Girokonto bank account N26 – registration and use

Low interest rates in Western banks negatively affect bankers’ income. It is not surprising that the monetary losses of financial institutions are passed on to customers. As a result, the choice of banks offering free checking accounts is rapidly decreasing in Germany.

Financial and technical startup N26, on the other hand, relied on free services.

After receiving another notice of an increase in the monthly fee for using the Girokonto , the burgher sets off with a sigh in search of a free vault for his money. The meeting with N26 becomes inevitable .

Other banks’ offers are full of zeros, but with asterisks. You constantly expect a catch. And not in vain – there is a catch!

  • free, but with a regular income of 3000 € per month
  • 0 € in the first year, then 4.5 €
  • the bill is free, but the fee for the card is 50 € annually

N26 quietly descends from the mountain and says – from you 0 € . No fees or levies. And here’s another free Mastercard. The thought arises – why not?

Personal experience of opening an account with N26

If someone opened an account in a German bank, they must have experienced the feeling “as long as possible already” . The processes are bureaucratic nowhere else, from personal identification to receiving paper letters at every step.

Traditional German banks are unthinkable without paper. Opening online access to the account turns into a long quest with branches and dead ends. Sign, fill, receive, send, go to the post office, go to the branch, call, enter your pin … Then you look at the received card – the name is spelled incorrectly. Everything is new!

In N26, the process from the beginning of registration to the full activation of the account took 15 minutes. Of which 5 minutes was taken by the first unsuccessful attempt at identification.

You look at the process from the outside and think – this is how business should be done now. If not for one excess …

Customer identification N26 with German passport

I’ll tell you in steps:

I went to the site N26, clicked

Yes, immigrants will be especially pleased with the full English version!

The country of registration determines a set of conditions for maintaining an account. Even if you move later, you won’t be able to change the account properties linked to the state.

At first everything went well …

Entered the required minimum data

  • email
  • name
  • Date of Birth
  • german address
  • mobile phone number.

Confirmed email using a link from an instant email.

Passed the second stage of collecting information, indicating

  • floor
  • nationality
  • Place of Birth
  • profession
  • country of tax residence
  • IDN – German tax ID, but this number can be added later

I chose a free account option – three are offered, two others are paid .

Received an SMS on mobile with a link – install the application. Downloaded, launched.

Confirmed mobile number.

Launched the identification process, specifying a German passport as an identity document. He took out the burgher’s plastic card and stared at the phone camera.

… but then it crashed

After 20 seconds, a pretty Asian-looking girl got in touch and started jabbering in German with an eerie accent. I asked to wait and attached a headphone to my mobile – to hear better. Did not help.

Somehow I realized that I had to name the email that opened the account and hold my palm in front of my face. Next, you need to show your passport to the camera, a frame is displayed on the screen.

And then the girl began to demand: “put the light on the hair .

I asked twice. Shine? Hair ?! I tried to aim at the top of my head in my passport photo with a flashlight beam.

The Hamovito girl exclaimed: “Just do what I say!” and again – put, they say, the light on the hair … I was dumbfounded and asked again: “On the hair on the head ?!” I cut my hair to zero, so the question is relevant.

The identifier started yelling loudly, what should I do, what she says and not ask anything! I raised my voice and asked him to behave himself and stop spitting. And to clarify – should the light be directed at me personally or at my passport photo? The image froze, the connection was cut. The application squeaked – something went wrong, you have to repeat it.

I thought for 5 seconds and decided that “oh well, nafik, this cannot be!”.

But soon everything worked out

I pressed the identification button again. I mentally chose a part of the body with hair, to which, if asked, do not hesitate to direct light.

The mood is to send the bank to hell if the support is so rude.

After 10 seconds, a girl of quite European appearance responded. Very polite and nice, albeit a quick twister, we went through the necessary steps in 3 minutes.

  • I called the email, first together, then spelling.
  • He passed his palm in front of his face. Too fast at first, asked to slow down.
  • I looked at the camera to take a photo.
  • He showed his passport, put it in a virtual frame.
  • The girl turned on the flashlight of her mobile phone and asked to slowly shake the card in front of the camera up and down and left and right. The purpose of the action is to demonstrate watermarks on the document, excluding the possibility of forgery. The process was recorded, which I was warned about.

