N26 Discussion ‏

Given that it’s my namesake, it only felt responsible that I be the one to kickstart the N26 discussion.

Why would I begin a discussion on N26 given that they left the UK you ask? Well they may one day return. There have been faint rumblings that it could happen.

But more appropriately it’s something they’ve done fairly recently that I’d like to see other banks here copy, rather than the somewhat misguided and nonsensical green washing method being adopted by our banks. And that’s exactly what the movement towards using recycled plastic in bank cards is if you ask me. It’s taking a scarce recycled resource and using it in a non-recyclable product, ensuring that it will end up in land fills. It’s an initiative that does nothing more than delay the inevitable, and that’s not good enough.

I’ve always believed the solution here is to reduce, if not outright eliminated the need for plastic bank cards. Thanks to technologies like Apple Pay, we’re almost there. So I wanted to highlight N26’s fully digital initiative in the hope other banks will follow suit.

Plastic cards are now optional, and you have to pay for them. Most people will never need one. Contactless ATMs that are compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay solve the issue of needing to withdraw cash. A similar initiative could be taken to likewise allow you to deposit cash into your account either using your app or mobile wallet.

I think this direction is the one we should be moving towards. Not recycled bank cards.

I’ve labelled this as an N26 discussion whilst I’m still a novice with the new tags approach. But this could just as easily be titled to reflect 100% digital only bank accounts with only virtual cards available for free and by default. With the various banks offering those products applied here with tags. If the mods here would prefer that, feel free to update the thread as necessary.


For me the main reason would be because they are still an ‘important’ FinTech and still available in countries throughout the EU and most of all because I hope this community can be more international oriented than the FTT-community was.


Coincidentally, I received a letter ( :roll_eyes:) from Santander to tell me that they won’t be replacing my debit card unless I use it in a shop or at an ATM before 18-07-21. So some progress is being made by other banks.


Interesting. The question here is, will they still allow you to continue using your card via Apple Pay in a virtual capacity once your physical one expires?


I don’t have the letter to hand, but I’m going to guess not. The reason they give for not replacing the card is I haven’t used it in a long time, so it’s not a general cardless policy. It’s perfectly possible that I haven’t used this particular card at all since it was issued.


Almost all of my spending is done online or by using Google Pay. That said, while there is an upper limit on digital wallet payments, I just couldn’t do without a physical card. That and the fact that I need it on the rare occasions I have to withdraw money.

It would be great if all banks allowed cardless cash withdrawals using some sort of code or PIN.


Absolutely. I think this is somewhere we should be working towards and upgrading our infrastructure as necessary. In Europe it would seem their contactless ATMs allow you to withdraw cash using Apple Pay or Google Pay. No need for some special proprietary thing from your bank that relies on their app like with NatWest.


I (briefly) had a snazzy clear N26 card and account before they decided to pull out of the UK. I did read about their possible reappearance in the marketplace here, though it looked as if they were looking for a re-entry facilitated by an acquisition rather than by re-entering the market afresh.

Their offer wasn’t particularly attractive, and like many neobanks have found, the UK generally shows a particular dislike for paid-for bank accounts, and people weren’t taking their premium/metal offer because it didn’t offer very much you couldn’t get cheaper and better elsewhere.


If they’re going to come back to the UK they’ll have to do a better job than last time - their offering was incredibly basic, particularly at the start.

I think the problem they found was that the bank account being free wasn’t such a novel idea here, while I believe it is a pretty good USP in much of Europe.

In terms of physical cards being optional - personally I don’t think we’re there yet - cards that aren’t tied to any sort of proprietary app offer flexibility that can’t be matched by smartphones as yet. If you don’t want a Google or Apple account, what do you do?


I think, when I consider the arguments against a virtual only debit card, they tend to mirror the arguments against app only banking from 5 years ago.

The solution for folks who don’t want this is exactly the same. Stick with your traditional bank.

I also think if legacy banks where to adopt a similar strategy, I don’t see them making you pay for a physical card like N26 and Revolut do. In fact I reckon they would remain free, you’d just need to ask for one rather than be given one as standard.

