How recent PayPal alternatives areĀ better

By Marius Andreiana

I have been working in technology for many years both as a supplier and as a beneficiary of B2B services. Due to lack of alternatives and world-wide customers, I had to rely on PayPal.

For too long, PayPal took hefty transaction fees from my work:

  • 2.9% + 30¢ on every payment, PLUS
  • 1% cross-border transaction fee, PLUS
  • poor currency exchange rates (forced, as they don’t allow sending USD to a European bank)

While I do appreciate having been able to accept payments online via PayPal, I am happy that better alternatives exist now.

Digital banks are emerging from Europe. Revolut, Monzo, N26, Monese, Starling are top of the list. What is their advantage on PayPal?

I’ll focus on Revolut, based on personal experience, but all these alternatives are offering similar benefits. I’m not affiliated with any bank, just a happy customer.

There are zero fees for

  • transferring money to a Revolut account from credit/debit cards (“top up”)
  • getting paid (from anywhere in the world), via Revolut balance OR credit card. Cards issued outside the European Economic Area incur a fee, ~2%.
  • withdrawing cash from an ATM using the Revolut card, up to £200 per rolling month
  • exchanging currencies during work hours (interbank exchange rate)
  • paying with a Revolut card, physical or virtual

With Revolut, you’ll also get a physical card, virtual cards and an IBAN for each currency account.

Sounds too good to be true? Try it.

But there’s one more thing. Revolut can teleport cash. For free in Europe, and a ~2% fee from USA (quantum physics has limits, mostly entangled to commercial interests). I assigned the notion of “teleport cash” to the following flow:

  • a Revolut customer, Bob, issues a payment request of say €100.
  • current interface requires to create a new contact (if not existing), say, Alice, which doesn’t use Revolut. Enter her email address.
  • send the payment request.
  • Alice gets a link which opens a form. She enters her card details.
  • In a few seconds, Bob gets €100 in his Revolut account.
  • Bob, who usually pays everything by card, goes to a local ATM and withdraws €100 using his Revolut card.

Fees: NONE. Experience: seamless.

Digital banks such as Revolut are a way better alternative to traditional banks. Most banks mark up currency exchange rates. Some banks in Europe still charge fees when processing transfers, or for the use of internet banking. Maybe traditional banks will learn to cut immediate profits, and start offering 21st century services too.

If Revolut is listening, here’s what they could do even better:

  • have a web app too, not just mobile
  • let customers create a permanent payment link, similar to PayPal.Me. This will allow individuals & organizations to take donations online, commission-free.
  • when requesting money, have a “recurring” option. This will make it better than GoCardless, which charges a 1% fee.
  • enable the API on all accounts, including free, not just business. Let developers build anything for all Revolut customers!
  • side note: please drop the “open API” wording. An API cannot be used if it’s not accessible. By definition, the API is “open”. Unless you restrict it to business accounts.
  • implement a Direct Debit equivalent. I’d choose to pay directly via Revolut in Uber and other apps (with some default limits), rather than using the Revolut card. Instead of storing my card, apps will connect to my Revolut account, similar to authorized apps on Google/GitHub. Simpler for me than entering a card number. Plus, I can revoke access anytime. Companies will also save on credit card fees, which they might partially pass to customers.
  • Have a WeChat Pay integration, as WeChat expands in Europe.

As with all other banks, Revolut still has an important drawback: in order for money to roll in, one still has to work. I solve business problems.