Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
N26 will be leaving the UK (n26.com)
529 points by vinnyglennon 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 507 comments





Businesses pulling out of the UK based on the Brexit process is bad for the UK, and I'm sure this was indeed mainly motivated by N26's need for a UK banking licence, which is a costly and difficult process to go through. However, it's worth noting that they are pretty small in the UK (~200k users).

They're very successful in Germany where banking is a very slow, difficult, manually run industry (from what I've heard), but in the UK we have generally very good banking infrastructure – payments are normally instant and free, and there's a lot of consumer protection with things like the current account switching service guarantee.

Startups such as Monzo and Starling started in this great infrastructure and now offer relatively compelling products, while the incumbents are getting to grips with modern tech and doing better than many people realise.

N26 on the other hand just didn't have a compelling offering. They charged for most/all of their accounts (explicit charges for accounts in the UK are uncommon), they lacked features, and their marketing was unremarkable compared to the competition.


I've recently moved from the UK to another European country, and whilst I despise the way the politics is going back home - I'm amazed at how much better banking is back in the UK. It's free to have an account and debit card, often with a modest free overdraft. And transfers are really instant. As in I can transfer from Barclays to Santander and by the time I've double-tapped between bank apps the money will be there cleared, at any time of day.

Here it's 'transfer before 2pm and we'll send it the same _working_ day!!' And that's once you've made your appointment a week out to open an account, and maybe received everything after a few weeks (if they like you that is)...

I got the impression that N26 was mainly to challenge the latter way of working. I didn't understand what their offer was even for a free account that was better than even a 'legacy' bank in the UK (and I'm not sure they even support direct debit - which would have made it useless for any super-cheap energy/phone etc deals).

In all - yes Brexit sucks, yes they may have stayed in the UK without it (although I wouldn't have expected them to introduce anything new), but I don't think they can blame any lack of success in the UK on it.


Oh. My. God. YES!

I moved from the UK to France in 2018 (in part due to Brexit but that is a longer story) and dear god the banking systems here are utter shit.

I am with HSBC and I can't even change the PIN on my debit card! Hell I couldn't even get my card and cheque book (yes they still use cheques here!) delivered to my address as it was a temporary one so I had to collect it from my branch in person.

If I buy something on my card it takes at least three days before it is listed in the HSBC mobile app or web site.

I generally use cash so it isn't a huge issue for me (check my post history for some explanation on why I mostly use cash) but god is banking frustrating here.

The only positive is that I do have an actual account manager (as in the same person) who I always deal with and he is excellent at sorting my problem. I have to say I do like that consistent human content. Obviously if it is an emergency I use their emergency line (lost card, etc) but for general inquiries that don't require instant action my account manager is my go to.

(thank you for bringing this up I feel I needed this quick rant!)


> If I buy something on my card it takes at least three days before it is listed in the HSBC mobile app or web site.

That's actually the case for my HSBC UK account too. It's impossible to know accurately what the balance of it really is at any time too; both the real balance and the available balance fluctuate wildly with no obvious relation to the transactions, which are delayed by a variable 1-3 days (presumably depending on the type of transaction). They seem to be about ten years behind all the startup banks.


It seems to be a thing for all the incumbent UK banks I've tried. CYBG/B (now the second incarnation of Virgin), Lloyds, Halifax, NatWest -- all have that 3-day delay.

Instant update was the killer feature that swung me to Starling. Well, that and Natwest calling some random guy (who later found me to tell me what happened) for a sales call, only to give him the transaction data for my last five transactions....!

(obFD: no pecuniary interest, just a happy customer)


Ex-HSBC customer in France here. It was one of the worst banking experiences possible - incredibly expensive debit cards with very low ceilings, etc.

The "plus" that you mention, having a dedicated account guru can swing both ways: mine left my local branch for another branch 10km away, and I would not perform any significant operation without their presence.. which was no longer in the branch.

Boursorama or N26.


Do you know anything about Hello Bank ?

I looked at it and got the impression that it was BNP's low cost product, aimed at a younger audience, perhaps with no banking record.

I use Boursorama Bank in France and they're pretty good. Setting up the a/c and transferring over from HSBC FR was relatively painless, though they dropped a few of the direct debit mandates that I had to recreate manually. I think the account is free as long as you actually use it actively.


um - why hasn't anyone mentioned www.transferwise.com/borderless yet ?

Orange Bank is another option in France which is free for basic current account activities, although they don't offer Livret etc.

The best way to do this in France seems to be to keep a "legacy" bank just for handling savings without a current account (that way you don't pay for current account, card etc.), and use one of the free challenger banks for current account, direct debits etc.


If you've substantial sums sitting in your accounts, your French HSBC relationship manager will eventually start calling you to sell their investment products. Actively managed investment funds that enrich the fund manager at your expense. French Livret accounts, however, are a good use of deposit funds, but everything else sold by the bank is to be avoided.

On another note, I had my ING Luxembourg account (6 figures on deposit) closed by them because, in their own words over the telephone, "I wasn't buying any of their products". They'd call me every few months trying to persuade me to invest in high charge, managed investment products, which I always declined. I explained that I was keeping the money on deposit to pay for my dad's Alzheimer care, but they just sent me a registered letter telling me to take my business elsewhere. I'm sure this breached some banking regulation, but I hadn't the energy to fight it.


> Hell I couldn't even get my card and cheque book (...) delivered to my address as it was a temporary one so I had to collect it from my branch in person.

Of course! Doing manual pickups with proper ID checks avoids a lot of problems.

My bank will only send stuff to my 'official' address that I have registered with the tax authorities. If I want a OTP-dongle or debit card in some other way, I can pick them up in a branch of my choosing.

I see this as being safe, not as being inflexible or old-fashioned.


I understand the why but when moving country I would have thought (hoped?) they would have some sort of more flexible process. We had to go back to see our account manager no less than 5 times in the first two weeks of having our HSBC account to collect different items. We couldn't get the card and PIN at the same time for "security" so had to get the PIN first, then the card two days later?!

I fully understand their need to protect against mail interception and fraud but I think there are better solutions than getting me to go all the way into the centre (about half an hour of my time each way on public transport) to pick up a cheque book is a little extreme.

Funny thing with the OTP generator. They posted that to us! FFS you can't make it up!


It sounds like Bunq would be right up your alley.

This is on the EU roadmap though, for what it's worth. Sometime in the next few years, we should see instantaneous transfers within the EU.

Actually the EU request the law to be adopted much earlier. The countries that blocked its early implementation were Germany and France.

The reason being a banking-sector that is deeply entangled with politics. When it comes to checking accounts co-op run banks have 26% marketshare in Germany, while statebanks and communal-run Sparkassen have 41% [0]

Needless to say, they are not the most efficient and are even less prone for innovation.

[0] https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/38041/umfrage...


It's just that all co-op banks and Sparkassen have implemented SCT Inst (instant payment), while quite a few "commercial" banks have not (though the big two have). Though some of them do charge fees, some even outrageous fees, for the privilege of non-stone-age transfers (but then, others don't).

Almost all commercial banks offer SCT. And most of them for free while most co-op/sparkassen charge a fee (some of them even for receiving an instant payment which is rediculous).

Sparkassen failed at numerous attempts to come up with an online payment system that gets any traction and it took considerably longer for them to adopt apple pay.

I think it's also not good to paint commercial banks as one entity: There are old ones, large ones, cheap ones, upper-classy ones, spin-offs and startups. Sparkassen and co-ops are seldomly a startup e.g.. So depending on their clients and considering that SCT in DE has still low adoption amongst clients compared to direct debit mandates, a commercial bank or a startup may very rightfully choose to de-prioritize SCT adoption.


> Almost all commercial banks offer SCT.

Of course they do. That's the normal, slow money transfer, aka "SEPA Credit Transfer". I suppose you mean SCT Inst?

Even of the bigger retail banks, Consors and ING do not offer SCT Inst.

> And most of them for free while most co-op/sparkassen charge a fee (some of them even for receiving an instant payment which is rediculous).

While it is included at Deutsche Bank proper, both Norisbank and Postbank charge between 0.50 and 1.00 EUR for outgoing SCT Inst, Commerzbank proper charges 1.50 EUR unless you are in one of their premium plans while comdirect (though technically not yet fully part of Commerzbank) is free, Hypovereinsbank is free for all non-business accounts except the cheapest ones, where it's 0.50 EUR.

So ... erm, no, not even close to "most of them for free"?

Also, on the other hand, there are co-op banks that offer free accounts with free SCT Inst nationally.

But who is charging for receiving SCT Inst payments? I hadn't heard of that before, that's indeed beyond ridiculous!

> Sparkassen failed at numerous attempts to come up with an online payment system that gets any traction and it took considerably longer for them to adopt apple pay.

And yet, they (all) implement SCT Inst!?


The market is dominated by large commercial banks in US, but banking here is still so very backwards even compared to Europe.

> Needless to say, they are not the most efficient and are even less prone for innovation.

I think the main problem is that both co-ops and Sparkassen are very decentralized, you're looking at literally thousands of tiny and not-so-tiny-but-hardly-big banks that are all completely independant. That makes innovation very slow - of course they have pooled resources to have a somewhat centralized IT infrastructure, but the power to decide on innovations is ultimately still with the thousands of member banks.


Amazing how left leaning politicians don’t make this their battle cry. If they want to fight for government working, it has to work in these cases of obvious corruption. The same thing happens in the US

"Obvious corruption"? Based on this thread, it looks like "this would be hard for us, so we object to the requirement". There are a number of ways you could slam that... but corruption?

I wouldn't disagree. The fact that they can force the government to do their bidding is corruption in my eyes too.

The carmakers in Germany shut down various attempts to incentivize electronic cars and inquiries in their criminal behavior in the cheating scandals.

I think there is a fine line between lobbying and being downright criminal. I think most companies have actually crossed the line.

Deutsche Bahn after privatization let the train tracks in Hamburg rot for a long time. Now that they've passed the safety threshold they decided not to renew the tracks but instead move the train station somewhere else.

I've been involved in a government construction project and the way the contracts are handed out are on the surface to the highest bidder, but it's hard to call it anything but corrupt.

Lobbying is one thing, but threatening consultants and employees with repercussions and lawsuits for wanting to inform people about lies that led to these contracts is in fact criminal. I had a good lawyer, but nothing happened to the leadership on either side and nothing probably ever will.


The EU generally talks to the industry affected by some regulations, this is generally to prevent deploying a regulation or law that doesn't really work in practise and to find a reasonable compromise (of course, sometimes multiple industries end up at the table, some with more political power than others, which is how you get the EU copyright reform pushed by newspapers and yellow journalists)

The effect is more often, and I think more accurately, termed 'regulatory capture' than corruption. The other side of it is that the incumbents work to ensure that regulation presents a very high barrier to entry for any would-be competitor.

