Up Bank Review: AU’s First Fully Digital Bank

Up Bank Review: AU’s First Fully Digital Bank

Fully digital bank or foolish digital bank?
Fully digital bank or foolish digital bank?

Up Bank Review: Crave a banking experience not stuck in 2006? Desire to know where your money goes with detailed spending analytics? Sick of banks charging you random fees? If that’s you, it sounds like you might need to take Up Bank for a spin.

Up was founded in 2017 and launched in 2018 by Ferocia, a software company in South Melbourne, in partnership with Bendigo Bank.

It is the first fully digital bank in Australia, and has won awards like the the Mozo Experts Choice Awards’ Everyday & Savings Bank of the Year 2020 and Mozo Experts Choice 2021 Banking Innovation Award.

I’ve been using Up as my daily driver for awhile now (and I’m still using it!), and below I’ve written my thoughts and a comprehensive study on Up.

If you’re here for a referral code to score yourself $15 (for a limited time!), you can use $wong on signup or click the link here.

An ample savings interest rate

Up offers a decent variable interest rate of up to 1.1% p.a. (base rate of 0% + bonus rate of 1.1%) which is unbelievably simple and quick to activate.

The bonus rate and base rate will apply to balances from $0 to $1m, after you’ve made at least 5 debit card or digital wallet (e.g. Google Pay/Apple Pay/Samsung Pay) purchases of any amount.

You won’t be getting any interest every cent after $1m, with the variable rate of 1.1% still applying to your balance $1m and below.

How Up’s savings interest rate stacks up against the Big 4 banks’:

NameProductBase RateBonus RateTotal RateQualification for Bonus RateEOY balance with $1kMax balance for bonus rate
CommBankNetBank Saver0.05%0.085%
(for 5 mo)
0.9%On the opening of your first NetBank Saver, bonus rate for the first 5 months$1009.04$50k
GoalSaver0.1%0.4% to 0.8%0.5% to 0.9%Monthly minimum $200 deposit, no withdrawals during the month, bonus rate depends on different ranges of balances$1005.01 to $1009.04<$50k (0.4%)
>$50k (0.9%)
WestpacLife0.4%0.45%0.85%Monthly minimum of one deposit, account balance above $0 at all times, account balance higher at the end than the beginning$1008.53N/A
Life: 18-29 age special0.4%0.45% & 2.15%3%Account balance higher than the previous month (0.45%), spend 5 times on debit card on eligible purchases each month (2.15%)1030.42$30k (for extra 2.15%)
eSaver0.05%0.8%0.85%On the opening of your first eSaver, bonus rate for the first 5 months$1008.53N/A
ANZOnline Saver0.05%0.75%0.8%On the opening of your first Online Saver, bonus rate for the first 3 months$1008.03N/A
Progress Saver0.01%0.84%0.85%Monthly minimum deposit of at least $10, no withdrawals/fees/charges/transfers during the month$1008.53N/A
NABiSaver0.05%0.8%0.85%On the opening of your first iSaver, bonus rate for the first 4 months$1008.53$20m
Reward Saver0.05%0.75%0.8%No withdrawals, monthly minimum of one deposit before or on second last banking day of the month$1008.03N/A
UpSaver0%1.1%1.1%5 purchases with debit card/digital wallet each month$1011.06$1m
All rates are annualized. Information retrieved from respective bank websites and is correct and updated as of 3/10/2020 – Up’s interest rate is 1.1% starting Nov 2020. Final column is compounded monthly using the total rate.

As you can see, Up blows every one of the Big 4 banks out of the water on savings rates (except Westpac if you take advantage of their 3% offer – crazy!), and forgoes any complex requirement or qualification, besides pretty much 5 coffee purchases, which could be done in under a week!

Update 3/10/2020: If you’re going all out for that interest rate and you meet the requirements, Westpac is the way to go for that juicy 3%.

If not, Up offers practical features and a great app with an acceptable interest rate (all while a bunch of rate cuts are happening all around).

Aside from that, Up allows you to create multiple savers, and have free, unlimited withdrawals from your savers, all while having bonus interest apply to those too (up to $50k combined among all savers).

This is unlike any of the Big 4 banks, whose introductory rate savings accounts are limited by time and to the first savings account.

