Simple and Fee Free Ways to Access Your Money While Abroad – Or At Least How We Manage…

We all know how expensive it can be when you’re away travelling. Why not save yourself some pennies (and hassle) by making the way you spend money and withdraw cash abroad a streamlined process.

We should note that we’ve been in Portugal for over 6 months now and haven’t had to open a Portuguese bank account. We will in the future of course, but for now the process is a little more effort than we’d like to dedicate to it.

Our solution so far has been app based online banks. Our main experience has been of Starling Bank based in the UK. We do also have a Monzo and TransferWise account but today I’m going to chat about Starling.

The main reason that we started with Starling Bank was the simplicity of setting up a free EURO account alongside our British current account. The EURO account gives you a unique IBAN (needed for EURO transfers and payments) and can be accessed from the same card you use for your British account.

In a Nutshell

  • The Euro account is a free addition to our British current account
  • Instant money transfers 24/7 (even on the weekends) between our GBP account and EUR account
  • Low conversion fee of 0.4% and you get the best market exchange rate
  • Only one card needed for both GBP purchases and EUR purchases

Exchange Rate and Fee

Before we transfer money from our GBP account to our EUR account, you always see the exchange rate and the 0.4% fee. If it’s the weekend, you have the option to wait until Monday if you don’t think the rate isn’t very good. We’ve found that there isn’t much in the transfer fee between Starling Bank and TransferWise. Generally TransferWise is slightly lower but the currency exchange can take up to a day to process whereas Starling is instantaneous.

Sending and Receiving Money in Euros

We use Starling to pay our monthly costs; rent, gym direct debit and phone bill – all of which are of course in Euros. Like Monzo, sending money between other Starling customers is seamless when you have the contact in your phone.

Withdrawing Cash

With our Euro account, we withdraw money at cash machines here in Portugal fee free (make sure you don’t use a machine that has a separate charge to use – not the same as a currency exchange fee). Withdrawing in Euros means no currency exchange fee so no need to sift through the receipt to see if you got a good rate!

One Card Wonder

Starling allows you to use the same card for GBP and EUR transactions. You just have to enable a setting in you app to allow Euro purchases to come from initially from your Euro account. If you don’t have enough in the Euro account, it just debits from your GBP account to cover the shortfall – if this happens then you get the exchange rate at the time of purchase.

Cons: App Layout is Confusing

As the app has been built from the ground up, it feels as if they are still playing around with the best layout for the app. Currently, the app is a bit confusing especially as you switch between your accounts (I have 4 accounts; Business, Joint, GBP and EUR). Also, finding the area where it details all your recent transactions is a bit hard to find – honestly I get forget every-time!

Overall, we’ve been pleased with Starling Bank (other than it’s slightly confusing app layout) as it allows us to access our money in the UK and exchange into Euros easily and withdraw cash with no fees or dodgy exchange rate. I know lots of Expats in Portugal also use Revolut which seems to offer a similar service to Starling and TransferWise.

If you are thinking about setting up a Starling Bank account, use our referral code and they’ll plant a tree on your behalf. Not the most exciting referral reward but a simple idea!

Referral link:

Any questions leave a comment below or get in touch via social media 🙂

Até breve!

Published by alysgtd

I'm Alys :)

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