An honest review of N26

An honest review of N26

An honest review of the N26 online bank after a year of use. Are the neat features worth dealing with a FinTech startup? Here is the verdict.

When I just landed in Berlin, I opened a bank account with Commerzbank, because there was a branch downstairs.

Commerzbank is an old-fashioned bank. You are assigned an advisor - a real human being - and you must go through that person for most major operations. Lost your credit card? Email your advisor. Need to open a brokerage account? Book an appointment with your advisor. Need to close your account? Advisor. They once confirmed an appointment by mailing me a letter. Commerzbank is a great bank... for another century.

The biggest problem, however, is that Commerzbank charges a nauseating number of fees for day-to-day operations: 7 euros a month for an account, 6 euros for using another bank's ATM, 40 euros a year for a basic credit card and so on. As a card-carrying penny pincher, that quickly got old, and I began looking for a new bank.

The new kid on the block

When I asked around, every colleague and friend of mine was raving about N26 (then Number26), the hip new online bank with the flashy app and neat transparent card. At face value, Number26 was a solid choice: no fees, free cash withdrawals from any ATM, free credit card and a neat app. That seemed like a good deal, so I gave it a try.

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A "straightforward" signup process

Opening an account with N26 is fairly straightforward. You install the app, start a video chat, show your ID and you are done. If all goes according to plan, you're done in 10 minutes. You don't even need an Anmeldung!

Things did not go according to plan.

N26's video identification partner, IDnow, does not support all ID documents. When I signed up, they would not allow Canadian passports (they do now). They support passports from more countries now, but not from all of them.

If you use video identification, you must use Postident. You must print a piece of paper and bring it to the post office. The person at the post office will verify your identity, and you will get your N26 card a few days later. Postident does not support all passports either1,23. There are reports of Russian, Indian and Pakistani citizens who can't get Deutsche Post to accept their passport. This could have changed since I opened my account in 2016.

Nonetheless, once your account is all set up, everything should go smoothly, right?

Well... mostly.

In order to use N26, you must pair a phone with your account. Your phone is used to confirm transfers and other account operations. If you don't have a phone, you cannot use N26 account. If you don't have Android or iOS, you cannot use N26. If you don't have a phone number, you cannot pair a new phone, and you cannot use N26. No phone, no bank transfers.

When I changed jobs last summer, I had to return my company phone, so had no phone number for a few weeks. During that time, I was effectively locked out of my N26 account, and could not transfer money from it. Without my old Commerzbank account, I could not have paid the rent that month.

Moreover, I could not unpair the old phone, as I gave it back on my last day of work. It had to be unpaired manually by N26's customer service before I could pair a new device. It took a short phone call to solve the problem.

Some other significant issues have plagued N26 customers since the company's debut in 2016: accounts closed without warning, security issues, condition changes, new fees and so on. N26 does not have the best of track records. Things have improved a lot since then, but it's still worth knowing.

Free as in beer

Why am I still an N26 customer despite those setbacks? Because it saves me over a hundred euros a year.

Commerzbank charged me 7 euros a month to keep an account open, 40 euros a year for a basic credit card, and 5 euros for withdrawing cash from other ATMs. N26 never charged me a dime. Never at all. Using N26 has been 100% free since I opened my account.

The N26 app

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In addition to the unbeatable price, N26 offers a fantastic user experience. I am willing to deal with occasional issues if their service makes my life easier, and it does.

At the centre of this great user experience is the N26 app.

Everything can be done from your phone through this app. In fact, some features are only available through the app.

The N26 app seamlessly integrates with iOS. You use TouchID to login, force touch to see your account balance from the home screen, and widgets to keep an eye on your finances. Transaction notifications appear as regular iOS notifications. These little details matter.

Transaction notifications are by far my favourite feature. You get a notification on your phone when money goes in or out of your account. When I pay with my N26 card, my phone vibrates in my pocket before I even get the receipt from the cashier. It helps me notice unexpected transactions, and makes budgeting a breeze.

