Top 5 N26 Alternatives

Can You Do Better? – Fees, Services and What Works Best

Alternatives to N26

N26 is an app based bank that covers Europe, UK (announced leaving 11 Feb) and the US. It is currently a leader and for very good reason but there are some tremendous alternatives.

In the next few minutes we will blow the lid on five awesome alternatives for the UK, US and most of the world.

More importantly, which is best for you?

To help you decide, below you will find a quick table to compare the most important aspects and then 5 critical questions to help you decide.

Low Down on N26

As you may already know N26 is an internet-only app focused bank that despite not having actual bank branches does provide leading solutions.

Their online focus helps to keep fees low and seeks to improve your experience with money.

N26 offers current accounts that pretty much function like regular high street bank accounts but with some distinct benefits.

With N26 you can make payments in foreign currencies online or while traveling, set up direct debits for salary credits, specify recurring payments for utilities, and have complete control over your money without worrying about unexpected (and exorbitant) bank fees.

Currently, N26 is available in Eurozone countries, Switzerland, and the US.

Check out our full N26 review here where we uncover everything even the negative reviews.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here. (There are also plenty of services listed here that we do not have affiliate links for)

Here is a great little video about N26 if you want a refresher. (They are in the US since this video was made.)

Jump Links

1. Comparison Table
2. 5 Main Questions to Help You Decide
3. N26 Low Down

4. BottomLine

How to Rock your Financial World

The table below is a great place to start.

After the table, you can zero-in on the your choice based on your answers to some critical questions that are bound to pop up.

1. Comparison Table

N26

Click here for latest details in your country (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

Transfer
Wise

Click here for latest details in your country (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

Starling

Click here for latest details (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

Simple

Click here for latest details (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

Chime

Click here for latest details  (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

UP

Click here for latest details (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

AvailabilityEurozone, Switzerland, US

(N26 announced they were leaving the UK on 11 Feb 2020)

Available in almost all countries except some countries in Asia and Africa as well as a couple of US states (Hawaii, Nevada). Check out our review here.UKUSUSAustralia
Banking
licence
European banking licence from BaFin; funds protected €100,000 for EuropeThis is not a bank account; funds protected by Financial Conduct Authority of UKLicensed UK bank; funds protected up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation SchemeNo banking license; funds protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation SchemeNo banking license; funds protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation SchemeNo banking license; funds protected by Government Guarantee
Account
opening
fees
Three-tiered subscription model:

  • 26 – Free
  • N26 You – €9.90 per month
  • N26 Metal – €16.90 per month (Currently not available in Greece and Slovenia)
FreeFreeFree, including fee-free overdraftFree, including fee-free overdraftFree
Some Important Operating
Fees
For currency withdrawals other than the GBP, you pay 1.7% with the Free account.

It is free with N26 You and Metal (paid accounts)

Adding Money: Free if you send from a bank to your bank TransferWise bank details.

Convert Currencies 0.35% – 2.22% (You can see the fees here)

Send Money: 0.1% – 2.22% (We found the 0.1% fee is about right if the currencies are about the same.

Using Card: Free if no currency conversion is required.

 

No ATM fees

Adding Money: Cash is Free at local post office. (very hard to find fees for online transfers)

Convert Currencies: Mastercard’s globally accepted exchange rate (which is not as good as the interbank rate, but no where near as expensive as a bank)

Send Money: 0.4% Transfer Fee + Delivery Fee (if using SWIFT the cost is about £5.50) Limited Countries (Eg. Australia and Canada not included)

 

Allpoint® ATM network free (other ATMs charge). Cash back at many merchants are free.

A book of 25 checks cost $5.

If you use your card internationally, Visa will include an International Service Assessment (ISA) fee of up to 1% of the total transaction amount.

 

 

MoneyPass® and Visa® Plus Alliance are free (other ATMs charge).

If you use your card internationally, “the exchange rate between the transaction currency and the billing currency used for processing international transactions is a rate selected by Visa”

 

 

Acceptance of payments in a foreign currency for SWIFT transfer into your account.
$10.Acceptance of a payment from an Australian financial institution for fast transfer into your account. $2. (Free deposits are possible)
Ease of
use while
traveling
N26 MasterCard is accepted globally; free ATM withdrawals overseas with paid plansIssues a MasterCard debit card that’s widely accepted;
Free ATM withdrawals of up to £200 every 30 days
Starling MasterCard is widely accepted globally; No charges for payments overseas (including ATM withdrawals)Not recommended for travelingCan travel with the Chime international Visa debit card; ATM withdrawal fees applicableGlobally accepted contactless MasterCard (MasterCard exchange rates for both online and in-person foreign transactions)