Well, in this case it's not about competitors, it's about newspapers and publishers wanting to extract money from Google for displaying the <title> attribute of their website.

To be fair, I can remember when it was 3 days in the U.K. and it only changed because the government put its foot down and stipulated that 2 hours should be the limit for most transactions

I have had SCT Instant for approximately a year. However, only around half of the target banks I send money to support it currently.

Some parts of the UK banking are good,some are bad, and some are outright fully fledged idiocy. In mainland Europe it varies a lot depending on a country, i.e. Scandinavian banks in Baltics are pure shit.I had some funny situations with banks since I moved in to the UK: Barclays refused to open a bank account because the letter from the job centre( Confirmation of National Insurance Number application) had its logo in black and white instead of color. Santander issued some random card that is even more limited than simple debit card. Walked into Metro bank to pay a bill and asked how much it'd cost me- the guy's jaw dropped on the floor and then he replied that it's free( then my jaw dropped on the flor because that was undheard of for me). A guy I used to know walked into a branch of Santander with his employment contract with Starbucks asking to open a bank account.They refused.Walked out and went to the nearest branch of the same bank- they opened an account immediately. And the list goes on and on.

Ah yes, after spending a lot of effort to open a bank account to receive your monthly pay; it ended up some weird account were you could only use your debit card at their ATMs. Madness. UK banks are weird

I think that’s been illegal for over 20 years

Really interesting

> In mainland Europe it varies a lot depending on a country, i.e. Scandinavian banks in Baltics are pure shit.

Would you please elaborate? I have had quite a good experience with those banks.


I didn't really understand why there were so many banking startups in the US until I found out that simple bank transfers cost money over there.

Not even close.

The banking startups are collecting account holder information so they can turn around and upsell you on credit cards and other products.

But it gets better ...

There is no such thing as a startup bank in the US because the government doesn't grant bank charters anymore. All those new companies aren't banks at all. They piggyback on top of an existing bank or the ACH network.

That's why none of them say FDIC-approved, since they can't be part of FDIC.


New banks are getting FDIC approval[0]. Latest one was approved last Friday.

Perhaps you meant something else?

[0]: https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/bankdecisions/depins/i...


Sure, but you need a reason for people to sign up in the first place, right? And if their current bank is already great they'd be less likely.

> government doesn't grant bank charters anymore

Is this true? Why is this the case? How long has it been like this?


Bank transfers of money generally don't cost money. They are just slow.

Oh, really? Last time this came up people were saying you couldn't send $50 to your friend's bank account without something crazy like a $15 fee, and hence everyone apparently used a third-party app like Venmo.

There are three relatively common ways to send money electronically between two US bank accounts:

Zelle: effectively instant, requires both banks to be on the network, free. Relatively new and many people who could use it don’t.

ACH: a few days, effectively ubiquitous, very small underlying charge infrequently marked up to ~$3 by the bank.

Wire transfers: not quite instant but close during banking hours, effectively ubiquitous by institution but often a pain for retail users to access due to risk profile, underlying cost is about $5 and often marked up to $15~$20.

The UX of the P2P payment apps is much, much better than any of the above, and would be what I’d reach for for a transfer in the $X0 range contingent on my counterparty being likely to use apps.


Rest of the world: looks like Zelle most of the time (some occasions it's +1 day)

Banks in Europe: There might be a fee in some cases but I don't remember paying one (or it's <$5). Rent or similars are just recurring SEPA payments (it's a push - not a direct debt)

But can people (not business) initiate ACH transactions?


But can people (not business) initiate ACH transactions?

Yes. I used to do it to move money between checking accounts at different institutions. I don't think I've ever had an account that charged for ACH transfers. Meanwhile Zelle isn't supported by exactly one financial institution I use (but not one I use for banking).


Interesting, thanks for the clarification.

I've never been charged for ACH between bank accounts at different banks.

https://www.mybanktracker.com/checking/faq/ach-transfer-fees...


This really depends on the country you moved to. Banking in Germany will be much shittier while what you describe is norm in other countries for example.

Not Germany, but one that in many other ways is very efficient and forward thinking. I think the banking issues are more historical and due to having a small population with generally conservative attitudes towards money and financial institutions. But my point is that N26's offering is just not going to cut it across the whole EU(+UK), and any risk introduced by Brexit (or anything else that might happen) probably wasn't worth it for them, but claiming that they were pushed out by it is pushing it a bit.

As a side, in sites such as this (HN), especially when comparing things to the US there is defintitely a tendancy to make sweeping statements such as 'in the EU $thing is [blah]...' but actually there are huge differences across the continent, which I think is actually the news story here.


yeah, in the US here is no expectation of a same day free transfer between banks. Only a "maybe" in the same bank. And you can sometimes game the ACH debit system to make things occur in "technically the same 24 hour time period".

there are a couple tiers of paid wire transfers, but still no guarantees that you will have liquid settled cash in the same business day.

the mere concept of the SEPA system in the EU is pretty nice


Transferring money using Zelle [0], between participating banks, is pretty much instantly, at least in my experience. The limit is up to 20,000 monthly for me. YMMV.

(0) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zelle_(payment_service)


Might not be people's first choice, but Facebook is instant. Like, the money is a non pending deposit seconds after the sender clicks send. Slick, and not a silly extra checking account like venmo.

Why don't you just say where you moved to? It's quite interesting in context of your earlier comment.

Finland if we believe his LinkedIn, no idea if it's up to date though

Correct. It felt a bit impolite to moan about it, as I’ve found that once you get established and figure out the system everything else here works very well. That said all the natives that I know don’t exactly love their banks - so it’s ripe for disruption but I feel the market is always gonna be quite limited, due to inertia and size.

Online banking is also _the_ identity service for logging into official and semi official systems here (unless you’re a nerd and want to hook up a smart card reader and your [optional] ID card - which I totally am) and I guess there’s a heap of compliance to deal with to enter this space, which would further limit entry to the market.


Banking being the identity verification provider for everything (including governmental services) does add hoops, mainly the requirement for in-person identity verification when opening new accounts. As far as I understand the law doesn't allow strong identification to be provided using accounts that were opened with online identity verification.

> Finland

Weird. Transfers were instant when I moved over there almost 20 years ago, and you could already do them online if you wished (there was a system of codes on a paper or a card, on top of login+password). And that was in very traditional banks like the Postal Bank (Postipankki/Leonia/Sampo: it changed name at least 3 times during my stay). I cannot imagine it can have gone worse during the last 10 years.

Opening an account was no problem and quasi-immediate. The only annoying thing is that as a foreigner I had to stay 2 years before getting a regular credit card (I didn't care about the 'credit', since in my home country we don't use credit cards but only debit cards, but for 2 years I was only allowed the Visa Electron which was not well accepted or perhaps not accepted at all abroad, so it was limited even as a debit card).


In Estonia transfers went from instant to slow after enforcing the SEPA payments. Same made transfers faster in other EU countries. Different starting points. Probably similar case in Finland.

* https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Euro_Payments_Area


Hmmm... the introduction dates would match me leaving from there, so that would be a possible explanation. On the other hand, the existing system was already using IBAN and stuff, so as an ignorant customer, SEPA looks like an acknowledgement of what was already in use, not requiring any change in the process. Dunno.

In your case, when you say slow, how slow has it become?


Bank transfers in Estonia did get slower when SEPA first arrived, but not horrendously so. I think the transfers used to be every 15 minutes and during most of the day. With SEPA it got downgraded to every hour and only during normal working hours. However nowadays we've already moved on to SEPA Instant Payments which take about 10 seconds and are EU-wide, provided the other EU bank isn't dragging its feet with implementing it.

"Banking in Germany will be much shittier"

Don't know mate. I don't know the UK banking system so well. But if I take HK experience with HSBC and SC and Newcomers in the UK like Revolut then I doubt your statement will make any sense.


It really depends, Slovakia and Czech Republic usually have very modern banks. I can do everything through the app, I don’t remember the last time I had to go to an actual bank office. Apple Pay / Google Pay is almost everywhere, fast and easy bank-wire transfers, modern and secure apps with face/touch id...

Exactly - so I wouldn't expect N26 to have a particularly large customer base there (could be completely wrong though) if what they are offering isn't particulalry innovative by their standards.

All this seems really very biased.

I think Germany has instant transfers for a fee but I am not sure. There was never a need for it.

Czech has instant transfers already? Great. The CZ Bank I know charges 6 Euro per incomming EU Euro transaction.


I don't know if this is a recent thing, but my CZ bank charges nothing on incoming/outgoing SEPA payments (mbank). Regarding instant transfers, already supported by many banks in CZ (not mbank though, so can't tell if there is a fee), see https://www.mesec.cz/aktuality/okamzite-platby-umi-prijimat-...

Ehm, in czech republic the bank transfers are still not instantaneous...

Sounds strange to me, I have a free account with N26 in France with free debit card, and also most banks here do instant transfers now.

What?! How can it possibly be worse than in the UK?

I've lived in the UK and another European country, and if I didn't recognize brands like "HSBC" and "Barclays" I would have thought they were failed non serious players.

The UK is quite literally decades behind some other countries, in banking.


> The UK is quite literally decades behind some other countries, in banking.

In what ways?


Introduction of second factor. Reporting. Statements. Investment platforms (just try the stocks or the fund platforms with HSBC). Design. And some interfaces require you to have pen and paper because the transfer webpage can't show you you own accounts, so you have to type your sort code and account number into a blank form. And just plain keeping the message-of-the-day actually refer to things that happened this year.

For a start.


You havent been on the receiving end of all the automation, like having your bank account frozen for no reason, bank card frozen just because the security services feel like it, because I'm related to someone who was the highest Cat A prisoner whose Parkhurst prison break came in at number 3. All this automation means I darent speak in front of a laptop, dont have a mobile or bank account and havent worked for nearly ten years. Gave up the driving licence so I no longer have any photo ID. Dont even have a GP, not that I can afford prescriptions, as I'm not classed as unemployed. Cant get my records removed from the NHS despite the UK Govt selling them to US companies because like Google, "the UK population is the product". The UK security services are terrible because they make your life shit, I've had that online jihadist provocation that so many muslims who end up getting suicided by police guns end up and its always made to look like its your fault when they mess with your exam results (you never get exam papers back to independently check your paper against text books) so they can mess with you lives in so many ways. Criminals run the UK and keep lapping up the bullshit from tech surveillance industry in all its guises including banking.

