Life Hacks Money Now + Beyond

Pay your oshi: a simple money-saving trick for fans

At the start of the year, I had a startling realization: I really sucked at managing my money and savings. After years of avoiding thinking about money, I realized I just didn’t have the motivation to care. I was at a point where I was ruining myself financially through a mix of my ill-managed ADHD and a three-year mobile game obsession, but I didn’t have any reason to change my money habits other than the knowledge that it was bad. Then I remembered an old trick I heard from online friends about turning my gaming obsession into something that might solve my money problems instead.

If you’re in a similar position and find yourself needing a proper goal to help, keep reading. Keep in mind, there’s no single thing in existence that will magically make you good at managing every aspect of your finances, but this tip worked for me and several others. Today we’re going to explore a niche-saving trick I learned from Japanese idol mobage fans on Twitter: Paying your oshi, aka oshi savings.

There are a few terms we’ll need to break down quickly. For starters, oshi is a Japanese fan term that roughly is the equivalent to the English stan as used by stan Twitter groups or bias if you’re in Kpop circles. It translates to “push” and refers to your favorite character or person in a given franchise or group. 

I came across it on Twitter while running in fandom circles related to an idol-raising mobile game. This mobile game happened to be a gacha game, which means that you spend some in-game currency to draw in a virtual box filled with selected cards of all the characters. You could also use IRL money to buy the in-game currency and continue spending. One can imagine that starting a gacha game can quickly get overwhelming for the wallet, and for me, it indeed started to take a toll.

A significant factor involved in the gacha game trap comes from collecting as many cards of their oshis as possible. And in some circles, your worth as a fan is judged by how dedicated you are to getting the cards. It can get overwhelming to keep up with this lifestyle, so some fans invented a method of saving that would utilize the love for our oshis and put that into saving money. The original post for this idea was shared on Twitter and eventually deleted, but I still remembered it and put it into practice at the start of 2021.

The trick is exactly as it sounds: When you want to put away money for savings, you tell yourself you are paying the money to your oshi.

Some suggest doing this physically, like with piggy banks which you can decorate with pictures of your oshi to remind yourself why you’re doing this. Others suggest keeping a separate savings account just for your oshi so you can have a distinction. However you choose to do, the fundamentals remain the same. The idea is you’ll feel more encouraged to regularly put into your savings if you feel like someone, even just a fictional character, relies on you. 

Since the power of this trick lies in giving yourself a reason to be responsible, it can be pretty flexible in its setup. You don’t have to choose a fictional video game character to pay; you could choose your favorite idol, celebrity, or even someone you know in your real life. The options are endless, and all that matters is that you feel better about “paying” them regularly.

Admittedly, games aren’t forever, and the field of gacha games is so competitive that some games will end before even making it to the first anniversary. And sometimes, we just lose interest and no longer feel dedicated to this make-believe person we’re paying. And once that character or person you put your soul into is out of the picture, then chances are you’ll quickly lose motivation to pay them regularly as well.

But the trick isn’t meant to last forever; it’s like having training wheels. What you want is something that you feel dedicated to, which can help you get into the habit of saving money regularly. And then, hopefully, seeing the proof that you’re capable of properly saving money will be motivation enough to continue doing so without the need to rely on something like this.

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After several years of spending far more than I should on video game characters, this trick has helped me get on track again. I’ve finally found the motivation to put money into saving without feeling bad about ignoring my oshi, and I also have a healthier relationship with my games. It’s not going to replace a proper budgeting system or help you earn tons of extra money, but it’s a step in the right direction for those of us who don’t know where to begin our money journey.

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Money Now + Beyond

Here are some things I didn’t spend money on because of the pandemic

It’s been over a year of living in a pandemic, and it’s just starting to get back to normal. But in the past year, a huge number of us put our lives on hold. Money has become the great humbler this year for millennials and Gen Y individuals who were preparing to move onto life’s next chapter. Furlough and unemployment have a tendency to do that. So while we’re all taking these last few weeks to celebrate and introspect, let’s talk about things we couldn’t accomplish because everything’s just too expensive.

Living in a capitalist society is hard work. It’s even harder work when your bank balance does match the imaginary vision board dwelling in your head. This year has forced me to make tough decisions and I’ve had to make a lot of personal sacrifices to make peace with where I am currently. That being said, it’s very important to note that all these decisions were made after carefully weighing each element and its corresponding effect on my life. It was, truth be told, hard work to learn the basics of financial literacy. But today, I want to talk about the six things I ended up putting aside and why they would have been the case of bad timing if I ended up doing them.

1. Moving out

A GIF of Zooey Deschanel as Jess from New Girl saying 'I'm moving out of the loft' via Giphy
A GIF of Zooey Deschanel as Jess from New Girl saying ‘I’m moving out of the loft’ via Giphy.

Now that I’m grown up enough to do pretty much anything and everything, this has been on my list since university. But I’ve had to put a hold on my one-bedroom apartment with cute balcony furniture dreams because I spent most of this year on furlough. While many cities have reported cheaper rent markets, I would suggest anyone planning on moving out to wait till they’ve got enough for a rainy day. You’ll thank me for that money tip.

