Payset prespective
May 23, 2024

EMIs vs Banks: Which Is Better for You?

The benefits of an EMI Vs a bank is an emerging question as the traditional banking landscape evolves, and the rise of Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) challenges the status quo. While banks have long held the reins of financial services, EMIs offer a distinct approach, catering to a growing demand for faster, more accessible, and digitally-driven solutions. 

What Are EMIs?

Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) are financial entities licensed to operate in the digital space to issue electronic money (e-money) and provide electronic payment services. These entities offer a variety of financial services through electronic means such as opening and maintaining accounts, transferring funds, issuing cards, currency exchange and providing smaller loans and other financial services.

The regulatory framework for EMIs is governed by the Electronic Money Directive 2 (EMD2), which aims to harmonise regulations across the European Union. The Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) complements EMD2 by focusing on open banking and enhancing consumer protection in the payments sector. These directives establish strict requirements for capital adequacy, risk management, and consumer protection, ensuring consumer trust and a safe digital financial ecosystem.

What Are Banks?

Traditional banks are financial institutions that typically have brick-and-mortar locations that offer a wide array of financial services, including deposits, loans, investment services, credit cards, and payment processing. They are chartered and regulated by government agencies, and unlike EMIs are permitted to offer credit and loans.

A comprehensive suite of financial services are provided by traditional banks including: 

  • Deposits: Accepting deposits from customers and receiving interest on funds kept in accounts.
  • Loans: Providing loans to individuals and businesses, including mortgages, personal loans, and business loans.
  • Investment Services: Offering investment products like mutual funds, bonds, and other securities, providing financial advice, and managing investment portfolios.
  • Payment Services: Facilitating payments through debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, and online payment systems.
  • Other Services: Providing insurance, financial planning, and trust services.

The regulatory and prudential landscape for banks and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) in Europe differs significantly due to the distinct nature of their operations and the perceived risk levels associated with them.

Banks operate under a highly comprehensive regulatory framework, including the Capital Requirements Regulation (CRR), the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD), and the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). They have strict capital requirements that aim to ensure banks can absorb losses and maintain financial stability. Banks operate under constant supervision and are subject to regular stress tests, on-site inspections and reporting obligations.

The regulatory and prudential framework for banks and EMIs in Europe differs significantly, reflecting the distinct nature and risk profiles of their operations. Banks face a more stringent and comprehensive regulatory environment due to their broader range of activities and potential systemic risk. EMIs operate under a lighter framework with lower capital requirements and less intensive supervision, reflecting their more limited scope of activities and lower perceived risk. Both sectors play crucial roles in the European financial system, and their respective regulatory frameworks are designed to ensure their financial stability and consumer protection.

Operational Differences

While both banks and EMIs offer financial services, their operational models differ, particularly in their approach to technology and customer interaction.

EMIs embrace a digital-first approach, relying heavily on online platforms and mobile applications for customer interaction and service delivery. This allows for reduced operational costs with no need for physical branches and their associated overhead. Streamlined processes and instant digital transactions increase efficiency.

Banks traditionally operate through a branch-based model, offering services through physical locations. This operational model leads to a more personal experience that is highly valued by certain age demographics but it also means that banks have higher operational costs from maintaining branches, staff, and infrastructure. Limited operating hours and physical queues mean they can have slower service and this model has a restricted reach because it depends on geographical location, which limits customer access.

The operational nature of EMIs demands that they embrace cutting-edge technologies, integrating APIs, blockchain, and AI into their platforms. 

This enables:

  • Personalised services: Tailored offers based on customer data and behaviour.
  • Faster transaction times: Instant payments and seamless digital processes.
  • Enhanced security: Secure online platforms with advanced encryption and fraud detection.

Banks, while increasingly incorporating technology, often face challenges in updating legacy systems and keeping pace with rapid technological advancements, which can lead to:

  • Slower adoption of new technologies: Lagging behind in innovation and customer experience.
  • Limited integration capabilities: Difficulty in seamlessly integrating with other platforms and services.

Services Offered


EMIs are changing the way people manage their finances, offering many services designed to make financial transactions fast, simple, and accessible. 

Key services and their benefits are:

1. E-Wallets

  • Convenience: Store multiple currencies, manage your spending, and pay for goods and services online or in-store with just a few taps.
  • Speed: Transactions are usually processed instantly, eliminating the need for cash or card swipes.
  • Security: EMIs implement robust security measures, often involving multi-factor authentication and encryption, to protect your funds.

