European countries don’t have the same nice credit cards offers the US has. Still, there are some good deals to find even in Europe.
Below is the list of all cards I’ve been using, with their advantages and disadvantages.
A local credit card with cashback points
A few years back I realized it’s better for me to pay for everything with my credit card, instead of my debit one.
At first, I used it only for paying for electronics in instalments with 0% interest rate. My logic was why would I pay a large sum at once when I can do it in smaller amounts over the next 6 to 12 months? Of course, this escalated quickly and at some point, one-third of my paycheck was going on instalments for various things I bought online. But kept under control, this was a good way to free up money that I could put it to better use.
The best thing I liked about my credit card was the cashback points. I would get from 0.2% to 5% cashback every time I purchased something with my credit card. To date, I received around 300 EUR cashback from the card payments. Given that I only pay for it an annual commission of less than 5 EUR, this was a good deal for me.
I also never ran late with my payments, and my credit card limit is less than my paycheck, so I can cover it easily at the end of the month and not pay that ugly 20% annual interest rate the card has when you keep your credit for more than 1 month.
A local debit card with access to airport business lounges
I have a Mastercard Gold debit card because 6 years ago my bank representative wouldn’t stop calling me explaining why I should have that card and how I could get all sorts of advantages and great discounts at expensive stores I never use. After the 5th or 6th call, I eventually caved in and asked him to give me that card and leave me alone.
For the almost 20 EUR I pay annually for that card, the only benefit I’m using from that guy’s list is that I have unlimited free withdrawals from any ATM in the country. So, if an ATM has a queue, I can jump to the next one from a different bank and I don’t pay any fee. I’m currently using less than 50 EUR cash per month, so this is not really a benefit for me.
The benefit I actually use and enjoy is the free access to the airport business lounge for me and my partner. Instead of waiting for an hour in the crowded airport waiting room, I’m having free booze, snacks and coffee at the lounge. Sometimes we (my fiancee and I) even arrive at the airport a bit earlier, to get in the vacation mood sooner. On average, I fly from home around 5 times a year, so these little pitstops before flying make up for the 20 EUR annual fee I’m paying for the card.
Bunq – the bank of the free
Bunq is a Dutch digital-only bank that lets anyone from the European Economic Area (EEA) to open an account. They have the ugliest possible website and a pretty good mobile application.
I’ve started to use it because I wanted to open an account on Degiro, and those guys wouldn’t let me use my bank account from Romania or my Revolut account. Bunq is a real bank, and also Dutch like Degiro, I thought they’ll be a good fit. And they were. Degiro finally let me open an account with them by using my Bunq account.
I’m only using the free layer of Bunq, which only provides me with a EUR IBAN account and the ability to receive payments through a link. unfortunately, they disabled the free option for new customers in 2019, so you can only choose the paid option now.
For the paid version (8 EUR per month), they have some cool features
- Apple pay and Android pay
- 3 Maestro or Mastercard cards
- 10 free global ATM cash withdrawals per month
- International non-euro card payments and cash withdrawals with no fee (they’re using Transferwise to get better currency conversion rates than typical banks offer)
- A cool API that lets you build reports or make payments from 3rd party applications
- automatic saving
- earning interest on your funds (only 0.27% but still better than lots of banks)
This might actually be a good card to use when travelling abroad. I could top up my account with EUR, and then use the card to pay or withdraw money with no fees and at a good exchange rate.
Unlike Revolut, these guys are a proper bank, so your funds (up to 100.000 EUR) are protected by the Deposit Guarantee Scheme of the Dutch National Bank.
If you want to open an account with Bunq, use my referral link and get a 10 EUR bonus.
I’ve started to use Revolut more than 2 years ago and so far, it’s been a lifesaver for me. I never realized how much money I was losing when spending abroad until I met Revolut.
The things I liked most and made me open an account with them are here.
Cheap currency exchange rate
I get better rates when exchanging money on Revolut than with any other account I have. The difference is about 1% of what I was getting from my normal bank account. Even during weekends, when Revolut adds a 0.5% fee to currency transactions, the rate is still better than the one I had from my bank.