2. Beginning the immigration process

A GIF of Hamilton with the saying,
A GIF of Hamilton with the saying, “Immigrants we get the job done.” via Giphy

Immigration can be quite an expensive process, depending on where you’re immigrating to and from. For myself, I had to put it on pause once I realized that it’s the safest nor wisest choice to migrate to places that could easily turn into a danger zone of outbreaks during the pandemic. It was more important to prepare and make sure I was safe and financially stable.

3.  Traveling

A GIF of a pug puppy looking at a world globe via Giphy
A GIF of a pug puppy looking at a world globe via Giphy

I personally cannot believe that as an adult you’re only entitled to a certain number of leave days (depending on which country you’re from). I was planning a holiday to one of my most favorite places in the world. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Till next time then.

4.  Sign up for a gym membership

A GIF of a man and a woman cycling in a gym via Giphy
A GIF of a man and a woman cycling in a gym via Giphy

I know we can pretty much do anything thanks to Ms. Chloe Ting and her workouts but I really wanted to focus on getting fit this year. Getting a gym membership during a pandemic would be a mistake. So many gyms were forced to close due to the virus, and it would have been a money drain to be stuck with membership for a place I can’t even go to. I’m very glad that this thought didn’t stick. My bank balance would have yeeted me into the sun.

5. A short-term, in-person degree

A GIF of two news reporters saying 'Expand Your Mind' via Giphy
A GIF of two news reporters saying ‘Expand Your Mind’ via Giphy

I’ve always valued learning and, while there are loads of courses that are free online, I desperately wanted to level up my skills at work by signing up for a course that required human interaction, discussion, and the classroom ambiance. It’s a good thing I missed signing up for that type of course before the pandemic. Little did I know at the time that most of my family would be using YouTube for everything in a few year’s time. For many of us, learning online ended up being an inevitability.

6. Seeing my favorite singer in concert

A GIF of BTS performing live in socially-distanced settings via Giphy
A GIF of BTS performing live in socially-distanced settings via Giphy

I had made plans to see my favorite band in concert, however, due to the pandemic; their tour has been canceled and we’ve all moved online performances. Here’s to hoping that I finally, finally see BTS in concert in 2021 and my bank balance agrees with it!

As businesses and work begin to open up again in various parts of the world, it’s still going to take some time before things become completely normal. It’s easy to feel disappointed and down about missing out on major life experiences this past year, but I’m hoping to get to these six things eventually.

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Money Now + Beyond

Need finance tips? These financial advisors weigh in

I have never been one to care about money. I spend it on food like it’s my last day on this planet and I always have the need to try out every fancy eatery on the block. Before I know it, my tummy is full but my wallet is quite the opposite. In the quest of saving more and spending better, I started looking for women who would not only understand my situation but also impart their financial knowledge to me.

There is no science in saving money. The truth is, regardless of whether you are a college student, a housewife, or a businesswoman, you need to be certain of how much you are spending each month. No one can be too sure about what the future holds for them.

According to the World Health Organization, women live longer than men and earn significantly less as per data collected by the Center for American progress, even if they spend their entire life in corporate slavery. There is also the long battle that women have been fighting for centuries now: the idea that women and money have an unhealthy bond and that women are financially illiterate when compared to men.

To help you save better, I reached out to women who work, talk, spend, and save money like no other. Here is what these financial advisors had to say:

1. Use cash instead of cards

Rule one in the book of being mindful of how you spend money is to use cash instead of cards. Sarah, the head of a financial department in a well-known multinational company, shared that having a credit card made her feel like she was making purchases for free. It was only later, at the end of each month, that she realized that nothing in the world is a free lunch.

Instead, Sarah strongly suggests getting rid of that credit card as she calls it “the hub of all the extra spending.” Instead, having cash money means that you can keep a physical check on how much you are spending and hold on to your budget accordingly.

2. Dumb the debt

One thing the now 31-year-old corporate financer, Hannah, regrets is taking a loan for a luxurious car during her first job at 22 years old. She says that she is still paying the debt and does not know a way out.

“No matter how tempting a loan scheme might look like, do not fall into the trap as there is no looking back,” she said in an interview with The Tempest.

Try taking baby steps when it comes to paying off debt. Even if it means getting rid of the $500 you owe your brother. After all, a debt is a debt and you need to pay it off at the end of the day.

3. Invest in mutual funds

Neha, a 27-year-old financial advisor, calls investing in a mutual fund, “A day spent without having to work.”

She advises women of ages 21 and above to start saving and investing at least 30% of what they are earning in a month. Investing is part of saving in the long run, after all.

Many women do not know this, but you can save up to 40% of your taxes by investing in a mutual fund. A mutual fund is a type of financial vehicle made up of money collected from different investors for the purpose of investing in securities like stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets.

4. Watch your finances like a hawk

Saving up without having a budget is like traveling without travel insurance. You never know what might happen next.

