Chris Martin looks at the lat­est smart bank­ing so­lu­tion to say good­bye to bricks and mor­tar branches

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With the rise of mo­bile pay­ment sys­tems such as Ap­ple Pay and An­droid Pay, we’re also see­ing the launch of other smart bank­ing so­lu­tions. One such of­fer­ing is Monzo, which, along with a fea­ture-packed app and ben­e­fits such as no frees abroad, gives cus­tomers a phys­i­cal card.

Monzo Bank

Monzo (which un­til re­cently was called Mondo) is a smart bank for the smart­phone gen­er­a­tion that does away with things such as bricks and mor­tar branches, cheque books and the like. In­stead, it hinges around an app.

In its own words, Monzo says it’s: “fo­cused on build­ing the best cur­rent ac­count in the world and ul­ti­mately work­ing with a range of other providers, so that Monzo can be an in­tel­li­gent hub for your en­tire fi­nan­cial life.”

Users of the bank’s card have spent more than £20m in over 130 coun­tries since launch.

Monzo card

Monzo has a bank­ing li­cence, though with re­stric­tions. “We now en­ter the ‘mo­bil­i­sa­tion’ phase and over the com­ing months will be work­ing with the reg­u­la­tors to get our re­stric­tions lifted and launch a full cur­rent ac­count with debit cards, faster pay­ments, di­rect deb­its and ev­ery­thing else you’d ex­pect,” it said in a state­ment.

For now, you can top up the card from the app and use it at cash ma­chines, in-store and on­line. It’s also con­tact­less, so you can use it at the same ter­mi­nals you would with other cards.

The app isn’t just for top­ping up the card (£100 to start with). It will in­stantly up­date your bal­ance, pro­vide handy no­ti­fi­ca­tions (in­clud­ing why a trans­ac­tion was de­clined) and pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing vis­ual way of see­ing where you spend your money. You can also use the app to sus­pend the card if it’s lost or stolen.

Other ben­e­fits in­clude adding notes or re­ceipts to trans­ac­tions, and the card won’t be blocked if you go abroad – you don’t need to no­tify Monzo about trav­el­ling. Plus, as we men­tioned ear­lier, there are no fees or charges when us­ing the card out­side the UK.

The long-term plan also aims to sup­port An­droid Pay, over­drafts and in­ter­na­tional bank trans­fers. Medium term (six- to nine months) plans in­clude Ap­ple Pay, bill split­ting, vir­tual sav­ings ac­counts and in­te­gra­tion with part­ners such as TFL and Nec­tar.

How to get a Monzo card

If all this sounds like some­thing you’d ben­e­fit from you can sign up to the wait­ing list on the web­site (monzo.com) or via the app. At the time of writ­ing there are around 40,000 peo­ple in the queue for a Monzo card, though you can jump for­wards by re­fer­ring peo­ple via a cus­tom link. Each time some­one signs up via your link you’ll be bumped up at least 4,000 places.

iOS and An­droid

At the time of writ­ing, Monzo is avail­able only for those with an iPhone (or us­ing the phone app on iPad). This is be­cause the card needs the app in order to work. The lat­est ver­sion for iOS in­cludes Touch ID (fin­ger­print) pro­tec­tions, a pro­file sec­tion and your per­sonal user num­ber.

An An­droid app is cur­rently be­ing al­pha tested and is set to launch in Septem­ber. Note that although there is an app on the Google Play Store, it’s just for check­ing where you are in the queue and show­ing your bal­ance if you have a Monzo card.

Monzo Bank

We’ve only been us­ing our Monzo card for a few weeks, but in that short pe­riod of time we’ve found it easy and sim­ple to use.

The card it­self, apart from be­ing brightly coloured (handy when you’re look­ing for it), is no dif­fer­ent to any other re­cently is­sued card you have in your wal­let. It’s the well thought out and ex­cel­lently de­signed app that makes the ex­pe­ri­ence so good.

Ev­ery­thing is in­stant and the way you can view and an­a­lyse your spend­ing is on an­other level com­pared to tra­di­tional banks, de­spite most re­cently try­ing to up­date their sys­tems. We’ve not taken it abroad yet, but an up­com­ing trip to the US will be a lot more man­age­able with some­thing like Monzo.

For some, the Monzo card will be just what they need to man­age and keep track of their spend­ing. The trav­el­ling ben­e­fits alone will be enough for oth­ers to get one. The cur­rent pre-paid card could be used as a very mod­ern way of giv­ing kids pocket money or sim­ply lim­it­ing your own spend­ing if you’re prone to get­ting car­ried away.

Bear in mind that Monzo is still in beta, so you can’t fully rely on it as you’re only card, but it’s a great ad­di­tion to any wal­let, es­pe­cially when you con­sider it’s free to get one and use the ser­vice.

Monzo Bank al­lows you to in­stantly view and an­a­lyse your spend­ing

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