N26 is also very successful in France, whose banking industry is--I can confirm--very much slow, difficult, and _very_ manually run. They can charge fees for accounts because their fees are still so much lower than the incumbents they're displacing. (And you can do stuff without having to talk to your bank counsellor, at your one specific branch, in person... how novel!)

So I can see how their model wouldn't be very good, or very disruptive, in places with more consumer-friendly banking options.


> at your one specific branch,

Italy is the same way and it is awful. We signed up for our bank account at one specific branch of a bank in Padova, Italy, and it's impossible to do much besides withdraw some cash at other branches. It's so dumb.


As an Italian, I understand this... but the obvious question is: why didn’t you open it at a branch more convenient for you?

Do people not move in Italy or something?

I've encountered the same thing in Germany, when I log in I use the branch number of where we opened the account? Why? Who gives a shit about that? I certainly don't. But the bank does, for some unfathomable reason.

For each way German banks are better than American ones, it seems like there's a way in which they're backwards or overly conservative.


Not very much, no... we call it ’campanilismo’: the tendency for people to live out their lives within earshot of their town’s church’s bell-tower (campanile).

Side-story: southern Italians who relocated to the industrialising North during the ‘Italian Economic Miracle’ of the 1950s to 1970s referred to the process as ‘emigrating’. Until it was looked down upon by more modern sensitivities, they were referred to as ‘immigrants’, and their offspring referred to as first- and second-generation immigrants.

It really is a rather static society, though now there’s a significant and constant flow of young graduates from the hideously unemployment-afflicted South towards the North, or abroad since the Great Stagnation set in about fifteen years ago.


> when I log in I use the branch number of where we opened the account? Why? Who gives a shit about that? I certainly don't. But the bank does, for some unfathomable reason.

In the US and Canada, you’ll have a home branch too. Usually it doesn’t come up in anything day-to-day.

State laws for one thing may apply to accounts opened in a particular state.

But if a bank merges or gets acquired, or fails, and some branches get sold/divested, and not necessarily to one party.

One could find themselves a customer of a bank that is no longer local to them.

Here’s a merger that had a divesture:

https://www.bauerfinancial.com/2019/12/09/its-truist-theres-...


Other than having to enter the branch number, are there are other restrictions based on where you opened the account in Germany?

I ask because in the UK, each bank branch has a six-digit "sort code", which others will need to know in addition to your account number to transfer you money. However, you can open an account at a branch and never step foot in that branch again afterwards, only ever using other branches. Account numbers are only unique for the same sort code.


It's not even a thing "in Germany". There may be some banks that do this, but I would say most don't. But then, most banks are relatively regional, so while you can use any branch of the bank, there won't be any branches of your bank if you travel far enough--and if you are with your local Sparkasse, for example, then that is your bank, the Sparkasse in the next bigger city over has nothing to do with them (well, yeah, they have, but they most definitely are a separate bank).

Yeah, my wife wanted to open a separate account for her new job, and they said she'd have to go visit the original branch.

This is at Deutsche Bank, by the way, not some podunk obscure bank.


In Finland, the biggest bank is actually just a group of local banks. So if I sign up for a bank account up north, I am the customer of the bank way up there, which is a separate legal entity from the bank down in the south.

Of course, if you do move and you want to apply for a new credit card, they will mail the card and paper work to any of the locations, so it's not that bad. And all of the banks in the group have an unified online banking system, no branch numbers needed. However, when I switched between the different banks, I had to get new login details for the online bank, which was kinda sucky.


We lived in one place, then moved. We got our mortgage via the one close to us prior to the move. Now we live in the US and it doesn't matter so much as trying to do anything with the bank from here is pretty much impossible. We had asked about having everything moved over to the branch closer to our home, but apparently the logistical requirements are close to those for sending a manned mission to the moon.

I can tell you that, in Italy, there is not a "standard", in the sense that not all banks are the same, and often one that excels in something is terrible in another aspect.

With home-banking these differences are even more marked, some sites have "reasonable" possibilities offered to the customer, some other have next to none (besides checking your account) some have relatively simple workflows some other are so stupidly complex that you give up.

More or less all of them (the sites) have an inane amount of meaningless dashboard/graphics, and very poor tools (as an example to download some data).

However, when it comes to "serious" matters things are seemingly "random" in the way they change from bank to bank, personal anecdata, a few years ago when an old relative died, to access the accounts it took the heirs (with exactly the SAME documentation):

Bank #1: 3 days <- exceptionally fast

Bank #2: 10 days <- I would say "appropriate" or "logical"

Bank #3: 7 months (or 210 days) <- completely "crazy"


In Italy there's also the problem that most banks don't allow you to receive wire transfers from outside the SEPA area. I had a hard time finding a bank that would allow me to receive transfers from the US. Some of them were actually baffled when I called for information at the idea of someone wanting to receive money from oversea.

And let's not even get into keeping an account in another currency. My bank apparently never had to do anything of the sorts, and after digging for information they told me it would cost about 400€ per year just keep the account open.


FWIW, fineco will let you have foreign currency accounts, for free, and with minimal conversion fees, it's pretty convenient.

That's actually very useful to know, thank you for the information!

Do Italians not invest in US securities at all? Seems kind of strange...

Well, you don't strictly need an account in dollars to invest in US securities (but you are more exposed to exchange risks) while it is handy for other kinds of investments in US dollars.

As riffraff said, Fineco is one of the very few banks (maybe the only one) that gives the possibility to have foreign currency accounts (linked to a "main" Euro account) at a "reasonable" cost, which is a good thing to have if you deal a lot with the US (both with receiving US dollars and spending in US dollars), but that is not needed for "normal" activities.

The "conto in divisa estera" (that quite a few banks have) is basically aimed to business entities (like firms doing import/export) and is usually rather expensive, or - to be more accurate - has very high fixed costs.

The alternative in the case of someone receiving US dollars may be some form of accounts with credit/debit cards issuers, but - again generally speaking - they - besides offering less possibilities (and not being "properly" a bank) tend to have low fixed costs but higher commissions/fees on single operations.


I do. I have an account with Interactive Brokers and I can easily deposit EUR. I can buy US stocks and options in USD and IB takes care of all the details (internally, it shows up as a short USD position).

Investing from the banks themselves it's also possible but it involves higher fees. Using IB has the disadvantage that I have to do the taxes myself.


I've yet to figure that out. Personally, I'd love to be able to easily invest in a vanguard fund, or even just have the ability to put money every month on index funds, but so far from what I've seen doesn't seem to be possible.

You can easily buy everything you want from Interactive Brokers. You can deposit EUR and do the transactions in other currencies. The interface is old and complicated, but very powerful. You will have to do the taxes yourself though.

Be curious to hear the banks' names.

>Be curious to hear the banks' names.

Ow, come on, you know the saying:

[Italian]

Si dice il peccato e non il peccatore.

[/Italian]

More seriously, as said that is single point anecdata, it is perfectly possible that today a similar test would give completely different results.


They're banks; large corporations. It's not like anyone's naming an employee there or something.

And I do understand that things vary. One time, for instance, I even had a package arrive quickly through Poste Italiane.


What’s the point of branches? It isn’t like computers aren’t a thing.

French banks are slow, but they provide good services. When i lived in the UK, i had only a debit card (maestro). If you wanted a mastercard you needed a credit card account where you needed to manually balance at the end of the month. Mind you this was 10 years ago, when the UK was Just introducing PIN code for every card transaction, a security feature found in France since the 90s. In France you get mastercard as debit card or credit card bound to your current account.

> Mind you this was 10 years ago, when the UK was Just introducing PIN code for every card transaction

Err. C&P was universal by 2006ish from memory, but many venues just didn't accept anything other than cash at all. I suspect you are misremembering.


We started a UK shop 16 years ago and still had counterfoil machines (you put a card in, put a paper slip on it, push a roller over the card to ink an impression of the details, ...). You could definitely still swipe your card then.

Also from memory, I'd guess 10-12 years as the point when chip&pin was required for _every_ card transaction. Now of course we have moved on to also have contactless.


Useless aside: I used to do phone support for retail stores and when the EFTPOS went down I had to guide them through the process of using the counterfoil machine.

No one would know what I was talking about unless I referred to it as the "click-clack" machine.

Now I can only think of them using that name.


You can still use counterfoil machines if you want to. You just accept all the risk.

A former employer uses one for selling excess stock to staff.


This is pretty standard in the UK these days, most debit cards are Visa/Mastercard - 10 years ago most debit cards were Maestro or Visa Electron, although I still didn't have much difficulty getting a Visa debit card for travelling.

I found it very odd when I was in Germany that this wasn't the case, Visa/Mastercard were entirely considered credit cards, and debit cards used some entirely different system. I couldn't use my debit card to pay for a Berlin subway ticket, as the machines only took German bank cards.


UK debit cards used to be either Switch/Maestro or Visa Delta/Visa Debit depending on who you banked with. The Switch/Maestro cards were then phased out around 10 years ago and replaced with either Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard. I used to travel frequently to Germany at the time so it was super annoying not to be able to use my card anywhere but a cash machine.

Visa Electron was in a different category with Switch Solo. I think they tended to be issued on accounts with no overdraft facility. (I had a Solo card as a teenager and it was only accepted at a handful of places.)

I remember being really annoyed when my


> debit cards used some entirely different system

Maestro is pretty common, but there's also something called EC-card or similar. However, the Berlin subway machines now take visa/mc too.


A what card? Credit cards essentially do not exist in France.

Traditional French banks have a penchant for issuing debit cards with monthly fees and low daily, weekly (!) and monthly (!) limits.

I had a HSBC business account where I had to pay 45EU a month to lift the 300EU per week limitation.

Likewise, French banks refuse to issue chargebacks. The last time I tried, I was told to lodge a police complaint for theft to take the unknown entity who hit my card to .. court ..?

N26 etc have been a breath of fresh air in France.


Credit card = Débit différé in France (aka. you pay for everything at the end of the month), it's even written Credit on the card.

And most online banks (e.g., Boursorama, Hello Bank, Fortuneo, etc) do not charge you a monthly fee for a card.


French banks provide terrible services. To send an international wire, I had to go into the bank to “set up” the service. Online banking requires ever changing pin codes in the name of “security.” In the US, I can interact almost 100% of the time online. The only time I enter my US bank is if I need a physical cashiers check or counter checks. But that’s very rare.

I don't even have a local branch; I use Ally, which has no branches at all and is 100% online. I have no idea why anyone uses physical banks any more unless they need to deposit cash or get cashiers checks. The online banks offer far higher interest rates and low/no fees.