The expense tracking features are also quite nice. The app splits your expenses into categories and gives you an overview of your spending habits. I don't use it much myself, but it can be useful.

Another neat feature is the Cash Map, which shows you ATMs in the vicinity. On iOS, you can reach it from the home screen with force touch. It's easier than to type "atm" in Google Maps, and shows more or less the same results.

The app also lets you instantly transfer money to other N26 users using their email address or phone number, a faster alternative to IBAN transfers. I use this with a few of my friends.

You can also set recurring payments. This allows me to pay my rent on time every month without even thinking about it. I get an email and a notification that confirm the payment went through.

There are other services available through the app (insurance, investments, etc.), but I have not tried them.

The N26 website

The N26 website gives you another way to access your transactions and make transfers. It's very similar to the apps, but is missing some of the special features. However, it still lets you view your transactions and make transfers.

If you want to transfer using the website, you must confirm the transaction on your phone. It's a minor hassle, but it's much better than the stupid photoTAN system.

Technical support in English

N26 and Deutsche Bank are the only German banks to officially offer English technical support. My colleagues still receive some German paperwork from Deutsche Bank, but N26 correspondence is 100% in English. If you don't speak German, N26 is the best option. 

Since N26 is an online bank, you can't meet face to face with an advisor. If you have questions about your finances, investments or loans, you might want to open an account with a traditional bank like Deutsche BankDeutsche Bank or Sparkasse. N26 is an online bank, so there are no branches you can go to. On the bright side, you will never have to go to a branch across the city to sign a document.

In general, I found the N26 customer service perfectly acceptable and responsive. The live chat is convenient if you are at work or just don't like making phone calls.

Verdict: it's worth it, but...

N26 is still in its early years, and it's hard to escape the perception that you are dealing with a startup. Their signup process has issues, their app has issues, and they don't account for situations like "having an Indian passport" or "not having a phone". The truth is that despite those setbacks, N26 is great for most people, most of the time.

It's hard to ignore the fees you would pay for the same perks at any other bank, and that N26 is the only German bank that officially offers English support. It's also one of the few banks that lets you create an account before you have done your Anmeldung.

Would I recommend N26? Absolutely. All of my day-to-day transactions go through N26, and I am overall very satisfied with the experience, despite some hiccups in the first few months. I closed my Commerzbank account and made N26 my only bank in February 2018. Go ahead, open an account. Tell them Nick sent you.

Visit the N26 website

If you deemed that N26 is not for you, take a look at DKB or ING DiBa, both of which are highly recommended by my colleagues and friends, or perhaps consider an established brick-and-mortar bank. Comdirect is another free online bank. We wrote a solid overview of other German banks here.

Updates

2017-09-25: Added corrections from commenters

2017-10-05: Added that Postident only supports a limited list of ID documents

2017-12-13: Corrected some facts, adjusted some parts to match my current opinion.

2018-08-01: Corrected section about supported countries. Added details about Anmeldung.

This article uses affiliate links. When you click these links and open an N26 account, we make a little money. We use that money to pay our hosting bill, expand the website and donate to charity. We don't sell recommendations or write reviews for money.

Comments

  • Pol

    Hi. Anyone knows how to get your money back once N26 cancels your account without reason? I am trying to contact them by live chat, email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but they dont have information available. Supposedly they can only be reached by email for those matters - but I have been 5 days without a reply so far.

    Did anyone get their money back after putting it in N26 and trying to make a wire transfer? Please let me know how you did it.

    Reply

    • Reply to Pol

  • K J

    09.05.2019. They are not accepting certain email accounts, example ending with ABC@gmx.de and they need some crap gmail account this is annoying .

