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One big problem with most credit cards is that they charge hefty fees for transactions in foreign currencies. If your base currency is Swiss Francs and you are paying something in dollars, you will have to pay a percentage of the transaction as a fee. It is not uncommon for credit card companies to charge more than 2% fees on such transactions. That is where the Revolut travel card comes into play!
As we are going to see, Revolut can help you save a lot of money on foreign transaction fees. Moreover, where banks are generally giving bad exchange rates between currencies, Revolut is usually giving you the best exchange rates available. If you purchase things in other currencies, or even from other countries, such a travel card is essential to saving you money!
I already tried to find the best credit card in Switzerland. When I compare all my options, I found out that foreign exchange fees were costing me more than the annual fee of the credit card. So, a travel card such as the Revolut credit card will save you a lot of money!
In June 2020, Revolut decreased the limit for free transactions to 1250 CHF (1000 GBP) per month. If you need more than that, you will find some alternatives at the end of the article.
Even though I still use Revolut, I would exercise caution with your usage of Revolut. Many people have seen their accounts blocked recently. So, I would not put too much money on Revolut.
Revolut Credit Card
Revolut is a company from the United Kingdom. They are pretty young. They started in 2015. They do not have a real credit card. But they offer a prepaid credit card. Both MasterCard and Visa are available. They are almost the same for most usages. You can use it on the internet, and you can even withdraw money at an ATM. They offer two types of cards:
- Virtual Debit Card: You can generate it in your Revolut account. You can use it online with its number.
- Physical Card: You can order a physical debit card for a small fee.
But the essential thing with Revolut is that foreign exchange transaction is free! There are no foreign exchange fees! Since I spend around 5000 CHF in foreign currencies every year. My new credit card will bill me 1.5% of this amount. For me, this is 75 CHF per year. If I use the Revolut card for all my foreign spending, I will save 75 CHF per year.
I think it is entirely worth having a new card for this saving. Moreover, since my company headquarters is in the United States, I may have to travel more than usual. That means I will save even more money.
Since its inception, Revolut started offering many new features:
- Support for cryptocurrencies directly from the application.
- Insurance on some of your purchases
- Premium And Metal plan for users that need even more features
- Saving vaults for your money with saving goals
If you plan to use Revolut to save money on foreign fees, you will be okay with the free Standard plan! You can always upgrade to another plan later.
How to Top Up Revolut for Free
Since the Revolut card is a prepaid credit card, you need to top it up. If you do not have any money on your card, you cannot use it. You have several choices to top it up:
- A debit card: Free!
- A credit card issue din your country: Free!
- A credit card: Large fee from Revolut
- A bank transfer: The fees depend on your bank
Of course, using option three should be avoided at all costs. There is no point in spending more money than what you will save in foreign exchange fees.
Option 2 is very interesting because it is the fastest and it is free! It is the one that I am always using now.
If you already have a Mastercard debit card or Visa debit card, you should use option 1. It is the fastest way to top it up since you do not have to wait for the transfer to settle. If you cannot, the second-best way is to use a direct bank transfer. And then, in some corner cases, you may want to use a TransferWise card.
1. Top Up Revolut with a local credit card
For me, the best way to top up Revolut is to use a local credit card. By this, I mean a credit card that comes from the country where you have your Revolut account.
For instance, for me, I can use my favorite credit card to top up Revolut for free! And this is instant! At the end of the month, I will pay my credit card bill.
I know you can do this with a Mastercard credit card. I think you can do it with a Visa as well, but I have never tried it myself. Unfortunately, you will not be able to do it with an American Express. But we should not be too picky.
For this, go into the app, click on Add Money (The big button looking like a plus sign). From here, you can choose a credit card. Once you have selected it, select the amount you want to charge and press “Add Money”. The money will be instantly credited to your account!
If Revolut charges you a fee, it will be shown on the screen. If you see any fee, then cancel and use another way of topping up!
2. Top Up Revolut from Your Bank Account
If you do not want to use a credit card, you can directly transfer money to your bank account.
Revolut offers a Swiss IBAN in Swiss francs. It means you can transfer money directly from your Swiss bank account into Revolut. And this is a real CH IBAN from a Swiss bank! You will not pay any fee for the transfer!
Revolut offers bank accounts for most countries in Europe! With this, it is incredibly easy to transfer money from most countries!
You can now transfer money for free to your Revolut directly from your bank account. If you have a Swiss bank account or if you have another account for which Revolut has a free bank account, you can directly signup for Revolut and skip the following section.
For this, go into the app, click on Add Money (The big button looking like a plus sign). Then, you can select “Transfer to your Revolut account”. They will give you all the information necessary for a bank transfer to their account. Be careful when you enter the reference number because this is how they will identify you.
Once you have sent the payment, it usually takes one working day for the money to be available in your account.
If you do not have a way to do a free money transfer, there is another good way to do it. In that case, you need a debit card to top up Revolut for free! If you do not have one, you need to find one with two properties. You should be able to top it up for free directly from your bank account. And you should be able to use it to top Revolut for free as well. It is not easy to find one that is fulfilling these conditions. Fortunately, TransferWise is coming to the rescue.
3. Top up Revolut card for free using TransferWise
Note: You do not need to do this if you plan to top up Revolut with a credit card or with a bank transfer. Most people will not need this advanced technique.
TransferWise is an Estonian company. They provide international transfers at very low rates! In the beginning, in 2011, they only started with offering a system for a multi-currency account. With this, you could get paid in the UK and spend your money in Estonia. And do not pay too many fees! In 2017, they added a debit card to their offer: The TransferWise Borderless Card. It is what is interesting for us!
