One of the biggest problems travelers, digital nomads and expats have to face is banking. There are fees everywhere: You have to pay for withdrawing money. You have to pay for card payments. And you have to pay for transactions. On top of that, traditional bank accounts are often not flexible enough for people without a registered residence or people who are changing countries quite frequently.
The solution? N26!
I have been using their bank account since 2016 and it’s still one of my absolute favorites. It saved me so much in fees during the last couple of years and I’m a huge fan of their straight-forward, modern banking approach.
If you want to find out how you can profit from N26 bank accounts, too, keep on reading!
What is N26?
N26 was founded in 2014 in Berlin, Germany, and is Europe’s fastest growing mobile bank. They offer pretty much the same services as a traditional bank does. However, they are specialized in mobile banking using a smartphone.
With this online business model, N26 can operate at a much lower cost and hence, can provide a cheaper service than normal banks.
Unlike other banks in Europe, their registration process is very simple and quick.
Banking with N26 is easy, straight-forward, cheap or even free, and super intuitive thanks to their well-designed app.
How does N26 work?
There are no physical branches. Banking is exclusively online.
N26 customers open a bank account online (which takes less than 8 minutes), verify their identity and download the app.
That’s it. From that moment on customers can use the app to pay, make transactions, change payment limits, monitor their money flow, lock the card, and much more.
You also get a Mastercard, which is a debit card, that you can use at any ATM around the world to withdrawal money or to pay without any fees.
Besides the non-existent fees, the app is really the best thing about N26. I haven’t heard a single person not gushing about it. Seriously. Here are just some perks:
- The design is very elegant and modern.
- It is super powerful – you get to do all types of banking related services with it.
- It makes your money flow very transparent, organized and easy to understand.
- It operates on a high security standard.
Just in case you are wondering: Once you have set up your account, you can also use the desktop version of N26 if you prefer banking on your computer. However, you won’t be able to use all the great features the app offers.
What features does N26 offer?
Since we’re talking about their functionalities anyway, we might as well go a little bit deeper and have a look some of my favorite features:
1. Contactless Payments
You can use Apple Pay or Google Pay to make payments without your card. Checkouts in stores couldn’t possibly get easier and quicker with these real-time transactions. Of course, this technology is absolutely safe, using Touch ID or Face ID.
2. Push Notifications
As soon as you pay something with your card, your phone immediately vibrates in your pocket, giving you a note about the transactions. If you get paid on your N26 account, your phone also lets you know straight away. Your internet provider takes its money from your account? Your phone tells you.
If you are like me and don’t check your bank account every day, this is a great way to keep an overview. You always know what happens with your money.
3. Transaction Categories
This app is super smart. If you buy a train ticket, it automatically classifies this transaction as “Transport”. Have a coffee in a restaurant = “Bars & Restaurant”. Pay your rent = “Household”. Buy makeup = “Drug Stores”.
Wondering why N26 does that? At any time, you can have a look at your statistics and see at a glance how much money you have spent on each category. A fantastic way to easily analyze your expenses and income and to spot areas where you could save more.
4. Cash Withdrawals via CASH26
This function is currently only available in Germany and Austria but I’m sure it will spread soon. You can simply go to one of the almost 15.000 participating shops, show them a barcode created in your app and they will give you up to 200 Euro cash from your bank account per transaction. No ATM or card needed. No fees.
5. Banking Settings
You can change all the important settings in your app directly: Changing your daily transaction limits, locking your card in case you have lost it, reset your PIN, or turn online payments, international payments or withdrawals on and off as you like. No need to contact a bank employee anymore. You can manage your own security settings with a few clicks.
Welcome to the future! I haven’t seen this feature in any other bank but I think this is going to be huge! If you want to send money to your friends, family or whoever, you don’t even need to have their bank account details anymore. All you need is their email address or phone number and you can transfer the money. If they have N26, too, the transaction happens immediately. As soon as they receive the money, they only need to accept it. If they don’t, the money goes straight back to your account. Again, no fees are charged.
7. Cash Map
The cash map is particularly handy when you are new to town and don’t know your way around. It shows you where you can find the next ATM near you or the next CASH26 partner. No need to google around for ages.
The premium versions of N26 come with an extensive insurance coverage. They cover things like: stolen phones, flight delay, travel cancellation, or delayed luggage. The partner insurance company for that is Allianz.
N26 and TransferWise
Yes, my two favorite online banks have joined forces!
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m also a huge fan of TransferWise. I’ve been using them for years now and couldn’t be happier with their service. TransferWise allows you to make transactions between different currencies at the so-called mid-market rate, which is the best exchange rate you can get, and in only a few days.
This is very handy if you want to send or receive money from one currency to another. For example, if you are currently traveling or living in Europe but your client or employer pays you in USD. A fantastic way to transfer the money to EUR which is so much cheaper than a normal bank transfer.