French banks are very bad, from my experience at least and I've had 6 different banks over 8 years, got kicked from one because I was working at a startup and the boss gave checks to employees with no money on the company account, so the checks would get rejected a few days / weeks after the salary arrived (which was usually one month late and not at a fixed date which already made it difficult with bills). The catch is, the company account was on the exact same bank as me, in a small village with just a few employees. They kicked me knowing that the company was shady and they were helping the guy. That was just one example I could go on for a while.

Oh yeah, the "received a bad cheque so you're outta here" rule, similar to "you can't get an overdraft on your business account, but if you're a fonctionnaire (civil servant) you can live a -800eu for perpetuity"..

Manually balance? That’s not true.

In the UK you can write “direct debit” in the minimum payment amount on your credit card application and it will be linked to another account to be payed off in full every month. This will avoid interest charges.

This arrangement allows me to run my credit card accounts for free with no monthly charges.


Exactly. I can fully understand how they might be a paradigm shift from that sort of banking ecosystem.

For us it was just a bank that lacked features and had charges, without a memorable brand.


France has had good online banks for years now, with free accounts/cards/transfers and everything managed online.

You just have to choose your bank carefully. Boursorama or Fortuneo are typical decent examples.


Anecdote time - the only person I know who had an account (I work in London fintech at the moment) never used it and only opened it for the fancy translucent card. He seems to have accounts with all the 'challenger' banks.

Huh. The first thing I did with the fancy translucent card was to apply permanent marker to the front because I could read the CVV from the wrong side.

Random question, but I'm moving to London in a few months, do you have any suggestions on banks or "challenger" banks I should go with? (couldn't figure out how to DM you, not sure if it's possible on Hacker News)

Looking more broadly than just challenger banks:

https://www.which.co.uk/money/banking/bank-accounts/best-and...

Top of the list (as it often has been for decades) is First Direct. This is a challenger bank in its own way - it was launched in 1989 to pioneer telephone banking, a disruptive technology at the time! It now has phone and internet banking, but still has no physical branches.

Monzo and Starling, the proper challenger banks, are also rated very highly, taking the second and third spots.

Behind them are some somewhat unconventional banks:

Nationwide is a building society rather than a bank; functionally it's a bank, but it's owned by its customers, rather than by investors. Dates to the 19th century, has many branches, very boring really. My mum banks with them, and she doesn't complain.

Marks & Spencer is an upmarket department store (i swear by their lambswool socks!) which branched out into banking a while ago.

Metro Bank is a perfectly normal high street bank, with branches and so on, but it was founded in 2010. Apparently the last time a new bank was founded before that was 150 years earlier.

The Co-operative Bank is, as the name suggests, a co-operative. It's a bit like a building society, but not. I bank with them. Their website is terrible and their phone customer service has been slashed (although when you do get through to someone, they're great).

Only then do you get to Barclays, which is a classic high street bank - founded in the 17th century, branches in every town, full service, investment banking arm, rigs LIBOR, etc.


>The Co-operative Bank is, as the name suggests, a co-operative.

It's no longer a co-op and its relationship with the Co-Operative Group will end later this year.


True, it's only minority-owned by the Cooperative Group, though it does supposedly now also recognise the influence of an independently-founded customer cooperative on its ethical policy.

[any fintech enthusiasts trying to think of a challenger bank niche the UK hasn't already got multiple heavily-marketed competing alternatives in might like to go down the ethics route...]


The Group sold it's 1% in September 2017 and has no longer any holdings with the bank. The group still has a marketing agreement with the bank until 2020.

Ecology Building Society, Charity Bank and Triodos have pretty much sewn up the ethics market between them.

Metro Bank is going through some difficulties, to say the least, right now.

First Direct and Marks and Spencer are brands of HSBC. First Direct is independent enough that you get a very different service from them compared to vanilla HSBC.

As others have said, Co-op is owned by private equity now. When they were a true co-op, you could forgive them the odd bit of sloppy service but there's no excuse now.

If I were coming to the UK for the first time, I'd see if a local bank in my country (usually it's HSBC or Santander) could offer to help me set up when a UK account with their local subsidiary. KYC, credit checks, etc can make opening an account difficult when you're new to the country.


I've been using Metro bank for ages,they are pretty good and easy to deal with. Not sure how good or bad they are with their products ( mortgages, etc.), however for purely having them as a money box is quite OK.Also,they print card in store while you wait,so no need to wait 2 weeks for it to arrive in post.

Just FYI -- First Direct is a part of HSBC and has been for nearly 30 years now, and isn't some scrappy little underdog. It's a bit baffling as to why HSBC itself features at 15th position in that same list you posted!

(Note: I don't use either)


Probably for a similar reason to why many hotel chains have a 'budget' and an 'upmarket' arm. Capturing multiple market segments.

I got my paycheck paid into my monzo. They don't require a proof of address, so I was able to open an account from my hotel room and have my card sent to my new workplace before I had my own flat.

+1

Monzo doesn't ask for proof of address, while other banks will need something like a utility bill. As a newcomer to the UK, one is pretty much obliged to open a bank account with Monzo.


Monzo also use Transunion for their credit checking which are lot more relaxed compared to the other big 2 (Equifax and Experian), which usually require 3 years of address proof to run through their KYC/credit checks.

How is that legal under KYC laws etc?

I'm a little rusty on this, so some details may not be correct.

My understanding is that UK KYC basically don't specify exactly how to validate an individual's identity, only that the bank should do that (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/identity-proofing...). It does suggest that a person's identity is "often someone’s name, date of birth and address", but it doesn't seem to mandate that.

I believe the requirement for banks to hold addresses is actually an AML requirement, and this only comes into effect for larger or riskier transactions.

In a sense, the requirement to have a "provable address" just to open a basic bank account becomes quite problematic when you consider there are people who don't have fixed addresses. Whats worse, you discover that most of the ways in which you can get a fixed address require you to have a bank account (e.g. renting a place to live). It's an entirely unnecessary chicken-and-egg scenario caused by the insistence of the older banks on collecting proof of address, which they didn't technically need to do.


Yes, you are correct, you only really need proof of address once you start offering credit (running hard credit check).

And you're also correct in terms of AML - once a person crosses over a certain threshold or raises and risk alarms, they'll be required run further AML checks. Eg. if you were to signup to Monzo and then put 50 grand in there from a foreign account.

What Monzo has to do since they are new, is keep a squeaky clean record with the authorities. This is why Monzo usually blocks or even bans anyone that buys Cryptocurrency eg: https://www.reddit.com/r/monzo/comments/avdw8o/notice_regard...

Source: I work in Crypto


I find the application of KYC differs widely not just between different banks but also between people working within the same banks, sometimes even within the same branch.

Monzo has no KYC. They ask you to record a brief video saying your name and you want to join. That's it.

Other banks vary a lot in what paper they accept, but they always want some papers.


100% Monzo.

https://monzo.com/blog/technology

Also check out all the awesome tech meetups they host at their new office. There's a very strong and small open source 'cloud' tech community in London where everyone knows everyone. Try hard to meet some people and before you know it you'll have a new group of friends.


Kind of disagree.

I was a huge Monzo fan, converted dozens of friends to it and was one of the first ones to get their beta current account (which I immediately started using as my main and only account despite it being in beta).

Nowadays however they seem to have trouble making profit, but instead of focusing on their existing customers they pour money into more marketing even though they can’t actually support all of them and now customer service response times are measured in days. They feel like a bullshit social media company with no real (aka profitable where people are happy to pay for it) product and are just trying to inflate their customer numbers no matter what.

Now I bank with Starling. They aren’t as “nice” as Monzo used to be but are definitely a lot better than the current Monzo both in terms of support and UI (Monzo redesigned their UI and it’s a shit-show now). They also offer business and Euro accounts if needed.


If you think Monzo isn't profitable, what makes you think Starling would be? They have basically the same product except with more expensive (for them) incentives.

Starling has other sources of income like their enterprise services which allow businesses to connect to the Faster Payments network: https://www.starlingbank.com/paymentservices/

In addition they have business accounts which don’t have any of the costly features like interest, free cash deposits, etc so they’re profitable for Starling as they profit off the interest (especially relevant for business accounts as they might hold high balances keeping money aside for taxes and VAT) without giving out many costly features like cash deposits (the only overhead there is support and foreign ATM withdrawals).


Starling business accounts do allow cash deposits through the Post Office network but they're chargeable, like cash deposits on any business account I've seen.

Domestic ATM withdrawals are a cost for Starling as they have no network of their own; they're not even part of Link.

I'm not sure that the paltry interest they can gain from business deposits will be enough to make those accounts profitable (they just announced another £60m of funding this week).

I'm a relatively happy personal customer of Starling, so I'm not against them, but I do think it's a bit optimistic to say Starling's business accounts are profitable based on no evidence.


Can confirm on Monzo being awesome

1) Sign-up quick and painless (You need a UK address though)

2) Card arrived in a few days

3) Activation just requires tapping it to your phone

Going to have to check out these meetups, sounds like fun.


I'd strongly recommend having two: Nationwide as your base and a challenger for international wires/multi currency (I use revolut but there are lots of others).

I use Monzo as my main account but I have got a Nationwide Flex Plus account which gives you really good phone, travel and breakdown insurance for £13/month

Transferwise's borderless account might also be worth a look too if you need to hold or regularly spend money in other currencies.

I've moved the opposite way and have been quite happy with it.


Does TW have a banking license? I seem to recall they don't, so your money wouldn't be insured in the same way, or something like that.

If TransferWise were to fail, you would not be entitled to compensation (up to £85,000) from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) — this is a scheme that banks and building societies authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority sign up to and fund.

TransferWise is only registered with the Prudential Regulation Authority as an e-money service authorised to provide payment services. You can search the register at https://register.fca.org.uk.

In reality, they appear to hold the funds with Barclays so if TransferWise failed, you'd get the funds back. It's only if Barclays themselves became insolvent that you'd be out of pocket since you wouldn't be covered by the FSCS.


True - I don't think so. There are regulatory assurances that they ringfence the money and you should be able to get it all back should they go under, but yeah I would be wary of using them as the only place to keep my money or substantial sums. They are super useful for receiving and sending money to/from different countries though, reasonabble fees.

they absolutely are, I've used it for something like 6 or 7 years, and have had almost zero issues. I even paid for my wedding celebrations with transferwise-moved money :)

Both Monzo and Starling are good. If you're good at budgeting and never dip into negative balances I suggest getting a cashback or points credit card too, and then you can simply put your income into an instant savings account until you need it for the monthly direct debit to pay off your credit card and earn interest _and_ cashback/points.

Cashback is very low in Europe (thankfully) due to the interchange fees being capped by law.

Frankly even in the US I personally wouldn’t bother using credit cards. The management overhead of maintaining one (you have to pay it off on time, have 2 balances to look at, etc) is IMO not worth the money.


