Alternatives to N26

Not convinced by N26? Here are the other digital-only banks you can consider.

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N26 is a German-born digital bank that launched in the UK in late 2018. It currently offers three current account options with a slick app and a set of features that are especially appealing to frequent travellers. However, it entered a market that was already pretty competitive and when it comes to digital current accounts, you’re spoilt for choice. So which is best?

While you can also read Finder’s individual reviews of Atom bank, Monese, Monzo, Starling and Revolut, this article looks at them all together, to help you figure out which would suit you best.

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Banks like N26 for day-to-day banking

Challenger banks don’t offer a whole lot of products, but at the very least you can expect a debit card, a fee-free current account and a well-structured mobile app that helps you keep track of your spending and make payments easily.

Here are the main alternatives to N26. You won’t be charged for using the card or making bank transfers in the UK by any of them, but there are (slight) differences when it comes to other features.

  • Monzo. Monzo is the most popular challenger bank in the UK (2 million customers). As it grows, it’s also becoming more sophisticated, and these days its current account has pretty much all the features you can expect: free ATM withdrawals, cash load at all PayPoints (for £1 a transaction), direct debits, Apple Pay, Google Pay and an overdraft option that costs 50p a day up to £15.50 a month (the first £20 is free of charge).
  • Starling. Starling Bank “only” serves 500,000 customers at the moment, but it has all it needs to compete with Monzo and maybe even a bit more. Cash loads are free at every Post Office in the UK and overdrafts are charged an annual 15% rate.
  • Revolut. Originally created more as an “alternative” card to travel and send money abroad, Revolut can still be a good option in the UK, but it has some drawbacks. Free ATM withdrawals are capped to £200 a month (there’s a 2% fee after that) and you can’t set up direct debits, apply for an overdraft or deposit cash on your account.

Day-to-day banking: The verdict

Monzo and Starling are totally the top players here, but it’s a close call. Ultimately, we’ve picked Starling because you can deposit cash on your account for free and because in most cases overdrafts will end up being cheaper than with Monzo. For example, going overdrawn by £100 for 7 days will cost you £3.50 with Monzo, but only £0.27 with Starling.

Starling

Starling Bank: award-winning banking on your mobile

  • No monthly fees or fees overseas from Starling Bank
  • Apply in minutes, direct from the app
  • Best British Bank 2019 award winner
  • Get instant notifications & insights on your spending habits
  • Earn interest on your real-time balance
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Cards like N26 for travelling

All the challengers mentioned above (apart from Monese) easily beat most traditional banks when it comes to making payments abroad, simply because they don’t charge a foreign currency transaction fee. The foreign currency transaction fee is a percentage that’s added to all your payments made in another currency by most banks; it can be up to 3% of the transaction, which makes your holiday bank charges pretty expensive.

Instead, fee-free card spending abroad is a given with these challengers, so you’ll need to look at other features to compare them:

  • ATM withdrawals abroad. N26 isn’t great on those, because they’re charged at 1.7% unless you subscribe to N26 You or Metal. Monzo and Revolut don’t charge for them up to £200 a month (after that, Monzo charges a 3% fee and Revolut 2%). Finally, with Starling they’re free up to £300 a day.
  • Euro accounts. If you’re an EU national living in the UK, or the other way around, you probably already know how annoying it is having to deal with two different currencies all the time. Starling and Monese offer a solution to the problem through a fee-free euro account you can open alongside your regular sterling one.
  • Money transfers. Starling offers competitive rates and Monzo has a partnership with TransferWise, but it’s hard to beat Revolut’s fee-free money transfers. You can send money in 29 currencies at the interbank rate for free, up to £5,000 a month.

Travelling: The verdict

When it comes to all foreign currency things, the choice is between Starling and Revolut. For travelling, Starling tops the league: if you go somewhere where cash is still the main payment method, as is the case for many countries outside Europe, Revolut’s £200 monthly limit on free ATM withdrawals can be annoying.

On the other hand, fee-free money transfers are Revolut’s specialty – everyone else, including dedicated money transfer companies, charges at least a small fee. So if you also need to send money out of the country every now and then, Revolut is probably your best option.

Revolut (Standard)

Revolut

  • Spend abroad with no fees
  • Great for international students
  • Simple to set up
  • Visualise your spending in real time
  • Trusted by 2 million users
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Alternatives to N26 for saving

If you’re only looking for top-paying savings accounts, challengers aren’t your best shout; you should rather take a look at what traditional banks offer.

