N26 Review: is it still the banking champion for expats?
If you are reading those lines, you are looking for an N26 review that can answer this question: “Is it the right option for me right now?”. And I would understand why: Germany’s outdated digital infrastructure is subject to endless gripes among expat communities. In a country where cash is king, fax machines are considered current and post offices are consistently more crowded than a club on a Saturday night, there often seems to be a dearth of digital solutions adapted to modern life.
Enter N26. The pioneering Berlin-based banking app boasts round-the-clock access, extensive security features and user-friendly asset management functions. And while traditional bank accounts in Germany can be a reliable option for those who require comprehensive banking options and face-to-face customer service, N26 does look attractive. Despite its new kid on the block status, the bank quickly amassed legions of fans across Europe – but does it live up to the hype?
N26 review Germany: TL;DR
This N26 review goes into much details about its features, benefits & drawbacks, my experience and others’. You can find a quick summary below with the main take-aways. You are otherwise welcome to jump to a section in particular:
- N26 is a safe, compelling option for most people that need a current account and payment card fast.
- Sign-up is fast and easy in most cases. Its UX is still ahead of the game and it’s a joy to use.
- The service and customer support is available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. It’s available to residents of several countries in Europe, & the US.
- Free standard account with free ATM withdrawals, free international payments.
- Premium accounts are relevant for frequent travelers with excellent value. Standard account is still best for most people.
- Be aware: No hotline for free accounts which can lead to tricky situations, especially in emergencies. No true credit card option. Mobile-only comes with its drawbacks sometimes.
- Most N26 users recommends it, but they complain about unreliable or slow customer support in difficult situations.
- I also recommend it on a personal level, but I use another bank account as a fallback option.
What’s different about N26?
Since its launch in 2013, N26 has been devoted to its vision of making personal banking accessible, simple and beautifully designed. It became the first German bank to combine paperless technology, an intuitive interface and multilingual customer service. With the bank’s singular focus on UX, all of its services are available exclusively via the app, earning itself the moniker “The Mobile Bank“. This instant access is not only handy for convenience and speed, but it also does away with the need to hang on to reams of paperwork and correspondence associated with traditional banks. This means that all your personal information is organised, securely stored and easily accessible, even when you’re on the go.
Since 2016, N26 has operated with a full European banking license, enabling the former FinTech start up to offer a comprehensive portfolio of financial services, including offering credit loans, savings accounts and insurance packages.
N26’s main features
When it comes to usability, N26 stands head and shoulders above other German banks – that is at least, if you’re looking for comprehensive banking options without the mind-boggling German jargon. The full range of services are available in several languages.
Here are N26’s main features common to all current accounts at a glance:
- Free standard current account – Access a modern, safe and comprehensive banking offering at no costs.
- Multilingual support – Users can access the app in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German. Same for customer support.
- Real time account monitoring – N26 customers receive a push notification in real time with each transaction.
- Automatic expense categorization – All transactions are grouped into categories such as ATM, Food & Groceries or Bars & Restaurants. You can also map those transactions manually yourself. It’s a nice way to see where your money goes too.
- ApplePay and GooglePay support- The app is integrated with both Apple Pay and Google Pay, so users can make cashless payments and receive automatic verification all on one device.
- Free ATMs withdrawals – Up to 8 times with no charge anywhere in Germay. Unlimited cash withdrawals at N26Cash points. Unlimited abroad within the Eurozone.
- Instant transfers between N26 Users – Transfer money to any N26 user with only their phone number, bypassing the waiting times and transfer fees that many other German banks still require.
- Low and transparent fees on international transfers: N26 is integrating with Transferwise so you can send money back home in no time, and with little costs.
- No need to present an residence certificate (Anmeldung) in most cases.
Those features are the main show-stopper but N26 has been adding more features since its creation. You now can also use those extras, with a few taps on your screen:
Saving with N26
Beyond making payments and online transfers, the app has some pretty smart savings options, too. The app allows users to transfer money between sub-accounts called Spaces. These allow users to put money to one side – literally – for big expenditures with a set of rules. Unlike with a traditional bank, customers can also view breakdowns of their spending by category. While this tool does not always work seamlessly, it’s very helpful for viewing monthly stats, setting budgets, and catching any unexpected activity in real time, and keeping bad habits at bay.
