Revolut EUR current accounts — on a good track, but not quite there yet

I’m quite a fan of the idea of disruptive technologies, especially ones related to banking as my experience with traditional banks in several different countries has been anything but smooth and pleasant. While there’s several out there already, today we’re looking at Revolut and their newly introduced EUR currency current accounts.

Revolut is a British startup that over the course of the last couple of years has been conquering a European crowd with pre-paid MasterCard debit cards that let you pay abroad at shops, withdraw at the ATM and perform bank transfers without any fees. I’ve been using their pre-paid debit card since 2016 and it’s been a mostly positive experience. Most recently, Revolut announced that they’ve secured a $66M in funding, and will be expanding their territory as well as introduce new products.

Following the announcement of their new funding, they’ve released EUR current accounts, enabling their customers to use Revolut as their main bank account within the SEPA zone — receiving salary, receiving money from others through bank transfer, paying bills. No SEPA direct debits yet, but this may follow in the near future. Excited to try it out, I signed up as soon as I got the notification in the app.

Setting up your current account

This part was surprisingly easy — within a few taps inside the app I had managed to activate my account (graphic kindly borrowed from the Revolut newspost announcing the feature):

It seemed like no credit checks were performed, at least superficially. The account details were literally allocated and displayed less than a second after tapping the activation button. Granted, I already went through some KYC check which didn’t extend past uploading a picture of my passport and verifying the phone number associated with my account with a 2-factor SMS text message.

Personal IBAN number with a surprising twist

LT… What?

One of the first things that will probably catch your eye is that the IBAN account number that’s been issued starts with LT which is the country code for bank account numbers originating from Lithuania. The BIC/SWIFT code however seems to belong to a UK Bank..

Lookup in the swift.com database confirms BIC/Swift code is from UK

My guess is that the reason for this has a lot to do with regulations — a UK financial institute offering current accounts to customers that aren’t necessarily residents in UK, I could imagine that for this reason it may not be possible to issue UK IBAN numbers. Perhaps Lithuanian regulations aren’t so strict when it comes to KYC, and for this reason it was more practical for Revolut to issue IBAN account numbers in that format.

Unfortunately, this ‘mismatch’ may result in some problems when entering your account details into information systems that implement superficial or simplistic validation —implementations that try to match IBAN and BIC country as a primary method of input validation will reject the Revolut IBAN + BIC combination (and unfortunately many websites/information systems do exactly that)

A short conversation with Revolut’s in-app live chat support got me this answer as to how it works:

Receiving money into your EUR current account

Almost immediately after activating the account, one of the first things I wanted to try was see how quickly incoming SEPA payments to my Revolut EUR current account would be processed. Knowing this would be useful in the event I would decide to receive my salary or other payments into the account.

Receiving money by bank transfer

I went to sleep, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the next morning I woke up to find a notification that the amount I transferred from my German bank account with N26 had arrived into the account, which is in line with the processing times of SEPA transactions.

One minor ‘UX inconvenience’ is that at the time of writing it’s not possible to see any information regarding the transfer beyond the name — no bank account number (useful for if you want to return the money), no name of the bank.

Sending money to bank accounts in the SEPA zone

Next thing I wanted to try is see the experience of sending money, and how long that takes. This is important to know for when you want to pay a bill or the rent from your account, and you need to make sure to send the money at the right time to prevent being late and incurring late fees, or having some services shut off due to late payment.

So I initiated a transfer back to my N26 bank account in Germany:

Sending money by bank transfer

After you’ve initiated the transaction, when you tap the transaction in your overview it will open a dialogue that will display the details of your transaction. One important thing to observe here is that it will tell you an ETA of when the money is expected to arrive in the account you’re sending it to.

This date turned out to be quite accurate — on the exact date it estimated the money to arrive, it in fact did arrive in the morning:

Received the money in my N26 account

In the same image we can make some observations about how the payment shows up to the recipient. For one, it seems to have come from a Finnish bank account under the name CURRENCY CLOUD LTD.

After an hour of waiting and interaction with Revolut’s live chat agent, it turned out that this company is Revolut’s payment processing partner responsible for processing SEPA payments sent from the app:

Conversation with customer support

As you may be able to tell, they are in fact planning to send it from the actual IBAN account number + name of the account holder in the near future, but don’t have a timeframe on when they will actually implement this.

Why I think you shouldn’t use Revolut as your main current account, or rely on it primarily

This might sound harsh, but my experience with Revolut so far has been very inconsistent. While it’s a great, disruptive product that aims to solve a lot of problems with the ‘offline’ financial industry anno 2017, when something goes wrong, you’re often left in the cold.

At any time of any day when you’re experiencing a problem, probably the first thing you’ll try to do is get in touch with one of the live chat agents inside the app. Most likely you will see something like this:

Ouch.

Perhaps it’s because they’ve been growing at a rate beyond their expectations, but at pretty much any time of the day the average time you’ll be queueing for a live chat agent to get in touch with you is gonna be 3 or 4 hours. If you’re in a bit of a bind and relying on your money being readily available to you, waiting 4 hours can be a little bit frustrating.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the wait time but also the quality of the support provided. The live chat agents don’t always seem to understand your questions and most definitely don’t seem to be equipped to actually do something about most kinds of problems you’re experiencing.

All in all, while I do believe it’s fine to keep money in your account with Revolut, I would suggest to be cautious — always have a backup source of funding and make sure not to rely on always being able to access or spend the money you’re keeping with them.

My conclusion so far

Revolut definitely shows that they’re trying to become a dominant force in the international digital (and also traditional) banking industry — they’re trying to grow from just a pre-paid debit card service with low fees to a full-service financial provider.

They’re doing a lot of things very right — offering a service to people regardless of where they live in the EEA, features like instant balance updates and instant payment notifications to your mobile device, functionalities that more traditional banks don’t always offer. The EUR current accounts is an extension of this, the idea is very forward-thinking.

Unfortunately, they’re also doing a lot of things very wrong. Maybe it’s because they’re growing too fast to keep up with the demand to provide good service to their customers, maybe they have to make some concessions because at the end of the day it’s still (mostly) a free service. Who knows. It just doesn’t give me the kind of feeling that my money is safe, and that I’m in control of my money. This is important to me, might not be as important to you.

As for the current accounts, I think the current state is a big step in the right direction feature-wise. Service-wise, they have a long way to go. Undoubtedly they’ll be improving this functionality to hopefully take some of the pain points out of the product (such as sending from the actual account, displaying more details of incoming transactions, etc), but if I were in their shoes I would invest in creating more consumer trust first.

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