Being a digital nomad comes at a cost. And no, I’m not talking about a theoretical, psychological cost, but about a very earthy one: a financial cost. In order to move freely from one place to another, to function in different cultures and setups, you need, simply put, money.
But even more than that, you need frictionless money, or money that will be readily available every time you need it. Cash will do it, to a certain extent, if you can afford to travel with a lot of cash on you – which, these days, you can’t really do – but even better than cash it’s a debit card that works everywhere, has a bank account attached that works everywhere, and, ideally, has some degree of crypto currency “friendliness”.
Introducing the so-called smart debit cards.
These are debit cards that come with a lot more services attached than just the ability to do online or offline transactions. In a sense, they are “debit cards on steroids”, but some of them are becoming products of their own kind, “inventing” their own niche.
As a digital nomad, I rely on them for my finances so I thought it would be interesting to share my experience with 3 of them: Revolut, TransferWise and Wirex.
Revolut is probably one of the oldest smart debit cards around. I remember people talking about it 2-3 years ago, but I only really got into it just a year ago.
Revolut “works” through a mobile app which is extremely neat and polished. The range of Revolut products, which, at the core, are just debit cards, is quite large, meaning there isn’t just one type of Revolut card. Some of these variations are really fancy, like the metal one: a debit card made out of solid metal, with a smart chip and a lot of extra services added.
And this the “secret sauce” of Revolut: the plethora of services attached to the debit card. Let’s see some:
- International health insurance (available only on Premium) – gives you a quite comprehensive health insurance for a good price
- Concierge – or access to concert tickets or other goodies (available only on Metal)
- Round up saving “vaults” – a service which round up your expenses and add the differences to a “vault”, which is just another account where you can store money – a neat way to incentivize you to save
- Buying and selling cryptocurrencies – you can buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin a lot of other cryptos, you can also sell them, but it’s worth noting that you can’t withdraw crypto in other wallets
- Attached IBAN accounts for a variety of currencies, which means you can get paid from many sources / countries via bank transfers and then have your money readily available in one card
- And many, many more that I leave up to you to discover
All in All, Revolut is a very good choice if you need to move a lot and get income from various sources. The only major drawback is the crypto currency limitation, but there are other options on the market for that (see below).
Revolut has also referral program, that you can check out here.
TransferWise started as a money transfer service, and then evolved into a more sophisticated product. Right now, their service called “Borderless account” comes with an attached debit card, which, to my surprise, proved to be very versatile and easy to use.
And since we’re speaking about user friendliness, I think this is the main advantage of TransferWise. They do provide UK and EU IBAN accounts, just like Revolut, but their strong point is really how easy is to use the app. Because, of course, they also rely on the app to keep you connected with the money on your card.
TransferWise doesn’t come with services on top the financial part, but their financial part is really exhaustive. If you use TransferWise just for moving money around, you’ll be surprised how many options you have for it. You can top up your card, or your Borderless account with debit cards, credit cards, bank transfers and a suite of money transfer services completely integrated into their infrastructure.
If you need a hybrid card / bank account product, then TransferWise does its job perfectly, without too many bells and whistles, but in a very reliable way.
Like Revolut, they also have a referral program, that you can check out here.
Wirex is one of the earliest players in the “crypto to fiat bridges” area. After a rather bumpy start, they are now on a steady trend and their services are running well.
At its core, Wirex is a cryptocurrency wallet, for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin (and a few other, they are adding tokens very fast) which allows you to exchange them for fiat. And, obviously, you can also buy crypto with fiat that you have there.
It does only this thing, but it’s doing it reliably. There are also daily limits to what you can purchase, but I find this to be a normal check and balance. It’s so easy for people to get caught by the FOMO wave.
Although Wirex has a cashback program – meaning that every time you use their card with fiat, you get some cash back in crypto – their fees are relatively high. Nevertheless, if you have some holdings in crypto, you will soon find Wirex an indispensable tool.
And yes, they also have a referral program, check it out here.
So, Which Is Which?
I don’t think I got a definitive winner by now, and I don’t think there should be any, for what matters. Each product / card is designed for a specific set of needs.
If you want to be paid quick and hassle free, then Revolut is your friend.
If you do send money abroad yourself quite often, then TrsnsferWise is unbeatable.
And if you’re into crypto, then Wirex is the choice.