Over the past year, there’s been an increased interest in switching from traditional Irish Banks over to digital banks like N26 and Revolut instead. In my opinion, digital banks are a great alternative and a fantastic way to make some serious savings when it comes to your day to day banking. Here’s my guide to both N26 and Revolut, the two biggest and most popular digital banking services in Ireland, to help you decide if digital banking is for you and which service would better serve your needs.

 

Who are they?

N26 is a German bank that currently operates in 20 countries with plans to expand over to the United States shortly. They are authorised by the German Central bank as well as the European Central bank, which means that they are just as safe for you to use as any Irish high street bank.

Revolut is a UK based fintech company that is currently operating using a Lithuanian banking licence, though they are currently in the process of trying to get an Irish banking licence. With a current total of over 3 million customers, Revolut would be the more well-known digital banking option.

Both N26 and Revolut are digital banks, meaning that unlike Irish Banks they don’t have any physical branches or locations that you can walk into. So, if you are a fan of physically lodging or depositing your cash then these options are probably not ones you should consider taking on as your main bank.

 

Opening & running an account

With both options, the process of creating and setting up an account is quick, simple and can be done online in minutes on your phone. Simply download either app, fill in your details and you will be sent a BIC and IBAN almost immediately with your physical card arriving up to a week after the accounts initial set up. Setting up an account with N26 is free of charge while Revolut will charge you €6 to set up your account.

Getting both an IBAN and a BIC with either account means that you can ditch your traditional bank altogether and simply have your wages paid to your new digital bank account. A move that I would strongly recommend as both N26 and Revolut offer free day to day banking with no maintenance or annual fees.

In terms of day to day running N26 offers online banking, meaning that you can access your account from a laptop or tablet as well as your phone, while currently Revolut only allows you to access your account through its app on your smartphone. N26 also supports both Google Pay and Apple Pay, while Revolut currently only supports Google Pay.

The major difference between traditional bank accounts and these digital options comes in the form of cash withdrawals. N26 will offer you 5 free ATM cash withdrawals per month with a €2 charge added onto any withdrawals after, while Revolut offers free ATM withdrawals up to the amount of €200 per month with a 2% fee added to every withdrawal over this amount. So, if you prefer to use cash and withdraw money regularly then these digital options may not suit your preferences.

 

Perks

There are plenty of perks to switching from traditional high street banks to either of these digital banks. Here are some of the most interesting points to take note of;

  • Travelling

If you travel a lot then switching to a digital bank is a smart move as N26 offers no foreign transaction fees when you use your card in Non-EU territories and Revolut offers no charge up to €6000 on transactions and a 0.5% fee on all transactions over that limit.

When converting your spending back to euro N26 offers Mastercard rates and Revolut offers the interbank exchange rate with a 0.5% fee for amounts over €6000 a month. Revolut’s rates are dependent on currency and frequency and certain conversions will charge a higher fee if they take place outside of foreign exchange market hours.

What does all that mean though? Well to put it simply if you were to travel to London for the weekend and spent the equivalent of €500 on your card with both N26 and Revolut it would cost you nothing, whereas with AIB, KCB and PTSB you would be charged €8.75, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank would charge you €10 and AN Post would charge you a massive €15.

Similarly, when it comes to taking out cash abroad N26 will offer you a charge of 1.7% on all transactions, while Revolut offers free transactions up to €200 a month with a 2% charge added after this limit. This is far better than the current 3-4% offered by most Irish banks. Going back to the London trip example, if you withdrew the equivalent of €200 from an ATM it would be free with Revolut and with N26 you would be charged an additional €3.40, as opposed to the €7 you’re being charged with every other Irish bank except An Post who would charge you €7.40 for the transaction.

 

  • Security

Security with both an N26 and Revolut account is a lot easier and simpler than with a high street bank as both accounts allow you to temporarily freeze your card should you misplace or lose it and easily unfreeze it once it has been located again. A more ideal solution to a problem than simply cancelling it should you find your card missing after a night out. Revolut also offers location-based security, meaning if your card is used in a location different to where you are then the app will automatically block any payments and update you on the situation.

Both accounts also allow users to turn off contactless payments on your card which can be switched back on or off again at any point with ease. A handy feature for people trying to save money as contactless payments are easy to lose track of and this could help you save more in the long run.

 

  • Saving

Both accounts can be used in very interesting ways to help you save money. On top of the lack of major fees we have already discussed both apps offer the option to place daily/monthly spending limits on them and that allows you to manage your money better. 

Revolut has a feature called Vaults which rounds up the amount that you spen and places that rounded amount into a “vault” which allows for an easy build-up of savings to take place with little to no effort. For example, if you spent €2.90 on a coffee and paid with your card then Revolut would round that up to €3 and place that excess 10c into your vault, saving it up for you and building up a small savings pot within your app automatically. 

N26 also allows for savings options called Spaces which allows you to open two separate savings options that you can personalise to what you’re saving for.

Neither bank offers any interest on what you are saving so what you choose to save is all you will ever have in that account.

 

  • Simplifies money

The main reason people tend to choose to switch to or open a digital bank account is that they simplify money and make managing it a lot easier for themselves.

 Both apps offer push notifications letting you know how much you have spent and offer in-depth breakdowns of when and where your money has gone to. Revolut has an incredibly user-friendly interface when looking through your accounts. N26 also allows you to download your transaction history and export it as a PDF or CSV file, which makes it easier to send invoices or file taxes if you are self-employed.

Both banks also allow you to request and send money to anyone in your contacts at the touch of a button without having to know their bank details, making it much easier to split bills or pay back your friends without any of the awkwardness that comes with hunting down your mates for the money they owe you.