A few years ago – if someone mentioned “mobile banking” in Ireland they were probably talking about a van from AIB or BOI visiting rural villages. Today – Mobile banking or Digital banking – refers to branchless, mobile-only, banks.
The two digital providers that have the most customers in Ireland are N26 and Revolut.
Many people probably use N26 or Revolut alongside one of the “main” banks , to take advantage of lower fees when spending in non Euro currencies. Some people will be using these new mobile banks as their only bank – but it’s probably not a bad idea to have a “back up” option if there is an IT problem with a bank – as happened recently in the UK with TSB and in the recent past here with Ulster Bank.
Other mobile banking apps that are only available in the UK and other EU countries include Monzo, Starling , Atom and Monese . Some of these may be available in Ireland in the future .
A Comparison of N26 and Revolut
N26 bank was launched in Germany in January 2015 and has been available to Irish residents since December 2015. N26 say they have over 850,000 customers across the EU. (Not yet available in the UK though)
N26 has had a full European banking licence since 2016 – so any funds you have with it are covered by the German Bank guarantee (up to €100,000) . ( N26 Bank, is licensed by the European Central Bank and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules in Ireland.)
With N26 you get a bank account number (IBAN) – in the same way as any mainstream bank – so you can get your salary etc paid in. You can also set up Direct Debits.
Being branchless, N26 does not deal with the paying in of cash or cheques – but how often do you do that these days? N26 supports Apple Pay.
N26 started off as a smartphone based app – but since early July 2018 N26 have upgraded the web based app so that most banking functions can also be done on laptops , PCs or tablets .
The N26 bank account comes with a Mastercard debit card (not a prepaid card) . The only fees on this are a €2 ATM withdrawal fee if you make more than 5 ATM withdrawals (in Euros) in a month.
The €2 fee does not apply to non Euro ATM withdrawals – but there is a 1.7% fee for non-euro ATM cash withdrawals. This compares quite well with the “main” Irish banks – who charge around 3.5% for non euro cash withdrawals – See More Here on ATM charges abroad.
Unlike all the main Irish banks – there are no fees for using the N26 debit card to make purchases in currencies other than Euro. (See what the other banks charge here)
The N26 Mastercard has no fees for contacless payments .
Signing up to N26 is free and is done over your smartphone with a video call (make sure you have good coverage). You just need to fill in an online form and show yourself and your passport. (Over 18s only) They’ll send out your Mastercard after a few days. Join N26 Here
Their N26 “Black” account comes with free non Euro ATM withdrawals and includes multitrip all year round travel insurance as well as extended warranty insurance, mobile phone theft insurance and ATM mugging insurance. It costs €9.90 a month – but if you travel more than a couple of times a year you would probably spend that on travel insurance alone.
Revolut was set up by in July 2015 and they report that there are over a million Revolut users across Europe and 75,000 in Ireland . Revolut say they are not a bank – but they applied for a European banking licence in 2017, this is not in place yet (expected sometime in 2018) . Until then – any funds in Revolut are not protected by a bank guarantee. (Note: Revolut is regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority, meaning that any money you deposit is ring-fenced (in a Barclays account), so in the event there are problems with Revolut, the money should be safe.)
As with N26 – you do get an EU IBAN with Revolut , so you can get your salary and other bank transfers paid in. There is no joining fee – but you have to pay €6 to get your debit card delivered. (This is free with N26) . Revolut doesn’t support Apple Pay but you can use contactless payments.
Using the Revolut prepaid debit card you can spend, transfer and exchange up to €5,000 in total every month (a 0.5% fee applies after this). Free ATM withdrawals are limited to the first €200 each month, after that a charge of 2% is added.
Direct Debits were only made possible with Revolut on March 15th 2018 – and as with N26 , they don’t cater for paying in cash or cheques.
Unlike N26 – Revolut will only work on a smartphone – you cannot use it from a PC or Laptop .
You can sign up for Revolut here
Overall – because of the EU banking licence and the option to operate the account from a laptop/PC , N26 is our preferred option. Also – there are no fees on spending with the N26 Mastercard , but with Revolut if you go over the €5k limit in a month you will be charged 0.5% on any spending over that.
In Ireland, there is nothing stopping you from using N26 as your main current bank account – but at the moment most people are probably just using it as a second account which they use mainly when travelling abroad. We think that gradually , more people will leave the expensive “pillar” banks and move over to N26 for day to day banking.
With N26, you can opt for their “N26 black” account which costs €9.90 per month. The N26 Black comes with free travel insurance which also covers mobile phone theft, travel insurance and ATM theft protection.More importantly, it waives all the ATM-withdrawal fees abroad for every foreign currency. Ideal for people who travel a lot.
Revolut say they use the Interbank exchange rates when you use their card for non Euro purchases. N26 use the standard Mastercard exchange rates.
We did a quick comparison of USD/EUR rates , Interbank versus Mastercard , over a 2 week period in late 2017. On average – the Mastercard rate which is used by N26 was 0.25% worse than the Interbank rate. On a spend of €1000 this would work out at a difference of €2.50 compared to Revolut
Apparently Revolut add a 0.5% markup to the interbank rate at weekends on 14 major currencies and a 1% markup for all others. So it is likely this would often make their exchange rates worse than N26 at weekends. So overall – not a massive difference between them.