“You need to keep a check and balance of your finances, where and on what you are spending the money,” said Bina, a 37-year-old financial officer. “You need to be mindful and vigilant wherever money is involved, otherwise you would be at the losing end,” she added.

If you are someone who is clueless about how to watch over your money, here are few tips you can use:

  • Start by making a financial calendar. You can call it your money to-do list. Put your monthly utility bills, everyday expenditure, fuel costs, how much you spend on shopping, and, most importantly, what you are saving on this list.
  • Always set a budget. Live on a budget. Make it your life’s motto until you become responsible enough to not spend on anything and everything. Be realistic with your budgeting. If your monthly expenditure is $500, you should not expect to survive on $250. Cut short but, slowly. Try making it $400 for the first month by letting go of some luxuries.
  • Keep checking in on yourself by going back to your budget. If you won’t do it, no one else will!

5. Save first, spend after

“You need to think about saving first before you plan on spending. That is how it works,” said Tasha, a 41-year-old financial assistant for a firm in the United Kingdom. She learned this trick from an article she read in The Economic Times. 

She manages her household finances as well as her work. According to her, she has attained financial peace by making sure that she is not spending too much on unnecessary things like online deals and offers.

While taking control of your finances and planning for the future might appear intimidating, it is also something that you cannot afford to compromise on. One thing that I have learned by talking to these financial advisors is that saving is important and a must, even if it is just one penny each day. 

You can also join money-saving groups online (there are plenty of these for women, by women), such as Coupon Mamas and Couponers United. You do not have to rush into saving. It is a habit that you can develop over time. And it is only with time that you will realize how this newly acquired habit is helping you make a difference with your everyday money matters.

Happy saving!

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Tech Now + Beyond

How AirPods reveal the classism of high tech

“He can’t hear you, he has AirPods in!” Most internet-savvy people are probably familiar with that joke, and the inevitable response, “I don’t speak broke.” I’ll admit, it’s a fun meme, and one that makes it easy to poke at Apple’s constantly shifting line of products. Regardless, this joke reveals something much more insidious about the inherent classism of our technology.

I remember the jokes we used to tell in high school. In gym class, all the other kids would put their phones in their locker so they wouldn’t get stolen. “You don’t have to,” classmates would joke, “you have an Android.” I’d often make the same joke about myself, but I never realized why. I remember that students with a PC or, god forbid, a Chromebook were always the butt of the joke. Students with a sleek MacBook Air or an iPad rarely garnered the same heat.

Even now, the technology we own has become a tool for reading into one’s class status. Owning an iPhone SE is very different from owning an iPhone X, especially at some colleges where many students come from wealthy backgrounds. The laptop you bring to class, the headphones you wear, and the phone you use all become class markers, even unwittingly.

I’ve heard many people talk about technology as “the great equalizer,” and that’s partially true. With further access to technology, it is easier for people to, say, fill out job applications, get a better education, and access information that wouldn’t otherwise be available. The fact that most Americans have a computer or a mobile phone is a testament to the importance of technology, as well as their increased availability. Nevertheless, we need to accept that we’ve allowed these essential products to become stratified. If phones and computers are truly a utility, or even a necessity, they shouldn’t be luxury items or class markers. We all need technology, so why stratify it?

This is where AirPods come in. I remember seeing firsthand how AirPods went from a mockery among younger people to a deeply coveted status symbol. With a high price tag and the Instagram influencer stamp of approval, it was widely popular. I remember coming back from winter break just last year to see that dozens of my classmates had the newest generation of AirPods. Just a few weeks before, only a handful of students owned them.

AirPods aren’t popular because they’re convenient. They’re easy to lose, difficult to charge, and can just be an overall pain. They’re popular because they’re a class symbol. By walking around with Airpods, one can signal to others that they are wealthy enough to afford AirPods and trendy enough to understand their value. Those who can’t afford them are simply left out of the loop.

The root of the issue isn’t AirPods themselves, it’s the fact that we have allowed technology to become a status symbol. Major tech companies are keenly aware of the designer status of their products. They’re the cause of the issue, but still, we as consumers are more than eager to play along with that. Even at a very progressive liberal arts college such as mine, technology equals status. It’s easy to forget that this status centers on wealth and class.

So what’s the solution? There really is no clear-cut answer. We could learn to value technology more for its functionality. We could refrain from judging others for the technology they use. However, the fault lies primarily at the hands of larger tech companies. Tech companies need to gain a better understanding of their social responsibility with regard to class and wealth. Perhaps they’ll begin to change their strategies to curb accessibility and elitism in tech. They might even be able to remove the stigma of low-cost tech and stop marketing tech products as designer products. Until then, I’m sticking with normal headphones.

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Money Now + Beyond

‘Runaway’ money and financial independence are not the same thing

If there’s one thing that my mother always taught me, it’s to have your own personal account and money stashed away. When I was younger and she told me about her own card, a different color than the family one that I’ve seen her use before, I was shocked. It disturbed me. It was as if she was keeping secrets from my father and I felt ashamed on her behalf. I was raised with the idea that, in marriage, you give yourself completely to your partner. So why would she need her own money? Was she planning on leaving? I could not wrap my head around it so I kept quiet. 

