Digital Banking: N26 compared to Revolut

A few years ago – when 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, app-based banks that are growing as more people shift to using their phones to do their banking business.

The two digital providers that have the most customers in Ireland are N26 and Revolut.
Many people probably use these alongside one of the “main” banks  , to take advantage of the lower fees when spending in non Euro currencies.  Some people will be using the 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  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 cash or cheques. N26 supports Apple Pay.

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” 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 card to make purchases in currencies other than Euro. (See what the other banks charge here)

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 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 say they have over a million 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 in the first half of 2018) . Until then – any funds 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 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.

Using the Revolut prepaid debit card you can spend, transfer and exchange up to €6,000 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 cash or cheques.
You can sign up for Revolut here


Overall – because of the EU banking licence , N26 is our preferred option. Also – there are no fees on spending with N26 , but with Revolut if you go over the €6k limit in a month you will be charged 0.5%.

With N26, you can opt for their “N26 black” account which costs €9.90 per month. N26 Black comes with a free travel insurance which covers mobile phone theft protection, travel insurance and ATM theft protection.More importantly, it waives the ATM-withdrawal fees abroad for every foreign currency. Ideal for people who travel a lot.
In Ireland, there is nothing stopping you from using N26 as your main current account – but at the moment most people are probably using it as a second account which they use mainly when travelling abroad.

Exchange Rates

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 was 0.25% worse than the Interbank rate.  On a spend of €1000 this would work out at a difference of €2.50.

Apparently Revolut add a 0.5% markup to the interbank rate at weekends on  14 major currencies and 1% for all others. So it is likely this would often make their rates worse than N26 at weekends.



Book Depository Discounts

Online bookshop – Book Depository–  have reduced the prices on a great selection of books  , with as much as 50% off some titles. There are discounts on kids’ books, as well as art and photography bargains, and lifestyle and cookbook savings.

See the discounted books here

Book Depository do Free delivery on ALL orders to Ireland.

They are the fastest growing bookseller in Europe, shipping to thousands of customers every day throughout the world .
Of the 30 million books ever printed in the English language only a few million of these are in print.  Book Depository try to make as many of these titles available as possible .


book depository sale

More Online Shopping Discounts Here


Debit and Credit Card Charges Abroad

Debit and Credit Card Charges Abroad .

When you travel it’s useful to know if it’s cheaper to spend with your debit card ,  credit card  , get cash from an ATM,  or buy the foreign currency before you leave Ireland ?

When you use your Irish debit card or credit card for purchases in non Euro currencies – you will nearly always be charged extra fees by your bank on top of any “normal” transaction charges . Most banks also make extra charges for non Euro cash withdrawals at ATMs – but which option works out the cheapest?

We did a  quick comparison of the charges incurred when using a Debit Card , a Credit Card or using cash from an ATM or bringing cash with you that you exchanged here in Ireland. This time we have also included a debit card from N26 bank – a new app-based online-only bank that is available to people in Ireland.

You can read more details about ATM charges abroad in our article  about ATM charges for Non Euro Cash

Using a non euro purchase worth the equivalent of €200 as an example we have compared the bank charges made when using a debit card , a credit card or a cash ATM withdrawal.

Paying By Debit Card

  • Ulster Bank charge 1% of transaction value (minimum €0.25, maximum €6.00) plus additional 1% currency conversion fee (minimum €0.25, maximum €6.00)
  • BOI  charge 2% (maximum €11.43)
  • AIB charge 1.75% (minimum €0.45, maximum €11.00)
  • PTSB and KBC  charge 1.75% (Minimum €0.46, maximum €11.43
  • N26no charge

So – a purchase made with a debit card in a Non Euro currency the equivalent of €200 would incur charges as follows:

  • Zero with online bank N26
  • €3.50 with PTSB, KBC or AIB
  • €4.00 with Bank of Ireland
  • €4.00 with Ulster Bank

If you like the sound of this N26 bank – you can find out more on the N26 website. It is an “online only” bank based in Germany. It is covered by the EU bank guarantee and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. You will need a smartphone to operate the account , you can’t pay in cash or cheques – so it might not suit everyone – but it might be a useful “second” account to take advantage of the low fees when making purchases in other currencies.