Also note: Although savings accounts offer bonus rates on balances above $250k, the Financial Claims Scheme (FCS), a government scheme that protects deposit-holders with Australian Deposit Institutions (eg banks, credit unions), only protects account holders up to $250k.

No fees?!

Up strives to be transparent about their fees, with a crystal clear pricing page on their website which essentially shows a total of zero, zilch, and nada in fees. There are no fees charged to service your account, for direct debits, ATM fees, international transaction fees and more.

No international transaction fees

International Purchase via Up

Overseas fees? International transaction fees? A thing of the past with Up. Up offers fee-free international transactions and overseas spending online and in-store with a great exchange rate straight from Mastercard with no mark-up.

Another amazing feature is the ability to instantly know how much any international transaction cost you in AUD.

If you travel out of country frequently, or do a fair bit of online shopping, you’ll love this feature.

An app for the future

Up’s app is what CommBank, Canstar’s 2020 Bank of the Year for Online and Mobile Banking wished it had as its app.

Up’s app has a feature-rich UI that supports Osko payments and PayID, a beautifully designed spending analytics page, upcoming payments/expenses prediction and much more.

Spending Insights and Analytics

Up provides detailed spending insights and analytics through the activity tab, which tracks not only the basics like how much you spent and the time you were charged, but exactly where you were charged, with the merchant’s name and logo so you can easily identify where your money is going.

Spending analytics via Up

When you tap into a specific transaction, you’ll be able to access an insights page where you can see a history of your spending at that particular brand/shop over time through a bar chart and timeline.

You’ll also be able to see your average spending, number of transactions and the total amount you’ve spent at that merchant.

Up also automatically categorises your transactions into categories like ‘transport’ and ‘home’ with subsections like ‘taxis and share cars’ and ‘groceries’ as well as into locations so you have a greater understanding of how and where you spend your money.

If you’re a systematic person, you’ll also appreciate the ability to create custom tags to have greater control over organising your transactions in-app. I just wished we were able to delete and rename tags, though. Come on Up!

Notifications via Up

With any purchase or deposit, you’ll also receive an instant notification that pops up on your phone’s screen to keep you in the know of where your money is coming from or going.

Upcoming Payments & Bill Predictions

There’s also a feature that automatically predicts your upcoming purchases, which keeps you on top of your regular bills.

If you’d prefer not to wait for the automated system to kick in, you can even tap into any transaction and turn that into an upcoming, recurring transaction that shows up on the app’s ‘upcoming’ tab.

Upcoming payments via Up

In-App Live Chat Support (with real humans!)

A strong support system is key for any service to be enjoyed thoroughly. That’s why Up has baked into its app a live chat function that allows you to instantly contact support like you’re texting a mate.

Even better, you won’t be subject to any chat robots, but will be answered by a real human being as soon as they can get to your query.

If you prefer to do it old-school, they also have a support email and a phone number for urgent issues.

Live chat support via Up

Fully Featured Payments System

Up supports:

  • Osko which allows you to send money in under a minute to most Australian banks
  • PayID for linking your bank account to your phone number or email, the usual bank account details
  • BPay for smashing those bills
  • Scheduled payments which you can fine-tune to the minute.
  • An inhouse payment system allowing you to send money instantly to other Upsiders (users of Up).
  • International payments right inside the app powered by TransferWise.
Payments via Up

Side note: You even get a PayID from up featuring your $upname (Up username) in the format of [email protected] which acts as a fully functioning PayID you can use outside of your personal life if you’re not comfortable sharing a personal phone number or email.

+1 for privacy.

International Payments via Up

Up’s international payments system is robust because it’s powered by one of the best international exchange and payment services in the world, TransferWise.

It has excellent delivery times and rates while having low fees, which you can take advantage of just in the app with its simple interface (no need to redirect to any browsers, no complicated processes!).

Feature Rich Saving

Savers via Up

Multiple savers that earn you an interest of up to 1.1% p.a. are an outstanding way to save for your goals, especially when you are able to visualise your money being directed into the different savers that you can customize by picking out your own emoji and name.

You can create up to 99 savers (probably waaaay more than you’ll ever need), so some use savers as tools to manage budgets as you can have a saver for virtually anything, from rent to groceries.

Savers in Up also allow you to automate payments by creating scheduled payments that originate from the saver.