But for my mother, financial independence meant so much to her. Although she was no longer making her own money, she could feel a sense of independence through buying what she liked every now and then. It was liberating to not have to report to anyone.

In the culture that I grew up in, it is only recently that women have been able to freely open their own financial accounts. Even without legal barriers, it was frowned upon by tradition for a long time. A married woman having a personal account, that her husband could not access, was a massive red flag. It’s called ‘runaway’ money. 

This phrase, ‘runaway’ money, is used around the world when referring to bank accounts that women hold that are unconnected to their family or partner—secret or not. I always hated the way that it sounded, like it was a dark thing, almost like conning your partner. Even the idea that you would need a stash of money to one day make a quick exit implies a lack of trust in a relationship. In those terms, owning a personal bank account is an ultimate betrayal.

As I grew, however, my mother and I started a personal account on my behalf. I was about to begin my first year at college in another city, much to the disagreement of my father. Having my own account meant a lot to me as I didn’t feel bound to anyone else’s plans but my own. I could add the money that I earned into the account and pursue my own life plan. While I didn’t have a lot on my own, I wasn’t limited by anyone else’s approval. I slowly came to realize my mother’s perspective from all those years.

“Money is psychological,” said Andrea Kennedy, the author of the book Own Your Financial Freedom. It’s true. It is a testament to my mother’s independence and my own, even when we are still constrained by the lives of other people and how my father, extended family, and society expected us to be living. Having a personal account shouldn’t be shameful or a sign of distrust in a relationship. Instead, it is a validation of your sense of freedom.  

Furthermore, I eventually realized that there is an immense difference between choosing to stay in a relationship and having to. Some women genuinely believe that it is impossible to be happy in a relationship if you are dependent on your partner.  ‘Runaway’ money isn’t about having one foot already out the door; it’s about having a choice in your relationships. Every argument becomes a kind of ultimatum; either you let it slide or you cease to be able to support yourself. Today, I can understand how that kind of pressure can strain any relationship.

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Plus, whether it is said aloud or not, financial dependence creates a power hierarchy in relationships that can potentially become dangerous. Although women will always face their own financial hurdles, such as gender wage gaps and even lower credit scores, at least having a personal account can potentially set us on equal footing in our relationships.

For so long now women have been reluctant to hold their own money. They’ve been conditioned to think that it is selfish, especially if they are part of a traditional family. The labels that women have over their heads (‘daughter’, ‘mother’, ‘wife’) are all in relation to someone else. But having their own bank account and a stash of money, no matter how small, can be a step to claiming their own selves back. Money may not be a source of happiness, but it is inarguably a source of independence.

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Race Money Now + Beyond

The origins of tipping at American restaurants are rooted in racism

In the United States, it’s a common custom within the service and hospitality industry to tip waged workers. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers in the US is $2.13, compared to the main federal minimum wage which is $7.25, and has remained just short of two dollars for many decades.

People have been critical of the exploitative practice of tipping for years. The critiques mostly surround corporations utilization of tipping to legally get away with paying their workers an unlivable wageEssentially, customers are responsible for paying restaurant worker’s wages through tips.

And although tipping is optional, many Americans view not tipping service workers as rude or unethical due to their low wages. The other spectrum of people’s critiques simply highlights how grossly low and unethical paying individuals $2.13 is.

Restaurant workers are more likely to live below the poverty line than the general population, and that likelihood increases depending on things like race and gender. Activists have been trying to raise the minimum wage for hourly workers for decades. The Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, would additionally raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in almost three decades.

American capitalism makes our economy inherently unethical and predatory.

The stagnation of wages for tipped workers is itself abhorrent and a clear illustration of how predatory capitalism is on lower-income and working-class people. Workers’ wages being reliant upon (optional) tips from customers, rather than a guaranteed right from million or billion-dollar corporations is unethical. However, upon an even deeper examination into the custom of tipping in the US, its history is more corrupt than most know. 

Tipping actually originated in “medieval times as a master-serf custom wherein a servant would receive extra money for having performed superbly well,” Rachel E. Greenspan explains in an article for TIME. In the mid-1800s, wealthy Americans discovered the concept of tipping after travels to Europe and brought the custom to the states in order to seem dignified and well-traveled. 

The custom stuck in the Post Reconstruction Era, after slavery “ended,” as a way to opt-out of paying Black people who were now looking for work. Restaurants would pay Black workers little to nothing and forced them to rely on (optional) tips from white clientele, which “entrenched a unique and often racialized class structure in service jobs, in which [Black] workers must please both customer and employer to earn anything at all,” says Dr William J. Barber II in an article for Politico. Thus, legally continuing the practice of slavery but in a re-imagined way.

The custom was nationally unpopular for a while and only a custom done in the South because many people felt forcing customers to tip was condescending and classist. People thought it cruel to suggest poor people should give an additional amount of money on top of their bill. As a result, some states even made laws against the practice.

