Online banks or digital banks like N26 have gained extreme popularity, because they understood that customer experience is key, especially for younger generations. There are a couple of players that have gained millions customers in a very short amount of time such as Revolut and N26, among others. In this article I will describe my learning as well as the pros and cons of N26 and digital banks in general.
I have been using N26 for the last 2 and half years in a premium membership (N26 YOU) model. My girlfriend joined N26 Basic (free membership) recently, so we can share savings accounts and jointly set financial savings and investing targets.
My N26 setup & subscription
All N26 subscriptions share real-time notifications, a fast registration process, at least 2 Spaces (sub accounts), overdrafts, a MasterCard (debit), no exchange fees when paying in different currencies and 5 withdrawals in the country of residence per month. A detailed comparison of the price plans and features included can be found here. To give a short overview, N26 offers the following subscription models:
- Basic: Costs nothing, features see above
- YOU: 9.90EUR per month, Shared Spaces (up to 10 instead of 2), free withdrawals worldwide, travel insurance package, local perks and discount offers, some card customization options.
- Metal: 16.90EUR per month, on top they offer insurance for lost/stolen smartphone, preferred customer service, a metal card and exclusive experiences / perks.
- Business in the Basic and YOU subscription model): a 0,1% cashback on all payments made with the MasterCard and it comes with all the features for Basic and YOU listed above.
I am using the “YOU” subscription model, but I am still paying 5.90 Euros as the price was lower in past years. N26 added more features to this subscription model and therefore, they increased the monthly price without changing the price for older subscriptions.
What’s working well with N26
Overall: The user experience and user interface. Compared to Bunq it looks way cleaner, simpler and more intuitive. Looking at the update cycle of N26, it appears to me that they release less updates (every 2 months or so), but with higher impact compared to Bunq that releases an update every 1 or 2 weeks. N26 continuously works on their overall look&feel, resulting in an easy-to-use mobile app (although iOS dark mode hasn’t arrived yet).
The Shared Spaces features works instantly with no delays compared to Tomorrow’s Pocket feature when they released it. I like the design and functionalities implemented. The biggest value for customers is to budget and apply rules on saving goals, which works incredibly well.
I am very satisfied with the reliability of the app and the banking experience in general. There was never a single moment when payment, withdrawal or sending money wasn’t working.
Also the customer service works really well and in time, although, there have been several complaints about that in the past. N26 hired many hundred people just to make sure customer service works well.
Every now and then I enjoy the web / browser version for some administrative tasks required when submitting expenses at work. The banking statements are easy to access (even on mobile) and look clean.
What’s the biggest drawback of N26?
The only reason why I am using the premium subscription model is the “Shared Spaces” feature and the additional 8 Spaces. However, I would go to a cheaper digital bank like Bunq or Revolut if I would have to pay 9.90EUR per month. And this is actually my biggest complaint at the moment that there is no option to either select certain features (dynamic pricing) or to have a cheaper subscription model at around 3 bucks offering me the extended usage of Spaces.
I am aware that nowadays a joint account option is something less popular than in the past, but there are still people out there like me that want to share finances with his/her partner. Still, I am totally fine organizing this in a Shared Spaces model. Apparently, the feature is very popular looking at the competitors of N26: Revolut names it “Group Vaults”, Tomorrow calls it “Pockets”, Bunq has a different name (“Sub-Accounts”) for it.
I wrote N26 via email and Twitter already several times and I see other people having a similar ask, so let’s see if N26 changes some features and subscriptions in the future.
Another point for improvement would be dedicated IBANs for Spaces (sub accounts), in combination with virtual cards, so I could use one virtual card for all food expenses on my “Food” Space without having to re-balancing the Spaces after every grocery shopping tour.
Generally, N26 is not the most transparent digital bank compared to Monzo or Tomorrow as they don’t have a public Trello Board, roadmap shared with their customers or an online community with the possibility to share feedback and ideas. I am not saying that N26 needs that, but to me it is very pleasing to see where the banks is heading.
As the past has shown, this can go in a very wrong direction if the company makes mistakes and does not communicate clearly, for example what happened to Bunq in the beginning of April 2020: They announced to their customers the discontinuation of their joint subscription model resulting in a huge shit storm on social media only to tell their customers a couple of hours later that this account model is only being rebuild for the next 3 months. Besides the fact that I have never seen such a poor development process in my experience (I work in the IT industry), I saw Bunq shutting down threads on their online community and just overall unclear as well as misleading communication.
Other future ideas would be the possibility to invest money on the stock market, get larger credits in case you want to buy a house, or crypto trading including staking coins (described here). Revolut actually is a bit ahead when it comes to such features, take a look at their feature and subscription comparison here.
Opening an N26 account
If you want to open an account and try it out, feel free to use my referral link giving me 15EUR per referral. You can open and close an account any time, but my experience was so positive that I never wanted to switch back to a traditional bank.
Make sure to have your ID ready to present during an online video identification and have a good lightning condition in the room you are in when opening an account. Otherwise, the identification service provider will not be able to verify your identity.
Check out my article on how to organize your finances with N26 and start your investing journey here!