Some use this feature to create savers for the sole purpose of creating scheduled payments that flow from the saver.

What’s a little annoying however, is the inability to have a scheduled payment come out directly from a saver or have saver account numbers for direct deposits.

Instead, you have to have the automated payment transfer from the saver to your transaction account and from the transaction account to the payee – not the most efficient method.

The Round Ups feature allows users to link a saver of their choice to their transaction account and have transactions automatically round-up to the nearest dollar (adjustable up to the nearest $10) to the nominated saver.

Digital Wallet

Up supports a plethora of digital wallets alongside its vibrantly designed debit card such as:

  • Apple Pay™
  • Google Pay™
  • Samsung Pay™
  • Garmin Pay
  • Fitbit Pay
Digital wallets via Up

This means that you can leave your card at home (why would you want to, though?) and use your fitness band, watch or phone to make payments seamlessly.

Up is also allows its users to add their debit cards straight from the app – no need to wait in the mail to start using it!

Also note: Siri can be used to voice bank, for example, using Siri to transfer from your saver to your transaction account.

Security and Safety Prioritised

Up states on its website that it is ‘Made for mobile, built for banking. Smart. Safe. Secure. Digital.’

Up is hosted on the Google Cloud Platform, which hosts the infrastructure for Google Search and YouTube. Being on this platform means that Up is able to deliver a reliable, secure, and fast service to its users.

Thanks to ‘highly secure multi-device arcitecture‘, your biometric information and mobile security features are securely device based.

Furthermore, on top of the regular ‘https’ security for websites, Up uses ‘advanced cryptography to sign, authenticate and secure every request, which means it’s immune to Man-in-the-Middle and Replay Attacks.’

Your debit card is also in your complete control, as Up has provided all users with the ability to change their debit card PIN and activate/deactivate their card with the push of a button in-app.

Afterpay Integration

If you use Afterpay, Up has integration to provide greater insights into your spending through being able to tap on a transaction to see how many payments you have left, and for future payments to show up in the ‘upcoming’ tab in-app.

UpYear – Up’s ‘Spotify Wrapped’

In December 2020, Up announced its ‘year in review’ feature which provides you with a funky personalised annual report showing you your overall spending and saving habits during the year, including bits of data like how much you saved through round-ups and which merchants you’ve tapped your card at most.

Pursuing ethical routes

If you want to bank with an institution that believes in the ethical utilisation of your funds, Up is within the sphere of ethical banking.

According to their website, all deposits provided through Up are held by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, which:

Is your money safe with Up?

In short, absolutely.

Your deposited money in Up is held by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, which are protected up to $250k (like any other registered bank) per account holder by the Australian Government’s Financial Claims Scheme (FCS).

Should you switch to Up?

Up is undoubtedly one of the best everyday transaction account + savings account combo on the market right now. Its innovative banking app + feature set, and the complete lack of fees solidify its position at the top.

However, there are still some things that are still left to be desired, some of which are in the works at Up. Joint accounts, credit cards, home loans (mortgages), the ability to directly transfer in/out of your savers (Saver PayIDs are a planned feature!), account numbers for savers, an inbuilt search function for transactions, and a web application are all still currently unavailable with Up.

To check on Up’s plan for the implementation of future features and/or products, check out the Tree of Up, which is Up’s idea of a roadmap and timeline for updates, new products, etc.

To answer the question in the subheading: fully digital bank or foolish digital bank? Up’s shortcomings does not blemish its record for still being a world class product.

If you’re looking for something that Up currently does not offer, you can keep up-to-date with Up’s progress on the feature you desire with the ‘Tree of Up’ mentioned above.

If you can look past what it doesn’t have and focus on what it does (which are a whole ton of things), you’ll find yourself delighted with an elevated banking experience.

If you’re convinced that you should switch to Up, or even if you just want to test-drive the app, the signup process in-app takes under 3 minutes, and you can download Up for your phone here.

1m45s signup according to Up

The link I provided above to download Up is my referral link, which allows you and I to earn $5 after you have signed up, and another $10 after you have made 5 debit card/digital wallet purchases ($15 in total for a limited time!).

If you’d prefer to go the App Store or Play Store route, you can use my Upname, $wong during signup to get $10 as well.

If you enjoyed reading this review, check out my reviews of Revolut Australia and Stake as well!

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