Is N26 a Legit Bank?
If you’ve made it to this article, you’re likely considering a N26 bank account. However, banking somewhere that doesn’t physically exist is uncanny. Is N26 legit or a scam? I am happy to say that it is a real bank and it’s actually pretty good! As with anything, however, a consumer should inform herself of a company’s practices before ruling out other options. Here is our honest and unsponsored review of N26.
NOTE: On March 20, 2020 N26 changed its user policies. This post will be updated soon but if you would like to review the updates sooner, you can access them here.
Firstly, we will explain a little bit about how the company works. Our first major question was “If we get paid in cash, how do we deposit it?”
There is an app compatible with both iphone and android that is necessary to have if you want to deposit cash with N26. After your account is set up, you can see all the nearby deposit locations on the CASH26 map.
Currently, cash deposit and withdrawal from stores is only available in Germany, Italy, and Austria. It operates like this:
- go to nearby deposit location
- put into the app how much you want to deposit
- let the cashier scan the code
- give cashier the depositing amount
It may seem dangerous to give cash to a store employee, but the scanning makes it safe by telling N26 that you made the exchange. The cashier won’t scan the code unless you give them the appropriate amount and they are inclined to do this properly so their employer won’t be out any money.
There are other ways to bank and the company operates in, not coincidentally, 25 countries in Europe as well as the USA. The full list is available here. You can wire money from other bank accounts and accept money from others in the app. N26 converts currencies, partnering with Transferwise, and conveniently allows 5 free withdrawals from ATMS in your host country and other countries if you’re travelling. After the 5, withdrawals are €2 each. There may be extra fees depending on the account you use with N26, which country you’re in, and which bank’s ATM you use, but that will be the same for any card you may have. The app has a filter option so you can see ATMs nearby that won’t charge extra fees. Many of the questions you may have can be answered on their support page. Help is available in every language of the 26 countries.
Sounds good so far, right? But how does getting an account work?
You need a passport and maybe a beer. The process was super unorthodox. Basically, you video-chat with a person from the support team-who all seem to work in their basements-and that person takes over your phone’s camera to scan your face and passport, ensuring the legitimacy of the transaction. It takes approximately 10 minutes and after they are satisfied with your identity, you pick a plan. The amount you’re travelling may influence your decision between the free option and the €10/month (UK pricing is different) option based off the free withdrawals worldwide alone. The fee may be worth it if you don’t have to pay conversion fees on top of bank fees on top of more bank fees. You can compare the three plans here. Our cards came within 3 days of registering. Our only advice is that you put your host’s or landlord’s name in the “mailing instructions” box if yours is not on it so when the mail carrier delivers the card, they won’t think it’s going to the wrong place (people in Europe have all their names on the boxes).
So what’s the catch?🎣
We wondered how N26 would make any money if everyone chose the “free” accounts. While withdrawing money is unlimited without charge from CASH26 locations, the deposits to your account are not. The first €100 deposited each month is free, but every €100 subsequently gets charged %1.5.
If you’re planning to deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars, this bank may not be the best option for you. Even a €5000 deposit will accrue almost €75 in fees. That being said, other banks will charge user fees as well and won’t have the same flexibility. The key is to budget and weigh options. For us, our transfer from Canadian to Euro is painful. Wire transfers with TD cost a flat fee on top of conversion fees. We don’t want to be wire transferring between banks each month because that will cost unnecessary fees. It is more cost-effective to transfer a couple thousand at once, pay the flat fee, then budget well between the cash we make in Europe and our savings in Canada. Whenever we can pay Canadian for items or hostels online, we do.
What happens if your card is lost or stolen?
N26 has a fantastic safety feature for this. Shit happens during travel and if you decide to shut off your calling capabilities it can be frustrating to remotely solve problems. With the app, a card can be reported lost or stolen with WiFi and a new one ordered to any location. The only annoying part is if someone used your card before you can shut it off, you have to fill out a fraud form (EU or UK) and hope N26 can solve the rest.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a bank that’s easy to deal with while travelling Europe, N26 is a great option. Minimal paperwork, affordable, and in multiple languages, N26 is attractive and adaptive to an expanding global market. We recommend it as it has served us well so far.
Good luck, travellers! Keep working hard 😃