Banking

N26 versus Revolut - how do they compare?

Daragh Cassidy

Daragh Cassidy

Head Writer

Both N26 and Revolut have shaken up the banking sector in recent years. So what do they offer, how do they compare, and which one is better?

N26 and Revolut are probably the two best known financial technology or ‘fintech’ players in the Irish market right now. They are usually referred to as 'digital only' banks because they have no high-street presence and operate entirely online with customers accessing their accounts via intuitive, user-friendly apps on their phone.

Increasingly, both N26 and Revolut offer a viable alternative to a traditional current account.

Both banks offer free as well as premium accounts, for which you pay a monthly fee. For now we're just focussing on the free versions. 

Who is N26?

N26 is a German Bank which now operates in over 20 countries in Europe, with plans to launch in the United States shortly. The bank has around 2.5 million customers worldwide.

N26 is licensed by the German Central Bank and the European Central Bank and operates in Ireland on a European Passport (an EU law which allows a bank which is fully licenced in one EU country to operate all over the EU).

N26 customers are covered by the German deposit guarantee scheme and are regulated here by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules so your money is as safe with this bank as with any of the traditional Irish ones.

When you open an account you'll immediately be given an IBAN and IBEC number, meaning you can get paid into the account by your Irish employer and set up direct debits and standing orders just like with any other Irish bank account.

The downside is that, as a true digital bank, there aren't any N26 branches in Ireland so if you want to make a lodgement in person or cash in a cheque you'll find yourself stuck.

Who is Revolut?

Revolut is a UK fintech company which launched in 2015 and has over 3 million customers.

Like N26, you’ll now be given an IBAN and IBEC when you open your account so you can do all the day-to day things that you’d expect with a normal current account. It's currently licensed as a bank in Lithuania and is working on getting the licence transferred to Ireland under the same EU passporting rules that N26 has followed. 

However Revolut has suffered through a bit of a PR crisis lately with reports of a toxic working culture and lax compliance rules so it'll be interesting to see how all this plays out.  

Again, Revolut is a true digital bank, so if you’re fond of cash and cheques, this isn’t the account for you.

Opening an account

Both N26 and Revolut allow you to open an account online in just minutes from your phone.

You download the app, fill in some personal details, then take a picture of your passport and a selfie with your phone and submit it through the app. If all’s above board your account will be set up and you’ll issued with an IBAN and IBEC almost immediately.

Your physical card will then be sent out in the post to you and should arrive in around one week.   

It’s free to open an account with N26 while Revolut will charge you €6.

Day-to-day banking

Both these fintech players offer largely free day-to-day banking. There’s no monthly or annual maintenance fee with either bank and there’s no charge for chip and pin or contactless transactions. There’s no fee for standing orders or direct debit payments either.

Withdrawing cash is a bit different. With N26 you get five free ATM withdrawals a month. After that there’s a hefty €2 charge per withdrawal.

Revolut allows you to withdraw €200 a month. After that you’re charged a 2% fee per withdrawal.

N26 supports both Apple Pay and Google Pay in Ireland. Revolut only supports Google Pay here for now.

Revolut is only available on smartphones, while N26 can be used on a PC or tablet as well as your phone through its online banking.

Travelling abroad

As well as free day-to-day banking, the lack of foreign exchange fees make both these accounts extremely attractive for anyone who travels a lot.

All the traditional banks will charge you a 1.75% to 3% foreign exchange or ‘processing fee’ for purchases made with your debit card outside the Eurozone, which can really add up.

But N26 will charge you nothing while Revolut will charge you nothing up to a limit of €6,000 a month - after that there’s a small 0.5% fee.

What’s more, when converting your spend back into euro, N26 applies the Mastercard exchange rate at all times while Revolut applies the Interbank exchange rate with a 0.5% mark-up at weekends. Both these rates are likely to be better than the rate you’d get with one of the main banks.

The Interbank rate is usually slightly more competitive than the Mastercard rate but because Revolut charges a 0.5% mark-up at weekends, both banks largely come out the same in the end.  

All the above also applies to money transfers.

So let’s say you headed to London for the weekend and spent the equivalent of €500 on your card. Here’s what it would cost with all the different providers.  

Bank

Cost

N26

€0

Revolut

€0

AIB

€8.75

KBC

€8.75

PTSB

€8.75

BOI

€10

Ulster Bank

€10

An Post

€15

If you’re withdrawing cash abroad, N26 will charge you a 1.7% fee while Revolut allows you withdraw the equivalent of €200 a month at no charge, after which a 2% fee is added. Both these fees are way more competitive than the 3-4% fee you’d be charged with the traditional Irish banks.  

Again let’s say you headed to London for the weekend and withdrew the equivalent of €200 (€100 - about £85 - in two withdrawals) from an ATM with your card.

Here’s what it would cost with all the different providers.  

Bank

Cost

Revolut

€0*

N26

€3.40

AIB

€7

KBC

€7

PTSB

€7

BOI

€7

Ulster Bank

€7

An Post

€7.80

*First €200 free, anything else will cost €2 per €100 i.e. 2%. 

