N26 vs TransferWise

TransferWise now also offers a current account and a debit card. How does it compare to established challenger bank N26?

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TransferWise is known for its cheap p2p money transfer service, while German N26 is 100% a bank, with millions of customers across Europe (it moved to the UK in 2018).

So, which is better? Well, while they both stand out for their fresh approach to personal finance, they actually serve two different sets of needs. We’ve tried them both to find out which is good for what.

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N26 vs TransferWise: Key differences

Short answer: N26 is all about banking, TransferWise is all about money transfers. Long answer:

  • N26 is a fully licensed bank. Your money will be protected up to €100,000 (about £90,000) thanks to German deposit protection (the equivalent of the FSCS).
  • The N26 app has more features. These include saving goals and spending categorisation, which can really help you with budgeting.
  • TransferWise gives you a multi-currency account. This comes with full bank details for UK, EU, Australian and US accounts. N26 only does UK sterling accounts.
  • You can’t send or receive international transfers with N26. You might have heard that N26 has a partnership with TransferWise for international money transfers – that’s true in the rest of Europe, but not in the UK.

N26 vs TransferWise: Fees

Monthly fee No monthly fees No monthly fees
Card payments Free in the UK and abroad Free in the UK and abroad, but currency conversion fees apply
Currency conversion Free for both card payments and ATM withdrawals 0.35%-2.85% depending on the currencies involved
ATM withdrawals In the UK: free. Abroad: 1.7% fee Free up to £200 a month; 2% fee after that
International money transfers Not available £0.65 fixed fee (can vary according to the currency) + currency conversion fee
Visit N26 Visit Transferwise

The verdict

It’s a close match.

If you don’t need to send out money transfers but are looking for a techy bank account that’s also good for travelling, N26 is smarter and usually cheaper than TransferWise. With Transferwise, currency conversion fees mean you’ll be charged every time you make a payment in a currency other than the one you used to fund your account – although it must be noted that for common currencies that fee is quite low (for example, 0.37% to turn pounds into euros or US dollars). With N26, card payments outside the UK are totally free.

Things change a bit if you need to withdraw cash abroad. Up to £200 a month, TransferWise will normally be cheaper, its typical currency conversion fees being lower than N26’s 1.7% ATM fee. If you need to withdraw more than £200 a month, N26 will again charge less (still 1.7%) than TransferWise (currency conversion fee + 2%).

However, the TransferWise account comes with a series of features that N26 doesn’t provide: international money transfers, the ability to hold 40 different currencies, current account details for 4 different countries. If you need any of these, N26 isn’t really an option.

Finally, if you’d like a multi-currency account but think TransferWise isn’t your guy after all, try and have a look at Revolut (it’ll be cheaper in most cases!).

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