Apple Card, beware. Monzo is bringing its 'bank of the future' to the US

The challenger bank that won hearts and minds in the UK is now heading across the pond.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Monzo is heading west.


Digital bank Monzo has taken the UK by storm, thanks to its app-based, customer-centric tools and brand. And now it's coming to the US. Monzo announced Thursday that it would be setting up shop in Los Angeles this summer, and invited potential customers to sign up on its wait list in order to get their hands on one of its app-linked Mastercard debit cards when they become available.

Monzo arrived on the UK banking scene in 2015 and quickly gained traction with people keen to digitize their money management. In the early days, places on Monzo's wait list were keenly fought over, and its signature neon coral contactless bank cards have since become a common sight at payment points around the country. 

It's just one of a new breed of "challenger banks" -- banks designed to introduce new tools and features that serve digital natives in a way the traditional banking industry hadn't been doing. But it's a competitive market, with rivals at every level. These include other UK financial tech startups such as Revolut and Starling, new services like Apple Card and even established banks, which are starting to step up their game.

Watch this: Apple Card FAQ: What you need to know

But Monzo, now the UK's fastest-growing bank, has particularly resonated with consumers. Today, it boasts over 2 million UK customers and says 40,000 people open an account with the company every week.

One possible reason could be that a central part of Monzo's brand is handing decisions about what the bank should look like (including its name), and what features it should have, over to its customer base. As such, when it arrives in the US, it won't seek to replicate exactly what it's done in the UK, but adapt to serve its new clientele.

Initially, a "light" version of Monzo will provide US customers with some existing features, including instant spending notifications, person-to-person payments, pots to split savings from spending money and fee-free spending abroad. The next step will involve hosting events in US cities to find out what features people want from the bank and build them in.

Monzo hasn't established its official bank status in the US just yet, so instead it will be working with a partner bank to make sure your money is fully protected. It is applying to become a fully licensed bank.

Flourishing in the US market will be a much bigger challenge for the startup, but with contactless cards catching on and consumers adopting new payment behaviors, it's as good a time as any to give it a go.

A closer look at the Apple Card credit card

See all photos