Ualá Review

uala
  • Easy to open an account
  • Free money transfers
  • Free Mastercard
  • Pay bills and recharge prepaid services
  • Budgeting features

The Argentinian banking market is finally opening up, so we decided to have a closer look at Pierpaolo Barbieri’s brainchild – Ualá. Although only founded in 2017, they already acquired more than 2 million customers. 

See all the ins and outs in our Ualá review. But first, here’s our short verdict:

Ualá has benefited greatly from the pandemic and with good cause. They offer a capable spending account and a prepaid card with free money transfers. With more and more competition, we hope they’ll continue offering a solid payments account.  

Uala review infographic

About Ualá

Ualá is a money management app based in Argentina, offering money management tools to help customers with their personal finances. They currently offer customers a prepaid Mastercard that allows them to make financial transactions in Argentina and abroad.

Ualá currently offers only one account option that is entirely free of charge. A significant part of the service they offer is to be entirely free of fine print and hidden fees. 

This means there are no monthly fees to open or maintain an account, close an account, make transfers between Ualá users, top-up funds, and no fees on your first ATM withdrawal per month.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • No monthly fees
  • Free transfers between Ualá users
  • Free debit card
  • Investing option
  • Budgeting features
  • Loans of up to $ 500,000

Cons

  • Only 1 free ATM withdrawal per month
  • No interest rate on deposits

Fees

  • Generally no fees
  • 1 free Atm withdrawal, $105 + VAT after that
  • USD6 + VAT for international ATM withdrawals 

Who can open an Ualá account?

To open an Ualá account, you have to be older than 13 and be an Argentinian resident. You’ll also need a government-issued ID.

How to open an Ualá account?

Ualá makes opening an account a much easier process than with traditional banks. You can download their app from the App Store or Google Play. 

Once the app is downloaded, users have to enter some personal information, an address to send their card to, and verify their identity with their government-issued ID and a selfie.

In general, they will approve your account in 48 hours. If you’re between 13 and 17 years old, the process will take longer because they need the authorization of an adult. If they approve your account, they’ll send you the card within 10-15 business days.

How to add funds?

Ualá makes it easy to add funds, allowing users to transfer funds from any bank account. They also offer customers a service to deposit cash into their accounts via Pago Fácil, a rare feature for a digital bank. 

Ualá offers bill paying and money transfer services via Western Union. Ualá users can also transfer money for free to other bank accounts.

Ualá card

Besides getting a virtual card on your app, you can also get an international prepaid Mastercard. You will get it after some 15 business days. You can track the shipment from the app to see where it is. 

The Ualá Mastercard is neither a credit nor a debit card; it’s a prepaid card. That means that you’ll have to reload it to use it. After you get some money on it, you can use it online or in-store, anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted. 

You can see your card balance and transactions in the Uala app at all times. You’ll also get real-time notifications when you make a transaction. 

Money transfers

With Ualá, you can receive and send money to other Ualá users and other banks or accounts. It’s free of charge and instant. 

You will need the 6-digit password or security code that you created when Ualá validated your username. To make a transfer:

  1. Open the Ualá app
  2. Go to ‘Transfers’
  3. Choose the person
  4. Tap ‘Send Payment’

Investing 

When you invest through Ualá, you subscribe to shares of the SBS Savings Pesos FCI fund, managed by SBS Asset Management. You can start investing from $1. 

When you invest money in a Common Investment Fund, you buy small parts of the fund at a specific value. These parts are called quotas, and when their price changes, the result of your investment varies.

Loans

You can apply for a loan of up to $500,000. There are some requirements, of course:

  • You’re an Argentine citizen or resident in the country
  • Are 18 years or older
  • You have your own bank account
  • You have verifiable income greater than $ 10,000
  • You have no debts registered in the last 24 months.

Budgeting and analytics

One of the best things that digital banks offer is the budgeting and analytics feature. By accessing it, you will see exactly where your money is going. All your spending is categorized into, well, categories that you can analyze on a monthly or annual basis. 

The default categories are:

  • Shopping
  • Entertainment
  • Transport
  • Restaurants
  • Sports
  • Bill payments
  • Supermarket
  • Uncategorized

 You can, of course, edit each category to better suit your spending habits.  

Mobile app

The Ualá app is easy to use and keeps track of finances simple with various tools and features. The features allow users to gain more insight and awareness about the money going out and into their account, such as automatic push notifications that alert a customer when a transaction has been carried out. 

The app also features spending categorization that helps users look at what they are spending their money on and where they could afford to make some savings. 

The Ualá app also features the handy instant freeze and unfreeze feature, allowing users to stop their card if it is lost or stolen and start using it again if they find it.

Who owns Ualá?

Ualá was founded in 2017 by Pierpaolo Barbieri. Its headquarters are in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The company raised more than $194 million from 6 rounds of funding. The last corporate round brought in $150 million in November 2019.

It has 17 investors, including heavy hitters such as Soros Fund Management, Tencent, Softbank, Greyhound Capital, Goldman Sachs, etc. 

How is Ualá regulated?

Ualá is a fintech company and not a bank. It’s regulated as a payment service provider in the Registry of Payment Service Providers with the Central Bank of Argentina.

And, although Ualá is not a bank and legally it’s not a financial institution either, Ualá is regulated by the Financial Information Unit (UIF).

Is my money safe with Ualá?

Because Ualá isn’t a bank, the funds deposited in payment accounts do not constitute deposits in a regulated financial institution. They do not have the guarantees of deposits in financial institutions. 

But also, unlike regular banks, Ualá doesn’t lend deposits from its users. For that reason, your money is also safe or even safer than in an ordinary bank.

You see, with alternative banking institutions such as Ualá, your money is safeguarded in a separate account that Ualá doesn’t touch and uses solely for the purpose that it was deposited there, i.e.,multi-currency money transfer or saving.

Customer service 

You can reach Ualá customer service on chat through the app. They’re available from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

You can also send an email to hola@uala.com.ar. Or ask your questions in the Ualá Community where other Ualá users can help you.

Competition 

Wilobank

wilobank

Wilobank is the first 100% digital bank in Argentina. It offers savings accounts as well as debit and credit cards. There are no monthly fees, no ATM fees, and no transaction fees. 

Reba

Reba offers its customers a multi-currency account. You can hold both pesos and dollars and earn interest on your deposit. A remarkable feature they have is the ability to withdraw money from an ATM without your card, just by using the Reba app.

Brubank

Brubank say they are the largest digital bank in Argentina. Like other digital banks in Argentina, Burbank offers Visa debit cards and instant and free transfers. There are no monthly account fees, no ATM fees, and no bill payment fees. 

The bottom line

Ualá has a capable payments account that compensates for a savings account with an option to invest your money into an investment fund. Their no-fees account will make you a happy camper and even save you a few pesos.