ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

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ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by Bylo Selhi » 04 May 2015 08:40

There have been many posts by people who want to do FX conversion easily and inexpensively, who want access to FX when they travel, who want to send FX to family/friends overseas, etc. There's a new "bank" in town that claims to address these needs. It was started by Arkadi Kuhlmann, who was also instrumental in starting ING Direct in CA and US, in collaboration with DUCA, an ON credit union.

I thought it would be useful to post info here and now even though I have no direct experience with ZenBanx (yet.) They seem to have a unique idea that addresses many of the needs FWFers have expressed in the past. Even their CA$ HISA at 1.5% interest and US$ at 0.5% are competitive.

ZenBanx - the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies
• Multiple currencies, one account
• Send money to family & friends anywhere cheaper
• Your money is secure
• Mobile banking re-imagined
• Your life is social, and so is ZenBanx
• Access your money at any ATM
I'm a bit concerned about all the stuff they require to open an account, "Your Name, Home Address, Date of Birth, Social Insurance Number (SIN), E-mail Address, Cell #, Country of Citizenship, Employment Info, Your valid driver's license or passport, A cheque or deposit account statement, and a selfie!" but I suppose this is the way the world is going.

Comments? Anyone ready to jump on the bandwagon?
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by apater » 04 May 2015 08:50

They are marketing to me, but how much will they charge me for the privilege?

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by queerasmoi » 05 May 2015 00:28

I joined and made a small deposit just to see what the inside looks like. As far as I can tell, with a Canadian account there is no way to add my own external money to the account in any currency other than CAD, and no way to pull it out in any other currency either. So I really don't see the point... and I haven't done a single thing with it other than log in since I set it up a few months back.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by Bylo Selhi » 05 May 2015 07:45

queerasmoi wrote:So I really don't see the point...
Presumably this is a mechanism to use to pay in foreign currency like USD, EUR, GBP while travelling.

I can't get a straight answer from them about costs. I appreciate they have to make money somehow. But if they charge the same 2.5% vig as credit cards then they're of no benefit to me. I asked them about cost of FX and got this reply, "The FX conversion is at Wholesale Inter-Bank Market Rates which vary by currency with a margin. We don't publish our margin but you can easily determine them by looking at the Reuters rate and comparing it to ours."

So they have a margin but they don't want to reveal it explicitly. And what's "the Reuters rate"?
As far as I can tell, with a Canadian account there is no way to add my own external money to the account in any currency other than CAD
When I asked about that, "We are working on the ability to deposit funds from different currencies and we can anticipate the feature at some point in the future."
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by pmj » 05 May 2015 09:22

Bylo Selhi wrote:So they have a margin but they don't want to reveal it explicitly.
.. And is the margin fixed (but maybe different for different currencies) or variable depending on the size of the transaction?

There are so many more opportunities to move funds internationally now, as compared to a few years back, that lack-of-transparency on costs could easily work against them.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by queerasmoi » 05 May 2015 09:37

Bylo Selhi wrote: Presumably this is a mechanism to use to pay in foreign currency like USD, EUR, GBP while travelling.
As far as I can tell, the debit card still charges in Canadian dollars wherever you go.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by IdOp » 05 May 2015 12:45

I was also wondering what having no fee to exchange currencies really meant. So there's a margin. Sounds like a levy that's not a tax.

Another question is if you get access to IBAN for transfers. Instead of wire transfers.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by queerasmoi » 05 May 2015 14:03

IdOp wrote:I was also wondering what having no fee to exchange currencies really meant. So there's a margin. Sounds like a levy that's not a tax.

Another question is if you get access to IBAN for transfers. Instead of wire transfers.
As I said: As far as I can tell there is NO way for a Canadian account to bring their own foreign currency in or out of the account without changing to CAD, not wire transfers, not ACH, not IBAN, nada. I can send USD to American ZenBanx users for a $0.95 fee and they can take the money home to their bank though. Correct me if I'm wrong, I just don't see it being useful for anything at all right now. I can convert money to various currencies but then I am completely unable to do anything with those currencies unless I either pay a fee to send it to someone or convert it back to CAD.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by CA (can't add) » 05 May 2015 15:13

They are still working through some start up issues. I needed to transfer some funds to Germany. The recipient was not able to get access to the money.

Only after inquiring of Zenbanx, did they reply that they were not registered with the German banking system. So much for being able to transfer funds anytime and anywhere.

To be fair, they acknowledged the misstep and refunded the money, including the service fee. And, I received a phone call from them when they did get registered in Germany.

