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NatWest launches app-only bank account Bó – but is it any good?

NatWest has launched an app-only bank account named Bó, offering built-in budgeting features and an eye-catching yellow card – but how does it compare with more-established digital rivals Monzo and Starling?

Bó is a free account which can provide instant transaction alerts, a 'piggybank' for setting cash aside from your main balance and detailed spending reports.

However, while these features may not measure up to Monzo and Starling's, Bó will appeal to travellers, as it has no fees for overseas spending and cash withdrawals.

See our App-based banking guide for more info on the best banking and savings apps, plus our Travel Credit Cards guide.

How does it work?

You must open and manage the app-only Bó bank account, unsurprisingly, via its app – it's available to anyone aged 18 or over who lives in the UK.

First, download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store – Bó says you can set it up in a matter of minutes.

You'll be asked to enter contact details and verify your identity by taking a photo of your passport or driving licence along with a few selfies. The Visa debit card should then arrive three days later.

NatWest suggests using Bó as a 'companion account' for everyday spending by moving money into it from your main bank account. The only way to do this currently is by bank transfer using Faster Payments. This means you can't get your salary paid into Bó if your employer pays you by Bacs (as many do).

The app will track your spending and separate it by category, location and retailer, giving you a bird's eye view of your day-to-day purchases. You can also set a monthly budget and put money aside in a 'piggybank' – though you won't earn any interest on what you save. There's also no arranged overdraft facility.

How does it compare with Monzo and Starling?

Monzo and Starling – fully regulated banks in their own right – have offered many of the same features as Bó, such as spending alerts and categories, for years. But because their apps have been updated regularly, they now offer more advanced features if you're looking to keep your finances in check.

For example, Monzo and Starling let you round up transactions and put the change towards savings, which can be an easy way to start putting money aside. Monzo even lets you set separate budgets for each spending category, so you can decide what you want to cut back on. Both also make it easy to split the bill when you're out with friends.

What's more, Bó misses some nice-to-haves that even old-fashioned banks now offer, such as Apple Pay/Google Pay support and fingerprint login.

Yet Bó does have one trick up its sleeve. Like Monzo and Starling, it doesn't charge fees for spending money or taking cash out abroad.

However, unlike Monzo, Bó has no monthly limit on fee-free cash withdrawals, making it a better option for travellers. But it's worth noting that the Mastercard exchange rate you get with Starling – which also has no limit on fee-free cash withdrawals – will usually beat the Visa rate from Bó.

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