To be on the safe side, I asked: “Don’t you shine on your hair?” They answered me: “What, excuse me?”

We continued.

  • After swinging the card, they asked to take it in a pinch, with a finger in the center and turn it.
  • Then turn the other side and also swing, demonstrating holograms.
  • After that I read aloud the passport number, gave the name, date and place of birth and answered five questions, such as “Nobody forced you to open an account?” or “Is this your email?” …

The identification process has ended. The app showed the new IBAN and account balance – € 0.00.

I don’t know how often new clients of the bank N26 have to deal with bio-robots, peremptorily demanding to “put the light on their hair”. But the bank does not carry out identification on its own, but through the IDnow service. Hopefully the employees are being thinned out somehow. Not all clients are as stubborn as I am – they can take offense through the Deinstall button in the application.

I suppose the phenomenon “an Asian girl rudely demands to shine with an eerie accent” is related to the time of the experiment – on a weekend in the evening. But it is also possible that IDnow saves on costs and hires inadequate people.

Identification of foreigners

The N26 is positioned as a bank for expats. Cooperation with a company engaged in international transfers with a minimum commission – TransferWise – allows you to withdraw money on foreign trips and transfers to foreign banks in 19 currencies with commission fees 6 times lower than competitors.

Immigrants living in Germany are the target audience of the project. Arriving on vacation or on business in their homeland, foreigners withdraw money from ATMs or spend the earned German euros using a bank card. N26 offers an environment that makes life as easy as possible for these customers.

But, judging by the reviews, difficulties arise with the identification of immigrants living in Germany.

IDNow does not accept documents from all countries. The list is expanding. Now the identity of citizens of the former USSR living in Germany can be confirmed:

  • Russians, Kazakhs – by presenting a passport
  • Belarusians, Moldovans, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks – a passport and a residence permit in Germany
  • Georgians – internal passport or residence permit + foreign
  • Ukrainians don’t

Another identification method is Postident. The client is sent an e- mail with a form, which must be printed, take a passport and visit the German post office – Deutsche Post . The postal worker checks the identity card and certifies the signature on the form. The form is sent to the bank and after a couple of days the account is activated.

In the past, the bank was too light on verifying the identity and address of customers. In 2019, there were problems with the legislation of the European Union. Had to double-check 10% of account holders. This also affected German immigrants.

The most affected were customers who opened accounts at an address in Germany where they did not actually reside at the time of the second check, for example, having moved to another country. The law obliges burghers to report the move and register at the current address . Foreigners left Germany or moved without updating their bank account information. Some clients deliberately indicated an address when registering without having a residence permit, in an effort to quickly open an account.

Chaos began – the accounts were blocked, the people were indignant, the support did not answer. Over the past six months, the bank has managed to put things in order. But the echoes of the epic fight against virtual data still affect the image of the N26.

Phone and linking the number to the bank

Above, I indicated that the account is necessarily tied to a phone number. For German residents, the number must be German. The bank is completely digital, there are no branches, the application is the only way to make a transaction with money.

Fashionable digitalization turns into a client’s nightmare if something happens to the phone. Sometimes even changing the model with transferring the SIM card to a new device becomes a problem. The slightest failure – and the person is left without a checking account. What if your mobile fell on the asphalt and crashed? The support chat also works through the application.

The flip side of the manufacturability of the business model is dependence on technology. Reviews about N26 are full of stories, when a client is happy to use Internet banking for months, but he had to change his phone number – and then a sheet of complaints about the worst bank in the world. Due to a forgotten account password.

The excitement of the ease of use of a free account shouldn’t overshadow the mind. I’ve read negative reviews about the N26. Typical cases leading to problems:

  • I bought a new phone with a new number, dropped the old one and sold it.
  • After working in Germany, he moved to the UK. I threw out the German SIM card.
  • I registered an account with a SIM card that I received at work. I changed jobs – I had to hand over my mobile phone. Forgot password.