Customers can also set up a savings account within minutes, where you will receive the highest interest rates of any bank by default, saving you the work of finding the best rates. Set your own deposit amount between €2,000 and €100,000 and choose the duration period from 3 to 60 months to earn up to 1.38% interest on your savings.
This rate is clearly not the best return on the market, but it’s honorable if you need to put money away for a short while.
Overdraft & loans
Customers in Germany can also create an overdraft and take out small personal and business loans, where you can choose any amount between €1,000 and €25,000 and a flexible monthly repayment plan that suits you. While these loans might not cover larger long-term repayment schemes like mortgages and limit investment options, customers can enjoy full autonomy over their finances without any of the faff.
How much does N26 cost?
With 4 banking plans to choose from, N26 customers can choose an account that suits any budget:
- Standard N26 accounts have no monthly fee,.
- N26 Smart costs €4.90/month
- N26 You costs €9.90/month
- N26 Metal costs €16.90/month.
- You can read about the premium accounts in more details in the next section of this post.
There are other common costs to keep an eye on:
- Withdrawals outside the Eurozone incurs a fee of 1.7% of the total amount (No fee for premium accounts).
- Withdrawals cost 2€ each time at ATMs, after the monthly 3 to 8 times free withdrawals you get.
- Overdraft: 8.9% p.a. debit interest.
N26 Germany premium accounts review
If you want to benefit from fuller coverage and attractive insurance packages, you might want to review N26 premium accounts. N26 You (4,90€/month), N26 Smart (9,90€/month) and N26 Metal (16,90€/month) customers enjoy exclusive perks, including, travel and device insurance, unlimited free withdrawals in foreign currencies, partner offers, and shared sub-accounts so you can save money with up to 10 other N26 users. Here are breakdowns of each feature, per package respectively.
Features included in N26 Smart, N26 You, and N26 Metal
- Shared sub-accounts: This is a feature that lets N26 users share an account to put and take money from. This would be useful for couples, flatmates, or friends that are sharing expenses during a trip.
- Private sub-accounts with individual IBANs: This gives you a lot of flexibility to save, manage & organize payments differently.
- Phone support: Amazingly enough, a hotline is only made available to premium accounts holders.
- Auto-round up to save: A nifty little feature that automatically round transactions up to the next full euro. The small difference is then set aside into a dedicated sub-account, cents by cents.
- Offers & discounts: N26 has partnerships with companies like GetYourGuide, Babbel, Tidal, HelloFresh & more.
- Free ATM withdrawals abroad (in other currencies than EUR)
Features included in N26 You, and N26 Metal only
- Mobility insurance: If you are using mobility services like shared scooters, cars or bikes, damages are covered up to 20 000€.
- Winter sports insurance: In case of accidents going down the slopes, costs incurred are also taken care of.
- Travel insurance: A policy covering you and your family, up to 1 Million euros, with access to a 24/7 hotline, valid anywhere in the world.
- Trip & delay insurance: Claim a compensation if your flight is cancelled or delayed more than 4h.
- Luggage insurance: Claim a compensation if your luggage is lost or delivery is delayed for a long time.
Features included in N26 Metal only
- Phone insurance: Your device is covered up to 1000€ for theft and damages (check eligibility criteria).
- Car rental insurance: No need to book an extra insurance from your car rental company, this insurance covers for damages up to 20 000€.
- Exclusive support line: For N26 Metal account holders only, a priority line.
- Exclusive offers & experiences: As N26 puts it: “From hard-to-find tickets, VIP passes to private events, unique workshops and memorable days out.”
N26 Review Germany: which account should you consider?
There is no risk to sign-up with a standard account to start with, which offers a lot for free. You can do a N26 review of your own and see for yourself if you are satisfied with the base offering. You can always easily upgrade if you want to.
As you can probably tell, N26 Metal is the most expensive and exclusive at 16,90€/month. It is most suited to people with active lifestyles, traveling a lot. This is true especially when taking into account the costs of booking additional insurance policies elsewhere, to match what’s available with N26. Travel insurance alone can costs you 10-15€ per month.
