I have not been sponsored by Monese or Wise, and there are no affiliate links in this article.

When I first began my digital nomad journey, two of the biggest things that irritated me were the foreign transaction fees on my credit card and the extortionary rates some Canadian and Croatian exchanges charged to swap currencies.

Had I done my due diligence, I would not have wasted so much money. Plenty of online banking services designed with digital nomads in mind exist.

Monese and Wise are two of the most popular options, both offering a range of features to make international transactions easier. But which one is better? Keep reading and I’ll give you my unbiased comparison of Monese and Wise. I’ll examine how their features stack up against each other to help you decide which one is the best fit for your needs. 

What are Monese and Wise?

Monese and Wise are digital banking services that could be useful to digital nomads. Each of them allows you to transact abroad with designated reloadable debit cards. That said, Monese only covers you in Europe, while Wise is more widely accepted internationally. Let’s explore the two options in more detail.


Monese is a mobile-based digital banking service that allows people to open a bank account and manage their finances entirely through their mobile devices. The company was founded in 2013 by Norris Koppel, and it is headquartered in London, UK.

Monese offers a range of financial services, including free and paid-for personal and business accounts, contactless debit cards, international money transfers, and in-app budgeting tools. Unlike traditional banks, Monese does not require a physical branch location and has no minimum account balance requirement, making it an attractive option for people who may have difficulty accessing traditional banking services due to their location, immigration status, or credit history.

Monese operates using the Euro and the British Pound, allowing users to hold and exchange money in 30 countries, including Spain and Greece, making it particularly useful for people who frequently travel or work across Europe. The company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.


Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, is a financial technology company that specializes in international money transfers. It was founded in 2011 by Estonian entrepreneurs Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus and is also based in London, UK.

Wise offers a borderless account that allows users to hold and manage money in 21 currencies. The company’s mission is to make sending and receiving money across borders fast, cheap, and transparent. Wise achieves this by using its proprietary currency exchange platform to convert money at the mid-market rate, which is the real exchange rate that banks use to trade currencies among themselves. This approach allows Wise to offer its customers more competitive exchange rates and lower fees than traditional banks.

In addition to its borderless account, Wise also offers a variety of other financial services, including a debit card that can be used worldwide, international payments for businesses, and integrations with popular accounting software such as Xero, FreeAgent, and QuickBooks.

Wise is also regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK and is available in over 70 countries, serving more than 10 million customers worldwide.

Wise bank account
Wise Bank Account

10 criteria to look out for when choosing an online bank account

  1. Security: The provider should offer robust security features to protect your financial information and transactions, such as two-factor authentication, encryption, and fraud protection.
  2. Options for adding and transferring funds: The ability to deposit or transfer funds easily and quickly is essential for managing your finances. 
  3. Fees: Look for a provider that charges reasonable rates for its services, including account maintenance fees, transaction fees, and ATM fees. You will also benefit from transfer options, including bank transfers, wire transfers, mobile check deposits, and third-party payment apps.
  4. Multi-currency support: Since you’re transferring money internationally, you probably want as many currency options as possible.
  5. Ease of use: The online banking platform should be user-friendly and easy to navigate, with intuitive features such as mobile check deposit and account alerts.
  6. Availability of services: Consider the range of services the provider offers, such as business accounts and deposit options.
  7. Customer support: Look for a provider with good customer service, including online chat, email support, and a dedicated phone support line.
  8. Accessibility: Check the availability of the online banking platform across different devices and operating systems, including desktop, mobile, and tablet devices.
  9. Integration with other financial tools: If you use other financial tools, such as budgeting or accounting software, check if the online banking provider offers integrations with these tools.
  10. Reliability: Investigate the provider’s reputation, including reviews from other customers and its financial stability.

Monese vs Wise: the unbiased breakdown 

What’s the deal with Monese?