As for the infrastructure not being there yet, I’d actually disagree with that in every instance besides the need to withdraw cash. Now that I know Apple Pay and Google pay can be used for withdrawals, I think we ought to be upgrading our ATMs to support contactless too.


I don’t think they’re the same argument, fundamentally, in my view.

App based banking is effectively an extension of branch-less banking that has been facilitated by telephone and online banking that had already been proved to work by the likes of First Direct and Smile decades ago. The main additional restriction from those with app-only banking is that without your phone you lose access to making bank transfers. To me, that is an acceptable risk.

Getting rid of the, separate, physical card is something else entirely and means that if my phone is unavailable for any reason I have absolutely no means to make any financial transactions. That’s a risk too far for me.

Yes, you can now probably get by in life without taking your card with you most of the time - the infrastructure to solely use a mobile wallet is there, for the most part. Does that mean it is a good idea to do that? Not in my view.


I think that’s a fair take. And a person’s acceptable risk is the most influential variable here.

I know folk who felt like they needed their physical branch. Until they lost access to it and realised they didn’t need it all. The pandemic has surely ushered that paradigm shift along much more swiftly too.

It explains why I believe in moving towards a virtual only approach to the debit card. I survived just fine, and have actually preferred being able to carry nothing besides my phone. There are certain benefits and drawbacks to that, but it worked without a hitch for me. The only time I took my bank card was when I needed to withdraw cash.

Withdrawing cash aside, I do now feel like I no longer need a physical card. A phone can be stolen, but the virtual card will live on in my other mobile wallets and remain accessible from the app or website, whilst being deactivated on the phone. so to forego a physical card is an acceptable risk to me now.


Erm… how about:

  • Buying petrol on a forcourt pay-at-pump machine?
  • Shopping in Tesco? (Some PEDs still have a £45 limit)
  • Hiring a car?
  • In fact, hiring anything?
  • Travelling? Most places in the UK accept contactless, but that’s not true in other parts of the world.

And of course… you need a charge in your device. There’s something to be said about “no batteries required”


I don’t own a car, so no experience here.

Stopped shopping at Tesco over this during the pandemic. I’d heard this had changed though, but if some are still limited, then shame on Tesco. With that said, the £45 limit was never an issue for me.

I do this online using my card details.

Any specific examples of this. Can’t say I’ve ever personally been in a situation that required me to have a physical debit card to hire something in recent years.

This is the most difficult hurdle. Depends where you travel. It’s also why I’m not suggesting we do away with them completely, but rather do away with them as standard, but keep them around as an option for those who do actually need them.

This gets said a lot in relation to a lot of things the smart phone is trying to replace but I really don’t understand it. Modern smart phones are more than capable of making it through an entire day. Chargers are everywhere. They can be charged on most public transport, in your car, in taxis, in lots of high street shops and restaurants etc. This is no longer a concern IMO, or much less of one than people make it out to be. I’ve never once been in a situation where my phone has been at risk of dying, denying me access to boarding passes, front door key, train tickets, or bank cards, etc.


I’d say this depends, actually. With most modern Androids, perhaps, but iPhones are more of a mixed bag in my experience - they’re incredibly efficient but some of them have tiny batteries. My iPhone 11 has a reasonably big battery as far as iPhones go (though exceeded by the Max lineup, of course), but often if I’m using my phone a fair amount during a day (maybe some video calls, taking photos and videos) it’ll quite easily die mid-evening. Now imagine those with an iPhone SE 2020, which has a measly 1,821 mAh battery! I certainly wouldn’t want to have to depend on that as my only means of payment.

More generally, I’m all for choice. If someone wants to opt out of having a plastic debit card and go fully digital then fair enough, but to either force that change on everyone or make users pay an extra fee for the privilege of an industry standard (being issued with a physical card) doesn’t sit well with me. I find it reminiscent of Apple removing the iPhone charger from the box under the justification of helping the environment, but not reducing the retail price of the iPhone accordingly, meaning they’re just pocketing the saving.