When using new technologies, you need to accustom yourself to discipline in relation to the phone and login data. Yes, it is very convenient to enter the application using a fingerprint, but you cannot forget the password.

Use of accounts and cards

A week later I received a bank card. It is transparent, which adds color.

The card must be activated in the application by entering a ten-digit number written under the owner’s name. Then you need to set a PIN. It’s hard for me to keep from delight, although I am aware that in the rest of the world the era of mobile banking software is no longer an innovation. But for Germany, which is backward in this respect, to enter a new PIN-code in the app is something unthinkable, like teleportation.

After activation, the card can be added to G-Pay in order to pay on the Internet via a Google wallet or in stores via NFC by placing the mobile phone to the reader.

Money transfer in euros

I tried to transfer money in both directions before the arrival of plastic. It is convenient to send a transfer to a regular account – entered the IBAN, the name of the recipient, the purpose of the payment and sent it. It is required to confirm the transaction via the confirmation PIN – set during registration. The transfer speed is usual for German banks – 1 business day.

Trick: money is transferred to other N26 clients instantly.

Translations are free and unlimited in number. The movement of funds on the account is reported by a PUSH notification.

You can set up recurring payments so that you don’t forget to pay on time, for example, rent.

Foreign transfers in other currencies

The application is built using the already mentioned TransferWise multicurrency transfer system.

The currency is selected, depending on the country of destination. When you enter the amount, the amount of the commission is immediately shown. The collection is several times lower than in traditional German banks.

Of the Russian-speaking countries, only the Ukrainian hryvnia is still on the list. Transfers in rubles and many other currencies are available on the system’s website.

Cash withdrawal

To withdraw money, it is allowed to use any ATM in the world free of charge 5 times a month. The app allows you to search for the nearest geolocation service.

The absence of a commission to the bank does not mean that the fee is not collected by the ATM itself! This is warned in advance, watch the messages on the display.

If the withdrawal is made not in euros, you will have to pay 1.7% of the amount for conversion.

Exceeding the withdrawal limit results in an additional charge of € 2 per transaction.

By default, the settings have a daily withdrawal limit – 2500 €. You can change.

Operations via CASH26

The limit is hacked using the CASH26 system in supermarkets – REWE, DM, Penny, Rossmann and a number of smaller chains.

In the application, the corresponding menu item is selected, the display shows a barcode, which is simply scanned by the cashier. This is how you can withdraw and deposit cash.

Withdrawals are always free. By default, the limit is 200 € at a time and 999 € per day. A one-time restriction may be removed or changed.

Cash deposit through the cashier of the store is free up to 100 € per month. Further transactions are subject to a 1.5% commission.

Personal banking

I don’t presume to describe all the features of the application – SUDDENLY THOUSANDS OF THEM !!!.

Of the ones I liked:

  • The possibility of dividing the account into “Spaces”. Something like virtual wallets or piggy banks. So you can plan a budget – scatter money on spaces – for food, entertainment, travel and the like.
  • Categorization of transactions with tags. Each payment or parish is marked with a category and this is how reports are drawn up – so much spent on food, gasoline, insurance. Fans of family budgeting have plenty of fun!
  • The transaction history can be viewed through the website and exported to CVS for Excel.
  • Money transfers are also available in the browser, but you need to confirm the transaction via a mobile password or fingerprint.


N26 is an excellent bank for burghers and the best one for foreigners who do not know German. Other German financial institutions rarely offer an English language interface and provide little or no support in English. Unless the clerk wants to switch to another language of his own free will.

But it is too early to use N26 as the only main account. The status of a startup and the use of advanced technologies imposes a certain degree of risk.

I recommend opening an account with N26, but not limited to just one bank. I myself now use 3 accounts:

  • Postbank to receive part of the income and pay regular expenses – traditionally. Over time, I will probably close it.
  • Netbank for entrepreneurship – it is more convenient to conduct accounting when private finance is separate from business.
  • I transfer part of my income to N26 and use it in my everyday life – online, in shops and restaurants.

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Igor Smith/ author of the article
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