    Reply

    • Reply to K J

    • KM

      15.05.2019 Very disappointing. I did read reviews that opening an account is straightforward and takes less than 10 minutes. I am in the process of opening an account since yesterday and can't go through because the N26 app can't geolocate me for some reason ( and yes I did check that my location services is on and the app has permission to access my location). I tried 4 times and each time I have to retake the photos of my ID (4 in total) plus photo of my face and then app can geolocate me so verification can't be done. I can't use the video chat of the app as the account is not yet open, there is no phone number to call and no email to contact N26. This is completely ridiculous. There must be another way to verify the identity without having to use the phone app! when I login to the WebApp, it says let's switch to the phone app for verification but phone app can't geolocate me....its a catch 24 situation

      Reply

      • Reply to KM

  • Rupin

    They started accepting Indian passport if you hold a German resident permit.

    Reply

    • Reply to Rupin

  • Juan

    The worst customer service experience anyone can have. Agents close the chats without responding to your questions. They sport levels of incompetence only the worst companies in Europe have. They claim to be secure but they are rude, unhelpful and make banking with them a nightmare. I am looking for a more human alternative. They are not a bank, they are crooks offering an app and playing with money.

    Reply

    • Reply to Juan

  • Sera K

    I wanted to so badly for N26 to work out, like this article states, but I was so wrong....N26 has been the worst experience I have ever had with a bank. From there attrocious customer support, to their continuing 'server' issues, and lack of important and relevant information. First issue I had was I could not pair to a phone with my USA number (nowhere does it state that in the signup process). If you would like to pair with a USA phone you need to wait for your card, then activate, then go to the support chat (If it is acutally working, more times than not the server is down or everyone is busy). Then someone should call, though the first two times no one ever called, to give you the SMS pairing code. You have 30 seconds to enter the code so be ready and logged in, which no one tells you, so the code expires. Then when you ask for them to call again, they cannot because your phone is unable to pair for the next 24hrs. Oh, and if you want to make a transfer, don't bother, there is always an 'unexpected error' message until you either pair your phone. Once I finally got a Germany number, then more problems arose with basic transfers and transactions and customer support was useless. Needless to say, I am closing the account and using DKB with no problems at all :D
    Please, if you value your time, money, and sanity, stay away from this joke of a bank.

    Reply

    • Reply to Sera K

  • Jake Bloyer

    It all sounds good by the reviews but I myself like the interaction of people and going into a local bank. You get friendly with those people you can strive deals with loans even. And most of all if you have all that information out like that someone could unlock your phone and get all the details they want. Or even log in and hack N26 database like someone just commented on here. I'll stick to my actual bank!

    Reply

    • Reply to Jake Bloyer

  • Saurabh

    Doesnt accept Indian passport as valid document. Moved to DB as I got zero balance account with no monthly charges in case you are salaried.

    Reply

    • Reply to Saurabh

  • Domenico

    Salve, a me hanno chiuso il conto probabilmente per troppi prelievi mensili ATM.Dopo molte chat e raccomandate alla sede di Berlino, da circa un mese alcuna risposta da parte di N26.Potete consigliarmi un avvocato a Berlino che parla in Italiano per affrontare questo problema.Grazie e Saluti.

    Reply

    • Reply to Domenico

  • gon88

    This comment is awaiting moderation.

  • Matthew

    Have used them for almost a year now. This is the way modern banks need to go. I have found them almost faultless. In most circumstances this is a great bank, but particularly if you move around a lot internationally since the lack of card charges and ATM withdrawals are streets ahead of others (I have 5 different accounts). Verdict 9 out of 10

    Reply

    • Reply to Matthew

  • Michael Anthony

    Security is a joke. My account was wiped out and even after contacting service and blocking my card, transactions - credit and debit are still continuing 10 days later. More than 100 fraudulent transactions and I have been told to fill sign and scan one form for each transaction. Meanwhile new fraudulent transactions continue. All this after I have been paying for N26Black services every month.

    Reply

    • Reply to Michael Anthony

  • Ralph

    Like many others have noted, their customer support is terrible. Yes, the live chat works, but these are just front of house staff. The ones actually doing the technical work are impossible to get hold of. They never reply to emails.
    It all looks lovely until you have a problem, then it all falls apart. I'd put your money elsewhere.

