mastercard offerings now look dull in comparison.
There are no annual, late, international or over-the-limit fees, no pin numbers, and a meaningful cashback system. It synchs with iPhone’s Wallet app to organise your purchases and uses Apple Maps to pinpoint just where you are.
The rewards scheme is very generous. 2% cashback on any purchase made with the card when using Apple Pay, and 3% on any purchase made with Apple itself, including the App Store and Apple Music, with cash paid out daily (non-Apple Pay purchases get a lower rate of cashback of 1%).
Real time support is on hand 24/7 for your account via text message.
On the flipside, the interest rate is fairly high an APR around 13.24% to 24.24% mark expensive compared to its competitor cards.
Backed by Goldman Sachs and MasterCard, Apple Card offers a new approach, placing itself among a new breed of digital banking start-ups like Revolut, Starling and Monzo that are also aiming to shake up the way we handle our money and take on traditional high street banks.
Growing quickly in popularity, accounts are managed solely through mobile apps and websites. With no physical branches, they are leaner operations and can offer current accounts with innovative features like no fee spending abroad and the ability to block a debit card in an instant.
So where does Apple fit in within these new Fintech players?
Revolut has risen from a basic app to a genuine ‘challenger bank’ and shows no signs of abating with a user base of over 3 million across Europe in just 4 years.
The key to its popularity is allowing customers to keep multiple currencies on one card simultaneously and convert between them seamlessly on their phones.
Free spending and withdrawals abroad has made it very popular with those who do a lot of travelling and those working abroad.
Sign up and you’ll get an account number and sort code to use for normal current account functionality such as receiving a salary and making regular payments.
Revolut uses the interbank exchange rate while its apps for both iOS and Android are easy to use, with useful budgeting tools, instant spending notifications, and the ability to instantly lock and unlock cards.
They offer peer-to-peer loans, insurance, and the ability to buy cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The security features for accounts are impressive including the ability to block payments that are made out of the range of the user phone’s GPS location.
On the flipside, UK local Revolut accounts don’t currently have access to direct debits, limiting the service’s usefulness for day-to-day current accounts, but there is the promise of this being fixed soon.
Deposits aren’t currently covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, although Revolut is hoping to offer this soon once its application for a full banking license is approved.
The fee for your first debit card is £5, with a £6 charge for replacement cards. Accessing some banking features requires “Premium” membership, which costs £6.99 a month (you’re limited to withdrawing £200 a month in cash with a regular account for free – after that there’s a 2pc charge).
Launched in 2015 and similar to Revolut, Starling has more security as it holds a full banking licence, with accounts covered up to 85,000 by FSCS protection.
It offers a full current account that comes with a Mastercard debit card, and pays out a small amount of interest on balances (0.5pc on the first £2,000 and then 0.2pc on anything up to £85,000).
For those of you who like to do things traditionally, a recent tie up with the Post Office allows you to deposit and withdraw cash through its 11,500 branches.
The Starling app’s functionality is very similar to Revolut, with real-time notifications, the ability to split bills, and instant freeze and unlocks on cards.
Unauthorised overdraft charges are capped at a competitive £2 a month, but there’s currently no dedicated savings account offering.
Like Starling, Monzo is a fully licensed bank, so your money is covered by the FSCS. It offers a service that could fully replace regular current accounts, including setting up direct debits and standing orders, split bills and pay people instantly, with overdraft options also offered.
A key feature of Monzo is its app’s spending tracker, which provides a detailed breakdown of your spending with notifications every time the card is used and the ability to set spending goals.
While there’s no fee spending abroad, there is a cash withdrawal limit of £200 every 30 days when withdrawing outside of the UK before a 3pc charge is added. There can be a short waiting time of a couple of days to join and there are overdraft charges of 50p per day.
No change yet in Corporate Banking
The corporate sector will have to continue to hold its collective breath as innovators struggle to gain any real stranglehold. Hopefully PSD2 and open banking will see some real corporate banking game changers emerge.