And, the $3 fee for withdrawing at an ATM outside of Canadda does not strike me as overly expensive.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by Bylo Selhi » 05 May 2015 16:07

CA (can't add) wrote:And, the $3 fee for withdrawing at an ATM outside of Canadda does not strike me as overly expensive.
Nor me. My concern is the secret FX "margin [which] we don't publish" but which "you can easily determine... by looking at the Reuters rate and comparing it to ours" after you've made your transaction. That's not the way I want to do business with a new, unknown, unproven financial institution.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by leoc2 » 08 Mar 2016 13:05

Bylo Selhi wrote:
CA (can't add) wrote:And, the $3 fee for withdrawing at an ATM outside of Canadda does not strike me as overly expensive.
Nor me. My concern is the secret FX "margin [which] we don't publish" but which "you can easily determine... by looking at the Reuters rate and comparing it to ours" after you've made your transaction. That's not the way I want to do business with a new, unknown, unproven financial institution.
Reviving this thread

Does anyone have any new comments to make about Zenbanx. I have an upcoming trip to Austria in September and I'm wondering if I should consider this option. My current method is to front load my Amazon Visa (no FX gouging fee) card before I travel and then do a cash advance at a visa ATM in the foreign country. No cash advance interest charges because I carry a credit balance on my account. No ATM fee if I use a Visa ATM. I only pay $5 cash advance fee for each cash withdrawal so I make sure it is a hefty one to last the week.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by deaddog » 08 Mar 2016 15:29

leoc2 wrote: My current method is to front load my Amazon Visa (no FX gouging fee) card before I travel and then do a cash advance at a visa ATM in the foreign country. No cash advance interest charges because I carry a credit balance on my account. No ATM fee if I use a Visa ATM. I only pay $5 cash advance fee for each cash withdrawal so I make sure it is a hefty one to last the week.
Does Amazon allow this? RBC would not let me front load my $US visa. The reason was something about their liability if my Visa was lost or stolen.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by leoc2 » 08 Mar 2016 16:52

deaddog wrote:
leoc2 wrote: My current method is to front load my Amazon Visa (no FX gouging fee) card before I travel and then do a cash advance at a visa ATM in the foreign country. No cash advance interest charges because I carry a credit balance on my account. No ATM fee if I use a Visa ATM. I only pay $5 cash advance fee for each cash withdrawal so I make sure it is a hefty one to last the week.
Does Amazon allow this? RBC would not let me front load my $US visa. The reason was something about their liability if my Visa was lost or stolen.
It worked like a charm for us. My wife and I spent a month in Spain/Portugal May 2015.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by adrian2 » 09 Mar 2016 15:10

deaddog wrote:
leoc2 wrote: My current method is to front load my Amazon Visa (no FX gouging fee) card before I travel and then do a cash advance at a visa ATM in the foreign country. No cash advance interest charges because I carry a credit balance on my account. No ATM fee if I use a Visa ATM. I only pay $5 cash advance fee for each cash withdrawal so I make sure it is a hefty one to last the week.
Does Amazon allow this? RBC would not let me front load my $US visa. The reason was something about their liability if my Visa was lost or stolen.
I guess RBC can only stop visa "front load" it it originates from an RBC account. There is no way to stop a bill payment from another bank going into the visa account. As Amazon Chase is strictly a credit account, I'd say it's impossible for them to stop it.

I can confirm it worked in my case, too.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by deaddog » 09 Mar 2016 15:50

adrian2 wrote: I guess RBC can only stop visa "front load" it it originates from an RBC account. There is no way to stop a bill payment from another bank going into the visa account. As Amazon Chase is strictly a credit account, I'd say it's impossible for them to stop it.

I can confirm it worked in my case, too.
Never thought of that. To late now as I have severed my relationship with RBC.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by leoc2 » 13 Mar 2016 21:20

I've opened an account with Zenbanx. The main reason is it allows me to convert CDN to EURO over the next few months when I think the CDN dollar is strong and when I have accumulated some savings for my fall trip. I know this smells of market timing which theoretically never works but I have been lucky in the past. I converted some CDN dollars to Euro yesterday and the exchange rate was 0.5% higher than my Visa Amazon card exchange rate. Good enough for me as I like being able to accumulate Euro's on my schedule over the next few months. What I did notice is that If I did try to exchange the money back from EURO to CDN it would cost me 2%. My guess is this is where Zenbanx has decided to make a decent return. I am guessing that customers sending foreign money to each other would bear the brunt of a Zenbanx markup when converting back to CDN. I on the other hand am going to draw the Euros from my account using the Zenbanx Debit card in Europe and should not need to convert money back to CDN (fingers crossed). If this works out it will also give me a way to accumulate BPND to use when I visit in laws in the UK in future years.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by Davis » 14 Mar 2016 08:26

Leoc2 - thanks for this info. Please report back after your trip and let us know what charges you faced.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by HardWorker » 14 Mar 2016 09:43

Davis wrote:Leoc2 - thanks for this info. Please report back after your trip and let us know what charges you faced.

Yeah I'm curious as well if it's worthwhile. We're planning a trip to the UK and maybe another country in the summer, so this would be nice.

