Borderless banking: British travellers look for post-Brexit solution for commission charges and extortionate exchange rates

A new style of bank account may be about to revolutionise the way we spend money overseas. And it's all thanks to Brexit

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The Independent Online

Right about now, as the school holidays weigh heavy with promise just over the page of the calendar, currency suddenly jumps a few hundred places up the list of financial must-dos. 

And while many of us will still get stung by extortionate exchange rates and commission charges at the departure lounge bureau de change, the clever money turns to alternatives like preloaded currency cards or bank accounts registered overseas in another currency in a bid to max out spending power while away.

But against the ever-present Brexit backdrop, so-called disruptors are shaking up the way we manage our money as traditional ‘one country, one currency’ bank accounts are increasingly accused of failing to keep up with the needs of today’s tourists, professionals and expats. 

Big, multinational business has always had the need and resource to make sure they get the very best deals and facilities to deal in multiple currencies - a feature the rest of us little people could only ever dream of as we line up to be told today's painful "tourist rate" on our pounds, euros and dollars. 

Now, the vote to leave the EU has served to the supercharge the speed with which international banking is being brought to the British masses. 

This summer's banking buzzword is without doubt 'borderless'. 

But will it really help secure you a decent deal? 

Last month, TransferWise, one of the fastest growing currency dealers set out its pitch for international banking in a major break from established forex services that had already seen it take significant market share from the big banks and dealers. 

Plans to controversially leave the U.K. because of Brexit haven't stopped TransferWise launching a new borderless account designed to give account holders the ability to manage their money in multiple currencies within one account without being charged foreign exchange (FX) fees. 

Unfortunately it is so far set up for business use. The consumer version won't be available until later in the year.

Then there’s the deal on offer from brand new challenger bank Ipagoo, which lets customers set multiple countries as ‘home’. That means they can effectively hold the same account in multiple countries as if they were a resident of that country in return for a £5 monthly fee.

Further product launches are expected in the near future, despite one of the leading providers, Travelex, announcing plans to close its market leading currency ‘Supercard’ service next month, blaming high costs. 

Still, some, like Shachar Bialick, CEO of new banking app Curve, are bullish on the somewhat unexpected innovation Brexit has inspired. 

“It has without doubt been triggered or sped up by Brexit,” he says. “And whether you’re happy about Brexit or not, borderless banking is a positive trend for consumers. The ability to spend and save your money safely, without being charged extortionate fees, should be the bare minimum for Brits and Europeans.”

“The way we do our banking is changing. New disruptors have done a great job of highlighting specific consumer challenges - like huge bank fees on spending abroad - and offering a better alternative. Not only are people travelling more, but Brexit has created a wave of uncertainty for many UK residents with ties to continental Europe - they need to know they can access affordable banking services, whether they are in the UK, Europe or beyond. Enter ‘borderless banking’.”

Brexit has brought plenty of uncertainty - particularly for the banking and financial technology sector in London, which relies on attracting and nurturing talent from around the world. But that doesn’t seem to have dented his confidence that the UK and its capital will continue to drive much needed evolution in the world of consumer banking.

“It’s no secret the high street banks have struggled to keep up with the way we live our lives now," Bialick adds. "The way people manage their money should be simple, secure, mobile - and indeed, borderless and free from hidden fees. 

"These new banks may struggle to win over customers en masse, but they are challenging the status quo and raising the bar on customer experience - and that can only be a good thing.”

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