Forward-Thinking Mobile Banking with ZenBanx

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Not a fan of the name but I’m really excited about ZenBanx. Here’s why:

After having an ING Direct Canada account for many years I finally got serious about it, closing my Scotiabank account and transferring all funds to ING, only to see the former buy up the latter only a few months later. This all went down in 2012; unbenownst to me ING Canada’s founder, Arkadi Kuhlmann, started working on a new forward-thinking banking venture right about then. This morning that venture is open for invites in Canada, and it’s called (perhaps unfortunately) ZenBanx. Here’s the pitch:

Today’s world is mobile; you can jump on a plane and go just about anywhere, but your money can’t follow as easily. ZenBanx will change that.

For someone who really enjoys travelling and really hates fiddling with paper currency, this could be a godsend.

A ZenBanx account will have two standout features for the user. The first is ZenRate, basically multi-currency holdings within the same account. Customers can earn interest in up to five of the nine currencies available at launch—actually twelve if you include CAD and USD. The others are as follows:

  • Australian Dollar
  • Chinese Yuan Renminbi
  • Hong Kong Dollar
  • Indian Rupee
  • Japanese Yen
  • South Korean Won
  • Philippine Peso
  • Singapore Dollar
  • Thai Baht
  • Taiwan New Dollar

Currency exchange is historically where normal folk like you and I get gouged by either our bank or the ICE booth at our local airport. But ZenBanx’s commercial rates are surprisingly close to the trading rates at XE.com, which is pretty great!

The second selling point for a ZenBanx account is ZenPay, which allows the customer to send money (in local currency) to anyone in their phone’s address book. ZenBanx has already prepared for the upcoming Chinese New Year, with digital lucky pockets ready to go. Sadly, this pasty white guy has no family in the old country to send money back home to, but I can appreciate the value of this feature for those who do.

What I’m personally most excited about is tucked away at the end of this YouTube video:

Did you catch it? A proper debit card that you’ll hopefully be able to use anywhere in the world. And if ZenBanx can skirt around those pesky ATM fees and international surcharges like ING Canada did then consider me sold. One more thing to consider: Lest you think ZenBanx is some shady startup that will disappear overnight along with your hard-earned money, your funds will be held by DUCA Financial Services Credit Union Ltd., and protected by the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario to a maximum of $100,000 CAD.

I’ve done my fair share of bitching and moaning about the sorry state of mobile wallets here in Canada, but I’m starting to realize that maybe I haven’t been thinking big enough. It’s not just about the convenience of tap and pay (which you might already have on your credit card anyway), it’s about having your money with you wherever you go, in whatever the local currency may be.

For more on ZenBanx check out their coverage in today’s Financial Post. And if you wanted to sign up for an invite kindly do me a favour and use this link. If and when I actually get to start using ZenBanx I’ll be sure to post more about it here!