With Mastercard, Revolut aims for US market

Digital banking and stock trading app Revolut, which boasts 8 million customers, is in the midst of a global expansion effort.

The U.K.-based company, which operates in Europe and Australia, announced two major milestones this week: a tie-up with Mastercard that will help fuel a planned U.S. rollout, and a launch in Singapore.

The company’s U.S. app is currently in beta. CEO Nik Storonsky said in a recent interview that Revolut will focus on offering value to U.S. customers, particularly as large banks charge monthly maintenance and other service fees. The agreement will allow Revolut to issue cards in the U.S. in partnership with Mastercard. It also will ensure Revolut cards will be accepted in the more than 200 countries where Mastercard operates.

Revolut, which will partner with a U.S.-licensed bank, is part of a wave of European challenger banks that want to reach the U.S. market, including N26 and Monzo. Revolut was unavailable for comment by press time, but observers note that like all emerging banking brands in the U.S., the challenge will be to build trust among customers in a crowded market of offerings.

Revolut offers products on a tiered subscription basis, including a free account, a premium account that costs $9.99 per month and a metal-level subscription that costs $14.99 per month. The paid products include such benefits as no monthly limits to foreign exchange transactions for 30 fiat currencies; higher limits on fee-free ATM transactions; global express delivery for cards; disposable virtual cards; and airport lounge access.

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According to Alyson Clarke, principal analyst at Forrester Research, Revolut’s biggest value proposition to U.S. consumers will likely be the competitive exchange rates, given that other fintech companies on the market offer digital personal-finance tools, fee-free stock trading and other features that may be considered table stakes in the marketplace. It’s unclear whether the bundle of features will prove sufficiently compelling for U.S. users, she observed.

When you’re in Europe or the U.K., the [foreign exchange offering] makes sense, but here in the U.S., people don’t travel as much, so the currency problem is not a bigger challenge for consumers, and for those who travel, they’re likely to get American Express Platinum or Chase Sapphire that give you points and rewards,” said Clarke.

Though Revolut hasn’t commented on its U.S. brand strategy, its approach to building its name in other markets may offer some clues. In July, The Telegraph reported that the startup was tapping influencers to promote Revolut cards on social media. Meanwhile, Revolut’s U.S. site links to sections entitled “affiliates” and “influencers,” both of which mention rewards for brand ambassadors who promote the company’s products on social media, blogs or comparison sites.

For example, for influencers, the site claims they will earn money from every referral, gain access to “exclusive events,” and get a year’s Revolut Premium subscription free of charge. The site also references “Rev Rallies,” or networking events for customers and Revolut team members, a strategy the company has implemented in Europe.

The success of Revolut’s go-to-market strategy will depend on how it can differentiate in a saturated market of digital-only banking options, noted 11:FS head of research Sarah Kocianski. “Revolut’s biggest challenge will be they don’t have a unique selling point in the US. Free stock trading is increasingly widespread, the digital-only challengers are offering free withdrawals and overseas spending,” she said, in an email to Bank Innovation. “Unlike the U.K., when they launched, there is no low-hanging fruit to pick. Digital-only challengers such as Chime have relatively large numbers of customers.”

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