Low-cost internet bank N26 to offer upgrade option in Ireland

Irish customers will be among the first to access new premium current account

Subscribers to N26 Black will get a current account, plus Mastercard and insurance package, for a  monthly fee

Subscribers to N26 Black will get a current account, plus Mastercard and insurance package, for a monthly fee

 

Irish customers of Berlin-based fintech start-up N26 will be among the first users of the European mobile bank to be eligible to upgrade to its Black product, which offers a current account, plus insurance, for a fixed monthly fee. The Black product will launch to existing customers of N26 in the first few weeks of November, but new Irish customers will have to wait until the bank launches its full service offering later in the year.

“Every Irish customer who already has a N26 bank account will get the option to upgrade to Black, starting early November,” a spokeswoman for the bank said.

N26 launched last year in the Irish market as Number 26, offering a free current account to Irish customers via its smartphone app. However, ahead of a banking licence application, the start-up halted its rollout across Europe earlier this year, and new Irish customers will have to wait another few weeks to access the full service. N26 received its full banking licence in Germany in July, which means that it can now offer a fuller range of products across Europe. The bank offers money transfers, investments and overdrafts (of up to €2,000), and says further credit products, plus deposit accounts and insurance products, are on the way.

The imminent return of N26 in a broader capacity to the Irish market is a welcome development, given the lack of competition. In 2006, 14 providers offered a current account, but subsequent retrenchment by the likes of Halifax and National Irish Bank means that the options have shrunk to just six providers (or five if you consider that EBS is a subsidiary of AIB). A direct consequence of this has been the reintroduction of fees on banking transactions. Fintech providers such as N26 should help to bring more competition to the marketplace.

N26 Black is a one-year subscription, which costs €5.90 a month, or €70.80 a year. While it isn’t free, it does compare well with, for example, Bank of Ireland, where you might spend well over €100 on bank charges unless you can keep a balance of €3,000 in your account. And Black does come with added benefits. For the subscription fee, you will get a Mastercard and a comprehensive insurance package from Allianz Global Assistance Europe. This package is aimed, N26 says, at “young professionals”, but its use may be broader. It includes travel, health, mobile phone or cash theft, as well as extended warranty for electronic devices, which means that, after perusing the small print, you might find that you’re no longer in need of an annual travel policy as well. The insurance also covers all purchases made with the N26 account, including bank transfers and card purchases.

The product will also be available in Germany and Austria in early November, and will be launched in mid-November in France, Italy, and Spain.

N26 has more than 200,000 customers across eight European countries, about 90 per cent of whom are based in Germany and Austria. The start-up counts the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel among its investors, and in June received it a $40 million (€36 million) investment round led by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing’s Horizon Ventures.