Both N26 You and N26 Metal have good value. In the end, it boils down to if you need to hire cars on a regular basis. If so, N26 Metal is a good contender. If not, N26 You at 9,90€/month is likely your best bet.
It’s hard to justify the costs for N26 Smart at 4,90€/month though. You are basically paying for a fancier card and relatively low-value features such as auto round up. Unless you are really set on using those few features a lot, it might be better staying on a standard free account.
Please note that premium accounts are 1 year contracts, renewed automatically, unless you cancel at least 4 weeks in advance.
How do I open an N26 account?
How to open an N26 account in Germany:
- Check your eligibility
You can open an N26 account in Germany provided you are a German resident, your smartphone supports the N26 app & your passport/ID card qualifies for video identification.
- Pick the right account for you
Free standard account, N26 You (4,90€/month), N26 Smart (9,90€/month) and N26 Metal (16,90€/month)
- Provide basic user information for your account
This includes an email, personal details, a shipping address for your Mastercard, and the type of account you would like to select.
- Verify your identity & connect your phone to your new account
Via the N26 App, you will be connected to an agent that will guide through the verification steps. This involves presenting your face next to passport/ID card, filming certain details on the document and answering a few questions. The agent does the verification in real-time; you will know if it’s successful right away.
- Start using the account
You can use your new N26 account right away and enjoy all its features.
- Wait a few days to receive your Mastercard by post
It takes about 5-10 days to receive your Mastercard by post. You will need to activate it via the app. You can even set your own secret pin.
Signing up can take as little as 8 minutes – all you need is your phone and a valid form of ID. Once you’ve downloaded the N26 app, you’ll be guided through a brief identity verification process via video chat, and just like that, you have an account which you can begin using immediately. Your free Mastercard debit card comes in the post, arriving with you within 10 business days. Simple, right?
Well, not quite. N26 have different documentation requirements depending on your nationality, so before you set up an account you should check this list to make sure you’re not missing anything. To complicate matters further, not every passport is supported by N26’s verification system, and in this case you will need to get your identity verified via Postident at your local post office. This other process is also easy to do, but not as fast. There are some other restrictions to bear in mind, too. For example, N26 is currently only available for residents of these 23 countries with a valid form of ID.
What are N26’s weaknesses?
Feature set is (still) relatively small
The few things N26 does, it does it well, but the mobile bank does come up short in comparison to more established banks in this area. For example, if you’re looking to create a joint account with a partner, or in need of more comprehensive investment options, you might be suited to a more traditional bank. N26 also lacks some of the budgeting features offered by other Fintech companies, such as micro-investing and smart saving. But hey: a lot of it is for free, so you get what you don’t pay for.
Limited withdrawing options at ATMs
Now, by this point you might be asking yourself how one goes about withdrawing cash using a digital bank – after all, Germany is known for retaining a ‘Cash ist König’ mentality, even in its metropolitan hubs. N26 have made withdrawals free to all customers – up to a point. Standard N26 customers are entitled to 3 free withdrawals per month, while N26 You and N26 Metal customers receive 5 and 8 free withdrawals per month respectively. ATM withdrawals after the monthly limit cost €2 across all accounts. However, there is an out if you want to avoid the extra fees: Cash26 allows customers to withdraw and deposit cash at shops and supermarkets – this service is completely free and there are no monthly limits!
Lack of hotline for standard accounts
N26 reviews across the Internet is pretty clear about something: Another big no-no is probably the lack of available phone support for standard accounts. Standard users can only resort to chat available everyday from 07:00-23:00. Although this is maybe fine for everyday life, it’s a shame that phone support is not available to everyone in case of emergencies (when speed is key). To get phone support, you need to first signup for a premium package. That makes phone support a paid feature, in a way… It’s a bit jarring.
No credit card
Even with paid premium accounts, all you get is a debit card. Granted: credit cards in Germany are not nearly as useful as in other countries, such as the USA. However, if N26 is your only bank account, that might be a massive setback in specific cases like car renting for examples, which requires a true credit card option.
