N26 in the United States

Many readers of this blog are doubtless aware of N26, a German bank that is expanding to the US.  I had put myself on their waiting list some months ago.  (According to news reports about 100,000 people in the US had put themselves on that waiting list.)  A week or so ago an email arrived saying that Real Soon Now I would have an opportunity to actually open an account.  Today another email arrived saying yes I really can open an account.  Which I have done.  And I have a few initial reactions.

One thing is that as far as I can see, N26 does not have any connection with Zelle.  I would have expected N26 to have a connection with Zelle but no.

Another thing is that as far as I can see, N26 has no way that a US accountholder could receive a bank wire via SWIFT.  Many banks outside the US would thus be unable to do a bank wire to my N26 account.

Nor can one write checks that draw upon one’s N26 account.  

What you do get is a Visa debit card.  It permits up to two ATM cash withdrawals per month, free of charge (except that the operator of the ATM will almost certainly charge a fee).  And of course the card can be used in stores.  And can be used for online purchases.

I have not yet received the physical Visa card.  It is a chip card, and can be used in some “tap to pay” NFC systems.   When the card arrives, I will among other things try to add it to my Android Pay app.  I don’t know whether that will work.

How do you get money into such an N26 account?  You cannot for example deposit a check into the account.  As far as I can see the only way to get money into the account is via an ACH transfer (for example a payroll direct deposit).

How do you get money out of such an N26 account?  You cannot send bank wires.  You cannot send ACH transfers.  You cannot write checks.  I guess the only day-to-day choices are, you go to an ATM and get cash, or you buy something using the debit card.  (Or when you are buying something, maybe get a little cash back from the store as part of the debit card transaction.)

It is interesting to try to figure out what the problem is for which an N26 account is the solution.

Do you have an N26 account?  What do you think of it?  Do you recommend it to others?

10 Replies to “N26 in the United States”

  1. I am curious why you would have any interest in opening an account that lacks most of the features of modern bank accounts. What is the purpose of this experiment?

    1. You have answered your own question! The purpose of the experiment is to find out whether it is worth the trouble to open such an account.

      1. But surely there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of banks in which you don’t have an account, including any number of foreign banks with US branches. I expect that you have not opened an account in each of them just to discover whether they are worth having. What made this particular bank worthy of your time and interest?

        1. Thank you for posting. Yes your question is a good one.

          N26 is a new bank in the category of Fintech. Founded by one of the founders of Paypal. No minimum balance, no monthly fees. Mostly it is an app. No bricks and mortar. The company might end up being a disrupter of the legacy bricks-and-mortar approach for retail banking.

          Doing a “let’s try this bank” experiment with a bricks-and-mortar bank would require physically traveling to the bank. This was a dozen mouse clicks.

          They characterize the US rollout as a “beta test”. As such, maybe they will add features as time goes on.

          I figured it is a good use of time for me to keep informed about some of the recent possible disrupters in the fintech world. I am glad that I took time to get familiar with a previous fintech disrupter (TransferWise) and I figure there’s a chance I will end up being glad I got familiar with this one (N26).

  2. I have made the same experiment, especially since some reviews recommended N26 especially for international wire transfers. Well, we must be missing something here in the US. Like the author said, many items are missing and to add money from my BoA account I actually would have to pay a fee… I don’t think so, they card will just be in my desk should they decide some day to become a more user-friendly service.

  3. I agree with most of what everyone has said. My personal feeling is that if you are going to draw customers away from traditional brick and mortar banks, at a minimum you need to offer the features customers are already accustomed too, at a level of service that’s at least as good as what they are already receiving, plus provide new and different services that will enhance the experience the customer is currently receiving. In my experience, N26 falls woefully short.

    The only two features I’ve found so far that would fall on the enhancement side of the experience are the ability to receive your paycheck up to 2 days in advance via direct deposit and being able to instantly chat with customer service.

    However, the account omits several features that are so universally available in nearly every other checking account, it never occurred to me to even inquire as to their availability with N26. This is just a short list:

    No Online bill pay – All your payments must be done thru the website of the company your trying to pay

    No ability to pay via check: I have an account that needs to be paid via check each month. With an N26 account, I have no way to pay them.

    No remote deposit: If you have to deposit a check into your brick and mortar bank and then transfer it to N26, why not just use your brick and mortar bank?

    No interrogation with other accounts: Many banks now offer the ability to see all of your accounts in one place, even accounts outside that bank. N26 does not.

    Lack of rewards: Most major banks offer some kind of rewards program for debit card users, such as Bank of America BankAmeriDeals. N26 offers only 4 very specific discounts to places/services I’d honestly never even heard of, let alone use.

    I’m honestly not sure what the draw of this account is. While the account is free, it lacks so many of the basic banking features that customers are accustomed too, I’m not sure that a lack of fees and getting your paycheck 2 days early is enough of a value proposition to make N26 a true disruptor in this space in the US.

  4. In Europe it seems the N26 app and bank has more services. N26 uses Axos Bank for all their backroom banking services in the USA. Maybe Axos Bank lobbied hard with N26 to be their partner here in the USA? As informative as some of Mr. Grierson’s comments were I felt he was mean in the way he was going about his inquiring.

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