Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business owners have had to jump through hoops to accept payments from international clients. Bank transfers are fee-ridden and take days to process. PayPal has been known to freeze accounts randomly. Other payment providers simply do not work with certain countries. Providers have been known to pry deep into a person's business operations without much merit or probable cause.
One quick look at Facebook's "Digital Nomads Around the World" group will highlight over 100,000 people that share war stories about their accounts being closed or simply being unable to collect bills or pay a foreign client due to payment processor issues. For example, when searching "PayPal" here are the first results:
These struggles have led to many new startups and programs that have been created to simply provide more access. For example, Estonia’s e-Residency program allows business owners to remotely establish a company and bank account within the EU. Cryptocurrencies have also gained massive popularity for their decentralized person-to-person approach to payments.
As a “digital nomad” and freelance consultant, I am always on the lookout for new services that ease the burden of cross-border transactions and provide enough options to satisfy my client base. This list represents 5 companies I have been introduced to from friends and organically over the past year that are making payments easier for modern entrepreneurs.
Founded in 2013, N26 is a German bank currently operating across Europe and the United States. N26 is useful as it is fully synced with Apple Pay and Google Pay, essentially making it a mobile-first bank. Push notifications are sent for every transaction and spending is monitored and categorized to help users maintain security and a budget.
The company has gained popularity for offering various levels of memberships that come with fancy cards and upgrades. Users can choose to max-out their cards and receive benefits such as no foriegn transaction fees, travel coverage, mobile theft cover, and more. Freelancers also have free and premium account options available.
One of the major benefits of using N26 is the protection of user funds. Each account is attached to the German Deposit Guarantee Fund that will guarantee deposits of up to 100,000 euros per owner of an account in the EU.
Based in London, Curve is branded as the “over-the-top” banking platform that allows consumers to combine all of their credit and debit cards into a single Curve card. The idea, while not groundbreaking, does offer a ton of value for people that have multiple cards, each presumably containing different restrictions and terms.
The company has attracted over $55 million in VC funding at a $250 million valuation. Curve is live in 31 countries in Europe, with nearly one-third of its users coming from outside of the UK. Entrepreneurs or travelers alike can leverage Curve’s single card and mobile app to manage all of their finances, including ATM withdrawals.
Transactions are processed by MasterCard so you will need to make sure that the merchant you are transacting with accepts MasterCard. One key difference between Curve and other similar fin-tech companies is that users do not need a bank account to use Curve.
While other companies in this article have been focused on consumer solutions, PumaPay is an easy option for entrepreneurs and merchants to start accepting cryptocurrency payments in just three simple steps. Merchants can use PumaPay’s Business Console to register, set up billing methods, and start accepting the company’s native token. Businesses accepting this option can settle payments in fiat first, removing any volatility seen with crypto.
PumaPay eliminates chargebacks since transactions are immutable on the blockchain, as well as eliminates all fees besides an Ethereum gas fee which is required to post transactions on the blockchain. Users can also choose to leverage PumaPay’s crypto wallets for convenience.
It is important to note that PumaPay raised $117 million in 2018 and has already secured partnerships with over 100 brands, including companies such as Wix.com, PornHub, FashionTV, and more.
Founded in 2015, Revolut has over 7 million customers and has processed over 350 million transactions. The company offers a robust set of digital and physical banking services including prepaid debit cards, currency exchanges, crypto friendly exchanges, p2p payments, and more.
Revolut’s mobile app acts as a fully functional mobile bank and users can choose from three tiers of offerings. The most notable, Revolut’s metal card, gives users benefits such as a free UK account, a Euro IBAN account, no ATM withdrawal fees, airport lounge access, and disposable virtual cards. All of this costs 13.99 euros per month.
It is important to note that Revolut does not offer web functionality and is available only as a mobile app. For entrepreneurs, Revolut is often touted as an easy way to get banking in new countries and start accepting payments without the hassle often seen in traditional banks.
While Charles Schwab is definitely not a new name and likely considered part of the old banking regime, they have been groundbreaking for their global solutions. By opening a High Yield Investor Checking account, users get access to a debit card that can be used anywhere in the world without ATM or transaction fees. You heard that right. All ATM fees are credited back to the account after ATM withdrawals, with no limitations.
For those of us that travel frequently, you know travel-friendly credit cards are the de facto choice for most purchases. Unfortunately, there are many times where cash is simply a requirement and using a normal debit card will result in double penalties, one from your home institution and one from the bank you are using abroad.
Schwab’s solution is perfect for these scenarios where cash is needed. The best part is the currency conversion rate is taken on the spot, meaning you also save on conversion fees that you would typically pay when converting currencies.
Note: I use some of these products and know employees/have relationships at a few of the listed companies. These are personal opinions only and I encourage readers to explore what works best for them.