Overall, Monese is a good option for people who need a basic account with no monthly fees and want to manage their finances through a mobile app. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those who need more advanced banking features

Monese Fees

Open accountNo fee
Account maintenance fees
Starter accountNo fee
Classic account5.95 GBP/month (about 6.80 USD)
Premium account14.95 GBP/month (about 17 USD)
International transfers
Starter account2.5% fee + 1% at weekends
Classic accountFrom 0.5%
Premium accountNo fee
Get a linked debit cardNo fee
Foreign transaction fee
Starter account2% fee
Classic accountNo fee
Premium accountNo fee
ATM withdrawals
Starter account1.5 GBP fee per withdrawal (~ 1.7 USD)
Classic account500 GBP/month fee-free (~ 570 USD); thereafter, 2% fee
Premium account1,500 GBP/month fee-free (~ 1,700 USD); thereafter, 2% fee
Adding funds to your account in cash
Starter account3.5% fee
Classic account400 GBP/month fee-free (~ 455 USD); thereafter, 2% fee
Premium account1,000 GBP/month fee-free (~ 1,140 USD); thereafter, 2% fee
Monese Fee Schedule

Monese Pros:

  1. Easy to use: Monese’s online banking platform is user-friendly and easy to navigate, with simple and intuitive features.
  2. No credit check: Monese offers its services without credit checks, making it a good option for people with a poor credit history.
  3. No account fees: Monese offers a starter account with no monthly account fees or minimum balance requirements, making it a low-cost option for managing your finances.
  4. Quick account opening: Monese allows users to open an account quickly, often within minutes, without the need for a physical address or bank account. The only requirements are a phone number, email address, and ID.
  5. Mobile features: Monese offers a mobile app that provides access to a range of features, including instant notifications, budgeting tools, and mobile payments.
  6. Other financial features: Monese permits you to earn interest through Monese Hub and set up direct debits if you need.

Monese Cons:

  1. Limited availability: Monese is not available in all countries, only in the UK and the EU, which means that this account is practically useless for someone who doesn’t spend much time in Europe.
  2. Inflexible customer support: Monese’s customer support is primarily available through its online chat feature, with limited phone or email support.
  3. Few payment options: Monese only accepts bank transfers or debit card payments, which may be inconvenient for some users who prefer other payment options such as credit cards.
  4. Limited ATM network: Monese has a limited network of ATMs, which may make it difficult to access cash in some locations.

What’s the deal with Wise?

Wise is perfect for purchasing in stores, restaurants, and from websites all around the world with little to no fees. Plus, it allows you to withdraw from ATMs and avoid the high fees these are commonly associated with for international users. Outside of this, Wise might leave you wanting if you’re looking for viable ways to transfer money around the world. Especially as a freelancer.

Wise Fees

Open accountNo fee for personal accounts
Account maintenance feesNo fee
International transfersFrom 0.41% currency exchange + low transfer fees based on destination and payment method
Get a linked debit card9 USD (or more if you want rapid delivery)
Foreign transaction feeNo fee to spend currencies you hold
Currency conversionFrom 0.41% and up
ATM withdrawals2 withdrawals, up to 100 USD/month free and then 1.5 USD + 2% afterwards
Add funds to your account in cashNot available
Wise Fee Schedule

Wise Pros:

  1. Low fees: Wise charges low fees for international money transfers compared to traditional banks, as it uses the mid-market exchange rate and charges a small percentage-based fee.
  2. Cash withdrawals: Wise gives you a layer of safety when using ATMs in foreign countries compared to your regular bank card. Your main bank card won’t be exposed when you use Wise to withdraw money.
  3. Fast transfers: Transfers through Wise are typically fast, with many transfers arriving within 1-2 business days.
  4. Easy to use: Wise’s online platform is user-friendly and easy to navigate, with intuitive features such as instant quotes and easy-to-understand fees.
  5. Multiple currencies: Wise enables you to hold and transfer money in more than 50 currencies, and add money in over 20 currencies too.
  6. Practical: You can set up direct debits, plus everyone receives multilingual support on the platform.
  7. No hidden fees: Wise is transparent about its fees, with no hidden charges or markups on exchange rates.

Wise Cons:

  1. Limited payment options: Wise only accepts bank transfers or debit card payments, which may be inconvenient for some users who prefer other payment options such as credit cards.
  2. Pay attention at the till: You only benefit from Wise’s low international exchange fees if you make sure you’re charged in the currency of the country you’re paying 
  3. Receiving Invoices: Unfortunately, freelancers in some jurisdictions might need to incorporate to begin receiving funds to their account from a different currency than their home bank or send invoices to clients. I learned this the hard way myself.
  4. No cash deposits: Wise does not allow users to deposit cash, which may be a disadvantage if you need to use cash frequently.
  5. Limits on transfers: Wise limits the amount of money that can be transferred per transaction, which may not be suitable for large transfers.

What Monese does better than Wise

If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in the right countries, then Monese is probably cheaper for you than Wise. Especially if you’re a big spender.