In the UK you get additional purchase protection when you pay by credit card, which can be useful on larger purchases - lots of people have been saved by this when companies have folded.

https://www.moneysupermarket.com/credit-cards/guide-to-credi...


What management overhead do you have to do? Set up a direct debit to pay off the balance in full every month (and set it to happen on the same day as your other bills, shortly after your paycheque comes in). Pay everything on the credit card, so that that's the only balance you have to check. Get on with your life, and enjoy either cashback or the occasional free flight.

A credit card that pays 2% back on all purchases is pretty easy to get in the US. Since cashback isn't taxed this is close to 3% in pre-tax dollars. If having a balance on the card and money in the bank is too confusing you could just pay it daily on days that you use it. I'd say the minimal effort is worth the reward in this case.

> pay it daily

Unless I can automate this it’s still an extra step I can’t be bothered to do.


And you get to invest the money in the mean time. If you manage to get a bunch of cards you can just roll over your credit and earn bond or equity returns on the deferred payment. It’s totally worth it, you can make thousands of extra dollars this way.

I highly recommend Monzo.

I've been using Monese since I moved here ~2.5 years ago. It was great as I was able to open the account in the weeks _before_ moving over, and thus already had a ready to go payment card & UK Bank Account when I arrived!

Monese is not a bank. They are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (Equivalent to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC in the USA).

They are an "Authorised Electronic Money Institution" like PayPal. If they go bankrupt, you will lose all your money.

https://register.fca.org.uk/ShPo_FirmDetailsPage?id=0010X000...

I'd strongly recommend you open a real banking account.


"If they go bankrupt, you will lose all your money " is not entirely true, according to Monese's FAQ:

https://support.monese.com/hc/en-gb/articles/115002002229-Is...

"Unlike banks we do not re-invest customer funds and have to keep all customer money separate to our own company finances. We are required by Regulation to Safeguard all funds received from Monese customers. This guarantees that even in the unlikely event that Monese is no longer in business, all of our customers would receive 100% of their balance back"


This assumes that no-one has criminally run off with the money, lost it down the back of the sofa etc. It's also not clear under what law their customer funds are not treated as company assets, in which case if they're bankrupt, the creditors get first dibs.

The point of the FSCS is that it doesn't matter what happens to your bank. The government will pay you back up to £85k of what you had there.

So while it's not a given that if they go bankrupt you "will" lose all your money, just that you "may" lose all your money. :)


> It's also not clear under what law their customer funds are not treated as company assets, in which case if they're bankrupt, the creditors get first dibs.

Insolvency events are covered by section 24 of Part 3 of the Electronic Money Regulations 2011.

"24. (1) Subject to paragraph (2), where there is an insolvency event—

(a) the claims of electronic money holders are to be paid from the asset pool in priority to all other creditors; and

(b) until all the claims of electronic money holders have been paid, no right of set-off or security right may be exercised in respect of the asset pool except to the extent that the right of set-off relates to fees and expenses in relation to operating an account held in accordance with regulation 21(2)(a) or (b) or 22(1)(b).

(2) The claims referred to in paragraph (1)(a) shall not be subject to the priority of expenses of an insolvency proceeding except in respect of the costs of distributing the asset pool."

So, these funds would be kept secure from other creditors and paid out as a priority.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/99/part/3/crosshead...


In any case, unless their mattress is big enough, they still need to put that customer money somewhere, possibly in a bank who can re-invest customer funds.

Hmm, good to know!

According to their site 100% of my funds should be covered since they are required to hold any client funds in a separate account which they cannot use for anything at all.

https://support.monese.com/hc/en-gb/articles/115002002229-Is...

Not sure what the implications are with that vs being a "real bank"


Asuming your from outside the UK

Id also open a second backup account with one of the high street banks Satandares fairly good on rates and Nationwide has a pretty good Cash ISA

Longer term I would go for ii if you want to get into Shares ISA's


Monzo and Starling are the big two challengers, and worth a look.

Starling.

No card alias support at the minute they are trailing behind there

Curious, what’s card alias?

I'm guessing they're referring to having virtual cards you can use for one transaction or merchant, and which you can kill at any time without having to change your primary card number.

Virtual cards.. sorry had forgot the name at the time thought the card alias term would be obvious haha

Well this thread is now the top Google result for 'uk bank "card alias"', so if it wasn't a thing before, it is now!

Depends. At least your money is actually protected by UK laws. Unlike, say, Revolut. No idea about Monzo.

Revolut

Revolut has acquired quite some infamy due to their employee/applicant treatment. Not sure I'd want to keep my money with them

Revolut are not a bank, they're not operating as one and are not regulated as one, so do not get FSCS protection. They hold a banking license with Lithuania, however are not actually issuing accounts under it - and if you read about Lithuania's banking system its all rather Iceland like and I don't have high confidence in it.

I would not store my money with them.


You have exactly described me. I have them all, but the only one I use actively is Revolut and Starling.

N26 is amazing. I use it daily in Germany as an expat

I use it too, and have just experienced how wonderful their customer support is thanks to a stolen card (online unauthorized charges, likely via a web store I used recently). I was alerted to the charges thanks to the app alert, which is really fantastic. They fixed the problem swiftly and sent me a new one without charge. Very pleased with the good service. Plus I'm not aware of the lock function in the app so I'm going to keep the new card locked unless I want to use it, thus avoiding future possibility of fraud.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/N26_(Direktbank)#Kritik

And in particular:

https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/33C3-Schwere-Sicherh...

Banks in general are terrible at IT security here, but N26 seems to be the particularly special completely and utterly incompetent kind of terrible.


I'm in Germany as an American and use DB. They're creaky, but it seems to get the job done.

What do you feel is the advantage of N26 over older banks?


The perks are nice, the app is great: I really like spaces. Sending money to other N26 users is instant. 5 free ATM withdrawals. I could go on

> 5 free ATM withdrawals

Banks in Germany normally charge you to get your own money from a machine?!


Most of them have their own ATMs where withdrawals are free, and you have to pay for withdrawals from other banks' ATMs. Same for international cards: many ATMs now include a withdrawal fee for European cards, which will likely be a nasty surprise for many tourists.

A bunch of the banks have free withdrawals from all ATMs though. N26 is one of these, though as parent said, that's now limited to 5 per month. Several others are still free without limits.


Of all the challenger banks Revolut seems to be the most used one across countries. Not as main account but quickly sending money around.


I've always found this slightly odd, since Monzo is an actual bank (and thus receives FSCS protection) whereas Revolut is not (and does not).

Among people I have talked with, and whose bank cards I have seen, in and around London, Monzo is far more popular than Revolut.

Revolut does have the advantage that it lets users maintain balances in multiple currencies at the same time.


> Among people I talk with, and whose bank cards I have seen, in and around London, Monzo is far more popular than Revolut.

This has also been my observation. Multi-currency support is something I would like to see come to Monzo, although I'm not sure what regulatory constraints this would apply; my understanding is that most conventional multi-currency accounts (e.g. CitiGold) actually involve multiple accounts in several countries with the parent international bank guaranteeing free transfers between the individual accounts at market rates.


Monzo does not exist outside of the UK (and now US?)

Interesting I would say Monzo is by a mile.

Edit, I had a quick look at Google play downloads as a benchmark (Not great I know) but looks like you're right. Monzo is 1m~ Revolut is 5m~


Problem is that Revolut is an electronic money institution while Monzo is a bank. If they go bust with the former you’re out of money, with the latter the government will refund your money up to 85k£.

Are you sure they're not a bank yet? They got their banking license a while ago: https://blog.revolut.com/we-got-a-banking-licence/

Their current license is in Estonia. They're still trying to acquire their UK banking license (their HQ is in London).

Note this line in the link you just posted:

> It's worth pointing out that this scheme is not currently in place


Yeah but it was 1 year ago...

> If they go bust with the former you’re out of money

This isn't strictly true. By law, electronic money institutions are required to safeguard customer funds. In the event of an insolvency, customer fund claims would be paid out in preference to all other creditor claims and there's various other safeguards to ensure people get their money back.

Specifically, Section 24 of Part 3 of the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 covers this:

-- 24.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2), where there is an insolvency event—

(a) the claims of electronic money holders are to be paid from the asset pool in priority to all other creditors; and

(b) until all the claims of electronic money holders have been paid, no right of set-off or security right may be exercised in respect of the asset pool except to the extent that the right of set-off relates to fees and expenses in relation to operating an account held in accordance with regulation 21(2)(a) or (b) or 22(1)(b).

(2) The claims referred to in paragraph (1)(a) shall not be subject to the priority of expenses of an insolvency proceeding except in respect of the costs of distributing the asset pool.

(3) An electronic money institution must maintain organisational arrangements sufficient to minimise the risk of the loss or diminution of relevant funds or relevant assets through fraud, misuse, negligence or poor administration. --

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/99/part/3/crosshead...


Monzo is much bigger in the UK, but less than Revolut outside

Perhaps because Monzo is still relatively weak for sending/receiving money internationally.

Don't Monzo just use Transferwise for that? And Transferwise are better than Revolut for it

I hear of Revolut more in the context of using it as a service for sending money internationally, but I know plenty of people who use Monzo for day to day banking (although most also still have an account with a normal bank).

It doesn't surprise me that more people have used Revolut at some point, but I would still expect that Monzo has more active users.

Edit: This is in the UK, I understand Monzo isn't quite as well known elsewhere.


SEPA transfers in Germany are both free and instant too. Not saying it's not a slow and manually run industry in general, but I have nothing to complain about transactions.

I moved from Brazil to Germany last year and if you consider this instant I have bad news to share. At least with Commerzbank it's slow as molasses.

In Brazil for same bank transfers I'd get an SMS in my phone at the same time as the sender got the confirmation that the transfer went through on their phone. Transfers between banks would typically clear in 2 hours or less. With cash withdrawals I got an SMS in my phone before the ATM was finished counting the notes.

Here in Germany I have to reverse engineer what the entries on my transaction history were from vague hints in the business name, because they take days to show up in my account. Cash withdrawals from an ATM run by my own bank sometimes take 5 days to show up in my transaction history. I regularly do SEPA transfers to Portugal and it arrives at the end of the next business day, at the earliest. SEPA transfers in Germany sometimes clear same day, after several hours, but usually some point in the next day.


Earlier this week I sent money from ING to N26, took them 55 minutes. Then I sent money from Postbank to N26 and it took them 24 hours.

This is not “instant”, but 1 hour is much better than 1 day.


That's crazy my transfers between large traditional banks to internet ones in the uk is < 5 seconds

The neobanks like Monzo or N26 are light years ahead of the domestic banks.