I’m using the exchange rate a lot converting my paycheck funds into EUR, USD, GBP, and moving them to investment accounts. I’ve also used it during my 6 months travel around the world, and it’s been a lifesaver.
Free ATM withdrawals in 24 currencies
I don’t know the exact numbers, but I suspect I lose around 2% of my funds when I withdraw money or even pay with my normal card in some exotic currency. Whatever I’m withdrawing is converted to EUR first and then from EUR to RON, my account currency.
I don’t use cash too much, but I had the chance to use this feature a few times during my travels. The 400 EUR limit per month (200 EUR for the free subscription) is more than enough to cover any cash needs I have.
Instant money transfer
Admittedly, it’s only instant if you transfer money to other Revolut users. Even so, it’s a lot faster to transfer money from my Revolut account to another bank account that it would be to do the same thing from my bank account. Also, there’s no fee. My bank charges me 15 EUR for every EUR transfer I make. Revolut charges me nothing.
I can set my card to be used only when it’s near my phone. This means if my card gets stolen, nobody can use it. I also needed to disable the feature from time to time, because I couldn’t pay with it due to some bugs.
I’ve set recurring donations to a few NGOs I like and support, and I like Revolut’s no fees policy around donations.
Features I’ve never used:
Budgeting. It’s a great feature, but Revolut is not my main card, so I can’t track all my expenses through Revolut.
Vaults. Vaults are a great way to save money, but Revolut offers no-interest payments on those funds, so I have no reason to keep funds for a long time on Revolut.
Apple Pay. Not an Apple user, so I don’t care about it.
With the premium subscription, I got a few new features I like.
Disposable virtual cards
This is the one feature I love the most on Revolut. These disposable virtual cards can only be used once. Each time you use them, new card details are getting generated, and the old ones don’t work anymore. So, if I’m paying for stuff online, I’m using these disposable cards from now on. It doesn’t matter if my card details get stolen, they’re not valid anymore.
I don’t put too much hope into the rise of cryptocurrencies. I have some small amounts (they were bigger) across the web from 2 years ago, but I don’t want to put any energy and time into actively trading cryptos.
I fiddle with it from time to time and buy small amounts (~10 EUR) of BTC, XRP and ETF on Revolut. They cost around 2% more than what they cost on Coinbase, but that’s fine. Cryptos are volatile enough to cover for the extra 2% I pay.
This is a recent feature, along with gold trading. As a Premium user, I get 8 free trades per month (3 trades for Standard users). Then each trade costs around 1 EUR, still very inexpensive. They have around 250 stocks available from NYSE and Nasdaq to buy/sell, with more to come in the future.
The trading account is rather limited and has only market orders and some price alerts you can set. Still, it’s interesting to have trading under a quick access account.
Transferwise borderless account
The Transferwise borderless account is similar to the Revolut one. It’s one account to rule them all. You can keep 40+ currencies in your account and convert them at real exchange rate fees, which is a lot cheaper than using your bank account.
It used to be a bit cheaper than Revolut, but they added all sorts of small fees when transferring money from your Transferwise account and when converting from one currency to another.
It’s still cheaper than using banks, but it’s not the best deal in town anymore.
You also get account numbers and bank details for EUR, GBP, USD, AUD and NZD currencies.
I’m mainly using it as a backup to my Revolut account, in case something happens to it. It’s been useful in some of my trips where an ATM would ask for a fee when using the Revolut card, but it would let me withdraw money for free with Transferwise.
It also has a Mastercard debit card which lets you withdraw up to 200 EUR funds in any currency with zero fees. That was useful a few times when I needed more than the 400 EUR Revolut lets me withdraw without any fees.
Overall, it’s a good and cheap option for sending and receiving money in different currencies. I’m not using it on a current base, but it’s a good option to have around.
I heard about GlintPay during a crowdfunding campaign they were running on Crowdcube in 2018. They eventually closed the campaign without using the funds raised, but I’ve got interested in them. I’ve opened an account with them and ordered a card.
Now I have a Mastercard where my balance is kept in gold.