Other features  

Both N26 and Revolut offer fingerprint login as well as the option to freeze your card in the app and unfreeze it. So if you think you’ve lost your card after a wild night out and start to panic, you can quickly put a temporary freeze on your account. Should you happen to find your card the next day (or maybe the next hour!) you can just unfreeze it again and all will be good.  

Revolut also allows you to disable contactless temporarily and enable it again at the touch of a button in the app. So if you're off on holiday, or just a big night out, and would prefer the added security of chip and pin only in case you misplace your card, this is a really handy feature.   

Both banks also give you up-to-the-minute push notifications on your spending and analytics that break down your spend for you. Revolut is particularly good for the latter and its colourful, user-friendly interface makes analysing your spending surprisingly fun (or scary if you splash the cash a bit too often!)     

Revolut has an ingenious money saving feature called Vaults. Every time you make a purchase with your card, Revolut will automatically round up your transaction to the nearest whole number and place the difference into your Vault. So every time you buy your morning coffee for €2.80, €0.20 will go straight into your Vault.  

Revolut also provides access to several cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin at the touch of a button and you can choose to convert your Vaults savings (or any of your money) into cryptocurrency too if you want. Although we’d advise you to read up on how volatile these currencies can be before you do so!

With N26’s Spaces, you can open two savings accounts and then name them for specific savings goals, such as a holiday or a deposit on a house. However N26 doesn’t offer access to any cryptocurrencies.  

Neither bank will pay any interest whatsoever on your savings though.  

With Revolut you can also put a limit on how much you want to spend each month and every time you make a payment you'll be notified how much is remaining - so a great tool for budgeting. With N26 you can do similar by setting a daily limit for cash withdrawals and payments. 

With Revolut you can also take a pic of your receipt and link it to your purchase and then save it for safe keeping.     

A simple way to send and receive money

Both banks also allow you to request and send money to your phone contacts at the touch of a button without having to know their bank details, meaning the days of exchanging account numbers and chasing people up are over. With N26 this is called MoneyBeam and you can send up to €1,000 to other N26 customers a day. 

You can also send and request money to non-users though it's not quite as straightforward. For example with N26 a non-customer will get a link (by text message or email) where they can enter their bank account details and receive the transfer within two banking days. If the recipient doesn’t collect the MoneyBeam within seven days, it’ll return to the your account. You can send up to €100 to non-N26 customers within a 24-hour period.

Revolut also has a really handy split bill feature which lets you split any bill, with any contact in your phone. It’s free, instant and eliminates the awkwardness of asking someone to pay you back!

You just tap the payment you want to split, then hit the 'split bill' button and select who you would like to split the bill with. You can edit the individual amounts owed, or just hit ‘request’ to split the bill evenly. 

If your phone contacts have the Revolut app, they'll receive a notification with a request for the amount owed which they can accept in a single tap. Once accepted, the money hits your account instantly. If you choose a phone contact who doesn’t have the Revolut app, theyll get a text or email with a payment request link. 

Access to credit facilities

Neither N26 nor Revolut offer access to loans, overdrafts or credit cards for now but both fintechs plan to offer some of these services in the coming year or two.

Overview of N26 and Revolut 

N26

Revolut

Monthly fee

None

None

Initial card fee

Free

€6

Online banking through PC or laptop

Yes

No - only through app on smartphone 

Contactless/chip and pin Fee

Free

Free

ATM/cash withdrawal fee

5 free euro withdrawals a month - then €2 each

First €200 a month is free - then a 2% fee is added

Foreign exchange purchase fee

None

None up to €6,000 a month - then 0.5% fee

Non Euro ATM withdrawal fee

1.7%

The equivalent of €200 a month is free - then a 2% fee is added

Foreign exchange rate

Mastercard rate

Interbank rate with +0.5% added at weekends

Accepts direct debits and standing orders

Yes

Yes

Apple Pay

Yes

No

Google Pay

Yes

Yes

Overdraft facility

No

No

Access to cryptocurrencies

No

Yes

Savings feature

Yes - ‘Spaces’ - no interest paid on savings

Yes - ‘Vaults’ - no interest paid on savings

Freeze and unfreeze card in app

Yes

Yes

Send money instantly to other users

Yes

Yes

Split bill feature

No

Yes

Temporarily disable contactless

No

Yes

The bottom line

In terms of a winner, it’s tough to call as both accounts are extremely similar.

To us, there’s slightly more flexibility being able to withdraw as much money as you want each month with N26 for free (as long as you do it in five withdrawals). However the option to withdraw €200 cash at no extra charge outside the Eurozone is appealing with Revolut.

Revolut doesn’t provide access to Apple Pay yet, whereas N26 does, but Revolut’s app and interface seems more fun and friendly.   

Revolut’s Vaults savings feature is brilliant, whereas being able to access your N26 account on a PC will be of comfort to those who aren’t quite used to doing all their banking through a smartphone just yet.

In short, the account that’s best for you will depend on your own personal preferences and what you value the most.

But one thing’s for sure: both N26 and Revolut have revolutionised banking over the past few years and the traditional players will need to up their game considerably if they're to compete in the years ahead.     

You can sign up to N26 or Revolut through bonkers.ie right now. 

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