That's not a German only thing. It's called SEPA ICT (Instant Credit Transfer) and institutes on booth sides need to support it. Then it works also from one EU country to another within seconds.

List of banks with SEPA ICT: https://www.europeanpaymentscouncil.eu/sites/default/files/p...


In Germany, SEPA ICT is normally offered as a fancy “premium” service. All customers have just accepted that transfers might take up to three (!) working days and everyone just seems to be fine with that.

My bank charges 0.50€ per ICT transfer.


Sparkassen offer it for free. A non-ICT transfer takes one business day, and I think only because of anti-money-laundry law stuff.

And "free" isn't exactly accurate either. It depends on the account you have, many have a flat rate or some (large) amount of transfers included, others charge per action.

My impression is that banking is massively overpriced in Germany. I understand it's not trivial and "I can build that on a weekend", but I don't see the need to spend ~10 euros on the average checking account that has two dozens actions a month. The pricing is also extremely stable despite all the technological changes, which seems to suggest that as well - if you go by prices, running it all completely digital is as expensive as having somebody manually read a paper slip, punch in the numbers, stamp the paper and file it away.


Germany has huge numbers of banks compared to other countries and so the system is inefficient. In addition the low interest rates mean banks find it hard to make money. My previously free German account now costs some money.

> Germany has huge numbers of banks compared to other countries and so the system is inefficient.

That's not really true. While there is a huge number of banks, most of them are either co-op banks (Raiffeisen- and Volksbanken) or Sparkassen, and while they are all separate legal entities, all the banks from either of those groups run on their respective common infrastructure (Ficudia & GAD IT and Finanz Informatik).


Instant but you gotta pay. Also in Canada.

Funny that in countries like Chile transfers are free and instant.


Instant in Canada too. All banks use INTERAC, and transfers are truly instant.

I've found them to be instant for small amounts, such as what would be valid under tap-to-pay, but it takes a good 20 minutes up to 2 hours for larger amounts to be transferred and sometimes the bank calls you to validate the transaction. Not my definition of "instant" at that point. Also, due to technology reasons, not all Interac E-Transfer banks and credit unions support "autodeposit" which means if not supported, you have to click a link and then sign in to your online banking or banking app. Then pick an account to deposit to and enter the password or phrase the sender set. Not to mention having to add a contact first, which might require signing in to your bank again to validate the addition of the contact.

So ... if this is instant, it leaves a lot to be desired still. It's not as fast as sending someone cash over a messaging app, say. And it doesn't work well with international networks, and there are expensive fees for cancelling a transaction, and banks can waive the fees, but if you're on a free plan chances are you either don't have auto deposit, or you'll have to pay for the Interac E-Transfer fee. They commonly set it at $1-1.50 per send, when internally, transferring money between banks (such as with Canadian EFT) is barely a penny. Of course, an EFT transfer generally takes 2 days, but I can't imagine it has to take that long, you'd just have to do inter-bank settlement more frequently.


Next bank day is normal. "Instant" is only within a bank (sender and receiver customer of the same bank), and not even with every bank, and where it works that way, only relatively recently.

Instant (< 10 seconds) is at least possible, if not normal, between any two banks that support SCT Inst (which most do now).

I was with hsbc for a year in the uk, I'd definitely not call it "generally very good" (ridiculous app and login infrastructure), but I have a sample size of one.

Yeah same. HSBC have struggled to improve their tech but they are improving now. They released a completely new app and got rid of that terrible login flow last year and apparently it's much better.

You can still send a payment from HSBC, for free, instantly, to any other UK bank account. You can also just about do most things in their online banking. This more than can be said for some other parts of Europe.


Both HSBC and the HSBC-owned FirstDirect still have absolutely terrible apps.

Trivial anecdote:

My wife is with HSBC and the iOS app doubles as both a banking interface, and the authorisation code response generator.

When she's in a web browser and needs to generate a code for the HSBC website (eg to add a new payee), she has to log out of the phone app to be able to get to the response code UI.

It blows my mind every time she does it. How on earth did they come up with that UX. It's like they're actively trying to be awful.

Apologies to anyone reading this who worked on this at HSBC, but yikes!


It's worse than you know - (at least with First Direct) if you log in to the app it logs you out of the website.

I suspect the flow you noticed actually helps enforce that - if they gave you a code to let you use on the website, they'd have to log you out of the app anyway.


My primary personal account is with HSBC. A few years ago the login infrastructure - with the little keypad you had to use, etc. - was ridiculous and their app was only a bit better.

However, over the past few years they've really improved. The website is now consistent across all tabs (at least that I use for personal banking) and the app is simplified with most functionality needed for personal use in there.

On the personal side, I've always found the people at branches of HSBC (regardless of where you go) to be courteous and professional relative to the few others banks I have accounts with. I'm not in the UK, so perhaps things are different there, but in North America I've found them to be a slight step above average (insofar as you can be for retail banking --- it's all relative!).


I thought it was just me. HSBC is by far the worst customer technical experience of any financial produce/service I've ever encountered. You really have to try to be that bad.

hsbc's app and website are the worst of any bank I've used

nationwide and natwest have much better apps and websites


Kudos to natwest for adopting things like TouchID for authorising app logins, much earlier than anyone else.

I still ditched them for Monzo though, mostly because natwest's anti-fraud system was reliably triggered by my mostly-online transactions, 3-4 times a year.


Yep, same for me with Nationwide - the antifraud measures made my account completely unusable years ago now. Think every card transaction being blocked and my card and account being locked multiple times a year with no communication to me.

HSBC's current online banking website is much clunkier than the version they had 10 years ago. That said, I can still do everything through it and compared to the US making payments is an absolute breeze.

I was with Barclay's and it was a nightmare.

Actually pulled the plug on my UK ltd. pre-Brexit due to Bankxit...


Interestingly, N26 here in Germany advertises with “no hidden charges” and then goes on to charge you for almost everything. Like using an ATM more than 3 times a month. What?

My free N26 has five free ATM withdrawals per month. However, that is about five more than I use in the median month, so I don't really care about it. I really only need cash when buying second-hand and really even second-hand transactions are increasingly turning to mobile payments.

I'm in Berlin. Cash is king here.

unfortunately, this is true.

Which is not a hidden charge because they tell you in their app and via email, also when registering an account.

N26 wants you to use their cards (or Apple Pay), and to be honest I have not been withdrawing any money from an ATM for 5+ months. I’m from Hannover, Germany.


Visit Berlin some time and you'll see why someone in Germany might want to take cash out more than 5 times a month :)

it was free until around 4 years ago, and they shut down accounts that were making too many withdrawals (to large public backlash) https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/29004/number26-closed-a...

it was around this point that DKB also realised they could do this and stopped allowing atm withdrawals less than 50 eur


German/European banking is not so bad, you can transfer money in one business day to any other EU/SEPA country without charge. You also have debit cards that are widely accepted and allow you to pay directly from your bank account, which is also nice. There are not so many banks that offer APIs (only Commerzbank and N26 I think) but there are other interfaces that allow you to export transactions to third party systems. Could be worse I think.

Actually nearly every German bank has offered API access to accounts to their customers since forever...20 or 30 years or so. It was called HBCI, then it was renamed to FinTS, and it was the most advanced and well-supported API to bank accounts with practically no parallel anywhere in the world. The killer feature was that it was standardized rather well, and every bank supported it, so it was no problem to get programs and apps that could speak to your 5 banks where you have 8 accounts and merge those into a single UI (there were even open-source implementations of the protocol to build bank support into your own applications). You could fetch transactions, but also trigger transactions, with no bank-specific website and - very important - no other middlemen of any kind involved.

Then came all those new app-based banks like N26, and instead of implementing FinTS, they decided to just offer their proprietary app, and that's it. Some later implemented some kind of proprietary API as an alternative to FinTS (maybe FinTS wasn't hipster enough, because it's a bit old-school, XML-based instead of another REST-style HTTP thing with JSON), but those always lacked the core feature of FinTS, which is broad support of the same standard by many banks.

And now we're getting PSD2, which in some ways wants to establish broad (mandated by law) support over many banks again, but not by specifying an API designed to be used by customers, but by businesses only. Hence what we in Germany were able to do as customers for a long time - magically access dozens of accounts at different banks from a single application and without ANY middlemen involved - is now gradually becoming an ability that only corporations will have, because as a private individual it's practically impossible to meet the requirements to get access to PSD2 APIs (even though they basically do the same as FinTS already did for decades), and banks are already toying around with the idea of shutting down their FinTS API gateways somewhere in the future, because that other protocol is legally mandated and FinTS isn't.


another issue for businesses is that you pay lot more per transaction or batch when you use the api services of banks. For example we pay 2.50 euro for a sepa batch via ftp. For the same batch via the api we pay a monthly fee of 500 euros plus 4 euros per batch. The api provides instant payment processing. The ftp is a daily batch processing. We still use the ftp way, because the api one is too expensive

Yes. Banking is very cheap, you can get a free bank account. Transfers are cheap, EC card Payments is cheap for Merchants. What is there to complain about? Try to send money in the US... Send a check and scan it!

Based on my experience with HSBC and SC (from HK) I doubt that they are really outstanding. Revolut? Well, you can buy crypto. But the App is terrible.

Most critique here is basically about Apps not being good in EU/Germany. This may be the case but honestly I have zero interest in doing Banking via an app, except for transaction code generation (actually this was terrible at HSBC and SC). It is much more convenient to do this on my computer. If I want to use an app, it should be like WeChat or Alipay. But a banking App? I personally have no need for this.


A bit late but: instant money transfer are now possible at almost every bank in Germany.

But they charge extra, no?

Last month, I paid a bill through SEPA money transfer from a Volksbank account and it offered a checkbox for "instant transfer" (don't remember the exact wording). I was quite surprised to see a charge of 0,21 € for that in my account statement last week.


Due to PSD2 every bank in Germany/EU has to offer APIs for 3rd parties to access the data, but they all do it in their own way so the open banking standards like the UK has are still better, but it's something.

See HBCI/FinTS, but there's more money to be made by locking users to your API only...

Nope, Deutsche Bank as well: https://developer.db.com/

I’m with you. I don’t buy the lack of UK license argument. Surely they can apply for one and get it approved in time—just like other banks will have to. But it might have not been worth the time given the small user base and limited differentiation factors.

Next step for UK is to reduce regulations compared to EU to make it easier for people to setup shop in UK compared to EU.

Of course now that the UK has left the EU, nobody really has any ideas of what, specifically, they want to deregulate.

Asbestos in food? Attractive new opportunities for US pharma to sell opioids? Houses no longer need windows? EULAs on jeans, making you pay day?

