bunq

bunq review

Challenger bank bunq is on a mission to remove the barriers of mainstream banking. We've looked into it to find out how it scores against its competitors.

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bunq update

bunq announced in December 2020 that it will be no longer opening new accounts for customers from the UK. Existing bunq users will still be able to use all products and cards.

If you are looking for alternative current or e-money account then visit our current account guide.

Dutch digital bank bunq offers euro and sterling accounts and can now be used easily in the UK.

We cover bunq’s features, fees, pros and cons to help you understand whether bunq is a good option for your finances.

What is bunq?

Launched in 2014, bunq is a Dutch independent bank that has no physical branches and whose products can be handled entirely through the app.

In return for a fixed monthly fee, the you can get a solid bunch of useful features, from joint accounts to 4 free ATM withdrawals each month.

bunq’s tagline is “the bank of the free”, as it promises to set you free from all limitations and paperwork, giving you full control of your banking experience.

Using bunq in the UK

As Bunq doesn’t offer a sterling account per se, it isn’t an obvious choice for consumers who live, work and spend most of their money in the UK. But it offers 2 accounts, Easy Money and Easy Green, which offer the option to store and spend multiple currencies, including British pounds – through ‘sub-accounts’ within the bunq smartphone app. The sub-accounts can be opened without any extra charge and customers can open up to 25 sub-accounts per bank account.

It may be a good idea if you spend a considerable amount of time in mainland Europe and you’re looking for a flexible EU bank account that can work the UK.

But before choosing a bunq account, it’s worth understanding bunq’s charges. If these accounts are used wrongly, you can lose large amounts in fees for both making and receiving payments.

For example, receiving an international transfer via the global SWIFT network will set you back €10 per payment, before any currency conversion fees are applied. You will also be charged a transaction fee of €0.70 each time you transfer money in a non-Euro currency (not including direct debits).

It’s also worth knowing that you can top-up your bunq account for free using a UK credit or debit card (via the bunq app) up to a value of €500 per month. Any payments over that amount will trigger a 0.5% transaction fee.

The account plan with the most basic features, Easy Bank, does not offer any free ATM withdrawals, unlike bunq’s 2 premium account plans, Easy Money and Easy Green.

Thankfully, you’ll get a UK account number and sort code when you open a GBP ‘Local Currencies’ sub-account within your bunq account, which means you should be able have your salary paid into your account and use it to set up direct debits. Easy Money and Easy Green members can set up a ‘Local Currencies’ sub-account, but not account holders paying for the most basic membership tier, Easy Bank.

When you sign up for a new bunq account you will automatically get a free trial of bunq Easy Green Personal for one month. You are allowed to switch to another Plan during the trial period. After the trial ends, you will automatically be converted to a paid version of your current Plan. You are free to cancel your trial at any time during the trial period.

How does bunq work?

bunq doesn’t offer free accounts, but you can take advantage of a 30-day trial of any one of its three plans. When you sign up for a new bunq account you’ll automatically receive a free trial of its premium plan, Easy Green. During the trial period you can then switch to using one of its two other plans if you wish. The trial doesn’t include a physical card, so there will be limits to what you can do with it. The Easy Green option costs €17.99 (around £15) a month and its features include:

  • Up to three debit cards. They are Mastercard and Maestro cards, so they’re accepted pretty much everywhere. Card payments are free in the EU, but payments in the UK in pounds will attract a 0.5% transaction fee (Mastercard exchange rates also apply).
  • Free money transfers in euros. Sending money to other accounts in euros won’t cost you a penny.
  • Money transfers abroad with Wise. bunq’s partnership with money transfer service Wise means sending money abroad at competitive rates and small fees. Keep in mind that, since bunq is a euro account, sending money to a UK bank account will qualify as an “abroad” money transfer you’ll need to use Wise for.
  • Apple Pay and Google Pay. If you have Apple Pay or Google Pay, you can pay with your phone.
  • Up to 25 different sub accounts. You can use them to organise your money and do budgeting in a more efficient way.
  • Joint accounts. You can set them up instantly, a feature that’s not so common among bunq’s competitors.
  • Personalised payment links. You can use bunq.me to generate a link to send people who owe you money, and they can pay you back easily. They don’t need to be Bunq customers. But bear in mind receiving credit and debit payments using these links will cost Easy Green customers a 2.5% transaction fee.