Not all nationalities qualify for video identification
Some passports don’t meet certain technical requirement for this and sometimes you need a German residence permit too (like for Indian nationals for example). Full list here.
Two factors authentication is sometimes a trap
If you lose your phone, you can’t access your bank account. You may then turn to the web version on desktop. Problem is: to connect to this service, you need to verify the login on the phone… which you lost… This can be a big challenge in stressful situations. When there are no branches or hotline to turn to, this is huge drawback. Being a 100% mobile bank is not all good, all of the time.
How secure is N26?
N26 offers its customers a whole host of intelligent security measures:
- To ensure total privacy, accounts can only be linked to one smartphone at a time, which users can log into via password or fingerprint identification and face recognition.
- In addition, all outgoing transfers must be verified using a secure PIN, which can be changed within the app at any time.
- N26 uses 3D Secure technology, which adds an extra authentication step for online payments.
- Customers’ finances are also insured up to €100,000 and each account protected by a three-tier security system.
As an N26 customer, you can also manage your own security with the help of features such as ‘Privacy Mode’, which hides your balance and activity. You can also block your card if it is lost or stolen instantly via the app, as well as reset your PIN, set spending and withdrawal limits, and enable or disable cash withdrawals and foreign or online payments.
Of course, a bank that is assessed solely via app presents a unique set of security challenges; if your phone is lost or stolen, for example, you must change all your passwords as soon as possible, in addition to contacting the bank to remove access from your device – and if this article and reviews are anything to go by, customer service can be slow and unreliable, especially when you’re in a bind. Glitches, bugs, and a lack of internet access can also disrupt your banking. This can impact ID verification, and result in error messages when making payments.
Despite this, N26 are constantly improving their security measures, even offering a Bug Bounty scheme to incentivise security researchers to improve potential vulnerabilities within the app’s back end.
N26 Review Germany: What do customers say?
N26 reviews are generally positive, with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars across four major review platforms: Trusted.de, Trustpilot, Google Play Store and the Google App Store. There is general pattern of complains though, the biggest one being customer service.
German platform Trusted.de provides over a staggering 137,500 ratings at the time of writing – the largest amount on any major platform. Of these reviews, 86% are rated three stars or higher, with 57% of those being five stars. The most popular features of the app seem to be its versatility and the convenience of having everything available at the touch of a button.
The downside of that of course, is that N26 is not as cash-friendly as other established German banks, which can be a grievance in this country.
Of the almost 13,000 N26 reviews on Trustpilot at the time of writing, an impressive 66% are 5 star reviews, with customers touting the app’s simplicity and speed for their positive experience.
Of the customers that rewarded N26 3-4 stars (15%), the vast majority found the app overall quite reliable, if occasionally laggy due to bugs or slow customer response times – while some customers receive answers on the live chat within a few minutes, some have been left waiting up to an hour for a response.
19% of customer left 1-2 star reviews, with many lamenting the slow speed of the customer service and finding the responses unhelpful. Frustrated customers have also complained of difficulty opening and closing their bank accounts. A not insignificant number of the customers here have fallen victim to the bank’s routine compliance checks, which will automatically close accounts suspected of fraud. While these checks are a necessary procedure for catching suspicious activity, it’s been known to backfire, with some customers having their accounts frozen or deleted due to innocuous overseas transfers or when the customers themselves have been the targets of fraud. N26 claim to be working on these issues since receiving their fair share of ire in a 2019 scandal that saw hundreds of customers losing their accounts without warning.
Google Play Store
Over at the Google Play Store, the reviews seem to paint a similar picture, with an overwhelming majority of reviews praising the app’s usability and impressive range of features.
Here, the negative reviews tend to focus on technical difficulties, including bugs and glitches that disrupt the user experience, prompting some users to deactivate their accounts altogether. It seems that the app still has some way to go before it will work seamlessly for Android users, particularly those with older devices.
Once again, the ratings on the App Store are overwhelmingly positive, with a focus on the design, speed and usability.
Meanwhile, negative comments centre once again on errors and bugs, which once again seem to be more prevalent with those using older devices. There are also complaints about other cumbersome features, for example linking your account to a new phone number and the bank incorrectly detecting suspicious activity.