  1. ATM withdrawals: While both Monese and Wise charge fees for ATM withdrawals, Monese offers a lower fee of 1.5 GBP per withdrawal for Starter accounts and provides free withdrawals up to a certain limit for Classic and Premium accounts.
  2. Opening an account is hassle-free: To get started with Monese, you don’t even need a bank account from a traditional financial institution. You just need to add a few personal details and you’re good to go. 
  3. Cash deposits: Monese allows users to add funds to their accounts in cash, which can be convenient for people who don’t have a bank account or prefer to use cash.

What Wise does better than Monese

To be honest, Wise is a much more complete option than Monese. If you’re planning on travelling to several different countries outside Europe (or even places like Turkey, which are within Europe) and taking advantage of the business account option, picking Wise is a no-brainer.

  1. Lower fees for international transfers: Wise offers lower fees for international money transfers compared to Monese, which can be especially beneficial for users who frequently send money overseas.
  2. More currency options: Wise offers far more currencies to hold and transfer money in compared to Monese, which can be helpful for people who need to transfer money to a wider range of countries.
  3. Lower debit card fees: Wise offers lower fees for using their debit card for foreign transactions compared to Monese.
  4. Larger withdrawal limit: Wise allows users to withdraw up to 200 GBP per month for free, while Monese only offers free withdrawals up to a certain limit for Classic and Premium accounts.
  5. International business accounts: Wise offers international business accounts with features like multi-user access and the ability to hold multiple currencies, which can be helpful for small business owners. By contrast, Monese’s business accounts only allow you to operate in Europe.

The Final Verdict on Monese vs. Wise

As I said earlier, I use Wise and not Monese in my travels. However, I can acknowledge that Monese certainly has its place.

For those living and travelling in Europe most of the time, Monese might well be the better option. A lot of European countries still prefer using cash, and as such, Monese makes dealing with cash in Europe dead simple, with lower ATM fees to boot. If you don’t have a bank account there, then Monese could be the ideal replacement.

On the other hand, Wise is a lot more versatile. They don’t just confine you to Europe, and they make paying for transactions with your Wise card cheaper than with Monese or your standard card from back home. 

Wise vs. Monese: Frequently Asked Questions

What is better than Wise?

It’s difficult to say definitively which type of online banking service is better than Wise, as the answer depends on the specific needs and priorities of each user. However, some alternative online banking providers offer features that may be attractive to certain users.

For instance, Revolut offers a wide range of currency exchange options with competitive rates, as well as budgeting tools, cryptocurrency exchange, and travel insurance. However, Revolut charges fees for certain services that Wise offers for free, such as sending money to other Revolut users.

How is Wise so cheap?

Wise can offer competitive exchange rates and low fees for international money transfers because of its unique business model. Unlike traditional banks and money transfer providers, Wise operates on a peer-to-peer network. This means that they match users who need to exchange currency with others who have the opposite currency need, allowing them to avoid traditional currency conversion processes that can be costly.

Wise also uses local bank transfers whenever possible, which can help reduce the cost of international transfers. They have bank accounts in multiple countries and can use these accounts to make and receive local transfers, which can be faster and cheaper compared to traditional international wire transfers.

How reliable is Monese?

Monese is a regulated and licensed online banking and money transfer provider in the UK and Europe. They take security and reliability very seriously. They are authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK and are subject to the same regulations as traditional banks. Additionally, they use advanced security measures such as two-factor authentication and biometric authentication to help protect users’ accounts and transactions.

In terms of reliability, Monese has generally positive reviews and ratings from users. They have a high rating on Trustpilot, with many users praising their ease of use, quick and efficient customer support, and transparent fees. However, as with any financial service, there may be occasional technical issues or delays with transactions.

It’s also worth noting that Monese is not available in all countries, and their services may be limited depending on the user’s location. Potential users need to research and compare different online banking and money transfer options before making a decision.

Is Monese a real bank?

Monese is not a traditional bank, but rather a digital banking service that provides online banking and money transfer services. They are authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK, which means they are subject to the same regulations and oversight as traditional banks in the UK.

Monese offers a range of banking services, such as a UK current account, a European IBAN account, and international money transfers. They also offer a linked debit card, budgeting tools, and other features typically offered by traditional banks.

Monese also offers the convenience of online banking and a mobile app, which makes managing money a lot easier.


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