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Brexit has another business casualty. N26–a challenger bank and fintech–will close its UK operations in April 2020. According to N26,
With the UK having left the EU at the end of January, we will in due course no longer be able to operate in the UK with our European banking licence. As such we can no longer open new N26 accounts and will be closing existing accounts on 15 April 2020. We have prepared a list of FAQs which you can find below in order to answer any questions you might have. We are sorry to be leaving and we understand this will be disappointing for our customers.
Founded in 2013, N26 is building the first mobile bank the world loves to use. It offers mobile banking solutions to customers in the EU, the US, and abroad. It provides international money transfer, investment, overdraft, cash withdrawals, and in-store deposits.
N26 focuses on making money management easy. It empowers customers to manage and control their banking details via a smartphone application. Furthermore, opening a standard N26 account is fast, paperless, and won’t cost you a thing. It’s products and services differ depending on the country.
N26 is available on Apple and Google Play app stores and offers a web app. It has a “great” rating on Trustpilot.
N26 entered the UK market in 2018. It offered a current account, insurance, money transfer, and overdraft products and services. Its offerings weren’t as comprehensive as what it provides in the EU–N26 is headquartered in Germany–but still competitive.
That N26 is leaving the UK says less about it and more about failed Brexit developments (and the government “leaders” running the show). I suspect N26 didn’t want to deal with the ongoing uncertainty concerning Brexit and decided to cut its losses in an overcrowded British fintech environment. Nevertheless, its exit from the UK has Brits seeking alternatives.
Let’s review several excellent N26 alternatives and neobanks in the UK market. If you’re in the EU, staying with N26 is perfectly fine as it leads the way with Revolut. First, however, let’s understand the standard features of banking apps. For how to choose a mobile banking app/company, see this post.
Fintechs and neobanks will continue to add products, services, and features to compete with their rivals and traditional banks. What one company doesn’t have today, it will likely offer in a few months to a year. Therefore, you needn’t worry about missing out on the long term. Challenger bank apps typically have these features:
- Virtual and physical bank cards
- Instant push notifications on all transactions
- Analytics and categorization of expenses
- Multiple accounts for saving and budgeting goals (not the same as an interest-bearing savings account)
- No foreign exchange fees when spending abroad
- Free money transfers to other users
- Make recurring payments
- Download and print account activity
- Connectivity to third-party apps, for example, Apple Pay and Google Pay
- Card lock/unlock at your discretion, for example, if your card gets lost or stolen
N26 Alternatives & Competitors
Here are the most prominent N26 competitors in the UK market.
Founded in 2015, Revolut is on a mission to facilitate global spending and transfers at the best exchange rates. Individual or business, Revolut is the only banking alternative designed for a worldwide lifestyle. It offers free and premium products and services at affordable monthly prices.
Revolut focuses on today’s hyper-connected world by being a progressive financial partner. It wants to adapt to your needs, give you control, and continuously push you into new and exciting spaces. It welcomes customers to a world of better money management.
Revolut is available on Apple and Google Play app stores. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2015, Bunq (stylized as “bunq”) is a fully licensed Dutch mobile bank operating across the EU and UK. It gives you the freedom to spend, save, move, transfer, and invest your money. It’s on a mission to break free from the status quo and create a bank with customers in mind.
Bunq values progress, transparency, and freedom of choice. It claims to be “the only bank in the world where you decide what happens with your money. What’s yours always stays yours.” Also, they’ll never sell out your private information.”
Bunq is available on Apple and Google Play app stores and offers a web app. It has an “average” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2015, Monzo is a bank for people who live on their smartphones. It’s for individuals who want to get things done in a click and who don’t see the need for branches or checks.
Monzo focuses on solving problems rather than selling financial products. It wants to make the world a better place and change people’s lives by being as open as possible. Also, by being transparent, it believes it can make banking better. Monzo is also available in the US.
Monzo is available on Apple and Google Play app stores. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2014, Starling Bank is a fully licensed bank built to give people a fairer, smarter, and more life-like alternative to the banks of the past. With four different account types and pioneering payment services for businesses, its world-class tech reimagines banking and puts the tools people need in the palms of their hands.
Starling focuses on simplifying money management and innovation. The Starling Marketplace gives you access to a wide range of services and products from third party providers. Customers also get a multitude of payment options, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, and Garmin Pay.
Starling is available on Apple and Google Play app stores. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2011, TransferWise is on a mission to make a positive, irreversible change in the world of finance. Built by and for people who live global lives, TransferWise makes sending money abroad fair, accessible, and up to eight times cheaper than traditional banks and money transfer companies.