Money
transfer
options
Partners with TransferWise (review) for competitive currency exchange ratesEasy, fast, and low cost international money transfer optionsOffers in-app international fund transfersSimple doesn’t offer international fund transfers via the app but you can initiate international wire transfers by linking an external account.International money transfer options are limitedInternational fund transfer fees not transparent
Business Account availabilityAvailable (best for freelancers and solopreneurs)Available (integrates with key financial apps and enables batch payments)Available (one of the few challenger banks with full-service business accounts)Not availableNot availableNot available

 

2. 5 Main Questions to Help You Decide:

  1. Do they operate in your country?
  2. What are the REAL costs in fees?
  3. Is their service geared towards travel?
  4. Do you need a business accounts?
  5. Do you need to make international money transfers?

When it comes to money transfers most service use third parties to help them efficiently and cost effectively handle these transactions. This can be a great addition for relatively small amounts – transferred occasionally. If your primary aim is to transfer money we recommend stand alone services to ensure smooth sailing for international money transfers.

OK! Armed with the answers to what you need, now let’s get the low down on N26.

3. N26 Low Down

See the N26 latest options available in your country – here (opens a new tab so you can keep reading)

Review of N26

Click Image to Read Our Full Review

N26 is a subscription-based model (three tiers, including a free option) and is wholly app-based. You can easily sign up for an account by downloading their iOS or Android app and by verifying your identity with a national ID (or a video call, depending on your location). They also offer Business Accounts for freelancers and solopreneurs.

N26 issues a contactless MasterCard which can used to pay for goods and services globally.

Moreover, N26 like the alternatives listed here gives you more control over your money with the ability to switch off online foreign transactions, set monthly budgets and define your own overdraft limit on the app

Overall, N26 is a great banking option to cut fees and make your smartphone the way to manage everything.

In essence, N26 enables individuals and self employed people who travel (in not) to do business in multiple currencies at much lower cost and in a much more user friendly way.

Pros

  • Make free card payments in any currency (Eurozone cardholders)
  • Free overseas ATM withdrawals for paid plans (1.7% on withdrawals for the free option)
  • Free ATM withdrawals in euros on the free plan (Eurozone card holders)
  • Has a European banking license and offers protection up to €100,000 for Europe.
  • Partners with TransferWise (review) to give you great savings on international transfers
  • Innovative savings options with N26 “Spaces”
  • Receive wages easily with direct deposits in your N26 account
  • Overdraft facilities available in some countries
  • Can be accessed via both mobile app and web portal

Cons

  • No international transfers with the business account
  • Customer service is not available 24 x 7

a. TransferWise (Available in most countries)

TransferWise, originating from the UK are known for their stellar international money transfer services, also offers borderless multi-currency accounts (review) for travellers, expats, and freelancers. With the TransferWise borderless account, you can hold money in 40+ currencies, receive money for free, and initiate international transfers at super competitive rates.

Click to see the latest offering for TransferWise in your country (opens new tab to keep reading).

Borderless Account from TransferWise

Click Image to Read Our Full Review

The TransferWise Borderless Account is available to users in almost all countries, barring a few countries in Asia, Africa, and some US states (Nevada Hawaii). However, only get local account details for USD, GBP, AUD, EUR, and NZD.

Opening a TransferWise borderless account is free and there are zero foreign transaction fees or annual account maintenance fees. They also issue a contactless MasterCard debit card that can be used for both domestic and foreign transactions online as well as while travelling abroad.

Lastly, while TransferWise is not a bank, your funds are protected by the Financial Conduct Authority of UK.

Pros

  • Offers both Personal and Business borderless accounts
  • Available in almost all countries
  • Multi-currency account with transparent fees
  • Free to open and hold an account
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • Free ATM withdrawals of up to £200 every 30 days
  • Easy domestic and international transfers (competitive FX rates on the latter)
  • Business account integrates with key financial apps (like Xero) and enables batch payments
  • Issues a globally accepted MasterCard debit card

Cons

  • Not a bank account and therefore cannot do some things that N26 can.

Why TransferWise borderless may be better

The TransferWise borderless account is widely available and has a transparent fee structure.

Overall, it gives you great freedom when travelling, transferring money to friends and family at home and overseas, and for sorting your business financials.

Why TransferWise borderless may not be for you 

It’s not a real bank account and doesn’t offer budgeting features, joint accounts, or overdraft features.

b. Starling (UK)

Starling is a licensed and regulated challenger bank in the UK that simplifies both personal and business banking. When you bank with Starling, your funds are protected (up to £85,000) by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Opening and holding a Starling account is completely free and you can also enjoy fee-free domestic transfers in the UK. Starling issues a contactless MasterCard which is linked to your account and can be used to pay for foreign transactions online as well as while travelling abroad.

