Revolut is launching an eSIM plan for travel in Britain, a rare move for a financial services company.
British financial technology company Revolut is launching phone plans in Britain, the company has told CNBC exclusively, making it the first financial services company in the country to offer telecom plans – and one of the first in the world.
The digital banking and payments unicorn said it will this week start offering eSIMs – SIM cards that can be stored virtually rather than in physical form on the device. The plans will be rolled out to users in the coming days.
Customers on Revolut's basic app experience without a contract can get a standard eSIM plan that gives them access to their Revolut app so they can top up their phone when they need to. For example, if a Revolut user arrives at an airport and has run out of data from their current SIM provider, they can still access their Revolut app features for free and top up their data as usual.
Revolut customers on the premium Ultra package at £55 ($69.47) per month get 3GB of data for worldwide use, with a rolling renewal every month. That means they don't have to worry about unexpected roaming charges when entering another country.
The costs of using mobile data abroad have risen for Britons in recent years. Several mobile providers, including BT, Vodafone and Three, have reintroduced roaming charges since Britain left the European Union. Britons could previously travel across the EU without roaming charges. Meanwhile, most mobile providers don't include free data in non-EU countries as part of their standard plans.
Revolut users without an Ultra plan can get an introductory offer of 100MB of free data if they sign up before May 1. The offer is valid for seven days, after which they will need to upgrade to Ultra if they want to continue using the eSIM.
Revolut has partnered with British mobile network operator 1Global, formerly known as Truphone, to launch its eSIM.
Tara Massoudi, general manager of premium products at Revolut, said Revolut's decision to launch eSIMs was to turn the company into a more all-encompassing 'super app' with services across bank accounts, currency exchange, insurance, travel booking and airports . lounge passes.
“Our ambition is to be the financial super app,” Massoudi told CNBC. “This is really moving in that direction.”
“Travel is a huge value that we have always had, and it is still super important for our users,” Massoudi added. “So it is important that we continue to innovate in that area.”
Launching telephone subscriptions is a rare step by a financial services provider. Many challenger banks have bundled new services into their apps to give consumers more reason to use them over alternatives. The goal is to attract a more robust customer base in the long term.
That's quite important in the case of Revolut. The company, which posted a valuation of $33 billion in 2022, is trying to gain a more loyal user base and expand its paid subscription offering to diversify revenue.
To do that, it needs customers to use it more as a permanent banking provider for all their financial needs, rather than just an optional, low-cost travel account for when they go abroad.
Hermann Frank, CEO of technology startup Gigs, which helps companies set up and sell their own eSIM phone and data plans, said Revolut's move could be lucrative for the company in the long term.
“This move provides Revolut with an easy way to unlock a lucrative new revenue stream and could play a critical role in the company's long-term profitability,” Frank told CNBC via email.
“By enriching their offering with branded phone plans, neobanks like Revolut can bring two essential services together into a single app, simplifying the user experience and increasing stickiness.”
Retail spending on travel connectivity services, including roaming packages and travel SIM cards, is expected to rise to more than $30 billion by 2028, according to roaming and connectivity market intelligence and consultancy firm Kaleido Intelligence.
“We anticipate that many other banks will launch phone subscriptions and travel offers over the next 18 months,” Frank added.
Revolut is not the first fintech to ever launch an eSIM offering. Indian credit card startup Zolve, which helps immigrants set up banking businesses before arriving in the U.S., started offering phone plans tied to physical SIM cards and e-SIM cards in August.