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Alternatives to banks: which features and benefits matter?

Which alternative banking features and benefits really matter, and why?

If you’re looking at alternatives to a traditional bank account, it’s important to think about which benefits you will need before applying. 

Specific features, like phone-based support or the ability to transact in many different currencies, are more important to some customers than others. For example, many alternative banks offer digital or AI-based customer service rather than a relationship manager – so if you’re used to personal service, you might need to shop around.  

There are many reasons to choose an alternative provider instead of – or in addition to – a traditional bank. In this article, we’ll look at which alternative banking features and benefits really matter, and why. 

Why choose an alternative banking provider? 

Let’s begin with a brief overview of why an alternative to a bank might be right for you. 

A. You’re at risk of being debanked 

Earlier this year, we wrote an article that examined the issue of debanking. In early 2024, the UK's Treasury Committee revealed in its SME Finance inquiry that 2.7% of all small businesses were debanked in 2023 alone. That equates to over 140,000 account closures.  

Individuals can also be at risk of debanking. During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, banks closed 70,000 accounts because they couldn’t prove account holders were not involved in money laundering. In other words, banks closed accounts to err on the side of caution, rather than because their clients were proven guilty of any wrongdoing. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of Financial Ombudsman Service complaints related to debanking rose by 69% between the 2020-2021 and 2023-2024 financial years.  

Why do customers get debanked? 

The reasons why banks offboard customers are complex; however, risk appetite, suspected fraud, account misuse or even low account use are suspected factors.  

Furthermore, being a PEP (politically exposed person), doing business with high-risk countries or making large transactions can also lead to offboarding or prevent you from being onboarded in the first place. 

B. You want a more bespoke service 

Not all banks will offer the right expertise for your financial needs. For example, you might need specialist advice if you want to: 

  • Make a series of transactions that could raise red flags (and increase your risk of being offboarded by a traditional bank). 

  • Reduce your financial risk when making cross-border transactions. 

  • Navigate the regulatory framework of a region you’re unfamiliar with 

If your situation is complex, it's important to choose an alternative provider with the experience and confidence to handle your needs.  

C. Your current banking provider isn’t flexible enough 

A traditional bank may not offer the flexible payment or collection options that you and your clients expect.  

There may be strict deposit and withdrawal limits, or a lack of digital tools that can help you gain deeper insights into your finances. For example, if you want to automate mass payments to reduce your overheads and save time, this might not be an option at a traditional bank. 

Alternatives to banks: what to look for 

Here are six questions to ask as you consider different alternative banking providers.  

1. Does the provider offer multi-currency support? 

Also known as borderless accounts, multi-currency accounts let you hold, send and receive funds in different currencies from the same account. It's easier to track your revenue, monitor payments and manage taxes when all your international transactions happen in the same place. 

Why are multi-currency accounts important?  

Multi-currency accounts can make managing funds in different currencies far more efficient and cost-effective, because they remove the need to monitor multiple accounts in different countries. 

Many banks and fintech challenger banks offer borderless accounts. However, there are some caveats that you need to be aware of: 

  • Often, you must be a current account holder with the same (traditional) bank to be eligible for its multi-currency account.  

  • Many banks impose limits on FX transactions, restricting the amount of business you can do around the world. 

  • Some banks also impose minimum account balance, salary or turnover thresholds. Not everyone will be able to meet these requirements. 

2. How many currencies can you pay, hold and receive money in? 

Some providers only offer major currencies such as USD or EUR, which makes it harder to do business with clients in emerging economies. If you plan to expand your venture into smaller markets, it can be helpful to choose an account with a range of currency options. 

At Interpolitan, for example, you can pay, hold and receive money in 55+ currencies, including currencies in emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and Africa. 

3. Do you get personalised service from a dedicated account manager? 

Life can be unpredictable. Sometimes you need an expert to guide you through a complex matter that can’t be dealt with via chatbot or even an email. 

Traditional banks often use outdated ticketing systems for customer enquiries, which are inefficient and ineffective when account holders have queries that needs urgent attention. Even if you can get through to someone on the phone, complicated challenges can be difficult to solve in a timely manner. 

Fintechs often take a different approach to customer service. Chatbots are common, but many don’t offer telephone-based support – or make it difficult to access. If you’re used to personal support from a relationship manager and are considering opening an account with an alternative banking institution, it’s wise to check which customer service options are available.  

4. How fast are onboarding times? 

If you’re a non-resident, it can take months to open a business account at a high street bank in the UK. Anti money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) checks, residency requirements, proof of income and other procedures can make the process drawn out and complicated. 

Alternatives to banks, like electronic money institutions, tend to offer faster onboarding, although you may still need to wait a few weeks before your account is up and running. Some, like Interpolitan Money, open accounts in as few as 7–10 days.  

5. Can the provider navigate complicated financial regulations? 

The best business account providers will have the expertise and skill sets to help you efficiently navigate different financial regulations and compliance rules across multiple jurisdictions. This can help you meet your own compliance and regulatory obligations to avoid fines and stay within the law. 

6. Does the provider use enhanced security features? 

All banks and alternatives to traditional banks must adhere to strict regulations to safeguard their customers' funds and data. For instance, you should expect your provider to use a secure payment system which meets current industry standards and protects you from the latest cyber security threats.  

Ideally, the company should have a website page dedicated to security and compliance. Here, you should be able to find information about how it keeps your funds and data safe in accordance with regulations and laws. 

Security and compliance: things to check 

Here are three final questions to bear in mind when choosing a banking alternative.


Can you verify this is a legitimate company? 

The company should be on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Register and the Financial Services (FS) Register, the latter proving that the company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If you cannot verify that the company is on both registers, it may not be a legitimate financial institution. 

How long has the company been established? 

Longstanding financial institutions have a track record and an enduring reputation, which can help you decide whether to do business with them. A healthy following on social media and a robust filing history on Companies House are useful ways to gauge how long a firm has been actively trading. 

Does the company have a strong international presence? 

Does the company you’re considering have offices in key global financial centres such as London, Singapore, New York or Dubai? If it has a strong international profile, the company is likely to have a good understanding of different rules and regulations around the world.  

The benefits of alternative banking 

If you’re not resident in the UK or you’ve been debanked by a traditional institution, opening an account with an alternative bank could be the answer. 

However, features and benefits can vary between alternatives to banks. For example, some providers only offer online customer support and limited payment options, while others offer telephone-based customer service and a wider choice of account features. 

Here’s a quick recap of the most important things to look for when considering alternatives to banks: 

  • Multi-currency accounts with a wide choice of currencies. 

  • Personalised support at any time. 

  • Fast onboarding times. 

  • Access to expert advice. 

  • Robust security and compliance procedures. 

At Interpolitan Money, all clients benefit from a dedicated account manager, flexible payment options and the ability to hold 55+ currencies in one account. 

Learn more about us or open an account today

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