In today’s review, I’d like to share my experience using N26 as a shared bank account with my wife for the past five months, as well as for traveling abroad and paying in other currencies.
It all started about six months ago. My wife and I were looking for a bank account we could both use for our shared expenses. Basically, for all the stuff we regularly need to buy at the store (food, personal care items, toiletries etc.) and for when we go out for dinner or to pay for other shared activities.
That way, we’re able to monitor our monthly expenses, as well as potentially optimize them over the long term. By having a shared account, we never need to waste any energy thinking about who is paying for what, because of who paid last time and so on… Which makes things a lot easier in my view.
Since we’re both earning similar amounts of money, we each wire the same amount to ‘refill’ the shared bank account whenever it’s below a certain number (like 100€). Then, when we have a shared expense, we just pay with our two cards which are connected to the account. Now you might be wondering…
We chose N26 for a couple of reasons. The account, wire transfers (at least via IBAN/BIC), as well as our two cards and all payments using them needed to be free of charge. Also, we wanted to be able to withdraw money at local ATMs in our currency (EUR) for free, when needed. We also wanted to avoid foreign currency exchange fees, if possible. Luckily, N26 checked all of those boxes. In addition, N26 is a licensed, German bank. That means deposits up to 100.000€ are protected, which was important to us as well.
While they don’t offer shared accounts directly, we simply decided to open a free personal account on one of our names and order a second card, so we can both use it as a shared bank account. That has been working perfectly over the past five months.
Only the second card (Maestro) has a 2€ fee when withdrawing money at an ATM , while payments with the card are always free. So we simply make sure to use the first one, the MasterCard, for cash withdrawals. My wife usually has some cash on her anyway for those rare occasions when she can’t use her N26 Maestro card to pay for something. We then use the N26 app afterwards to wire the amount she paid in cash to her personal bank account, so that that expense is equally shared as well and to easily keep track of our expenses at the end of the month. Wiring money via the smartphone app is very easy and takes less than a minute.
To get the Maestro card for free as well, you just need to have at least 100€ on your N26 account when ordering it. After that, the balance doesn’t matter anymore.
Mobile Banking the right way
Unlike most other banking apps I’ve tried in the past, the mobile app on Android and iOS is actually intuitive, fast and enjoyable to use. I love being able to log in via my fingerprint within seconds of opening the app, to check the available balance or to quickly wire some money.
Speaking of that, wire transfers from and to the N26 account seem to be way faster than with both my wife’s as well as my own local bank.
The (rare) joy of instant notifications
We also really appreciate receiving an instant notification (with the amount of the purchase) on both of our phones when one of us uses the card to pay for something or after booking something online. I usually hate notifications and turn them off whenever I can, but in this case, I’m glad they’re there. Whenever one of us receives a notification from our shared account, we not only think of each other as a result, but it also gives us a feeling of more security. We instantly know exactly how much was booked from our account and if there was an issue, we can deal with it right away.
N26 makes tracking expenses a lot easier
Another feature we both enjoy is that N26 automatically categorizes our expenses. It correctly categorized my purchase from Lidl as Food & Groceries and saved me some extra time. You can of course always change the category afterwards if it’s incorrect.
This way, at the end of the month, it’s very easy to see what we spent our money on. Click on My Account – Statistics and you’re presented with a very nice overview of your expenses month by month. You can then click through the categories and you’ll see a list of your purchases for that particular category.
The perfect card for traveling?
This is definitely one of my favorite features of the bank: N26 offers free payments in any currency with no added extra costs when paying abroad. That means you can use your N26 card to pay in any foreign currency and it will convert the amount using the real-time exchange rate (via TransferWise) to Euros, at no extra cost to you.
Since we love traveling, we already saved a lot on exchange fees by using our cards whenever possible. We’re definitely bringing our cards with us on our upcoming trip to Asia!
One thing worth noting for your trips: While withdrawing money in EUR from an ATM is free, you pay a 1,7% fee when withdrawing cash in a foreign currency (GBP, USD, etc.). That’s still much less than what other banks charge and you’re getting a better exchange rate for your money as well. At the end of the day, that’s a 1,7€ fee for withdrawing 100€ in cash in a foreign currency, so in my opinion it’s not really worth spending time worrying about. Just pay via card whenever possible, instead of picking up cash when you’re traveling abroad. That way you won’t be paying any fees.
N26 does offer free foreign currency withdrawals via their black and metal cards, but since those cost upwards of 9,9€/month, that’s likely only worth it if you’re traveling outside the eurozone all of the time (and can only pay in cash). We’re very satisfied with the free account and the features it offers. Likely most people will feel the same way.
All in all, my wife and I couldn’t be happier with our N26 bank account and credit cards after using them for 5 months. We love using the modern app, the instant notification when we paid for something via one of our two cards, the fast wire transfers, the free Euro cash withdrawals at ATMs and paying no exchange fee when using N26 for payments in other foreign currencies.
The built in auto-categorization of our spendings also makes tracking expenses a lot easier and saves us some time. We highly recommend testing out N26, if you’re looking for a free, modern bank account with tons of useful features and free payments in any currency.
You can open a free N26 account within a couple of minutes here.
We’re very happy with our Revolut account and card as well. One of the features I like the most is the instant top up via credit card as well as the ability to create a virtual card for one-time payments on sites I don’t fully trust.
Revolut sometimes offers even better exchange rates on foreign currencies compared to N26 and is free too.
Meanwhile, TransferWise gives you the ability to hold 40+ currencies on your account and not only gives you a European IBAN, but also account numbers from the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand. N26 actually uses TransferWise for their currency exchange.