(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure.)
One big problem with most credit cards is that they charge large 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 cards 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 transactions fees. Moreover, where banks are generally giving bad exchange rates between currencies, Revolut is generally giving you the best rates available. If you purchase things in other currencies, or even 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 on the card.
In my first review of my options for Switzerland, I already took a look at Revolut. At that time, I did not delve too deep into it. It is now time to fill this void in my credit card strategy. I finally decided to order a Revolut credit card! And I found out a process to top up a Revolut card for free in Switzerland!
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 most important 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. 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 located 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. For instance, they now have support for cryptocurrencies. And you can also get insurance on some purchases. They also have a Premium and Metal paying plans. However, if you plan to use Revolut to save money on foreign fees, you will be fine with the free Standard plan!
How to Top Up Revolut for Free
Since Revolut card is a prepaid debit 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: Large fee from Revolut
- A bank transfer: The fees depend on your bank
Of course, using option 2 should be avoided at all costs. There is no point in spending more money than what you will save in foreign exchange fees. If you already have a Mastercard debit card or Visa debit card, you should definitely 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.
Top Up Revolut from Your Bank Account
In the beginning, Revolut did not offer a real CHF IBAN. That means that a bank transfer was not free. Just by charging money to your Revolut account, you were losing money. This made it almost pointless to use a Revolut card. Fortunately, this changed and Revolut now has a real CHF IBAN.
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.
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, there is TransferWise coming to the rescue.
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 bank transfer.
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 much fees! In 2017, they added a debit card to their offer. The TransferWise Borderless Card. This 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 fairly 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 air mail, this is pretty fast. And nothing here cost 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. This is great for most people. But for people like me who dislike phones, it is not perfect. Nevertheless, it is pretty easy. 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 it is installed, 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 this is done, 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 is a bit sad that you have to pay for this since it was free for TransferWise. But it is still a very fair price. And this should be the only time you pay anything to Revolut. My card arrived quite quickly, 4 working days I think.
Top Up Revolut
If you can use a bank transfer for free, you can directly start the bank transfer from your current bank account. You should receive it after a few days. If you use the TransferWise trick, you can now use the following method to charge Revolut for free:
- Transfer money from your bank account to TransferWise IBAN
- Transfer money from your TransferWise debit card to Revolut using the mobile application
Now, you will have money on your Revolut card. And you can start shopping in foreign currencies without any fees!
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 5000 GBP. 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 0.5% 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. On the worst case, it can actually 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!
I think I am now settled for my credit card system. I should soon receive my Cumulus Mastercard. It has no annual fees and a 0.33% cash back bonus. You can read about it in my comparison of Swiss credit cards. Then, I now have a Revolut Visa debit card. I already used it to pay for SiteGround hosting in EUR. And I used it as well to pay for Amazon books in EUR. I plan to use it as much as possible on all foreign currency transactions. This will bring my credit card fees down to zero normally. And I should be able to enjoy the bonus of my Cumulus Mastercard.
To know more, watch the official video presentation of Revolut:
Did you ever try a Revolut card? Which credit card do you use?