When the fintechs first kicked off development, I think it mostly meant in terms of fees - the fintechs weren’t planning to have any while the high street banks had loads, usually set at a punitive level to punish transgressions, and it was difficult to find out what the fees would be and they were able to escalate up to an unlimited level, so some people ended up in a lot of financial trouble from simple mistakes.
I don’t think this is the case any more. Due to regulation, rather than competition from the fintechs, banks need to cap the maximum number of fees they can charge and their fees are set out clearly in a document. Arranged overdrafts have been restricted to a simple % interest charge rather than the complex charging structures that used to exist.
On top of this fintechs have added a whole host of fees - not the same ones that are charged by the traditional banks, those still seem to be zero, but other fees which to me feel much more confusing and are more likely to be hit by people during the course of day-to-day banking.
Monzo for example will charge you for depositing cash, and after March so will Starling on anything over £1000 in the year (so complex to work out).
Monzo also have different fees around cash withdrawals based upon how much you pay in to your account or what tier of account you have. Monzo’s charges for cash withdrawals abroad are also more complex than the traditional banks, depending on where you are and how much you are withdrawing.
There are charges for replacement cards with both Starling and Monzo if you get more than a certain number in the year.
Now I’m not making any comment on whether these charges are justified or will work out cheaper than the traditional banks, I think that will differ from person-to-person. What I’m saying this that they’re quite complex and therefore, in my view, not transparent.
The other facet of transparency is being open about your development roadmap and publishing quite a lot about what they’re doing and why. Monzo used to be very good at this, and I found it all very interesting, but I don’t think they are any doing this any longer. I don’t think Starling ever did. So I don’t think they’re particularly transparent in this regard, either.