Additionally, tipping was thought to be a concept reserved only for Black workers, whereas white workers deserved to be fairly paid for their work. However, as Black people began moving north for economic opportunity and to escape segregationist laws, the custom of tipping followed, becoming the national standard within the US’s restaurant industry.

It’s imperative to know the history behind malpractices deemed as “normal.”

Fast forward to today, conversations (or arguments) surrounding the ethics of tipping at American restaurants occur often on social media between wait staff and restaurant workers and restaurant-goers. I’ve always found these discussions to be futile because the ethics of greedy corporations are never questioned, which in turn produces no real, systemic change for waged workers.

Rev. Dr William J. Barber II further states in his article, “We may live in a very different society from 150 years ago, but the subminimum tipped wage still exacerbates the inequalities passed down from that time.”

American capitalism makes our economy inherently unethical and predatory. So, rather than people regularly arguing amongst each other on whether working-class people are responsible for paying the wages of other working-class people, we should be collectively challenging our government to pay us livable wages.

Although the history of tipping in America is racist, raising the federal minimum wage benefits all working-class people regardless of race. Thankfully, an organization of restaurant industry leaders called Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE) was founded in 2019 to champion living wages, basic benefits, and fair promotion policies for waged workers in the restaurant industry.

In addition, wages for hourly workers reliant on tips are being raised in isolated policies across the states like in Michigan or Washington DC. However, there obviously needs to be a national standard that correlates with the cost of living in America.

With racism being examined so closely this year, it’s imperative to know the history behind malpractices deemed as “normal.” And instead, challenge or dismantle those norms to begin building an economy that equally serves all.

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Tech Money Now + Beyond

Read this before switching to an app-only bank account

I first heard about app-only banks when my friend showed me her Monzo app. I was pretty dubious about the digital-first challenger banks coming to the market, particularly when it comes to security and lack of face-to-face support. Since then my views have turned 180 degrees. It’s amazed me how app-only banks have quickly dominated the finance world. Consumers can manage their bank accounts digitally without having to visit a branch. All you need to do is submit personal details and ID proof via the app, and you’re all set!

It’s a big disrupter with a lot of potentials to make finances easier and accessible to customers.

App-only banks are becoming more popular with millennials and Gen-Zers. In a Censuswide study, where they interviewed 2,000 adults with a bank account, 83% said they would open a new account if certain features would entice them. A third of respondents would be attracted to a bank that gives them a prediction of whether they were on course to run out of money before their next payday. Their disruption to the market isn’t a surprise, considering the appetite millennials and Gen-Zers have for digitising their finances.

Here’s a roundup of the best app-only banks:

Starling Bank – best for opening a current account

Starling Bank logo
[Image Description: Image of Starling Bank logo] via Starling Bank.
  • Voted Best British Bank and Best Current Account 2020
  • Offers personal, joint and business accounts
  • Real-time notifications on your phone as you spend
  • Savings goals to set and monitor
  • Round up transactions to the nearest pound and the spare change is automatically put into your savings
  • No fees for spending abroad
  • Customer service available 24/7
  • Compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, Garmin Pay
  • Available in the UK only
  • Your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), protected up to £85,000

Monzo – best for budgeting

Monzo logo
[Image Description: Image of Monzo logo] via Monzo.
  • Real-time notifications on your phone as you spend
  • Offers personal, joint and business accounts
  • Set spending budgets with the app along with a summary of your spending
  • The card is accepted worldwide
  • Savings ‘Pots’ available that set money aside (by rounding up every purchase you make)
  • ‘Bill Tracker’ feature
  • ‘Get Paid Early’ salary advance feature
  • Compatible with Apple pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay
  • Available in the UK, but as stated on Monzo’s help page, you can open a Monzo account even if you’re not a UK tax resident. All you need is a UK address. If you don’t have a UK address, a Monzo account cannot be offered to you. If you’re in the US, you can join the waitlist here.
  • Your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), protected up to £85,000

Revolut – best for spending money abroad

Revolut logo
[Image Description: Image of Revolut logo] via Revolut.
  • Hold and exchange up to 26 currencies in the app
  • Spend on the Revolut card in 120 currencies
  • Real-time notifications
  • Analytics to track spending habits
  • Round up transactions to the nearest pound and the spare change is automatically put into your savings
  • Spend and send money abroad with no fees
  • Withdraw cash abroad fee-free
  • Use the app to buy and exchange cryptocurrency (premium feature)
  • As stated on their website, the app is available in the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan and the United States
  • Authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), but not FSCS protected

Atom Bank – best for savings, loans and mortgages 

Atom Bank logo
[Image Description: Image of Atom Bank logo] via Atom Bank.
  • Offers savings accounts, mortgages and business loans (doesn’t offer current accounts)
  • Offers competitive savings rates
  • Mortgages are available through its broker service, accessible via the app
  • Customer service available 24/7
  • Uses face and voice recognition
  • Lets you personalise – you can name your bank, create a logo and choose your colour scheme.
  • Available in the UK only
  • Your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), protected up to £85,000