The lower tier account plans, Easy Money and Easy Bank, come with monthly account management fees of €8.99 (about £7.50) and €2.99 (about £2.50) respectively. The account features available will vary depending on the package you choose, with Easy Bank offering the fewest inclusive features.

bunq also has Business versions of its 3 account plans ranging from €4.99 a month (around £4.15) to €20.99 (around £17.50). Finally, you can sign up for a bunq Pack for €23.99 (around £20) a month and get four separate bunq accounts, including one Business account and another three premium Easy Money personal accounts (or four Easy Money personal accounts if you aren’t interested in the business option).

After you sign up online, it takes up to 10 business days to get the card, which you’ll need to activate in the app. You can then start using bunq.

bunq Green Card

bunq’s Green Card is a metal card, known as Easy Green Personal, that can be used with any bunq bank account. bunq plants a tree for every €100 you spend with your metal card. It aims to “make the world a greener place with zero effort” (from you, that is).

The card is made of stainless steel and has a 50% longer life than a regular plastic card.

bunq claims that the card works with all other banks, all you need to do is top it up and you’re good to go. If you’re a premium user, bunq will plant double the number of trees.

Other features of the bunq Green Card include:

  • Purchase protection and extended warranty on all purchases
  • Always get the real exchange rate when spending abroad
  • Contactless and supports Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Push notifications when you spend
  • Spending insights
  • Free global ATM withdrawals

Is bunq safe?

bunq has a Dutch banking licence that comes with deposit protection up to €100,000 (around £90,000) thanks to the Deposit Guarantee Scheme of the Dutch National Bank (DNB). Even if bunq were to go bankrupt, your money is safe and sound.

The card is protected by a PIN, which you can choose yourself – remember not to be too predictable in picking it: your date of birth, for example, is absolutely banned.

If your card is lost or stolen, you can block it from the app within seconds and immediately order a replacement card.

Pros and cons of bunq

Pros

  • Quick and easy sign-up
  • Cheap international money transfers with Wise.
  • Instant joint accounts.
  • Safe and secure.
  • You can get a prepaid card to use in the UK and abroad for no monthly fee.

Cons

  • It can be fiddly to set up a ‘Local Currencies’ sub-account to keep British pounds in your bunq account
  • The free option doesn’t include a card, so you’ll need to sign up for the Premium version to make the most of your account
  • You can’t load cash on your account
  • Monthly account fees are pretty stiff compared to other digital banking options
  • Maximum 4 free ATM withdrawals a month
  • You may face transaction fees for sending and receiving money in pounds.
  • You’ll still need another bank account for most of your financial needs, especially if you live in the UK

The bottom line

The main bunq account mostly makes sense if you spend most of your time in a country where Euro is the main currency – if you’re exclusively UK-based, there’s no need to overcomplicate your life with a mainly euro-based bank account. The relatively small number of free ATM withdrawals also don’t make this an especially attractive choice for customers looking for a UK bank account, especially given the monthly account fees.

If you travel back and forth quite a lot, instead, the competition is more open. bunq offers a bunch of interesting features, starting with instant joint accounts, which aren’t that common across challengers nor that immediate to sign up to across mainstream banks.

The Mastercard exchange rate, the cheap money transfers thanks to the integration with Wise and limited free ATM withdrawals make international banking easy and stress-free.

However, considering the monthly fee, there are probably better options around. Monese, for example, allows you to open both a UK and EU bank account for free and to switch easily between them.

The bunq Travel Card is a competitive option for the globetrotters among us – although there are alternatives out there, like Starling Bank, which doesn’t charge fees for foreign ATM withdrawals made using the card that comes with its free current account.

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