The last time I used bank card abroad was August 2014 in Munich. It sucked.
I’d woken up that morning with hope in my heart and fear in my liver. It was my penultimate day in Munich - Bits and Pretzels was wrapping up and the organising team were hosting a kickass party. In a tent. At Oktoberfest. I showered, got dressed and walked solemnly down to the dining area for breakfast. There were sausages, there were scrambled eggs and there was cereal. I wasn’t spoilt for choice so I ate all of it. Everything.
I took the subway with other members of our team to the Oktoberfest site early. We finally got to the Oktoberfest site and I walked to the ATM by the entrance. To save myself visits later in the day I withdrew €50 and told myself “that should be enough”. Fast forward a little and I’m out of my €50 (and the €20 I had remaining from the day before). I stumbled out of the tent with at least 6 litres of beer in me. I began walking in the direction of the ATM from that morning. I saw a horse on the way.
I stopped talking to the horse at some point and continued towards the ATM. I queued for what felt like an eternity and finally made it to the dim, tiny screen. That hope I had from the morning is reignited. My heart began racing.
I punched in my pin.
I punched in my pin.
I punched in my pin correctly.
I then attempted to withdraw an additional €50 but my heart sank to the sight I saw next.
So yeah, I do have a hazy recollection of dejectedly asking Lloyds’ customer support “why are you doing this to me?” with the sounds of Oktoberfest roaring behind me. I was informed my card had been blocked due to suspicious activity and so I decided to call it a day. I returned to the tent defeated and told my boss I was too tired to continue ‘networking’ and left back to the hotel with another member of our team. I shouldn’t have this memory and I blame Lloyds for it. The moral of this story is if you’re going to Oktoberfest, don’t bank with Lloyds.
I’ve been using Mondo almost exclusively in the UK, and thought why not just use Mondo abroad and then report back to you lovely folk - the worst-case scenario was that I’d spend an extra £2-3 here or there using my Lloyds card if a transaction didn’t go through. Lloyds charge 3% of the local currency and £2-4 on top of that for withdrawal at ATMs. Then when you factor in potential ATM-specific fees it seems a bit ludicrous to even consider using using a debit card abroad.
Using Mondo alleviated a hell of a lot of headache. I never had to withdraw cash at any point (although I was tempted - Iceland has some hilarious looking banknotes). Transactions went through without a hitch and showed up promptly on the app. While I did keep a daily tab on my balance, Iceland is a pretty expensive place and I didn’t always do the maths - my card was declined twice for having £1-2 less than the required amount. Thankfully converting to ISK from GBP in your head isn’t too bad, but I’d imagine for other currencies it’d be far better to be able to toggle your balance between the native currency and GBP. I did see that transactions did display Krona spent alongside GBP so perhaps displaying the currencies together in a similar format could work?
Design-wise it seems clear that you don’t want users to worry too much about a settings area of any sort, but when Mondo becomes a bank-bank there’ll be a tonne of stuff to view/change, right? What might be nice to throw into a settings area could be something along the lines of “Travelling with Mondo?” - which would then ask the user for their location (whilst using the app only). I do understand that to the average user a banking app requesting your location could seem a little unorthodox, but I’m sure it beats calling a bank and telling them you’re going abroad? What are others’ thoughts on this?