Monese – best for using worldwide and for international students

Monese logo
[Image Description: Image of Monese logo] via Monese
  • You do not need a proof of address to open an account
  • Real-time notifications on your phone as you spend
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Transfer money abroad into 14 currencies
  • Track spending habits
  • Specialises in current accounts
  • Provides real-time insight into your available balance
  • Available in the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Your money is safeguarded under the EU Electronic Money Directive 2009/110/EC and UK Electronic Money Regulations 2011 but is not FSCS protected

I decided to open an app-only bank account and I found the experience so quick and easy! Creating an account didn’t feel overwhelming compared to opening up with a traditional bank, the whole process was efficient. After supplying the required information and reading the T&Cs, I was all set. All within 5 minutes! Once I was set up, I was able to see the options available at my fingertips: setting up notifications, saving money, accessing support, how I can track my spending and more.

Is opening up an app-only bank right for you? Check out our pros and cons list:


  • Don’t need to fill in paperwork to open up an account
  • Everything can be managed on your smartphone
  • Can provide a convenient and quick service for customers through the app
  • Easy savings options are available
  • Free transactions abroad
  • Lower fees
  • Real-time notifications
  • Ability to freeze your card if lost or stolen


  • Relies on an internet connection
  • Can’t visit a branch
  • Do not offer face-to-face support
  • Paying in cash or depositing cheques can be tricky
  • Financial products on offer are limited compared to traditional banks e.g. overdrafts and loans

If app-only banks are not available in your country, there’s no doubt they’ll be popping up soon. It’s a big disrupter with a lot of potentials to make finances easier and accessible to customers.

I am completely with you if you have concerns about using an app-only bank. For me, I’m on-board with having an app-only bank, but only with the option of having this alongside my traditional bank account as well. I’m drawn to the innovative features and effortless user experience of app-only banks, however, the products and incentives offered by traditional banks are more wide-ranging compared to app-only banks.

Perhaps soon, app-only banks can provide incentives for customers to switch over to them and leave the traditional bank behind. But for the moment, I’m happy balancing between the two.

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Race Money Now + Beyond

Has #BlackLivesMatter changed the way we spend our money?

As Black Lives Matter protests heat up across the world, allies and activists have been confronting the issue of what constitutes a substantial change. Signing petitions, attending protests, and expressing solidarity are popular and important ways of enacting change, but they aren’t the only means of supporting the movement. The question is, how do we go beyond posting a black square and make a tangible change? Perhaps through our money.

Some would say the best thing to do is open your wallets. More than anything, these waves of Black Lives Matter protests have made us consider where our money goes. Race and economics have always been deeply connected in the United States and worldwide. The average Black American family only owns about 10% of the wealth as the average White American family. Redlining, segregation, and job discrimination have exacerbated the economic divide that sparked from slavery. Reparations for enslavement would total billions of dollars today, but that money has not materialized. Black families have been more deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as overpricing in low-income communities.

At the end of the day, money speaks.

Donations have been a greater presence in this wave of protests than before. Allies and activists alike have pushed for others to donate bail funds, funeral funds for Black victims of police brutality and transphobia, and Black Lives Matter organizations. Two bail funds in my city of Philadelphia have raised over $1.8 million in the past weeks. The Minnesota Freedom Fund alone raised over $35 million. While there’s controversy about how these organizations will use the money, there’s no denying the importance of the overwhelming display of support. At the end of the day, money speaks.

The importance of money goes far beyond just donating. The movement has called into question who we buy from, and who we should buy from. Recent comments from CEO’s of companies, such as CrossFit, have revealed the racist prejudices behind these popular corporations. Many supports of the BLM movement have realized that it doesn’t make sense to support BonAppetit if it does not adequately pay its contributors of color, or to give money to companies such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s who do business with the Trump family. The movement has become an important wake-up call that our purchases do not exist in a vacuum. Obviously, in our current economic system, it is near impossible to avoid giving money to problematic or exploitative companies. Still, the BLM movement has prompted an important examination of where our money goes.

Another way to support the movement is to support Black-owned businesses of every type. This could mean buying from a local Black-owned bookstore instead of from Amazon, to buy from Black clothing designers instead of outfitters like Dollskill and Urban Outfitters, which infamously steal from BIPOC designers, or to buy food from Black-owned restaurants. It’s immensely important to support POC-owned businesses, especially BIPOC-owned businesses, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, many restaurant owners of color, especially Black restaurant owners, had trouble securing government loans for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. Considering the financial impact of the pandemic now is an incredibly important time to support these small businesses.

The BLM movement has prompted an important examination of where our money goes.

I’ll give a personal example. I live in the Philadelphia area, one of the most diverse cities in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most segregated and has some of the highest income inequality. A new mobile app called Black and Mobile offers an innovative solution. Black and Mobile is a food delivery app by Black developers, which delivers food exclusively from Black-owned restaurants, and employs Black drivers to deliver the food.

Of course, money isn’t the be-all and end-all of the movement. Throwing money at an issue will never fix it entirely. We have a long way to go before we unlearn racism and uproot the racist systems that be. Nonetheless, we need to recognize the importance of money in anti-racist work.