TransferWise focuses on people on every continent to help them live, travel, and work internationally. It wants to support a financial experience without borders to support instant, convenient, transparent, and eventually free money movement.
TransferWise is available on Apple and Google Play app stores and offers a web app. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2015, Monese wants to make opening and using an account as easy as ordering an Uber. It wants to be accessible to everyone and not just a select few who have perfect credit scores and several months of documentation.
Monese focuses on building a service that gives people the financial freedom to thrive anywhere and the means for you to follow your dreams. It’s for people who live some part of their lives in other countries for work, travel, business, study, family, or retirement.
Monese is available on Apple and Google Play app stores and offers a web app. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2015, Curve is on a mission to change the way people spend, send, see, and save money. It simplifies your financial life by connecting your accounts to one smart card and an even more intelligent app. You can link your debit and credit cards to Curve’s app and spend it from any of your accounts using the Curve Mastercard.
Curve focuses on a couple of market trends, including the fragmentation of financial services and convergence of customer experiences. It believes the endgame will be a connected world of money, tailored individually for each user.
Curve is available on Apple and Google Play app stores. It has an “excellent” rating on Trustpilot.
Founded in 2014, Pockit is creating the world’s most inclusive bank. It believes banking services should be available to everyone. That’s why it’s building a new front door, open to all, especially those shut out or short-changed by traditional banks.
Pockit focuses on providing the latest features of modern banking with none of the headaches. Customers can have their salaries, benefits, and pensions paid via bank transfer, or with cash at any of the 30,000 PayPoint locations across the UK.
Pockit is available on Apple and Google Play app stores and offers a web app. It has a “great” rating on Trustpilot.
Products & Services Comparison
Pricing & Fees
|Free Account||Monthly Fee|
|Revolut||Yes||Up to £12.99|
|bunq||No||Up to £8.30 (€9.99)|
|Monese||Yes||Up to £14.95|
|Pockit||No||£0.99 + service fees|
|Curve||Yes||Up to £14.99|
Challenger banks generate revenue in several ways, including fees and premiums from subscriptions, insurance, overdraft, withdrawals, transfers, replacement cards, shipping, interchange, and document requests. They make money by splitting the interest margin earned on loans and balances. Finally, they share revenues or collect fees through third-party product and service arrangements. To learn how each company makes money, visit the links below.
- How Revolut makes money
- How Bunq makes money
- How Monzo makes money
- How Starling makes money
- How TransferWise makes money
- How Monese makes money
- How Pockit makes money
- How Curve makes money
Although I didn’t discuss PayPal, it offers a current account, credit, and money transfer services. Its fees are notoriously high, and exchange rates are terrible. It scores poorly on transparency and doesn’t aim to be a mobile-friendly bank. Still, PayPal is convenient, efficient, and useful for holding, moving, sending, and receiving money. I use it frequently.
I don’t recommend using Pockit or Curve because their products and value propositions are substandard compared to the competition. Also, they’re more like gimmicks than legitimate challenger banks. For instance, Curve’s primary offering is a card that connects to your other bank accounts for a single point of access. Meanwhile, Pockit forces you to pay £0.99 monthly for a current account with limited benefits.
TransferWise and Monese are limited to current accounts and money transfers. If that’s all you want, choose TransferWise because it offers additional current accounts for the US, Australia, New Zealand, and an expanding list of countries. Also, N26, Monzo, and Bunq use TransferWise for their money transfer operations. Separately, paying Monese a monthly fee to access what TransferWise offers on a pay-per-use basis isn’t financially prudent.
Monzo is a fantastic choice if you don’t need a EUR current account, primarily do banking in the UK, and want to save and borrow. It’s the only bank on this list that offers tax-free ISAs. However, it misses on insurance and investment products.
Starling is another excellent choice and offers a EUR current account, different account types, and loan products. However, it doesn’t provide an interest-bearing savings account, insurance, or investment products.
Bunq is innovative, progressive, and has GBP and EUR accounts. However, it doesn’t have a free plan, and investment, insurance, and loan products are missing.
Revolut offers a complete banking experience with GBP and EUR current accounts. Additionally, it has savings, insurance, cryptocurrency, and investing products. On the other hand, it doesn’t provide loans or join accounts (teen accounts are available).
All the companies in this comparison offer international money transfers. They offer low- or cost-free options at mid-market exchange rates, except for Pockit. Pockit charges a foreign exchange fee of up to 4 percent.
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I use Revolut and TransferWise and recommend them to my network of global citizens, expatriates, frequent travelers, international students, and everyday people who want better banking experiences. TransferWise has a more robust money transfer network than Revolut, but I imagine a day when Revolut can fulfill all my needs.