However, they still have something to offer to savers:

  • Better budgeting features. Starling, Revolut, Monzo and N26 all automatically categorise your spending, to help you figure out how much you’re spending for what. They also let you set saving goals and put your money in separate sub-accounts (referred to as Goals, Vaults, Pots and Spaces) when you save. Monzo and Revolut also have a round-up feature that automatically rounds up your transactions and save your spare change if you activate it.
  • Atom has a good selection of fixed-term savings accounts. Atom Bank is a digital-only bank, but unlike the others we’ve mentioned, it only does savings accounts and mortgages. There are no easy-access options, but for fixed-terms savings accounts, the rates are fairly competitive.
  • Starling pays a small amount of interest on your current account balance. 0.5% up to £2,000, 0.25% between £2,000 and £85,000.
  • Monzo is building a savings marketplace. It currently has three providers and nine account options (the top-paying one is a 12-month fixed-term account that has a 1.55% rate). You’ll still get a better deal if you apply directly on the providers’ websites though.

Savings: The verdict

There is no unique winner here. Among challengers, Atom is the one that specialises in savings accounts, and if you want a fixed-term one, it can be competitive.

Monzo tops the league for easy-access accounts instead, but what you’re doing is actually opening a separate account with another company, so you have to decide whether it really counts. Finally, Starling is the only one that pays interest directly on your current account balance, but again, there are traditional banks with more competitive rates out there.

Are challengers safe?

The short answer is yes, all the challengers we’ve mentioned are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and fully authorised to do what they do. However, there is a slight difference when it comes to how your money is protected:

  • Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). It protects all deposits up to £85,000 and applies to institutions that have a full banking licence. That is: Monzo, Starling, Atom bank and N26 (whose licence is registered in Germany, and so is the deposit protection).
  • Segregated accounts. Institutions that only have a licence for dealing in electronic money have to keep all clients’ money in segregated accounts, from where it can’t be used to pay the company’s debt and is thus safe in case of bankruptcy. That’s the case for Monese; Revolut recently got a European banking licence, but until it’s fully finalised, deposit protection doesn’t apply and client money will still be kept separate from company money.

Cards and apps like Revolut

Updated October 18th, 2019
Name Product Fees and charges Delivery speed
N26
Free
5-7 working days
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
Free
Between 3-5 working days
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
None
Between 3-5 business days
A multi-currency mobile banking app that aims to be ‘built around you’. Use it to open a fully functional current account instantly, straight from your phone, all supported by a feature-rich mobile app
Free
Between 2-7 working days
Monzo is free to spend anywhere in the world and in any currency, with no fees. All money is exchanged using the MasterCard rate.

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated October 18th, 2019
Name Product Foreign ATM withdrawals Foreign transactions fee Card cost Delivery speed
N26
1.7% of amount drawn
No fees
Free
5-7 working days
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
Free
No fees
Free
Between 3-5 working days
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
Withdrawals of £200/$200/€200 or more – free
smaller withdrawals – a charge of £1.50 per withdrawal

No transaction fees (if you spend in one of the 18 wallet currencies)
Free
Between 3-5 working days in the UK, or within 10 days if you live outside the UK
£200 free monthly
2% on card spend and ATM usage
Card delivery is free
Between 3-5 business days
A multi-currency mobile banking app that aims to be ‘built around you’. Use it to open a fully functional current account instantly, straight from your phone, all supported by a feature-rich mobile app

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated October 18th, 2019
Name Product Fees and charges Interest Savings goals
N26
Free
None
n26 'Spaces' feature lets the user open sub-accounts to stash your money away
Free
0.5% AER up to £2,000, 0.25% over £2,000 to £85,000
Create different spending goals and protect money from daily spending
None
No interest
Not a feature
Free
Marketplace with 8 savings accounts both fixed rate and easy access, £500 minimum deposit.
Monzo pots let you put money aside, protected from your daily spending

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated October 18th, 2019
Name Product Direct debits UK ATM withdrawals Payments Freeze your card
N26
Yes
Free
Use MoneyBeam to transfer money instantly. Is partnered with Transferwise so can send money to 16 countries.
Yes: touch of a button in app
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
Yes - future Direct Debits shown as alerts
Free
Pay via bank transfer or using PayPal or Google Nearby
Yes: touch of a button in app
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
Yes - can cancel with touch of a button too
£200 free monthly
Pay via bank transfer, easier to send to another Monese account.
Report lost/stolen in app to be sent replacement
A multi-currency mobile banking app that aims to be ‘built around you’. Use it to open a fully functional current account instantly, straight from your phone, all supported by a feature-rich mobile app
Yes - future payments shown in homefeed
Free
Pay via bank transfer or send instantly to other Monzo account
Yes: touch of a button in app
Monzo is free to spend anywhere in the world and in any currency, with no fees. All money is exchanged using the MasterCard rate.

Compare up to 4 providers

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