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Coronavirus Education Europe The World

The UK has failed students yet again after COVID outbreaks forcibly close Universities 

Welcome to one of the most stressful times of the year: move-in season for university students.

Up and down the United Kingdom young people have begun to pack up their entire lives into suitcases whilst parents yell ‘you have too much stuff!’ You can always tell which cars are heading to Universities because there’s a duvet in the back, siblings squished into one seat, and overwhelmed parents navigating the roads. I’m sure if you have attended a British University the word ‘Freshers’ brings memories to mind; some are weird and cringeworthy but altogether an unforgettable starting stone of your university experience. Freshers is the very first week of University – its the time when clubs are open every day and you find yourself in a random flat party introducing yourself to a million people. It’s also the time when first years acquaint themselves with their new University town and living alone for the first time. 

This year, however, things were a little bit different. With COVID-19 none of us were even sure if our universities were opening at all. Many universities decided early on to open up their accommodations to both new and returning students with extremely vague guidelines. 

While ‘Freshers’ has been cancelled this year, it hasn’t stopped people from flaunting the rules. Outbreaks throughout the country have been attributed to illegal house parties in university towns which have been broken up by the police and met with a £10,000 fine.

Given the unclear guidelines and an apathetic government, no one is surprised that there has been an increase in cases. However, to combat the spread some Universities, such as Glasgow University, have since locked down students. 

Students have now been told, after already moving away, that their lectures are entirely online and that there is a great possibility that they will not be able to go home for the winter break. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has referred to keeping these institutions going as the ‘Blitz spirit,’ or the idea that we should all ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ like people did during the Blitz bombing in World War II.

Johnson is attempting to evoke an antiquated and ignorant sentiment and apply it to a completely new situation.

Universities should have never been allowed to open. More importantly, students should have never been conned out of thousands of pounds to pay for their accommodation for universities to close after settling in.

 To put it in context: for my year I am paying around £6000. Unfortunately, having a Government that doesn’t care about its people will always put money first. This money has been taken from people who went from being the saviours of the British economy to the devils among us in under a month. During August, the government launched a new scheme to kick start the economy named ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. Each establishment had their prices cut up to 50% and the difference paid for by the Government. This meant that consumers were given a competitive price and businesses didn’t miss out. The scheme was aimed mainly at young people who had been in lockdown since March in order to repopulate towns and cities again. During August, the Government conveniently ignored COVID-19 and no restrictions were in place. The track and trace system was a box-ticking exercise in which not every member of your party had to ‘check-in’. 

Universities should have never been allowed to open. More importantly, students should have never been conned out of thousands of pounds to pay for their accommodation for universities to close after settling in.

It was only when the cases began to rise that the Government chose to act: by blaming young people. It is unfair to scapegoat a group of people who, just a month ago, were encouraged to go out. Even when cases began to rise the Government still refused to take action and close down the establishments. Instead, they dug their heads in the sand in hopes that it would pass, much like the first wave. However, we are now seeing another huge spike in cases with much of the North of England already in local lockdown.

While the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme ended in early September, the Government had already made as much money as they could at that point so it no longer mattered. The damage was already done, making young people the ultimate victims of this whole mess in more ways than one.

Even though the Government had the all of the necessary and important information, they were blinded by greed and didn’t warn against expensive student accommodation or advise students to study from home. Instead, they led with vague guidelines which no one understood.

It is unfair to scapegoat a group of people who, just a month ago, were encouraged to go out.

Currently, almost all University teaching is online, so there is no need for student accommodation, but the money which we have all paid will not be reimbursed because the Government refuses to mandate complete online learning.

One thing has become clear in this situation: in the government’s eyes, students and young people are the cash cows that will never stop milking. 


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Money Now + Beyond

Are online college classes worth the hefty tuition fees?

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreaks, the future for students remains extremely uncertain. We do not know when or if the world will return to normal. Will daily life ever be the way it used to? For college students hoping to return in the Fall for another semester, more specific questions loom on the horizon. If colleges are to resume online in the fall, is it worth paying high tuition rates just to have a limited, virtual experience? Online classes are undoubtedly a much different experience than in person courses. 

So much about college goes beyond merely the classes. There is campus life, activities, sports, and clubs, your housing, the dining options, and the environment of the college area you live in. Many of those things would be nonexistent if schools were to be solely online. For students, going back to college towns or cities would also feel pointless.

I feel less engaged and struggle to absorb the information.

Besides missing out on experiences that make college a unique time, students may struggle to learn effectively online. For one, many colleges that conduct classes in person are not used to formatting their courses for online learning. Professors may struggle as to how best to translate their curriculum to an online setting. Depending on your learning style, online courses may also present unique difficulties. I’ve been doing classes online for the past few months, and they’ve been negatively impacting my ability to learn. As a hands-on learner, I feel less engaged and struggle to absorb the information fully. I know many students feel similarly. 