My personal N26 experience as a user in Germany
Doing a N26 review Germany is easy: I’ve been using the standard account for about 4 years now as a secondary account, next to my Postbank one. I still can clearly remember the shear feeling of joy when signing up, comparing it to the laborious process it was with Postbank. It was fast, frictionless, paperless. Everything a 21st century experience should be. Granted: as a french citizen, my passport is eligible for the video identification process, so that might not be in line with people from other countries. As promised, my card was sent to me within 5 days and I could get started right away.
Using it day-to-day
I experience my N26 account an account for everything related to my freelancing. To separate business income & expenses from private ones. The features contained in the standard account are more than enough for me. I especially love than I can connect my N26 account to my book-keeping software I use (Debitoor). This saves me tons of time and headaches.
I have never encountered serious bugs so far. Fingerprint recognition is not the best sometimes, but that might a hardware issue. Otherwise, all other features worked as advertised on my now 4 years-old Android phone. I especially love how the 3D secure software works. Whenever relevant, I get the prompt directly from my phone to confirm a transaction. It’s very smooth, just like the rest of the app. Push notifications are also cool: I often get a payment confirmation on my phone before my card is out of the reader.
I otherwise have 2 complains:
- I could set bank transfer confirmations to use fingerprints before, for extra-security. It’s not the case anymore, which is a shame.
- No car rental companies will take N26 cards for deposit. They don’t transparently let you know about that. This costs me a lot of stress at airports, with extra-time and 2 young children waiting. It seems to be an issue just with N26, for some reason.
Contacting customer support
My N26 experience with customer support has been pretty lucky. I’ve never faced a stolen card or stolen phone situation. Therefore, I cannot judge of reaction times during crisis like these. I have used the chat function within the app to ask questions. Reaction times were OK, with 3-5 minutes waiting times between questions & answers. Responses were appropriate and accurate most of the time.
Those questions were fairly simply though and judging from reviews on Facebook groups, customer support is the true weakness here.
If you’re looking for easy and flexible banking, N26 is a great choice for newcomers, frequent travelers and generally people who are not sure how long to stay in Germany. Despite its drawbacks – occasional glitches and slow customer service – the vast majority its ratings are positive, with customers praising the app’s functionality and speed. With its quick and easy sign up procedure and multiple language options, it’s great start in German banking.
However, questionable customer service & risks of getting locked-out should also make you consider taking on a another bank account, in order to avoid putting all your eggs in the same basket. Also, while the premium packages offer great value for frequent travelers, those looking for extensive options investment and loan options may benefit from a more traditional bank.
I hope this N26 review for Germany was useful. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or suggest improvements in the comments.
N26 Germany review – FAQ
The eligibility criteria are the same than for the standard free account.
If you meet eligibility criteria as a German resident, you need to go through a verification process with your ID/passport. This can be done directly through the app with an agent, or by presenting your document at a post office in Germany. After providing a few personal details, choosing an account type and a successful verification, you will receive your Mastercard at home within a few working days.
Customer support is mostly quick to answer via chat and tries to be helpful. However, the common complaint is that in urgent or stressful situations, the lack of proper hotline is really detrimental to the quality of service. Unlocking an account, or locking a card when the phone is stolen can be challenging. Only premium account holders have access to a phone line.
No. All N26 accounts come with Mastercard debit card. There are no credit card options at the moment.
There is a common thread across all review platforms & Facebook groups. It’s a great service for the price, but some bugs in the app and nonreactive and sometimes unhelpful customer service can really put customers in a tight spot sometimes.
The standard account is free of monthly charge. Premium N26 accounts have three tiers: N26 Smart (€4.90/month), N26 You (€9.90/month), N26 Metal (€16.90/month). They come with additional benefits such as travel insurance, discounts with partners & free withdrawals at ATMs outside the Eurozone. More details in this section.
Yes. Since 2016, N26 has been certified with own banking license with the German regulator (BaFin). This comes with the set of guarantees and consumer protection measures that you will find in any more established traditional bank in Germany as a customer.
You can open an N26 account if you are a resident of one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US.