Monzo Plus Preview: What’s it really like?

By Aisling Finn on Monday 20 July 2020

FeaturesDigital Banking

Out with the old hot coral, in with the new holographic blue.

Monzo Plus Preview: What’s it really like?
Image source: Monzo Plus.

The fintech world was abuzz last week with news that Monzo had re-launched its previously failed attempt at a subscription service.  

Back in April 2019, Monzo tried to introduce a subscription service, not dissimilar from the offerings of fellow challengers N26 and Revolut, but swiftly closed the endeavour, and the team responsible, after just five months. 

With all the hubbub surrounding the long-anticipated relaunch, we thought it only fair if we take the new service for a quick test run.   

This is only a preview of the new £5/month service and its headline features, keep your eyes peeled for a full review in the not-too-distant future. 

Open Banking  

A key perk of Monzo Plus, and one of the more widely advertised features, is the chance to aggregate all your bank accounts in the one place.  

Currently, users can add accounts from 13 other banks, with perhaps the most notable exception being fellow digital bank Starling. 

A spokesperson for the digital bank told AltFi that Starling isn't included on the list because it doesn't support the Open Banking Standard, which for many Starling account holders, like me, this is a pain and makes the £5 monthly fee considerably less worth it.  

I did briefly add another (nearly defunct) HSCB account to my Monzo app just to see if it worked and what it looked like.

Neither the balance of my HSBC account nor any transactions appeared in Monzo initially.

After a few minutes my transactions appeared, but I couldn't expand each individual payment nor was there a logo next to each one, like there is when you spend with your Monzo card. 

I think I’ll put the jittery open banking service down to first-day bugs and hope that it improves, not that I’ll use it until Starling Bank is supported. 

If you bank with one of the lucky 13, I imagine this is a welcome addition to Monzo’s platform, but for everyone else, it feels like we haven’t been invited to the party yet.  

Advanced roundups 

One of the first things that I did when I signed up to Monzo Plus was create a new pot with the ‘advanced’ roundup function.  

Monzo Plus customers can decide to put either 2x, 5x or 10x the amount that they would normally be able to roundup. So, as it’s helpfully described in the app, “spend £1.10, save £9” if someone was to round up to 10x, as opposed to the £0.90 that regular users can save.  

However, customers of other challengers like Revolut and Starling will have been able to use a very similar feature for quite some time now. 

With both Revolut and Starling's standard accounts, users can choose to either round up to the nearest pound or, like Monzo Plus, 2x, 5x or 10x the amount.  

Virtual card 

Coming from the privileged view of never having a card cloned I personally don’t really see the point of virtual cards, which let you create unique bank card numbers for different online retailers. However, your mileage may vary, and I understand that many people like to use them for security reasons.   

Other digital banking services like Monese and Revolut already offer users the ability to create virtual cards to use online instead of their physical debit card.  

Setting up a virtual card was easy enough, just a couple of taps and you’re good to go.   

You can also customise the colour of the virtual cards, just like you can savings pots, and give them each a name too.  

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for... the card.  

The actual card  

I absolutely hate to be ‘that person’ but the new Monzo Plus card isn’t holographic—at best it’s iridescent and at worst it’s just metallic. 

The shiny new card only shifts between about two or three different shades, whereas if it were truly holographic and not just iridescent, we would be able to see every colour of the rainbow.

Funnily enough, the only part of the card that is holographic is the word ‘Monzo’ in the top right-hand corner and even then you can only see it at certain angles.

For a long-time Monzo user, it’s odd not having my trusty hot coral card in my purse and the new card feels like a bit of an imposter if I’m totally honest.  

Hot coral is such an iconic shade and really is what put Monzo on the map, so it does make me wonder what made them move away from the lairy colour?  

Everything else  

Other perks included in the new subscription include a monthly credit check (in partnership with TransUnion), fee-free withdrawals abroad up to £400, exclusive offers from partner brands, the ability to auto-export transactions into Google Sheets and one, yes one, free cash deposit a month. 

Now, I know that I’ve previously argued that cash is on its way out—I’m still yet to even hold a new £20 note—but only one free cash deposit per month seems a bit ridiculous and is completely free with other digital banks. 

One feature that I did really enjoy using, and have already made use of, is the ability to make custom spending categories. 

For instance, after I had made my new savings pot, I turned my attention to sorting through my transactions and creating new categories that better fit them, with the first category I made being for coffee.  

So, now every time Pret or Starbucks appeared on my bank statement, I moved it into the new custom category (which I somewhat regret now I’ve seen how much I’ve spent in the last few months on takeaway coffee... even under lockdown).  

More bang for your buck?  

The newest version of Monzo Plus costs less than the first time around, back in April 2019 users paid £6 to access the subscription service compared to the £5 it costs today.  

Just like last time, users have to sign up to for a minimum of three months to access the new features on offer. 

In contrast, Revolut charges £6.99 and £12.99 per month for its Premium and Metal subscriptions respectively.   

With both plans, Revolut premium customers are privy to no monthly limit for exchanging foreign currencies, airport lounge passes, overseas medical insurance, delayed baggage and flight insurance, discounts at partner brands, crypto trading, free stock trading, and the list goes on.   

Similarly, N26 charges €9.90 and €16.90 per month for its subscription services which both include more tangible services like travel and medical insurance as well as winter sports coverage and car hire support. 

Conclusion  

Monzo appears to be trying to go down the Banking-as-a-Service or the ‘freemium’ route, rather than making money in a more traditional way for a bank, by lending money. 

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either, but I’m just not sure how long I (or anyone else) will pay for a service and features that other digital banks already offer me, and often for free.  

There are whisperings that all Monzo’s new features might be Monzo Plus-exclusives, or at least exclusive for a while, so maybe (hopefully) it’ll get a little better? 

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