Just like any traditional high street bank, Starling also offers personal loans and overdraft facilities. Other cool features include free joint accounts, easy bill settling options, categorized spending, purchase alerts, integration with third party financial services (particularly attractive for business account users), and easy card blocking on the app.

Pros

  • All accounts are free
  • Current account migration
  • Free domestic money transfers
  • Both Personal and Business accounts are quick and easy to set up
  • Offers joint accounts (easy to set up if both parties are already banking with Starling)
  • Offers personal loans and overdraft facilities
  • Holds a banking licence and your funds are protected by the FSCS
  • Deposit money easily into account via cheques from any UK post office
  • Options to hold both GBP and EUR accounts
  • No charges for payments overseas (including ATM withdrawals)
  • Offers in-app international transfers (international transfer fees include a 0.4% mark up on the exchange rate + a delivery fee)
  • 24x7 customer service
  • No account fees, which means account closing is hassle free
  • Marketplace integration with useful financial services like Anorak, Flux, Credit Ladder, Wealthify etc.

Cons

  • Only available in the UK
  • Personal loan interest rates are quite high (11.5%)
  • Can be only accessed via their mobile app

Why Starling may be better

Starling is one of the few challenger banks offering a host of useful features for their Business accounts. This makes it ideal for small business owners or sole traders who want to simplify invoices, streamline their accounting requirements and avoid hidden bank fees on money transfers and withdrawals. Starling also integrates with a number of financial services (check out Starling MarketPlace) that let your business take advantage of the latest and greatest fintech innovations.

Why Starling may not be for you (and N26 is)

N26 is stronger in Europe and covers many languages.

c. Simple (US)

Simple is a US-based neo bank with advanced money management tools. Simple was launched in 2009 and currently has a user base of 2.9 million. And, although they don’t have a banking licence, your funds on Simple are protected by two-factor authentication and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) scheme. For now, Simple is only available to US citizens.

At its core, Simple is an easy-to-use checking account that offers great short-term and long-term savings options. Opening a Simple account is free and they don’t impose account maintenance fees overdraft charges, or debit card fees (even when you need a replacement).

The Visa Debit card issued by them can be used for online transactions (both domestic and foreign – 1% fee applicable for the latter), ATM withdrawals (free at all AllPoint ATMs), and for overseas expenses while traveling (although this is not recommended – see “Cons” below). You can also set up recurring deposits for utilities and Simple will send the checks on your behalf (they don’t issue check books). Lastly, Simple doesn’t offer international fund transfers via the app but you can initiate international wire transfers by linking an external account.

Pros

  • Little to no fees for opening and holding an account
  • Built in advanced budgeting features
  • Recurring deposits and direct deposits
  • Funds protected by FDIC
  • Mails utility checks for you
  • Real-time spend notifications
  • Contactless payments with Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Wallet
  • Block lost card from the app or web portal
  • Can be accessed on the app as well as on their web app

Cons

  • Only available in the US
  • Doesn’t have a banking license
  • Doesn’t offer a business account
  • Limited options for international money transfer
  • Must notify simple for international spending over $6000 (check out daily and monthly spending limits here)
  • While you can use your Simple Visa debit card abroad, it’s not recommended. For one, you need to notify Simple if you’re traveling overseas. They may also ask you to close your account if you’re traveling for a long time since Simple is primarily for permanent US residents. (Check out some alternative travel money cards here.)
  • Low interest on savings under $2000
  • No money deposits via checks

Why Simple may be better

Simple is a good option if you want to dip your toes into digital banking in the US. Overall, it’s ideal if your goal is to have a no-fuss, low cost spending account with advanced budgeting features.

Why Simple may not be for you

If you’re looking for a flexible option for traveling, handling business expenses, and international money transfers, Simple may not be your best bet.

d. Chime (US)

Chime is also a US-based neo bank that’s growing at a rate of knots. It was launched in 2013 and already has over 5 million customers. Opening a Chime account is free and you also get an optional secondary savings account.

Chime prides itself on its “no hidden fees” structure and makes good on the promise with no minimum balance requirements, account opening or holding fees, foreign transaction fees, and monthly debit card charges (they issue a Visa Debit card when you open an account) or card replacement charges. Chime also has fee-free overdraft facilities.

Chime lets you load up your account in a number of ways: direct debits, cash deposits at Green Dot, as well as bank transfers (check out their list of supported banks here).

Currently, Chime is only available in the US, and while they don’t have a banking license, your funds are FDIC protected (they’ve partnered up with a registered bank – Bancorp Bank).