Indeed, you can have a TransferWise Borderless card for free! And you can top it up for free too! So what you do is transfer money to your TransferWise card and then transfer it again to your Revolut card. It is not as simple as it would ideally be, but it works well. I tested this technique, and I did not get charged a single CHF of fees!
You need to start by creating a TransferWise Borderless account. You will have to transfer some money to it. Then, you will create a Revolut account. And finally, you can transfer money from your bank (or credit card) to TransferWise. And then from TransferWise to Revolut.
Order TransferWise Borderless Card
The first thing you need to do is to apply for a Borderless Card. For this, go to TransferWise. Then, you have several ways to register:
- Use the Register button on the top right
- Use the claim your discount button on the right
- Select Get a Borderless account on the menu
- Click on the Debit Card tab and click on Order a card
It is a bit of a mess, but in the end, all these options will do the same thing ;)
The procedure to create an account is relatively standard. You will need to fill a lot of information. You will need to scan your ID (or driving license or passport) to verify your identity. And you will need to top up at least 20 CHF to validate your account. You can use a credit card to top it up for free and instantly. After all of this is done, you can order a Borderless card.
The card will arrive by mail after a few days. In my case, it arrived in three days. Since it comes by airmail, this is pretty fast. And nothing here costs any money. Everything is free. You will now have a Borderless Mastercard debit card for free!
You could use your TransferWise card in place of your Revolut card. However, they are more fees with TransferWise than with Revolut. Even if it stays very reasonable, we want to minimize them!
Sign up for Revolut
Now you are ready to sign up for Revolut. You have to install the application on your smartphone. There is no way around it. It is great for most people. But for people like me who dislike phones, it is not perfect. But, I guess I have to live with mobile apps now!
Nevertheless, it is pretty straightforward. You can go to the Revolut website to get a direct link to the application to download. You can also search for Revolut in your phone application store (Google Play or App Store, probably).
Once you installed the application, you can go through the registration process. It is very similar to the registration of TransferWise. You will have to enter standard information about yourself. You will also have to scan your ID. At some point, for authentication, you will have to top up Revolut. You can use your TransferWise card now to top it up. And this will be free!
Once you have done this, you can either start using a virtual card or order a physical card. If you order a physical card, you will have to pay 6.99 CHF for the delivery. It should be the only time you pay anything to Revolut. My card arrived quite quickly, four working days, I think.
Detailed Revolut Fees
I said foreign transactions are free with Revolut. Unfortunately, this is not always true, even with Revolut. There are a few details that are important to know.
First of all, not all currencies are treated equally by Revolut. For Thai Baht, Russian Rubbles, and Ukrainian Hryvnia, there is a 1% fee. All other currencies are free. However, there is a limit of 5000 GBP for free transactions. For other currencies, it is the equivalent of 1000 GBP (1250 CHF). If you are exchanging more than this, you will pay a 0.5% fee.
Also, the rates are different during the weekend. During the weekend, Revolut is going to charge a 1.0% extra fee on each exchange transaction for major currencies (USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, NZD, CHF, JPY, SEK, HKD, NOK, SGD, DKK, PLN, and CZK). For other currencies, there is a 1% fee. You can find more details on the official Revolut price explanation.
In the best case, an exchange is free with Revolut. In the worst case, it can be quite expensive with a 2.5% fee. You need to be careful to do your exchanges during the week. And be aware that some currencies will charge you more. And you should avoid using Revolut for large transfers as well!
If you want to compare many different international money transfer services, you can use Monito for this. They have a wide range of services for each currency pair. Unfortunately, they do not have Revolut support, but many other services are available. If you do not want to go with Revolut, you can compare many other services.
Let’s summarize the advantages Revolut
- Free currency exchanges during the week.
- Can hold many currencies in the account.
- Very fast transfers to other users.
- Fast transfers to other bank accounts.
Let’s summarize the disadvantages of Revolut:
- Expensive during the weekends.
- Free exchanges are limited to 1250 CHF per month.
- Expensive for some exotic currencies.
- Revolut has a poor reputation.
- There are reports of many people getting their accounts blocked and losing access to their money.
I like my Revolut credit card. It is free, and it saves me a lot of money each year. Every time I travel to another country, I use my Revolut credit card to pay for everything! I have never had any issue getting it accepted anywhere.
I am also using it to pay online on foreign websites. For instance, if I order something on eBay, I often have to pay in EUR or USD. With my Revolut, the conversion is free and done at an excellent exchange rate!
A travel credit card is a perfect companion to your actual credit card.
Now, many people had issues with Revolut and got their accounts blocked without proper communication. And there are many negative online reviews about Revolut. So, you should still be careful about not trusting too much money to Revolut.
Personally, I never had a lot of money on my account. My rule of thumb is not never have more than 1000 CHF on my Revolut account.
In June 2020, Revolut significantly decreased the limits for free exchanges (from 5000 to 1000 GBP). This makes them less interesting. Therefore, you may want to consider other options.
If you do not want to trust your money with a foreign bank, you could try to use Neon bank for your purchases abroad. They also have free transactions in foreign currencies and abroad. This means you can have the advantages of Revolut with the advantages of a local bank. For more details about how I use credit cards, read about my entire credit card strategy.
If you do not know what to choose between Revolut and Transferwise, I have written an entire article about Revolut vs Transferwise.
To know more, watch the official video presentation of Revolut:
Did you ever try a Revolut card? Which credit card do you use?