    Reply

    • Reply to Ralph

  • Gervin Williams

    I am trying to find out more information on this Bank the N26 . I am looking for a Bank that deals in English. I would like to open an Cheching Account in deposit a check for 1.6 Million USD . I would like to get Credit CARDS , ATM and Unlimited withdrawals. Can you please recommend a good Bank to do Business with ???? If so . Can you please send me an Application or the Address to the Bank..I await your reply ASAP. Thank You .

    Reply

    • Reply to Gervin Williams

    • Nicolas Bouliane

      Gervin, to open an account, just click the link in this article and follow the instructions on the N26 website. Deutsche Bank also offers English customer service. Other banks only work in German.

      Reply

      • Reply to Nicolas Bouliane

    • Jessica

      N26 doesn't accept cheques.

      Reply

      • Reply to Jessica

  • Svitlana

    The article seems interesting.
    But the last two days I have problems with contacting N26 support. The issue is that I had to buy a new phone (due to the fact that the old one was broken) and there I couldn't enter my password to N26 application as is was saved in the old phone. I tried to press the button "TO reset password' but for 2 days I am not receiving any further links to my mail box to actulally change my password. I mailed to Support email but they are not answering. I can't use the Life chat to talk to the support as it is avaliable only after I log into my account (which I can't do). I even left the message in N26 Facebook page about this issue, still no answer. So I guess that's it, there are no ways for me to receive the control over my accout anymore. Moreover I need to make an urgent payment and can't do that. It doesn't look like a professional way to do Banking Business.
    Are there any other ways to contact the N26 Bank (as I did'find them on the website of Google)?

    Reply

    • Reply to Svitlana

    • Juan

      No other way. Useless completely. Only if you are a premium user you get to talk to a human.

      Reply

      • Reply to Juan

  • Gabriel

    They are good if you need to open an account fast and without going through much bureaucracy. However, their customer service is terrible. I had a problem with an withdraw and they were unable to explain me how to take back the money that shouldn’t have been taken from my account in the first place and everytime I got in contact with them they would give me a different answer and not solve my problem.

    Reply

    • Reply to Gabriel

  • Dzvinka

    This November (2018) I used my Ukrainian passport at Postident and no problems occurred. Also, when I applied to get an account, my residence had not yet been registered at the local office. However, it also was not a problem as my account was still opened. Please, correct those mistakes in the article.

    Reply

    • Reply to Dzvinka

  • Nihad

    I had more than unpleasant experience with this bank. I have been waiting for more than a month for a card to arrive. In that time, I had no way of paying my rent, my bills, cash to spend every day. My advice is not to use online bank for a simple reason, when you have problem you cannot go physically in bank and resolve it on spot, you have to talk to their support, which cannot help you in any way except tell you what you already know. And the biggest problem is that you cannot go in bank and take money when you do not have a card or access to ATM.

    Reply

    • Reply to Nihad

  • Kai

    I will be moving to Germany soon and my plan was to get a cheap prepaid SIM at the airport and then get a plan later on. If I register N26 with my prepaid SIM, will I have issues later when trying to switch it to another SIM?

    Reply

    • Reply to Kai

    • Nicolas Bouliane

      This won't be a problem. I have a prepaid SIM, and my N26 account is paired to my phone. When you change phone numbers, you need to unpair your phone and pair it again with the new number. I have done it a month ago. It only takes 5-10 minutes if you have access to both phone numbers.

      Reply

      • Reply to Nicolas Bouliane

  • George

    The email you receive with PostIdent check, specifically instructs you to have your passport and Meldebescheinigung.

    Reply

    • Reply to George

    • Nicolas Bouliane

      This depends on your country of origin. If your passport is supported, you can use video ID. If it's not, you must use Postident. In that case, you are right, a Meldebescheinigung is needed.

      Reply

      • Reply to Nicolas Bouliane

  • Leo

    Hey there Nick, quick question, if you don't mind: I am asserting the possibility of shedding my Sparkasse account, due to their (unreasonable) fees, but, as you might suspect, am a bit skeptic about receiving my salary straight into N26. Care to share your opinion of this matter, since to my understanding, you are so doing at the current stage?