I have written an extensive review on TransferWise, too, if you want to learn more.
Since N26 have partnered with TransferWise, you can profit from these advantages, too, when making a transaction between two currencies. Double win!
What Are the N26 Fees?
If you have to pay fees and how much depends on the type of plan you get.
N26 has two main options, depending on what you want to use it for:
- Personal plan and
- Business plan.
If you need an account for personal income and expenses, you have 3 options:
As you can see, the basic account is completely free. N26 Black charges you 9.90 Euro for the additional features and their newest plan, N26 Metal, costs you 16.90 Euro per month.
If you want to use your account for business matters (note: only for self-employed and freelance users, no companies), you can choose from the following two plans:
Again, the basic N26 is free, whereas the N26 Black Business cost 9.90 Euro per month.
No matter what type of plan you go for, you never have to pay for:
- Setting up an account
- Verifying your identity
- Issuing your debit card
- Downloading and using the powerful app
- Contact via live chat or email
- Standing orders
- Direct debit payments
- Contactless payments
- CASH26 deposits
- ATM withdrawals in Euro outside of Germany (*inside of Germany with the N26 basic account: 5 free withdrawals per month, with theN26 Black or Metal: free)
All these services are 100% FREE!
Can I open a N26 account?
If you want to open an account with N26 you need to:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Own a compatible smartphone
- Live in a supported country
Note: You do not need to be officially registered in that country and you don’t need to be citizen of that country. You only need to stay/live there.
The supported countries are:
Germany, Austria, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia, the UK, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
Don’t worry if your country is not on the list yet. Looking at the speed of their growth I’m pretty sure they will expand this list soon. As a matter of fact, I know that they are currently working on a solution for US residents, too. So stay tuned.
How To Open An N26 Account?
Another one of the perks: It is super easy and quick to open a N26 account. According to their website you can do it in less than 8 minutes! Here we go:
- Head to the N26 website and click on “Open Bank Account”.
- Give your email, personal details and a shipping address for your debit card.
- Select the plan you want.
- Prove your identity.
- Connect your smartphone.
That. Is. It. No painful bureaucracy, no filing papers, no visiting a branch.
You can now top up your account via bank transfer or use CASH26 deposits. In a few days, your debit card will arrive at your given address.
How Do I Verify My Identity to Open a N26 Account?
Again, proving your identity to open an account with N26 is fairly easy. Depending on where you live, your nationality and the type of ID you want to use, you have three options:
- Video Verification (within Germany)
- Postident (within Germany)
- Photo Verification (outside of Germany)
For the first one, you simply do a video call with N26’ video identification partner IDnow. A lovely customer representative will ask you to hold up your ID into the camera so they can verify the details you provided earlier.
For the second one, you fill out a form and go to a post office in Germany. They will check your ID, note that the details are correct and send the form to N26. This will take 2 minutes and doesn’t cost you anything.
In case you live outside of Germany, you can verify your identity by a photo of your ID and a selfie through the N26 app.
Is N26 Safe to Use?
Absolutely! N26 holds a banking license and therefore must comply with the rules of the German financial regulatory authority. Another advantage of N26 being located in Germany is the fact that the German deposit protection insures all deposits up to 100.000 Euro.
So much to the legal security background.
To protect their customers’ accounts, they have created a three-layered system:
- Secure login: If you want to access the app, you need your username and password (you have to type it in every time again, no chance to save it) or use fingerprint/face recognition system.
- PIN confirmation: Every time you make a transfer or connect or disconnect a new smartphone, you need to use a 4-digit code.
- Push notifications: You will get
an instantnotification for every incoming and outgoing payment. In case something doesn’t look quite right to you, you can jump in immediately and lock your account if necessary.
The Downsides of N26
Nothing is perfect. As with every bank there are a few minor disadvantages with N26, too. Here they are:
- The only way to reach customer support in the basic N26 plan and N26 Black plan is via email and live chat. There is no phone number you can call. I have to admit that I find this a bit unusual but as long as the two other methods are efficient, I’m ok with that.
- The locations for opening an account with N26 are limited to European countries only at the moment. However, the bank is still fairly new and they are working on expanding the list.
N26: A Great Way of banking for Travelers and Digital Nomads
As you can see, there are many fantastic reasons to fall in love with N26. They provide the next level of mobile banking and make international payments so much easier.
Setting up an account is a breeze. Payments and withdrawals are free and thanks to their great app quicker than ever before. Statistics and push notification help you keep an overview of your money flow at any time. Even transfers to different currencies are possible at the best exchange rate due to their partnership with TransferWise.
Whether you are a personal or business user, I’m happy to say that N26 is a brilliant option for all digital nomads, travelers, expats, or anyone who is looking for a new and smart way of banking.