2. International Transfers

  • Speed: Transfer money across borders quickly, often within minutes or hours, compared to traditional bank transfers that can take days or even weeks.
  • Lower Costs: EMIs often offer competitive exchange rates and lower transfer fees than traditional banks.
  • Transparency: Clear and upfront pricing on fees and exchange rates.
  • Accessibility: Access to a wider range of currencies and international payment options.

3. Digital Payment Services

  • Ease of Use: Make online purchases, pay bills, and send money to friends and family seamlessly with your phone or computer.
  • Mobile First: EMIs often leverage mobile technology, making transactions readily accessible anytime, anywhere.
  • Flexibility: Choose from various payment methods like QR codes, mobile wallets, or virtual cards.
  • Security: Secure transactions through encryption and other security protocols.


Banks offer a comprehensive range of financial solutions designed to meet the diverse needs of their customers. These services can be broadly categorised as:

1. Credit Facilities like loans, credit cards, lines of credit, and overdrafts.

2. Investment Services including investment accounts, mutual funds, ETFs, brokerage services, and financial advice.

3. Personal Banking for checking and savings accounts, debit cards, wire transfers, bill payments and mobile banking.

There are a few different advantages of banks and their one-stop financial services. The first is the convenience of having a wide range of financial services under one roof. This setup simplifies managing personal finances, eliminating the need to deal with multiple institutions.

Integration is another benefit of banks. Banks can seamlessly integrate different services, making it easier to track transactions, manage debt, and monitor investments.

There is the potential for discounts and bundled offers at banks for customers who utilise multiple services but it is important to compare offerings across different institutions to find the best deals.

Regulatory and Compliance Aspects

Among the chief differences between EMIs and banks is the way they are regulated, which reflects the distinct nature of their operations and risk profiles. Importantly, because banks loan money and provide credit, they are subject to different legal requirements.

In the UK, both banks and EMIs like Payset are regulated by the FCA, while banks in the UK are also regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). 

An EMI is required by the FCA to safeguard client funds, meaning they are held in separate accounts so that in the event of insolvency, client funds are not affected and can be immediately reimbursed. Meanwhile, banks are permitted to use, invest, and loan out client funds but must have the funds insured by the FSCS. So, in the event a bank fails, it is the insurer, not the bank itself that reimburses the client. 

Advantages and Disadvantages


EMIs are quickly becoming the preferred way for digital-native customers to send and receive payments. This demographic is comfortable in an online environment and can take advantage of the service benefits that EMIs offer beyond digital convenience, such as: 

  • Lower Fees: EMIs will often have lower transaction fees, maintenance fees, and international transfer charges than banks do. 
  • Streamlined Processes: Setting up an account can be faster and easier on these platforms that provide faster transaction times and digital documentation and organisation.
  • Innovative Features: EMIs, because they emerged in the digital context, can more readily leverage data analytics and AI to tailor services to individual needs and preferences, offering personalised financial products and recommendations. They are designed for a mobile-first approach, offering intuitive mobile apps and user interfaces to use features like mobile payment options, real-time transaction notifications, budgeting tools, and integration with digital wallets.

While EMIs offer convenience and innovation, they face some drawbacks compared to traditional banks. 

Firstly, their limited physical presence restricts access to in-person services like cash deposits or consultations. This can be challenging for individuals who prefer traditional banking methods. 

Secondly, EMIs often have a narrower range of services, lacking features like complex financial planning or extensive loan products available at banks. 


Traditional banks offer a robust foundation of financial services, boasting a comprehensive suite of options including chequing and savings accounts, loans, mortgages, and investment products. Their long-standing presence in the market has established a strong reputation for reliability and trust, providing customers with peace of mind. Furthermore, physical branch access remains a significant advantage, enabling face-to-face interactions, personalised advice, and immediate support. This tangible presence offers a sense of security and convenience that many customers value.

While banks are the established and trusted institutions for financial services, they face a multitude of challenges in today's rapidly evolving financial landscape. Rising operating costs, driven by regulatory compliance and cybersecurity, force them to increase fees for customers. Simultaneously, the emergence of fintech companies and digital disruptors incentivizes customers to embrace alternative financial solutions, potentially impacting bank profitability. Slow adoption of digital innovations, coupled with legacy systems, hinders banks' ability to compete effectively in the digital age. Addressing these challenges requires strategic investments in technology, fostering a culture of innovation, and prioritising customer experience to maintain relevance in the evolving financial ecosystem.

