N26 is a 100% digital bank that doesn’t have any brick and mortar branches. It is a completely revamped concept of a bank that is really getting some attention from tech-savvy people who are tired of dealing with bloated megabanks that use questionable business practices.
As a digital bank, N26 connects directly to a smartphone, with potential clients being able to open an account in a mere five minutes in most cases. In addition to the ease of establishing a new account, N26 offers the most necessary banking services, like direct deposit, payment transfers, instant notifications, and savings account options.
Essential and convenient services have no hidden fees and no maintenance charges, making it an even more attractive option to the monolithic banking institutions. N26 is one of a new generation of financial service providers, like Robinhood (reported to be entering the UK market soon) and Revolut.
N26 is Changing the Game
In contrast to RobinHood and Revolut, N26 is a fully licensed German bank, which can be used by anyone in the UK, Europe and now, in the United States. Established five years ago in Berlin, N26 has attracted more than three and a half million customers in over 27 countries.
One of the reasons for its popularity is the low cost of doing business since N26 does not have a massive network of bank branches, each with a fair share of employees to support. This means that the overall cost structure for the bank is quite low, allowing the company to pass savings onto the customer by eliminating fees.
N26 also experiments with and continually refines its fully integrated digital platform. It is likely a better fit for younger clients who use their smartphones for all sorts of business and personal transactions.
What is N26?
According to the website, N26 is “fast, flexible and transparent”. As a digital bank for the modern world, N26 offers unique features combined with rock-bottom fees.
As noted previously, N26 has no physical locations, and as a result, the range of financial services offered is more limited than the options available at Barclay’s or HSBC. Although money easily can be sent, received and transferred, if an N26 client wants their cash, they still must go to an ATM.
All account information, including statements and notifications, is digital, and there is a near absence of all human interaction. Nonetheless, N26 still functions like any other bank and is constantly expanding its service options, at all either low or no fees.
N26 works with TransferWise for international payments and supports transfers between 19 nineteen foreign currencies directly from the app.
The company also claims that its international transfer platform is six times cheaper than regular banks. The app has a unique feature called “Spaces” which helps the customer to save money for a particular goal. If someone needs to withhold extra money for an exotic vacation or big down payment, this feature is extraordinarily practical.
Here is a list of the rest of the features that N26 builds into their app, and are included in all their accounts:
- Make money transfers with ease. Send, receive and request money from a variety of sources.
- N26 accounts support Google Pay, which allows customers to make payments in stores and online.
- N26’s app allows customers to set daily spending and withdrawal limits, to lock or unlock the card, to enable or disable online or foreign payments, and to reset the account PIN.
- N26’s app also generates spending statistics, which means it can automatically categorize and breakdown purchases into different groups.
- N26 provides customers with a UK account number and sort code, which facilitates direct deposits and payments in the same manner as a standard bank account.
- Another unique feature called “MoneyBeam” permits customers to send cash instantly to other N26 users, or within two days to non-N26 users.
How Does N26 Differ From A Traditional Bank?
As previously discussed, N26 varies from the usual bank model in multiple ways. The founders of N26 wanted to create a banking platform that was both simple to use and inexpensive for its customers.
Most major banks generate a sizable amount of income from retail banking fees, like overdraft penalties for charges that exceed available funds and for falling below a minimum account balance. These fees are a core part of the standard banking business model.
N26 is focused on delivering commonly used banking services, rather than the full range of options such as insurance, loans or unsecured lines of credit.
Many international banking conglomerates, like RBS and NatWest, can offer its clients numerous products, like mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and various insurance products. In some instances, bundling all the products together into an overall package can make the cost lower for the customer.
The downside to all of these products and packages is the cost for customers who need simple bank services like deposits, ATM access, and debit cards. In contrast, N26 offers quick and easy banking on the go, targeting younger tech-savvy people who have modest financial needs.
Opening an Account With N26 is Easy
N26 is designed to be ridiculously simple. A UK citizen or resident can sign-up for an account at N26 using their smartphone app or the web browser on a computer.
UK clients can open an account with N26 in 3 easy steps:
- Fill in the registration form online
- Verify your ID
- Connect a smartphone to your new N26 account
Once the above steps are successfully completed, the chosen N26 account will be open. They will also send a MasterCard to access the funds.
As of August 2019, N26 was available in the United States. Opening an account takes a mere eight minutes, (according to the website) and requires the same procedure as the UK. Potential customers must provide personal information and a mobile phone number.
The N26 Account Opening Process in Detail
Opening an account at N26 is similar to most banks, but the entire process is done online. Here is a detailed breakdown of the process:
Step One: Give N26 All of Your Personal Info
The N26 registration form covers all of the normal personal details that any legally registered bank requires. Following is a list of the basic information:
- First name
- Last name
- Email address
- Physical Address
- Date of birth
- Phone number
- Any promotional codes
After entering all of the basics, N26 will ask for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) info such as:
- City of birth
- Job title and industry
- Tax residency (country where are taxed)
- Tax ID number (if applicable)
Once all the information is in the system, one must agree to the terms and conditions, and opt in to any other programs or privacy settings that are displayed on the screen. An email confirmation will occur next, in addition to the choice of participating in one of the two N26 plans that are currently available in the UK (There are proposals to expand their offered services soon).
Choose a Plan
- N26 – The most basic features, plus free cash withdraws in the UK and free payments worldwide. There is no charge for this plan.
- N26 You – £4.90 per month and includes free cash withdrawals
- N26 Metal- Offers everything that the N26 You Plan does, plus free cash withdrawals globally, travel and purchase protection insurance, dedicated customer support and lounge key access. It costs £14.90 a month.
Step Two: Getting Verified
Getting verified with N26 should be as simple as uploading a selfie and a valid photo ID, as long as you are in the UK. The verification process at N26 is designed to be simple, and you will know quickly if your ID verification was successful.
Step Three: The Smartphone
Once everything is done, a smartphone will have to be paired to the newly created account. Downloading the N26 app is an obvious and essential step because the app will assist in the pairing of the phone to the account.
It is very important to double-check the phone number associated with the account, the number entered in the first step of the account creation process, since a four-digit verification code will be sent to this number.
If needed or desired, customers can change their telephone numbers later; however, correct numbers are essential to finish the enrolment process.
If there is a problem with the telephone number in the initial stage, customers will not be able to progress in the account creation. This verification code is part of the three-way security system designed to keep the account and its relevant information safe. The account can be paired only with one smartphone at a time.
Once verified, it is just a matter of waiting for the new MasterCard to arrive. When it does, the N26 account can be used immediately.
How Does N26 Compare With Similar Platforms (Like Revolut)?
As N26 points out on their UK promo, it is the only mobile bank that has a full banking license. Revolut also offers many of the same services that N26 does.
Last year it was granted a specialized banking license in Lithuania, which puts it into a similar category. Besides N26 and Revolut there are a few other mobile platforms that offer similar functionality, with varying levels of depositor safety.
The word ‘bank’ probably conjures up images of musty old buildings filled with people in traditional pin-striped suits.
For many years, banks were bastions of conservative thinking, with few innovative services to offer. However, in today’s current market, the 100% digital platforms like N26 and Revolut are bringing new ideas to the world of finance.
N26 vs. Revolut
N26 and Revolut have emerged as the two most popular options for people who want to use a digital bank. The two companies offer very similar services, though there are a few differences between them.
One of the biggest differences between N26 and Revolut is the deposit guarantees they offer. N26 is licensed in Germany, which means that it can offer the same deposit guarantee than any other European bank does. Revolut is licensed as a bank in Lithuania and currently can’t offer the same level of security to anyone outside of Lithuania.
From the standpoint of functionality, the two platforms are extremely similar. N26 offers its clients the ability to use a desktop to access its banking system, while Revolut is mobile-only. Both platforms are fully integrated with the UK/EU banking system, and provide an IBAN number for free transactions within the EU.
N26 is totally free to use and will charge a small percentage if clients withdrawal cash more than 5 times per month from an ATM. Revolut offers free ATM withdrawals up to €200 per month, and then charges 2% per every €100. This makes both platforms a little less attractive for people that need to use a lot of cash on a day-to-day basis.
Read: Our Full Review of Revolut
Both N26 and Revolut offer free spending with a debit card, and there is no charge for the debit card with N26. Revolut charges €6 for a debit card, but there are no recurring fees. These digital banks are designed to be used in a world where cash isn’t the primary means of payment, and they have both built excellent platforms in this regard.
As mentioned above, N26 works with TransferWise to make super cheap international money transfers a reality.
Revolut offers its clients fast money transfers to up to 130 countries from a Revolut account, and it charges the interbank rate at the time of the transfer. There is no charge for this service unless Revolut users transfer more than €6,500 per month, and then the company adds a paltry 0.5% fee to the transaction.
If you need to make international money transfers frequently, both N26 and Revolut are great platforms for the job.
Crypto and Savings Options
One area where Revolut stands out is with its options for clients to hold funds as crypto derivatives. Revolut doesn’t actually let clients buy cryptos, but it is very simple to allocate funds to the major cryptos’ value via a Revolut account. The cryptos can be ‘sent’ to other Revolut customers but must be converted to fiat for transfer outside of the Revolut platform.
Both N26 and Revolut offer savings plans and spending metrics, as well as push notifications to alert clients to what is happening with their account.
Revolut has a savings feature called Vault which will automatically round up the value of a transaction to the nearest currency unit, and save the change in a special account. It is pretty hands and makes saving simple.
N26 Is a New Way to Bank
There are many people who might not fully trust a bank that exists solely on the internet. N26 does have corporate offices in Berlin, New York, and Barcelona, but it doesn’t offer customers any kind of branded ATM’s, branch locations, or hard copy documents.
A bank without a physical presence might be frightening to some, but it does offer great services with little cost to its customers. Clearly, N26 is going to be a good fit for the younger generation whose smartphones constitute an integral part of their daily lives.
N26 will likely be less appealing to the older generations who are still digesting the idea of paperless billing. Nonetheless, there will be cross-over, since many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have fully embraced aspects of new technology.
Who Should Choose N26 as Their Next Bank?
There are two basic ways to use a mobile banking structure like N26, and these ways help to define the ideal customer candidate.
Firstly, N26 would appeal to younger people who are just starting out in the financial world and don’t have many assets yet. If there is neither a need nor the existence of a mortgage or other major debts, an N26 account presents practical features with near-zero risk.
The fees that N26 charges are almost non-existent for people who plan to use the bank exclusively in the UK. Even when cash is withdrawn abroad, N26 only charges 1.7% on the transaction.
The lack of fees and predatory practices is a serious perk, and the built-in statistics of the app makes financial planning much easier.
The second way to use N26’s services is as an add-on to a traditional bank account. If there is a need to track personal spending, or if there is exasperation with all of the fees associated with accounts at the big banks, N26 is a strong business alternative.
N26 is fully integrated with the UK financial system, so creating an automatic monthly payment from a main bank account to an N26 account would be incredibly easy.
In addition to removing any chance of fees on domestic UK activity, this option also insulates the main bank account from identity theft. N26 designed their platform to be a perfect fit for online transactions, which can be subject to risk of fraud.
Who Might Not Like N26?
It is fairly obvious that the non-tech savvy would probably avoid a platform like N26.
Since N26 relies on the latest consumer technology to cut costs, it is perfect for people who live with a smartphone attached to their bodies. However, if there is any caution or wariness regarding a financial app or discomfort with the idea of conducting business 100% digitally, then N26 simply is not a good fit.
Although N26 offers a suite of commonly used features, it lacks the array of financial services that major banking interests would have at their disposal. Many older generations with savings, pensions, money markets, CD’s, mortgages, loans, and credit card debt might need more from their financial institutions than mere portable convenience.
In an attempt to diversify their offerings, N26 partnered with TransferWise, but those services are contingent on the individual company’s ability to stay in business. N26 has limited control over the partner’s corporate activity.
Wealthy individuals would probably only use N26 as a way to prevent major problems arising from their involvement in the digital economy, as noted above, N26’s services aren’t wide enough to accommodate their needs. The same is true for businesses that require a bank which tenders a wide range of esoteric financial services
Although in the European market, N26 has launched its business plan, targeting freelance workers and the self-employed. While this certainly reflects the increase in the global gig economy, it does not provide the institutional support that larger established businesses might demand.
Freelance and self-employed individuals have much lower costs and simpler financial systems that can be sustained by N26. Despite the introduction of the new business plan, the question of whether N26 is better for personal or business banking remains.
Due to the fact that N26 is aimed almost exclusively at consumers, both established and start-up businesses may have to wait for a new or expanded digital platform that addresses their particular needs.
In the interim, N26 appears to attract a certain type of customer, which may grow as the global economy shifts.
N26 is one of a handful of new mobile banking platforms that gives consumers commonly used services for very low prices. The fact that N26 operates with a full German banking license gives it a certified credibility that many other platforms are lacking, particularly in the realm of deposit safety.
For younger people who don’t need full-service banking, N26 is probably worth trying. The company isn’t designed to burden its customers with a myriad of fees, which is how the major banks make extra profits from their retail depositors. N26’s debit card has a direct link to a client’s account and smartphone, which makes using deposited funds straightforward.
The only real drawback for N26 is their short track record. The company has come onto the global banking scene at a time of relative calm. It is hard to know how they will react to rough times in the financial market, if and when they arrive.
Another potential concern is security. Although N26 has a three-part security system, which consists of account protection, secure login, and smartphone pairing, it remains to be seen if they are impervious to data breaches, like many other online platforms, including banks, have experienced.
Banks like N26 are a clear contender for deposits from people who don’t have major amounts of funds to save, who don’t need complicated bundles of financial products or businesses that don’t require major institutional support.
If a potential customer wants money and basic banking services available at their proverbial fingertips, then click on the link to join the virtual financial world. In their own words, N26 promises to be the “first bank that you’ll ever love” and they might be right!
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