Europe is very comfortable watching it from the sidelines. I'd say it's an interesting experiment, but unfortunately the last two years have shown it's rather boring and everything turns out exactly as anyone with even basic grasp on reality has said it would.


Should all new vehicles need the latest safety equipment that increase their insurance cost and put them outside the budget of the poor? It’s always possible to err on the side of zero percent risk at infinite cost.

Depends on whether those regulations are socially useful or not. It's not a given that should be the next step.

One of the Leavers' arguments was that the UK wouldn't be subject to the EU's regulations. They claimed that the EU rgulations were stifling and created too much of a nanny-state. Johnson's parliment is pretty much duty bound to create an environment of reduced regulation, otherwise they would be reneging on one of their most important platforms.

Things like blatant crime should still be regulated, but creating an easier regulatory environment for businesses in the UK is absolutely a given next step.


Actually Johnson isn't going to be focused on reduced regulation.

He will be focused on regulatory alignment with the US as he desperately needs to sign a US-UK FTA. And yes the US has a lot less regulations than the EU e.g. chlorinated chicken but in other areas it is not less but just different.

UK businesses are going to find the next decade extremely painful as they deal with trying to support US and EU regulations whilst also dealing with customs controls at the border. So all of the pain with none of the benefits.


UK businesses are going to find the next decade extremely painful

This seems over-board.

Firstly, like in every country, most UK businesses don't sell abroad at all. So no, most businesses aren't going to find the next decade any different to the previous.

Secondly, businesses that wanted to sell into both EU and US markets already had two sets of regulations to deal with and would have done no matter what. That is no different to what it was before either.

Finally, businesses have been dealing with customs controls at the border for as long as international business has existed. That's hardly a big deal either.

He will be focused on regulatory alignment with the US as he desperately needs to sign a US-UK FTA.

No he doesn't. Plenty of countries around the world have perfectly fine economies and growth despite having no FTA in place with either the USA nor EU. It's nice to have but not essential for anything.

Now, "regulatory alignment" doesn't have to mean adopting the exact same rules as the USA. That's the EU's approach but it's often not the best approach. A simpler way to gain the same benefits in most cases is just regulatory recognition. In cases where there's no actual fundamental disagreement between systems, but actually unifying them is unwanted for reasons of political independence (i.e. retaining the ability to fundamentally disagree in future) both countries can simply choose to accept products that comply with each other's sets of laws.

The EU freaks out about this approach because the goal of the EU is not to make business easier but to unify Europe into a single country, and abolish the existing ones. Obviously to do that mutual recognition of standards is useless. Only obedience to a centrally controlled set of regulations will do the job. A lot of people in the UK have spent so many years under the thumb of this system that they find it hard to conceive of any other way.


>Firstly, like in every country, most UK businesses don't sell abroad at all.

One third do. As for the rest, they may not trade abroad directly, but their suppliers and customers certainly will.


One of the other Leaver arguments were that there would be no reduction in access to the EU internal market, and that the UK would be able to get even better access to those markets by leaving.

Yes, I know it isn’t even coherent to expect “the EU” to grant the UK better access to the domestic markets of 27 nations than those nations give to each other, but when I raised this the response was either “that proves we should leave” or “that’s just project fear”, often preceded or followed with some comment about BMW, champagne, or the Spanish tourist industry.

Point is, they will renege on their promises on this topic no matter what, so while your argument would normally be sensible, nobody can rely on that this time.


Regulations are not a single homogeneous entity. They could remove 5% or 95% of EU regulations and have kept their promise as long as the changes where a noticeable net positive.

They could claim to have removed the regulations on the shape of fruit (which don't really exist in the way they were described) and secured some kind of fishing deal and call it a success.

These things are complicated and to be argued; speaking in absolutes is not helpful or justified.

The most that can be said is that the Tories (and the harder Brexiteers) have a significant majority, which makes moves towards deregulation more likely - that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, or will happen without considerable push-back from people who are not quite so ideological (or who are, but of the opposite persuasion).


> considerable push-back from people who are not quite so ideological

considerable push-back from people who benefit from the current regulatory structure

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture


Please don't misquote me:

considerable push-back from people who are not quite so ideological (or who are, but of the opposite persuasion)


[flagged]


I remember news coverage debunking the claim that the EU regulated the shape of bananas and cucumbers. What actually happened is that existing trade standards were harmonized. When you go shopping for vegetables at a German supermarket, sometimes the price tag will say "Trade class A" or "Trade class B". Those trade classes are what's harmonized. Bent cucumbers aren't outruled, they're just categorized into a lower trade class in a way that's consistent across the European market. This benefits supermarket operators because, if their supplier offers "trade class A" cucumbers, they have a pretty solid idea how much cucumbers are going to fit in each crate and can plan their logistics more tightly.

So no bean-counting nonsense here, just the benefits of standardization. Nobody would be angry at the EU for standardizing screw sizes, for example.



Main statements for visibility: "The only restriction is on the class denomination, and as such cucumbers are categorised by class with reference to specific standards for each class, including the degree of curve."

"It must be made clear that the demand for these standards came from the industry itself"


We were repeatedly told that wouldn't be the case before the referendum. It's hard to see the point of Brexit otherwise though.

But wait until you see the reduced regulations you will end up with.

US is demanding regulatory alignment in agriculture and food safety as a condition of the FTA for example. And the US has significantly higher rates of food borne illnesses compared to the UK due to these weaker regulations:

https://www.sustainweb.org/news/feb18_US_foodpoisoning/


I suspect we won't see that because there has been too much publicity about it already. Workers rights are a different matter though.


That fact check is only evaluating the very specific claim:

>"One in six people in the US get food poisoning each year and one in 66 people in the UK get food poisoning each year."

Saying that while correct, the two specific studies use different methodology and should not be used together in a sentence.


At least in the US more productive states like New York and California heavily subsidize less productive states like New Mexico.

I think there was real fear that Brexit was required to avoid a similar situation developing in the EU.


I thought Germany was already propping up the less productive countries? They haven’t raised domestic salaries but their productivity remains high so they have a massive trade surplus which then then use to provide cheap loans to consumers in other euro countries who buy more German goods (because, stereotype or not, German stuff is generally damned good).

At least that was my understanding of today.


The mechanism through which wealth is redistributed among EU countries is the EU budget. The wealthier countries (Germany and several others) are net contributors to the EU budget, whereas the more economically challenged nations are net receivers of EU funds. However the EU budget is quite tiny in relation to the EU economy, so the redistribution of wealth among EU members that takes place in this way is modest.

Modest is putting it mildly, it's pretty much irrelevant as a net transfer (would take something like 50+ years to align countries, and by then other factors are magnitudes of order more salient in the output).

EU budget always had a kind of political and strategical value attached to it — e.g. to protect agriculture, which is sound strategically (to be able to feed yourself in isolation if it comes to that), but the deeper symbol is that Europe is very afraid of famine. In the 1940s, it all began with cooperation around coal, energy. The EU, at least originally, is built to ensure individual countries can't F with the really important stuff (between each other, nor shoot themselves in the foot).

Evidently, the mission has been met with some difficulties.


EU budget is a “puddly” 150b/year. Still, with the vast difference in economic development it adds up to a 500+$ per person per year funding differences between several country’s. Which as you say is not going to change things dramatically in a given year, but it’s still meaningful over decades.

Of note, England negotiated a rebate before joining. So, it’s a demonstrated issue for them.


The big difference was we don't share a currency with the rest of the EU and were never likely to do so.

The subsidize with money, but not blood. The poor red states send their young off to die in wars for the blue states. If you add some value to the death of the young, it evens out.

The further the UK diverges from EU rules, the harder it will be to trade across the two zones. That’s going to cause ambitious companies to leave for the massive opportunity in the EU, not to set up shop in the UK.

Likely outcome is that the UK will diverge barely at all in terms of the actual rules, but will rename a lot of things and give it all some sort of "Britishness" spit and polish, and most people who voted leave will be happy with it.

Actually that's now really how it works.

Customs controls need and are going to be imposed whenever there is no official agreement in place (and overseen by the ECJ) for regulatory alignment. And the ECJ oversight is a hard red-line for the UK.

Which means that it isn't a sliding scale. It's black or white. Either you fully align with oversight or you don't. And if you don't then you are hit with the full suite of custom controls.


Companies don't have to care about customs controls if their products pass the controls 95% of the time.

This still leaves the question whether it's worth it to "setup shop" easily in the UK with a market of ~66m people or the "hard" setting up shop in the EU with ~500m people. You can't just set up in the UK and then operate in the EU, that's the whole point of the EU...

I’d rather have regulated banks please.

I wouldn't. Why can't you use banks that agree to follow rules you like and be monitored by people you trust while I can use banks that agree to follow rules I like and be monitored by people I trust?

> Why can't you use banks that agree to follow rules you like and be monitored by people you trust while I can use banks that agree to follow rules I like and be monitored by people I trust?

There are 2 reasons.

The first is because ultimately you rely on the state's monopoly on legitimate violence to enforce those rules. If you want protection from fraud or simply outright theft, you need to rely on the mechanism of the state. And the state might determine that a contract or transaction, though voluntarily entered into by both parties, is still unenforceable because it unconscionable or harms the general welfare.

The other reason is the experience of the Great Depression, where for instance over 5000 banks failed in the US prior to the creation of deposit insurance. People making prudent decisions in good faith can still collectively make a system unstable. And if you lose you savings that's a problem for you, but it a few million people lose their savings that becomes a problem for society.


I don't know, let me think. Ah, right, 2008!

Well you wouldn't be giving free money to an unregulated bank, right

What, specifically, are you referring to?

The devastating financial crisis triggered by short sighted greed from entities which should have been better regulated.

Obviously that is a simplification, but it shows why letting each customer choose for themselves how unregulated their bank should be is recipe for disaster.


You obviously do not know how 2008 came about and what role state intervention played...

Because every now and then these two banks will have to work together and then there will be such minor issues like "will the receiving bank just pocket the money while claiming to have never gotten it?"

A common set of rules across all banks ensures that they'll continue to work with one another.


Because you would then have two incompatible banking systems and the whole thing would be a complete pain for everybody.

It was easier already. From what I hear setting up shop in the UK is more straightforward than doing the same thing in France.

Yep. You could have a company incorporated and bank account set up all ready to trade by tomorrow lunchtime for about $50.

There are some regulations i agree are unnecessary and slow things down far too much, but as soon as the UK starts cutting corners on safety they ought to deserve no business at all.

I would love to know what these unnecessary regulations are.

Which regulations?

Here's hoping!