Paying By Credit Card  : Non Euro Purchases

  • AIB Visa 1.75%
  • PTSB Visa 1.75%
  • Ulster Mastercard  2%
  • KBC Mastercard 2%
  • BOI Mastercard 2.25%
  • Avant Card  2.65%

So  – the credit card fees on a €200 equivalent spend would be …
€3.50.with PTSB / AIB Credit Card
€4 with Ulster and KBC Credut Card
€4.50 at BOI Credit Card
€5.30 with Avant Card

Using an ATM
Withdrawing cash will cost you more than using a card to purchase outside the Eurozone.
An ATM withdrawal of the local currency equivalent of €200 would incur charges of €7 with most banks and €3.40 with N26
(NB  Ulster customers using a RBS or NAtWest ATM in the UK are not charged.) See ATM charges  Here

Verdict – using cards for non euro purchases works out cheaper than using cash from a ATM – especially for customers of N26 (no charge)

Summary of Overseas Charges for spending the equivalent of €200 on a credit or debit card compared with taking out cash from an ATM

Bank Debit
€200 Cash
N26 €0 n/a €3.40
Ulster €4 €4 €7 *
BOI €4 €4.50 €7
AIB €3.50 €3.50 €7
€3.50 €4 €7
PTSB €3.50 €3.50 €7
Avant n/a €5.30 n/a

Remember – there are 9 countries in the EU that don’t use the Euro as currency – they are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK.

Exchanging Money before You Travel

Some people like to pay for stuff with cash when abroad . If you plan ahead – you can order travel currency before you leave Ireland. In a recent   currency exchange rate comparison we found the best Euro to Sterling exchange rate for cash in Ireland was from No1 Currency .
Ordering £1000 cash  in Sterling here in Ireland would cost  €1185.11  with them. (Figure from April  2018)
(Order and pay for it online and get it delivered to your door for free.).

Larger Purchases:  There is no cap on credit card charges for puchases made outside the Eurozone – but debit card charges are capped at all Irish banks. (Ulster bank cap is €12 , BOI and PTSB are €11.43 , AIB is €11.)

Example :  – for  a non euro purchase costing the equivalent of €1000  you would be charged:

  • N26 would not charge you anything for spending on their debit card in a foreign currency .
  • Bank of Ireland would charge €11.43  when using a debit card but the charge would be €22.50 with a credit card.
  • Ulster Bank would charge you €12 on a debit card but  €20 on their credit card

The figures above also apply to online purchases made in currecncies other than Euro.

So – if you have the money in your current account it will work out cheaper to use a debit card instead of a credit card  for larger purchases outside the Eurozone. This applies to online purchases too.

If you open an N26 account – you will not have to pay any fees on foreign currency purchases with their debit card. They use the same exchange rates as all other Mastercards – so you won’t be worse off that way.

Many people assume that they are better protected when purchasing with a credit card if goods are faulty or don’t turn up. But under Irish law this is not the case (unlike the UK) .
In Ireland Credit cards and Debit cards have the same level of protection . More about that here.

More information here about the cheapest method of exchanging larger amounts of currency 

Tips : Often when abroad  (Non Euro Currency)  shops or hotels might give you the option of having your Irish debit or credit card payment converted to euros at the point of sale . Be aware that in most  (if not all) situations the final cost to you will be higher than if you paid in the foreign currency and let your card provider convert it to euro. So, when asked if you want to pay in Euros – say NO Thanks .

*Ulster Bank debit cards can be used in the UK at ATMs in Nat West Bank or RBS and there will be no extra fees.

Note – Exchange rates used on credit cards. The main credit cards in use by Irish providers are either Visa or Mastercard . The exchange rates  are set on a daily basis by Visa and Mastercard . This means that when comparing a Visa card from AIB with a Visa card from Ulster Bank etc you shouldn’t need to take into account exchange rate differences because they should all use the same rate on a given day.  There will usually be small differences betwen the rates used by Mastercard and Visa.  We have seen research showing that Mastercard has better rates than Visa the majority of the time. (Sometimes a difference of 3% !)

All Figures checked  June 2018


Electricity and Gas Price Comparison

cheapest gas irelandWhat are the Cheapest Options For Switching Both Gas and Electricity Providers in Ireland ?

Updated June 11th 2018

Hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland have never switched energy providers. Recent figures show that  more than half of electricity and gas customers  have never switched supplier.
Of those that have switched – 51% have just gone back on the default standard rates after the discounted rate ended.

Our latest Electricity and Gas Price comparison shows that, for average households ,  switching energy supplier could cut energy bills by as much as €484 in just one year.

Question : How many hours would you have to work to earn  €484 in take home pay ? (Answer: About 40 hours ( a full weeks wages) for someone on €28k a year)

Note: The price comparisons below are based on what might be typical usage in a medium sized house, using gas for both heating and hot water. ( 11000 Kwh of  Gas and 4200 kwH of Electricity a year .)
Continue reading…