I haven't paid attention to the Amazon credit card. What's the deal with it? They won't charge the 2 - 2.5% conversion fee? And if you overpay on it, you can withdraw the money at a VISA atm for a very small fee? The MBNA mastercard has lost serious luster after the TD buy out, so I'm willing to change over to Amazon VISA.
Last edited by HardWorker on 14 Mar 2016 12:15, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by leoc2 » 14 Mar 2016 11:02

HardWorker wrote:...I haven't paid attention to the Amazon credit card. What's the deal with it? They won't charge the 2 - 2.5% conversion fee? And if you overpay on it, you can withdraw the money at a VISA atm for a very small fee?...
:thumbsup:

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by pmj » 14 Mar 2016 12:22

HardWorker wrote:We're planning a trip to the UK and maybe another country in the summer, so this would be nice. I haven't paid attention to the Amazon credit card. What's the deal with it? They won't charge the 2 - 2.5% conversion fee? And if you overpay on it, you can withdraw the money at a VISA atm for a very small fee?
Correct. Get two accounts - eg self & spouse. Use one for CC purchases, the second for cash advances - so you only need to run the second card at a zero / +ve balance.
Depending how you cover car rental insurance, you may need to use a premium card with "free" rental insurance - and suffer the 2.5% vig - unless you can prepay the rental in C$. Alternatively, car rental is sold in the UK with CDW included - but every time I've checked it out, the basic rate + 2.5% vig has been cheaper.
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by HardWorker » 14 Mar 2016 12:29

leoc2 wrote:
HardWorker wrote:...I haven't paid attention to the Amazon credit card. What's the deal with it? They won't charge the 2 - 2.5% conversion fee? And if you overpay on it, you can withdraw the money at a VISA atm for a very small fee?...
:thumbsup:

Thanks, I just had a few minutes and looked up the info on both cards. Time to ditch the MBNA and get the Amazon VISA.

Question is: What rate does VISA charge on doing the FX conversions? Any difference between them and MasterCard?

BTW, TransferWise is offering slightly better exchange rates. Currently 1 CAD = 0.664 Euro on ZenBanx, and Transferwise is 0.669, so Transferwise is still the best option for transferring larger sums from country to country.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by HardWorker » 14 Mar 2016 12:32

pmj wrote:
HardWorker wrote:We're planning a trip to the UK and maybe another country in the summer, so this would be nice. I haven't paid attention to the Amazon credit card. What's the deal with it? They won't charge the 2 - 2.5% conversion fee? And if you overpay on it, you can withdraw the money at a VISA atm for a very small fee?
Correct. Get two accounts - eg self & spouse. Use one for CC purchases, the second for cash advances - so you only need to run the second card at a zero / +ve balance.
Depending how you cover car rental insurance, you may need to use a premium card with "free" rental insurance - and suffer the 2.5% vig - unless you can prepay the rental in C$. Alternatively, car rental is sold in the UK with CDW included - but every time I've checked it out, the basic rate + 2.5% vig has been cheaper.

Thanks PMJ. Car rental is something I'm looking at as well, but still haven't decided where else to visit besides the UK, and if we should drive vs taking the train.

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by adrian2 » 14 Mar 2016 12:50

HardWorker wrote:Question is: What rate does VISA charge on doing the FX conversions? Any difference between them and MasterCard?
It's kind of hard to compare, as rates fluctuate through the day.

Some are convinced MasterCard rates are better, and claim some numbers to prove it.

In my experience of close to a thousand transactions on the Amazon card in AUD, I'd say is at good as it gets, maybe 15-20 bps from the mid rate (an order of magnitude less than the standard vigorish).
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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by HardWorker » 14 Mar 2016 13:01

adrian2 wrote: It's kind of hard to compare, as rates fluctuate through the day.

Some are convinced MasterCard rates are better, and claim some numbers to prove it.

I was expecting it to be a little hard to find out, but I can't see MC being so much better that you can ignore the +2.5%.

I see no reason at all to keep my MBNA, and when I get home I'll apply for the Amazon card. I buy the bulk of my tools from Amazon anyways, and extra rewards is worth the hassle of switching my all of my preauthorized accounts. Any affiliates offering any deals to sign up through them vs Amazon itself?

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Re: ZenBanx.ca • the mobile bank account for everyone who lives in multiple currencies

Post by leoc2 » 14 Mar 2016 13:04

HardWorker wrote:...Question is: What rate does VISA charge on doing the FX conversions? Any difference between them and MasterCard?
Thanks for the tranferwise info. I'll take a look. As far as Visa this is the website you can use to get the conversion rate. Be sure to put 0 as the bank fee.
https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/t ... ator.html/


Added: At a quick glance TranferWire does not accomplish my goal. Buy foreign currency over the next few months and use the Zenbanx debit card in the foreign country I visit. I use CurrencyFair to send money to family in UK.
Last edited by leoc2 on 14 Mar 2016 13:27, edited 1 time in total.

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