Security and Risk Management

Banks operate under strict regulations, requiring robust risk management frameworks and stringent security measures. They hold customer deposits in segregated accounts, backed by deposit insurance schemes. These schemes protect depositors up to a certain limit in case of bank failure.

EMIs are less regulated than banks, leading to varying risk management practices. EMIs will often offer similar levels of security. Deposit insurance schemes for EMIs are less common and often have lower coverage limits than bank schemes.

Insurance & Protection:

  • Banks: Deposit insurance schemes, typically managed by national governments, protect depositors against bank failures. Coverage limits and specific terms vary between countries.
  • EMIs: Deposit insurance schemes are less common for EMIs. Some countries have introduced specific schemes for EMIs, while others offer protection through general schemes that include both banks and EMIs.

Generally, banks offer a higher level of security and protection for customer funds due to stricter regulations and comprehensive deposit insurance schemes. While EMIs can offer attractive services, customers need to evaluate the risk management practices and the availability of insurance before choosing them.

Future Outlook and Trends

EMIs are disrupting the financial landscape, offering innovative, digital-centric services that challenge traditional banking. They leverage technology to provide faster, cheaper, and more accessible financial solutions, particularly for underserved populations. This has fueled competition and forced banks to adapt, enhancing digital offerings and streamlining processes.

Future trends point towards continued digitalization, with embedded finance and open banking ecosystems becoming mainstream. Regulation will likely evolve to balance innovation with consumer protection and financial stability. EMIs will play a crucial role in shaping this future, pushing boundaries and driving further disruption in the financial services sector.


Choosing between an EMI and a traditional bank depends on individual needs and preferences. EMIs offer a convenient and cost-effective digital alternative for customers seeking basic banking services and online payments. Traditional banks, on the other hand, provide a more comprehensive set of services and physical branch access.

For those interested in an EMI, Payset offers a range of innovative financial services, including multi-currency accounts, low-fee currency exchange, access to local and international payment networks in numerous currencies, and more. It is a leading EMI with excellent security measures, a convenient online dashboard, and a personal account manager.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a multi-currency account/virtual IBAN?

A Payset multi-currency account allows you to receive money in 34 different currencies and send money in up to 38 currencies, all within the same account.

You can deposit and withdraw funds, convert currencies at competitive exchange rates, and hold your chosen currencies to capitalize on market movements.

A Payset multi-currency account allows startups and business owners to receive payments from clients virtually anywhere in the world and pay suppliers, staff, and contractors quickly and affordably in their chosen currency.

  • Funds can be deposited and withdrawn from the account for a small fee.
  • Account holders can send and receive money with other Payset users for free.
  • Depending on your region, you can use various payment networks from your Payset account, including SWIFT, SEPA, ACH, Fedwire, Faster Payments, BACS, and CHAPS. 
  • Once you register an account, you will be provided with a Virtual IBAN (International Bank Account Number), which makes all of these transfers easy.
  • We provide you with local payments and collections. For example, transactions in USD, EUR, CAD, and GBP are processed through the local payment networks, which is far cheaper and takes minutes as opposed to days

Are there limits on the amount of money I can send and receive?

No, there are no transaction limits on Payset multi-currency accounts.

However, higher-volume transactions may require additional anti-fraud verification. If you plan to make a large transaction, contact us in advance to avoid verification delays.

How is Payset regulated?

Payset is regulated as an authorized Electronic Money Institution by the UK Financial Conduct Authority. Our activities are also regulated by the Payment Services Regulation 2017 and the Electronic Money Regulation 2011 (SI 2011/99).

How do I send money from my account?

Once you have opened your verified IBAN account and added money to a balance, transferring funds is simple.

Simply log in into your account and add a beneficiary, then simply “make a transfer” in your preferred currency to that beneficiary.

Information contained in this publication is provided for general education and information purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, investment or other professional advice or recommendation, or an offer of, or solicitation for, any transactions or any other actions (or refraining therefrom); This material has been prepared without taking into account any particular recipient’s financial objectives or situation. We make no warranty, guarantee or representation, whether express or implied, as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or fitness thereof for a particular purpose; Use of images and symbols is made for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation or advice to take or refraining from any action; Use of brand logos does not necessarily imply a contractual relationship between us and the entities owning the logos, nor does it represent an endorsement of any such entity by Pay Set Limited, or vice versa; Market information is made available to you only as a service, and we do not endorse or approve it; Any reference to past performance, predicted returns, or likelihood performance scenarios may not reflect actual future performance and certainly do not guarantee future outcomes.

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