    Reply

    • Reply to Leo

    • Alex

      Has the same deposit guarantee as any Sparkasse. https://die-dk.de/en/deposit-protection/

      Reply

      • Reply to Alex

  • Filipe

    I've read N26's Privacy Policy, and is far worse than most conventional banks. Commerzbank's isn't great either, but N26, Revolut, and a few others need to up their game.

    Reply

    • Reply to Filipe

  • Gali

    I have an account with n26. A transfer I made over two months ago was failed, yet this money is still missing on my account. Meaning, the money went through but didn't arrive its' destination, but n26 are saying it's gone. Anyone has any idea how can I get them to refund me and send MY money back to my account?
    Conclusion- the moment you have a real problem, there is no phone line and the correspondence goes only by chat or emails and takes forever.
    Hope someone could help.....

    Reply

    • Reply to Gali

  • Jim Croke

    I spoke with their "customer care" team on Wednesday morning who advised me it would take 7hrs to transfer from Australia to my acc via 3rd party "transfer wise" it's now Friday 4pm and the response I'm getting is "we can't see incoming transfers" and sorry theres nothing we can do. Not a great start to n26 being left in limbo for 3 more days . 1* regardless of free stuff.

    Reply

    • Reply to Jim Croke

  • Hyun

    I tried N26 and ING-Diba at the same time and found ING-Diba is much better because of customer service. You can actually speak with a person with ING-DiBa. However, N26 only services you through their chat system who I suspect is not N26 staff but hired remote company customer support company. I have been trying to close my N26 account but they are keeping my money for already now over a month. They keep telling me N26 will contact me with closing status but as of now no progress. So beware.

    Reply

    • Reply to Hyun

    • Rebecca

      Nah, Customer service is their staff. They've just started doing business, they couldn't outsource at this stage. And I have seen them ;)

      Reply

      • Reply to Rebecca

    • Berlinwagelabourer

      The people are real, struggling workers trying to get by in the very tough call-center economy in Berlin, mostly young and all highly-skilled and at least bilingual (except for the English). The company pays these folks around €24,000 euros a year -- which is actually "really good" for a call center in Berlin, and they know this , so on your knees, proles! --- to listen to your complaints in real time for 40-odd hours a week (do the math on that), and plies its workforce with beer parties and other scale-uppy goodies. Don't blame the workers, the workers are busting their butts for this company. Whether or not you want to support the business model based on workforce exploitation is up to you.

      Reply

      • Reply to Berlinwagelabourer

  • Nicolas Bouliane

    You are right Matt. If your document is not supported by the Video ID process, you need to use PostIdent, which requires a Meldebestätigung (and an Anmeldung).

    This was the case when I opened my account, and it's still the case for some passports.

    Reply

    • Reply to Nicolas Bouliane

  • Matt

    Just a disclaimer here: the thing with the Anmeldung is not all true. If you're required to confirm identity through Postident, the post office employee needs your address and he might ask for a document to confirm. I guess it's not a completely strict requirement but it happens frequently (did to me just recently).

    Reply

    • Reply to Matt

    • Nicolas Bouliane

      We have several reports confirming that Postident does not require an Anmeldung anymore, but it seems to depend on the post office employee.

      Reply

      • Reply to Nicolas Bouliane

      • Anh Nhan

        A family member of mine with a foreign passport didn't need an Anmeldung; they wrote down the adress on the staying permit which suffices I guess.

        Reply

        • Reply to Anh Nhan

  • Jan

    Are the cash withdrawals 100% free? I read on their website that you have 5 withdrawals / month free then it’s 2€ / withdrawal ..

    Reply

    • Reply to Jan

    • Rubens

      There is a difference between ATM withdrawals and their so-called "CASH26" system withdrawals. That 5 limit (and the subsequent fees) are for ATMs only. All withdrawals done at any of the participant retail stores and supermarkets are free.

      Reply

      • Reply to Rubens

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