Pros

  • Holding an account is free
  • No overdraft fees, debit card fees or card replacement fees
  • Instant Chime to Chime money transfers
  • Free ATM withdrawals in the US at more than 24,000 ATMs (MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs)
  • Funds are FDIC protected
  • Efficient savings options (save 10% of your salary deposits automatically and round up all transactions to the nearest round dollar to build your savings)
  • Get paid up to 2 days early when you set up direct salary debits with Chime (they process your payments immediately instead of holding it like traditional banks)
  • Contactless payments with Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Wallet
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Can be accessed via the mobile app and their online banking portal

Cons

  • International ATM fees are applicable (out-of-network withdrawals are charged at $2.50 per transaction)
  • Only available in the US
  • Low savings rate
  • International money transfer options are limited
  • Doesn’t offer business accounts
  • No money deposit via checks
  • Cash deposits to your account via third party partners may cost you a fee

Why Chime may be better

If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative to your high street bank in the US, Chime may be it. Plus, its fee-free banking options go a long a way to make banking affordable for the average US millennial.

Why Chime may not be for you

Like Simple (above) Chime is not ideal for frequent travellers, entrepreneurs, and folks who need to send money to friends and family abroad.

e. UP (Australia)

With snazzy branding and cool digital banking features, UP is all geared up to overhaul banking. You can get an Up account if you’re over an Australian citizen and over 16 years old. Signing up is quick and easy via the mobile app and you can start making payments with supported wallets (Google Pay, Apple Pay, Fitbit, Garmin Pay) even before you receive your physical card.

Up issues a contactless MasterCard debit card that can be used globally and for international purchases.

Moreover, there are no fees for opening and holding an account, setting up direct debits, and online payments (including international transactions). However, while most ATM withdrawals are free in Australia and abroad at major bank ATMs, smaller financial institutions may charge a fee (both Australia and overseas).

Up’s financial services are provided by Bendigo and Adelaide bank and your funds are protected by Government Guarantee (up to AUD 250,000).

Pros

  • Free account
  • Detailed and up to date spending notifications
  • Paying friends and family is almost instant with PayID and Osko
  • High transaction limits
  • Easy payment splitting
  • User friendly budgeting with bill notifications and smart payment categorization (Displays spending in both AUD and the foreign currency while travelling)
  • Ability to set up multiple Savings accounts in the Up app linked to a unified savings goal
  • Globally accepted contactless MasterCard (MasterCard exchange rates for both online and in-person foreign transactions)
  • Issues both physical and digital cards
  • Free ATM withdrawals in Australia and abroad at major bank ATMs
  • Overdraft facility
  • Voice-controlled banking on Apple phones (Also supports TouchID and FaceID and and be used on the Apple Watch as well)
  • 24x7 support

Cons

  • Only available in Australia
  • Not ideal for folks with huge savings – UP only pays interest (2.5%) for savings up to AUD 50,000
  • High overdrawn interest rate (11.73%)
  • No banking license
  • May attract fees for some ATM withdrawals (both in Australia and abroad)
  • You have to inform UP while traveling abroad if you don’t want your overseas transactions to be flagged/blocked
  • No business accounts
  • International fund transfer fees not transparent

Why Up may be better

If you’re an Australian resident who wants to jump ship to a challenger bank, this is your chance. UP has all the facilities of a basic current account and can help you save lots of money while traveling overseas. Overall, UP is super easy to sign up for and use, especially since you can start making payments even before you receive your physical card.

Why UP may not be for you

If you’re an Australian digital nomad and business owner, UP may not be the right option for you right now because they haven’t rolled out business accounts yet. Plus, you’re better off holding on to your traditional savings account for the time being because UP imposes a limit on the interest pay out on your savings.

4. Bottomline

N26 is a great service in our opinion and gets 4 stars out of five on Trustpilot.

Even when we got stuck into the negative reviews (see our full review) we found that even these bad experiences can be mostly avoided once you know what to expect.

However N26 is not the be all and end all of modern banking!

Depending on the country you are in there may be better alternatives and we worked hard to uncover the best.

Europe

From Europe, so far we have been hard pressed to find a better competitor.

UK

For those who do not need personal loans or overdraft facilities TransferWise Borderless (review) may be a better option. Click to see the latest offering for TransferWise in the UK (opens new tab to keep reading).

For small business owners or sole traders, Starling in the UK is likely to be better.

US

For the US, Chime and Simple are solid alternatives but lack travel advantages that N26 has.

Canada/ Australia/ NZ / Rest of the World

In Australia, UP is a great competitor with TransferWise Borderless a great choice for pretty much the whole world.

For money transfers (especially over $7000 USD) we recommend a dedicated money transfer service.

If day-to-day banking is not needed but you want the use of a prepaid debit card there are some great options these days.

Happy Money!

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