There are many free bank accounts in Germany – but the new N26 (previously known as Number26) might be the best one: English interface and phone support, free Mastercard & free money withdrawal in the Eurozone, and a nice mobile phone app for managing banking.

Almost a year ago, I wrote on overview of free bank accounts in Germany – and by now, a lot has changed. Especially, with N26* there is a great new offer on the market that I want to dedicate its own article to.

Features

  • The first big bonus is support in English, both on the web & mobile interface as on the service hotline. As far as I know, no other free bank account in Germany comes with that.
  • Free money withdrawal in the Eurozone: Go to any bank machine to get cash. Unlike with other German bank accounts, you (almost) don’t have to pay attention if the ATM is from your bank: As long as the bank machine does not show a charge, the withdrawal is free of charge. (Withdrawals in other currencies cost a fee of 1.7% of the transaction.)
  • New: Cash26: Put cash into your N26 account in any Penny or real,- supermarket. This is a new feature. Before, you needed to transfer money from another account to get it on the N26 account. Now, you can also go to one of these supermarkets, create a barcode on your smartphone, show in at the counter and pay money into your account as if you would buy something.
  • Pretty useful is the smartphone app (for Android and iPhone*). You can manage all your banking from your phone and even receive immediate push notifications when your account received a transfer. You can see a nicely designed history of your expenses. Additionally, they get categorised, so you even get fancy charts of them! See the screenshots below:

Screenshots

N26 app: Making a transfer with Transferwise N26 app: Statistics N26 app: Borrowing a credit

Downsides

There are 2 downsides that I see:

  • You will not receive a Girocard. In Germany, this is a popular payment method in a lot of shops, still more popular than credit cards. So you might need cash more often (which, on the other hand, you can withdraw easier, because you can use nearly any ATM 🙂 )
  • There are no branches where you can walk in and talk to somebody in person. N26 is an online bank.

Opinion

Nina, a friend of mine, just opened a new account some weeks ago: “I like that I can do everything online, I pay no fees on cash machines (they say in most countries, but I only use in in Berlin so far), you have an app to track your expenses (automatic updates – when you pay, you get a notification), and the Mastercard looks super cool (transparent!)

How to create an account

Until recently, you did need to have an Invite code for creating an account. This is not necessary anymore. Now, it works immediately.

One condition applies though: You need to have an registered address in Germany or Austria (Anmeldung).

The whole registration process does not take longer than 8 minutes. To register,

  1. Go to the N26 site* and enter your email address.
  2. You receive an email with a link for applying.
  3. Ideally, open this link on your smartphone. It will allow you install the N26 app immediately.
  4. After downloading and installing the app, click on Get your free account
  5. Enter your details, like birthday, address, nationality etc.
  6. If the time is between 8:00 and 24:00, you can start the video legitimation process. It means that you will have a video chat on your smartphone or laptop with their service employee. Make sure to
    • be in a quiet place,
    • have good wifi connection,
    • have your ID card or passport prepared.
  7. Within a few seconds after clicking, you will start the video chat. During that, they will take a photo of you and your ID card / passport. You will be also asked to say your age. Also, an SMS with a code will arrive that you will have to type into the app.
  8. After the video chat, you can login into the app.
  9. You can set a PIN for the app (“pair”). Doing this, you will receive another SMS with a 4-digit code.
  10. Finally, the Mastercard will be sent to you. This takes between 2 to 5 working days.
  11. To actually use the Mastercard, put money on it by a transfer from another account or by Cash26 (see above).

This all might look complicated now but you basically only need to follow what’s written on the screen. 🙂 The upside: You will not be asked for any other documents, like income proof, student certificate etc.! If you have still some questions left or are stuck in the registration process, feel free to ask in the comments!

Open a N26 account here.*

* Affiliate links.

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