Last year, I wrote the most comprehensive N26 bank review on the Internet, which has since been read by tens of thousands of travelers, digital nomads and online banking enthusiasts from every corner of the world.
Yet as all-encompassing as it is, I’ve had plenty of South African readers asking me questions specific to how to use N26.
So here, I want to clear up a few misunderstandings for any South African users joining N26, and also demonstrate why N26 is probably a better banking option for you than other online banks like Revolut, Monzo, Curve and Simple.
What Is N26?
N26 is an online-only bank designed for digital nomads, frequent travelers and anyone else who appreciates simplicity, great design and the lowest possible fees from their bank.
For example, my N26 account saves me thousands of Euros every year from the free worldwide ATM withdrawals, the best exchange rates on the planet (due to their partnership with TransferWise) and a remarkable travel insurance plan—all of which is included with my card.
It will also show you the exact time it makes sense for you to upgrade to N26 Black, and how to make the most of all the perks—perks like flight delay insurance, mobile phone insurance and travel cancellation insurance—that come with it.
And did I mention nearly all of these perks, plus plenty more, come absolutely free?
Benefits Of N26
- Free ATM withdrawals worldwide. No matter where you are in the world, N26 will never charge you any fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM (unlike most banks, which charge $2-10 per foreign ATM withdrawal). If you’re on N26’s free plan, you’ll pay a 1.7% currency conversion fee on top of the mid-market rate, which is better than what nearly any other consumer bank provides.
- Real-time transaction notifications. Whenever money goes in or out of your account, whether it’s a transfer you’ve initiated or a pre-authorized payment, you’ll get a notification.
- Transaction categories. Every transaction is assigned a category like “Bars & Restaurants” or “Travel & Holidays” so you can easily keep track of your spending.
- PIN resets. Resetting your PIN at any time is as simple as logging into the app and changing it. No calling N26, no trips to the ATM, etc etc. 30 seconds and it’s done.
- Locking your card. Just like resetting your PIN, locking your card (to make it unusable for a period of time) is as simple as logging in and pressing the button. Unlocking it is just as easy.
- Payments abroad, online payments and cash withdrawals. For your security, you can toggle these on and off at any time.
- Spending and withdrawal limits. Another security feature that you can choose and change in the app at any time.
Is N26 available in South Africa?
As you can see here, you can open an N26 account from any of the following countries: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and the United States.
For example, I'm Canadian, but I signed up for N26 as soon as I moved to Berlin.
If you live in one of the countries above AND are a citizen of one of the 164 countries below, you can sign up for N26:
Can I withdraw money for free with my N26 card when I’m in South Africa?
Yes! As I demonstrate in my original N26 bank review, you get free ATM withdrawals worldwide with your N26 Black card, which includes ATMs in South Africa. If you don’t have N26 Black and are on N26’s free plan, you pay a 1.7% fee on the total withdrawal amount.
To show you what I mean, here’s a screenshot showing the recent withdrawal of 7,220 Thai baht that I made from an ATM in Bangkok, alongside the real exchange rate from xe.com. Remember: any time you withdraw cash or make a foreign currency transaction with N26, you pay the mid-market rate and not a penny more.
What insurance comes with N26 You and N26 Metal?
N26 You and N26 Metal comes with an impressive travel and medical insurance plan to keep you safe and secure on the road. It's not quite as comprehensive as the SafetyWing insurance plan, which we highly recommend combining with your N26 membership, but it does cover a lot:
- Medical expenses up to an unlimited amount if you have a medical emergency while abroad (No deductible).
- Emergency dental expenses up to a maximum of €250 (No deductible).
- Expenses you incur due to a flight delay of 4 hours or longer, up to a maximum of €400 (No deductible).
- Expenses you incur if your luggage arrives more than 6 hours late, up to a maximum of €400 (No deductible).
- Reimbursement for a stolen mobile phone that was purchased with your N26 Black account, up to a maximum of €300 (€50 deductible).
- Reimbursement for stolen cash if you get mugged up to 4 hours after withdrawing cash from an ATM with your N26 Black card, up to a maximum of €500 (No deductible).
- Extended warranty of up to one additional year on items purchased directly with your N26 Black card and all payment methods associated with your card, such as a linked PayPal account, up to a maximum of €500 (€50 deductible).
- Travel cancellation insurance on every trip before the trip commences, up to a maximum of €5,000 per trip (10-20% deductible).
How much does N26 cost?
N26’s fee structure is eight pages long and pretty dense, so here’s the important stuff:
- All N26 bank accounts are free.
- N26 Black costs €9.90/month, while N26 Metal costs €16.90/month.
- Withdrawing foreign currency (any currency but Euros) anywhere in the world: Free for N26 Black and N26 Metal members, or 1.7% for N26 users on the free plan.
N26 Metal includes all of the benefits of N26 Black listed above, plus dedicated (priority) customer support and, of course, the metal card itself. I recently wrote a 2,000-word N26 Metal review that goes deep into N26's super-premium card.
N26 Metal also comes with a growing number of exclusive partner offers and benefits, which rival the benefits of much more expensive premium credit cards like the American Express Platinum. These benefits include:
- WeWork: 1 free day per month of co-working from any WeWork location around the world.
- Hotels.com: 10% off hotel bookings.
- IHG: 20%-30% off hotel bookings when you book at least 21 days in advance.
- Tannico: 10% off your first three orders of wine, delivered to your home.
- Outfittery: Save €30 on a stylish and curated Outfittery Box.
- Caya: 25% off your annual subscription to Caya, the physical-to-digital mail forwarder.
- Zipjet: 10% off your order of €30+ from Zipjet, the laundry service that comes to you.
- Home24: 10% off your order of €199 from Home24, one of the largest online furniture shops in Europe.
- Helpling: 10% off all home cleaning services by Helpling.
- Drivy: €25 off your first shared economy car rental with Drivy.
- Lanieri: 25% off custom-tailored suits, shirts, jackets and pants made by Lanieri.
- Babbel: An additional 3 months of free language learning when you sign up for a 3-month language learning pack with Babbel.
- Urban Sports Club: €10 off your membership to Urban Sports Club, the gym that knows no boundaries.
N26 Metal currently costs €16.90/month.
How To Sign Up For N26
With its impressive insurance policy, fee-free foreign cash withdrawals, and the app’s ease of use, I really couldn’t be happier as a member of N26 You.
It’s made banking a lot easier and cheaper for me, and has solved a lot of the messy problems I had before (ie. expensive and vague travel/medical insurance policies, plus spending nearly $100/month on hidden ATM and currency exchange fees).
And you don't even need an N26 promo code to get started (Spoiler: N26 promo codes have gone extinct).
To sign up, you just need to provide standard personal information (name, date of birth, etc.) and a valid ID or passport.
Once you’ve signed up, verified your ID in the app and paired your smartphone (it takes 8 minutes total), they’ll send you your free MasterCard in the mail. Mine took just 2 days to arrive, and it comes in a pretty sleek package.
Comment below if you have questions about N26 and I’ll do what I can to answer them, or you can also reach N26’s support team via their app or website.