> They're very successful in Germany where banking is a very slow, difficult, manually run industry (from what I've heard)

You are absolutely right. Banking here in Germany is ridiculously slow. Transferring money between banks often takes 1-2 working days, so if you're sending money on a Friday evening, the transfer usually takes until Monday to be finished (although this depends a bit on the bank). Some banks have instant transfers as an option, but they usually cost extra and don't work for every bank. This is so annoying, that my friends and I always end up paying each other with PayPal since it is by far the easiest and most convenient way.

Another reasons N26 I think makes N26 is so popular is, that they are one of the few banks with actually good apps. At my bank, I'd have to pay (!) to receive notifications when there is a transfer from or to my bank account.


As a customer of N26 and Natwest/Barclays I feel that N26 in my experience has won in every category.

Superior support when I need it on demand, the tech and apps seems solid, intuitive analysis and usage, the ability to have multiple sub-accounts and the ability to create rules to route money between them.

Natwest in particular seem stuck in the past, I cannot count the amount of times I've opted in for digital communication only and always continued to get letters to which I can never get through to support.


> As a customer of N26 and Natwest/Barclays I feel that N26 in my experience has won in every category.

And if NatWest were the only competition in this market, I’m sure N26 would have done fine. Monzo, Starling and Revolut all have far superior products and market offerings however.


Oh for sure, Monzo and Starling I've heard very good things of. Revolut doesn't have a banking license so hesitant to include them here.

That’s not completely accurate. Revolut has a specialized banking license, which means they can offer a limited range but not investment banking services.

>Revolut has a specialized banking license

Do you have more details on that? FCA only lists a e-money license.


Revolut also has a Lithuanian retail banking license. They were planning to become a UK bank as well but I haven’t seen anything about the recently.

I'm looking forward to see N26 in south america. Really hope they get there. I'm pretty sure banking in the south america is far worse than in Germany.

My first German bank account was with Sparkasse, and I had to request a MasterCard separately (the main card was Maestro I think? useless for online payments).

It wasn't even attached to the account, I had to transfer money to it (so, a prepaid card) and couldn't even see the remaining balance (I really tried).

Terrible experience, but they were the only option for me at the time.


Then you choose the wrong account type. EC cards are standard and attached to the account. Obviously, credit cards are separate because you have to pass through Visa, Master Cards or whom ever. Not picking a prepaid credit card is one additional document to fill out. Having a regular income would result in, at least, a credit limit of 2.5k €.

Had that very same experience with Sparkasse, Postbank and my Amazon credit card.


Yes, Germany uses the Maestro cards, not Credit Cards like MasterCard or Visa. Since that's what all the shops + ATMs take, that's the card you want.

No, Germany doesn't use Maestro, it uses Girocard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girocard

There are enough banks in UK. If a company cannot operate globally, not a big loss, plenty of others to choose from. Nothing bad to UK, only for the company itself.

For whats worth the service was really good with N26, sad they had to move out of UK. I hope other companies does not follow their footsteps.

That's a bang on description of N26. Well done.

>in the UK we have generally very good banking infrastructure

Have you banked in both the UK and Germany?

I have, and it was no contest, UK was horrible, expensive, slow and unresponsive.


This is a strange comment to me, though I haven't banked in Germany. Current accounts and transfers are almost universally free in the UK. Transfers are so quick that I transfer money to my account from my phone as I'm standing at the ATM with a queue behind me, knowing it will be there instantly.

Which parts were slow and expensive?


They are using Brexit as a scapegoat.

The referendum was almost 4 years ago and only last year they were talking about expanding in the UK. Some people might have been in denial but considering the political force of a referendum result and the glaring absence of any political alternative for years now, any other Brexit outcome was a fantasy and remaining in the single market never realistic.

As you say the reality is that they are not doing very well in the UK and they are also investing in the US, and so made a commercial decision not to invest further in the UK.

Edit: As far as I know a full banking licence is not compulsory to offer purely electronic current accounts in the UK. Revolut only got a banking licence in 2018, and it is from Lithuania, so they are also at risk of losing it for their operation in the UK. Just saying...


I think you should follow UK politics more closely.

Referendum was 4 years ago. But only until the recent election i.e. Dec 2019 did Johnson have the numbers in Parliament to actually "get Brexit done". And this week for the first time in 4 years, UK government is formerly advising businesses that there will be a hard Brexit:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-confirms-plans...


I dunno what your industry experience is but I imagine it non existent.

Any business in this sector had prepared over a year ago for a worst case scenario. New business entities etc have been long up and running

Any business so inclined can also use this https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/eu-withdrawal/temporary-perm...

If you believe this nonsense you have a problem


I am in the UK, I know all about Brexit and British politics ad nauseam.

The point remains that this isn't the key reason behind their decision. I guess it's easier to blame Brexit than to explain to your customers that you're closing their accounts because of good old business.

They launched in the UK after the Brexit referendum and they don't even need that bank licence to offer electronic current accounts in the UK (Revolut did that for 3 years and their current bank licence is also an EU one so may also become useless in the UK).


Brexit means it is more costly for them to operate in the uk, and they’ve decided the UK market is not worth that extra cost. If that’s not about Brexit I don’t know what is.

This will be true of many regulated industries if regulations diverge, and most industries with a supply chain across Europe too, so expect to see a lot of factory closures in the coming years, along with missed opportunities for new investment (for example Brexit was a significant factor in Tesla avoiding the UK, and financial services like EU clearing will probably gradually move toward the centre of gravity too).

You are in denial about the financial impact Brexit will have.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/nov/13/tesla-cit...

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-clearing-exclu...

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/03/nissan-conf...


Brexit will have a financial impact, but I don't believe it will be what everyone thinks it will be. The UK will likely have forgotten the 'light touch regulation' that in part caused the credit crunch, in the chase for bringing business to London in the mid 2000s.

History will probably repeat itself: the current, or next Government will reduce regulation to encourage businesses to stay or locate in London. Banks will exploit it somehow. Cue next financial crisis.


Brexit affects business; they're not cleanly separable. Companies that were competitive before may not be anymore. The only real test would be to take projected metrics (in terms of business closures, job losses etc) from before the vote and compare to reality.

N26 is not competitive in the UK, Brexit or no Brexit, judging by the numbers. There are more established competitors and N26 is struggling to take off.

That may all be true (and it does seem to be), but it doesn't necessarily mean Brexit is a scapegoat.

With an EU-wide banking license, N26 can operate in any territory it chooses to, for relatively little marginal overhead. Once they need a completely separate banking license for the UK, it changes the model significantly and would need them to be significantly more successful to justify continuing operations here.


I get the feeling that every time Brexit is cited as a factor causing a business to leave the UK, those who support Brexit will be able to point their fingers at all the other contributing factors and label Brexit a scapegoat. Sure, Brexit will usually be a contributing factor rather than the only obvious cause. Businesses that are doing well will manage to survive the Brexit hit. That doesn't make Brexit good or even neutral for business.

Please refrain from the tired personal attack that consists of 'accusing' people of supporting Brexit simply because they refuse to blindly buy that anything going badly is "because of Brexit".

It may also be that the EU banking system has customer tracking, the UK does not. N26 relies on customer tracking, so you can’t just withdrawal a large amount of money and disappear.

It is all brexit related, why can’t you see that? Why else would they suddenly pack up shop?

Unfortunately This is just the first to come.


> It may also be that the EU banking system has customer tracking, the UK does not.

Can you explain a bit more what you mean by this? Tracking exactly in which sense?


As part of the EU money laundering scheme. A bank within the EU can access data on a client who's with another bank without another EU country.

So lets say you have a bank account in the United Kingdom. Now for whatever reason, I am now living in Austria, the bank can ring up my information without additional paperwork.

Now that the UK is in the process of transition, this isn't possible unless a court order is presented yadda yadda. It would be a threat for like N26 to have me as a client but unable to look in to my spending habits. If I had a bank account with loans enabled, I could take a loan and just disappear.


> Now that the UK is in the process of transition, this isn't possible unless a court order is presented

Under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 all existing EU law has been incorporated into our domestic legislation so the EU mony laundering scheme (assuming it is some form of legislation by the EU) still applies even though we are no longer an EU Member State.

However, it can be repealed after the transition period ends (1st January 2021) which might well happen depending on the priorities of the Government at that time.


It's not even the first, in terms of businesses packing up shop. Norton motorcycles is another recent example that springs to mind.

Norton went bankrupt. N26 are choosing not to operate in the UK any longer.

I think there's an element of truth to the scapegoat argument.

By all reports, N26 was not doing so well in the UK. Other established challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling are taking up the mindshare of people wanting to move from an incumbent bank, leaving little room for N26.

It may be possible that with just 200-250k current accounts in the UK, it wasn't deemed worthwhile to go through the effort of gaining a UK banking license to keep their UK expansion efforts going. The competition is just too hot.


> The referendum was almost 4 years ago and only last year they were talking about expanding.

Last year it looked like Brexit might quietly just never happen.


>N26 on the other hand just didn't have a compelling offering. They charged for most/all of their accounts (explicit charges for accounts in the UK are uncommon), they lacked features, and their marketing was unremarkable compared to the competition.

I'm not buying any of this. I'd speculate that N26 was denied a banking licence in order to look after the "British challenger" banks who already operated in the EU with their EU licence. Having been denied the licence makes operating in the UK post Brexit impossible.

I use N26 -- it's free, great app and because it's German all savings up to €100k are guaranteed by German gov.


> I'm not buying any of this. I'd speculate that N26 was denied a banking licence in order to look after the "British challenger" banks who already operated in the EU with their EU licence. Having been denied the licence makes operating in the UK post Brexit impossible.

I don't think that's really addressing the point though: Monzo/Starling/et al. are also all free, have a great app and savings up to £85,000 (€100,000) are guaranteed by the UK government.

The fact that they have an order of magnitude fewer customers in the UK than Monzo, for example, seems like strong evidence of their failure to compete; it seems hard to find a compelling reason to use them, especially when they were so late to the market.


N26 does operate more than one country, and even does allow people from non operating countries to sign up.

>and because it's German all savings up to €100k are guaranteed by German gov.

Same applies to all banks in the EU.


So which banks are no longer in the EU...?

UK banks are safe (for the time being).

>As a result of the implementation period, FSCS expects there will be no changes to the scope of its protection before 31 December 2020 resulting from the UK’s exit from the EU.

https://www.fscs.org.uk/about-us/brexit/

I mean, I guess there's no EU directive forcing the UK to keep doing this, but what's the likelihood that they want to take this away?


UK banks are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme[1] - basically the same thing.

[1] https://www.fscs.org.uk/


The process for getting a banking licence in the UK is actually pretty accessible. I highly doubt they were denied a banking licence, there are other non-UK companies with UK banking licences.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: