Monzo – the bank of the future – a review
It seems almost everyone is on the Monzo hype at the moment, even Martin Lewis has jumped on the band wagon. So when we heard Monzo were coming to town last week, we were keen to go along and find out more about what they are getting up to! We learnt how they are shaking up the user experience of banking, guided by their 3 pillars of UX, innovative tech and customer service. They went on to explain that they are no longer focussing on their early adapters and trying to reach out to the wider community.
Rather than an ‘Early Adopter’ of Monzo, I see myself as part of the ‘Early Majority’ and after hearing great things about Monzo, I was keen to start using it. In this article I aim to review how Monzo is different to old school banking. I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses it has, based on my experience using it.
What is it?
Monzo is an app based bank, which operates from your smartphone. It is one of the first solely digital UK banks that puts the customer in charge. It’s totally different from traditional banking apps as Monzo allows you to easily track your purchases both within the app and via spending notifications, create budgets, add receipts to purchases and freeze your card temporarily if you misplace it.
1. Ease of use
One of the key benefits of Monzo is that the app is really easy to use and navigate. The homepage lists all transactions by day, including information such as, the purchase amount, the place where it was spent and the company logo, meaning no more awkward card statements with unfamiliar names on! The balance is clearly shown in the header and separated into ‘Card balance’ and ‘Spent today’, making it easy to keep track on your spending.
They pay a lot of design attention to the icons within the app. And they also include labels (for example in the bottom nav bar shown in Figure 1) to explain what each section contains. This makes it easier to navigate the app and quickly find the information you are looking for.
Each transaction can be reviewed in more detail by clicking on it (See figure 1). So if you don’t recognise a transaction or can’t remember what you bought, you can find out. Unlike traditional banks, each transaction has the exact address of where you purchased the item and a map for remind you. There is also the option to add a note or receipt and change the category it has been assigned to, to help you quickly and easily recognise your transactions and budgets.
2. Clear and intelligent budgeting
This month I have found myself looking back at my spending a lot more. This is thanks to the ‘Spending’ tab which groups your transactions into categories [e.g. shopping, groceries, holidays and eating out] helping you to see what you’re spending the most on and what to potentially cut down on next month. You can also set yourself targets, including an overall monthly target and individual category targets. (see figure 2) These are particularly useful as they act as a reminder that you are getting close to your pre-set budgets, making you think twice about that overpriced lunch or those extra shoes for Saturday night, in turn preventing overspending on impulse purchases which you may not be aware of when using traditional banks.
3. Instant spending notifications
As soon as you pay for something with your Monzo card, you get a notification to tell you where you purchased from and how much you spent. This is instant and often received even before the cashier puts a receipt into your hand! No more worries about available, pending and actual balances as the money is taken out immediately and the ‘Card balance’ and ‘Spent today’ balances are adjusted automatically.
As well as instant spending notifications, the app also notifies you when you are close to reaching your preselected targets (See figure 3). However, although this acts as a reminder and makes you aware that you may exceed your target, it does not tell you how close to your target you are, instead requiring to look within the app.
There are some neat security functions on the app which help users in common situations like misplacing your card or forgetting your PIN that other banks make difficult. Firstly, the freeze card option allows you to block the card, without the hassle of having to ring a call centre! This is good for cases where your card has been lost or stolen. Additionally, if you lose your card and freeze it, but then find it down the back of the sofa, you can just unfreeze the card and carry on using it. When tapping the freeze button, the option to ‘Order a replacement card’ appears, so you can do it instantly without needing to speak to someone over the phone or complete a long form. (See figure 4)
If you forget your pin you can use the ‘PIN’ option which just requires your fingerprint to reveal it on the app. This means no more lengthy ‘forgotten password’ or verification flows to have to go through to begin using the card again.
Whilst using Monzo, as well as experiencing some great design, I have also come across some limitations and concerns along the way. In their talk, Monzo told us that “approx 9% of customers who called in the last 90 days were in trouble and needed an alternative way to contact Monzo” rather than on the app. As a customer within the ‘Early Majority’ this is something that resonates with me, and has led to me have some security doubts about Monzo.
1. Security doubts
Despite the security benefits I outlined, there are still some security concerns around the Monzo card, and the fact that your banking is solely controlled by your mobile phone. For example, if you lose your phone you have no control over your finances or understand how much is on the card. Worse than that, if you lose your phone and card at the same time, there is a worry that someone could breach your phone security and wipe your Monzo account, resulting in you having no control over it. There are settings to use touch ID for unlocking the app and for payments which may increase the security of the app if enabled, however the user has to go looking for these settings rather than being given them as an option. Monzo will help on the phone but the customer service number to contact Monzo in an emergency is hidden away within ‘help > features > what happens if I lose my phone?’ so it’s not obvious to a casual user who hasn’t explored the FAQs.
2. Service design: Initial top-up amount
In order to receive your card and start using it, you must deposit £100 on to the card. However, the app does not explain when the money will be taken from your account, whether you can withdraw any of it or why you must start with £100 rather than any other amount.
3. Service design: missing out on other bank benefits
If using Monzo as your only card, this means you miss out on other bank benefits and discounts for being with a particular branch. For example, Halifax offer cashback extras for certain shops and restaurants each month. By using Monzo instead of my Halifax reward account, I lose out on claiming 10% off my favourite shops and restaurants and as part of the ‘Early Majority’ this is something that really stands out as a weakness of the app.
Take home message
Despite some weaknesses of Monzo, the Monzo banking app has a great UX design that allows the user to feel much more in control of spending. From my experience, it has certainly helped me to budget better and I especially found the ability to reveal my PIN useful. Although there are lots of strengths around why it may be better than traditional banks, there are still areas for it to improve in order for it to meet with the wider populations’ banking expectations. However, it was great to hear Monzo’s positive attitude towards the overall customer experience and that they are getting more engaged with UX as the move forward from the ‘Early Adopters’ to a wider population of customers.