That said, in an ideal future where all ATMs are contactless, all retailers are forced to accept limitless Apple and Google Pay payments and phone batteries across the board last longer (perhaps through technologies like true wireless charging in public places) then this would be something I could totally get behind. But for now (and the not-so near future it seems) the peace of mind of having a physical card isn’t something I’d personally be prepared to give up.


Whilst fair, out of interest, how often are you actually doing those battery draining tasks whilst you’re out and about that would put you in that position? At home, my experience can mirror that if my phone is my primary device for the day. But when I’m out and about travelling, and shopping, for the vast majority of the time it sits in my pocket until a moment arises where I need it.

The most strenuous test for me was at Alton Towers with my iPhone 5S years ago. Queues were long and boring so passed time on my phone. That’s the one memory where it was a close call. Things have improved quite substantially since then though. iPhone is incredibly power efficient despite the smaller batteries. My current phone gets through a good two days of moderate use before I have to charge it.

I think I generally agree with you here, though I do think they should be opt in for free. I don’t like the idea of charging for them either personally where they otherwise would be free. On the other hand though, small fees do deter those who will just claim one because they can. I personally would have liked to have seen Apple ask folk if they needed a charger and supplied them for free, but I understand why they haven’t done that. It often isn’t enough to give folks the choice, sometimes I think deterrents are needed in order to progress things forward fast enough, and a fee does achieve that.

This is essentially what I’m pushing for here. I’m thinking longer term rather than now. My concern is initiatives like using recycled plastic is short term thinking and creates a sense of false progression, which, I think, detracts somewhat from the bigger picture. The titanium Apple Card is another possible angle. Titanium is an incredibly durable and recyclable metal. Unlike steel, it can easily last a life time. The details are assigned and renewed digitally, so the physical card never expires either.

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A lot, to be honest. Maybe that makes me a heavier than average user, but I do know of quite a few others who have difficulties in getting their iPhone through the day as well.

Wow, I’m jealous! What model is it?

True, but then I think taxes are the proper way of doing this as opposed to corporations increasing their profit margins further - then the additional charge can go towards public services and maybe even green initiatives, perhaps. Case in point: the 5p carrier bag charge. It was hugely unpopular upon introduction but I’d say it’s been incredibly successful and now we all just accept that we need to remember to bring our own bags or cough up - and in Northern Ireland that money is given to the government as opposed to being pocketed by the companies. (In England and Wales it more closely follows the Apple model, with the retailers free to keep the revenue generated by the levy)

I see how it could be seen as doing that, but I guess it’s also a better stopgap than non-recycled plastic while we work towards the future solutions you envisage.

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iPhone 12 Pro! So nothing too fancy in terms of battery! iPhone battery has been quite stellar for me since iPhone 7 in all honesty, but the jump with the 11 was quite something! Perhaps I’m just not that much of a heavy user when I’m out. It’s just my navigator, iPod, pokeball, camera and bank card when I’m travelling! :sweat_smile:

Completely with you on this. The carrier bag fee has been a great incentive, not just for us shopping, but for retailers innovating too. Because Ocado already had a large plastic bag recycling scheme in place beforehand, they could launch a buy back program, so the bags were essentially free. Some super markers found ways to avoid them with deliveries. I’d love to see initiatives like that span to other things in other markets. Would be interesting to see how companies respond to combat the impact.

Perhaps, but I can’t help but feel like in that instance, they’re trying to solve a problem that Triodos and GoHenry already have with their cards, but to lesser effect. Admittedly, given the costs associated both with Triodos and the equivalent GoHenry card, perhaps they’re more expensive to manufacture, so aren’t as viable from a financial perspective.

Recycled plastic is better than new plastic, no doubt, but ideally you’d keep that recycled plastic as a circular resource so it can continue to be recycled and re-used, which just isn’t possible with bank cards, for now at least.

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Interesting article in thelocal dot de about N26. Thelocal is a website in various countries that specialises in news for expats.

Germany’s financial watchdog on Wednesday ordered online bank N26 to step up “internal controls and safeguards” to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, and said it was appointing a special representative to monitor progress.

I wonder if this is in respect of BaFin’s complete lack of action (and possible collusion) with WireCard.