There is a huge difference between being physically present in a classroom and taking a course online. We know that attention spans often suffer due to technology. There are also huge privilege gaps we need to acknowledge when it comes to online learning. People’s living environments and home lives vary significantly. This may make finding a quiet and focused place to tune into classes difficult. There are also huge disparities in people’s levels of access to technology. Some people don’t have a laptop of their own or reliable WIFI in their homes. Ignoring these issues is ignorant and harmful.  

Despite the clear difference in quality of learning, many colleges aren’t offering many refunds on tuition fees for students now learning through Zoom. Many students have retailiated by creating and signing petitions calling for tuition refunds. According to U.S. News, in a sample of 100 colleges, none of them were refunding tuition, instead they were only addressing refunds for room and board or parking. For many students and parents, spending full tuition or even a slightly discounted rate does not feel worthwhile for a completely virtual experience from a non-online certified university.

Students are petitioning for tuition refunds.

College tuitions are hefty to begin with. In the 2019 to 2020 school year, the average costs for tuition and fees were $41,426 for private colleges, $11,260 for state residents at public colleges, and $27,120 for out-of-state students at state schools. One possibility for compromise would be for students to enroll in an online university or local community college for a semester or as long as it takes to ride out the pandemic.

Online colleges are well versed in running curriculum virtually. They also offer significantly cheaper rates, often charging only half of what in-person colleges charge. Community colleges also offer the benefit of cheaper price-tags. For college students looking to save money until schooling can resume in person, online schooling or community college may be the way to go. 

Due to this pandemic’s effects on the economy, money mindfulness and saving is more important than ever. In order to ride out this time, we should be sensitive to everyone’s financial situations. For college students, online classes and life during the pandemic may be a huge adjustment. In order to weather that transition, we have to be open to new and creative solutions to learning and saving money.

Money Now + Beyond

Will there be no use of paper money in a post-COVID world?

Paper money is transferred from hand to hand multiple times every day. It is a norm to pay for items with cash – something no one has even second-guessed. The COVID-19 crisis, however, has led to unprecedented public concerns about viral transmission via cash.  With the global economy being on track for its sharpest, and by far quickest, slowdown since the Great Depression almost 100 years ago, this call for a cashless society is a daunting one.

When the World Health Organization released a statement recommending that people turn to cashless transactions to fight the spread of Covid-19, several governments and retailers across the world took action.

In China, thousands of banknotes were destroyed or disinfected to eliminate the spread of the virus. South Korea followed suit, and in the US, the Federal Reserve has started storing banknotes that have come in from Asia before recirculating them back into the economy.

Others have taken a more peculiar route. Rumours continue that some Canadians have been putting banknotes into washing machines to rid them of the virus, taking advantage of the fact that their ‘paper’ money is made of plastic. This puts a new spin to money laundering, and yes, pun intended.

As drastic and creative as some of these methods may seem, it remains a matter of fact that this pandemic is driving the adoption of contactless payments in a major way. France is even moving ahead with trials for a digital euro. It is unlikely that it will end the use of cash everywhere, but it may be enough to push many markets towards a new cashless paradigm.

Digital payments seem to be the clear winner coming out of this crisis. Once born out of convenience, contactless digital payments are now a necessity for many in such a time. Luckily, we live in a time where much of the infrastructure required to complete an online purchase is already in place. This may not have been possible even 10 years ago.

With governments urging citizens to stay at home (and in some cases making it illegal to leave), there has been an explosion in the use of online shopping and delivery systems. Businesses like PayPal, Amazon, and Instacart have seen huge spikes in demand.

In addition to this, even if one were to physically visit a store, COVID-19 has given people enough reason to be wary of public pay terminals. Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay allow a payment to be made without even touching a card to a terminal or entering a PIN.  As a result, cash managers and payments experts agree that the number of digital transactions, compared to physical cash transactions, will soar as more and more countries go into lockdown.

There are some benefits to this new digital model of payment. Some argue that it will boost financial inclusion, as more individuals are able to open bank accounts online and transact digitally without ever having to enter a physical bank branch. Another benefit is that digital payments are a lot cheaper to process than their cash equivalent, as some countries, such as India, spend quite a bit on printing, storing, and distributing cash.

Even with these benefits in mind, the question of if companies will be able to cope with the increase in online scammers and hackers that comes along with it is an intimidating one.

It is a sad truth, but any crisis presents opportunities for criminals and, with the radical change occurring at a high speed during this pandemic, new loopholes are opening for online scammers and hackers. COVID-19 is a backdoor of sorts for fraud to flourish, with common scams including impersonating public health authorities or other government organizations and demanding payment from the targets.

In response, companies and financial institutions need to make significant investments to improve fraud prevention and detection. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can both make a significant difference in this area, such as with software company Kount’s AI-driven online fraud prevention, businesses can prevent emerging fraud, accept more good orders, reduce manual reviews, and control business outcomes.

COVID-19 has sent the global economy into a tailspin, with the call for cashless payment methods being one of many new changes to society. While a post-pandemic world may be more digitally-inclined, it is difficult to say that physical money will be done away with altogether. In the current circumstances, however, the trade of cash is a propellant for the virus so try to avoid it for now.