I top up my account with either EUR, GBP or USD, and I can convert it to gold with a 0.5% fee. Then, I can use my card and pay or withdraw cash. The same as with any normal card. Paying in other currencies is also done at the real exchange rate, as with Revolut and Transferwise, so this card is also a good option for spending money when travelling.
Safety-wise, the gold is actually kept in some Swiss independent vault, and any cash funds in your account are kept in a bank account separated from Glint.
I’m mainly using my GlintPay account not for payments, but for hoarding gold. In the past 2 years since I’ve had it, my gold funds increased their value with around 20%, so it’s been a good account to keep funds into.
This card is the one card to rule them all. It’s available in most of the European Economic Area and it recently became available in Romania and I ordered it.
It has one app where you can link all the debit and credit cards you have and then it lets you use the Curve card for all the payments and cash withdrawals you want to do. It’s also useful for avoiding currency exchange fees, Curve uses the market rate for the currency exchange plus a 1% fee.
Ordering the card was free, and the subscription I have is also free. With my free subscription I have these cool features:
- withdrawing for free the equivalent of 200 GBP per month from the ATM
- I can link all my cards to Curve, and pay everywhere with a single card; this way, I can track all my spending during the month without any additional tracking app or manual data entry
- I can reverse a transaction if it was paid from the wrong card and charge it to a different card
- I get 1% cashback when I shop at 3 retailers of my choice (I’ve already chosen them); If I had the paid subscription, I could have chosen 6 retailers
This last feature is the one I like the most. I can use Revolut and Transferwise when I travel abroad, but I don’t need them at home. Instead, Curve is a useful card as well. I get 1% cashback on my shopping (in addition to whatever cashback I get from the original underlying card).
The best thing about Curve? I don’t have to quit using Revolut, or Transferwise, or my normal credit card in order to use Curve. I get to use all of them.
They have a spending limit of around 10,000 GBP per year, which I reached in the first 6 months. I kindly asked them to increase my limit, and after asking me to go through a KYC process, they upgraded my limit to 50,000 GBP per year.
If you want to try Curve, you can use my referral link and get a 5 GBP bonus when you activate it.
Paysend global account
This is my latest addition to my collection of cards. It has similar features Revolut, Transferwise and Curve have: free ATM withdrawals, cheap currency exchanges, fast transfers.
The one thing I got it though, is their “pay later” feature. I can book my travels (not now during the Covid-19 outbreak), and then choose to pay in 14 days. I can rotate those funds and use them for something else for a while. The limit for pay later is only 200 EUR, and I can use it only on Amazon, Airbnb, Booking.com and some other retailers I’m not interested in, but it’s a nice feature to use.
You can check out Paysend global here and see if you’re interested in it.
I haven’t used this one too much, but it’s free tier has some good features:
- free ATM withdrawals up to 200 EUR per month
- free 2000 EUR spending limit per month
- free transfers to other Monese accounts
- a contactless debit card
I can only use this card for travel, as for any other features I have better options with zero fees to use (Curve, Paysend, Revolut, Transferwise).
I only know one person from work that uses Monese, and I’m not planning to transfer him any money soon, and for any transfer outside of Monese, I’d need to pay a 2% fee, which is a complete turnoff for me.
However, the 200 EUR free ATM withdrawals per month might prove useful in the future.
If you’re interested in Monese, you can check it out here.
I’m only keeping this if I ever want to sell my failed crypto investments. It did cost 5 EUR to get it, but it lets me withdraw 200 EUR per month with no fees and I have an annual limit of 10,000 EUR, a lot more than my current crypto account.
If you don’t have this card yet, or you think it’s the right time to get into crypto, you could try Coinbase.
These are all the cards I’ve been using, and they’re all great in some way. My favourites are Curve, for daily spending (most of the times linked to my credit card) and Revolut, for p2p investments, real-estate crowdfunding, and some other investing platforms. I use Bunq only as a gateway to my Degiro account, moving funds in and out. All the other cards I only use for travelling, and only if I reached the free limits for Curve and Revolut.