Today, we’ll be reviewing and comparing the best digital banks in Europe that will let you open a free account in less than 10 minutes.
We tested a number popular European challenger banks and 6 made it to the top. Read our full review and comparison below.
These are the best digital banks in Europe:
- Revolut: Best digital banking app in Europe with tons of free features
- TransferWise: Top mobile bank in Europe with worldwide borderless accounts
- N26: Deposit guarantee and free business account
- Monese: Great for opening UK bank account
- Bunq: Excellent for savings and interest on account balance
- Curve: Connect all your accounts in one place
What Are Digital Banks?
As the name suggests, digital banks are a new type of banks that are out to challenge the long-standing traditions of big credit institutions around the world. The main thing that makes digital banks different from regular banks is that they only exist in digital form, with no physical branches to visit.
As such, digital challenger banks — also known as mobile banks, online banks, or virtual banks — often serve users in numerous countries. Thanks to their borderless nature, many of the digital neobanks operating in Europe can be accessed from anywhere in the Eurozone. Some even welcome costumers coming from abroad.
What Are the Best Digital Banks in Europe?
European challenger banks differ from one another in terms of fees, security, as well as support for different assets and investment services. Let’s take a deep dive into the list of the best digital challenger banks in Europe and explore them one-by-one to help match you one that best fits your needs.
1. Revolut: Great European Digital Banking With Free Currency Exchange & IBAN
Topping our list of the best digital banks in Europe is UK-based Revolut. This fintech firm offers banking services, such as prepaid debit cards, zero-fee stock trading, fee-free currency exchange, as well as a crypto exchange and P2P payments.
The mobile app comes with numerous benefits, including an overview of spending for each currency, budgeting tools, smart savings, separate savings accounts, while the accompanying Mastercard comes with 3D Secure online payments, and a number a security features.
Main benefits of Revolut:
- Hold up to 29 currencies for free 🆓
- 0% fees on currency exchanges
- Free spending and ATM withdrawals in over 140 currencies (weekdays only)
- Free international transfers 💸
- Free stock trading 📈: Up to 8 traders per month
- Instant top-ups by card from your daily account 💳
- Minimum deposit: None
- Built-in crypto trading options
- Free travel insurance for Premium and Metal clients
- Licence: E-money, banking; regulated by the FCA
- Trustpilot rating: 4.5 🌟
- App rating: 4.8 🌟
- Bank holding your money: Barclays, Lloyds
Revolut offers three different types of accounts for retail costumers — one free and two premium — and support for around 24 different currencies. It doesn’t have a limit to the size of your deposit, and it’s available in over 30 countries.
2. TransferWise: Top Challenger Bank in Europe With Most Currencies & Free Borderless Accounts
The main appeal of TransferWise is their cheap international money transfers and free multi-currency borderless bank account.
Transferwise is available in as many as 144 countries around the world, and its app supports 44 currencies at the time of writing.
With the borderless account, you’ll get your own local bank details in the US, UK, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia — independent of your current location among the supported countries. This makes TransferWise a great choice for non-residents, investors, or small business owners looking to open a bank account in another continent, for example in the US.
On top of that, TransferWise scores rather high on the fee scale, since there are no costs for account opening, card delivery, or maintaining an account.
Main benefits of TransferWise:
- Free multi-currency bank account 🆓
- Personal bank details, including a UK Account Number and SORT Code; EU SWIFT/BIC and IBAN number; US Routing (ABA) and Account Number
- Hold and spend in over 44 currencies
- Available in 144 countries
- No exchange rate markups
- Low and transparent fees (amount depends on currency pair)
- Free business account 💼
- Excellent score on Trustpilot: 4.6 (82,000 reviews) 🌟
- Licensed E-money institution regulated by the FCA
- Time to open an account: 10 minutes
- Bank holding the money: Barclays, Wells Fargo
There are ATM fees, but only if you withdraw over 200 EUR per month. However, as TransferWise is not a typical bank, it lacks many of the features such as insurance, premium accounts, virtual cards, as well as crypto support.
It does have a physical card and it supports bank transfers, although it doesn’t work with cash or cheques. Though not available 24/7, its customer service still scores perfectly, with an immediate connection to a support agent.
3. N26: Best European Digital Bank With Deposit Guarantee
N26 is one of the oldest digital banks in Europe, and over the years, the bank has attracted millions of new clients. It currently serves 22 countries and you can send money in 19 different currencies. However, the account can only hold one currency: the Euro.
Opening a personal or business account is completely free of charge, and it doesn’t charge any monthly or card delivery fee.
N26 offers a wide array of features, including free international transfers, an overview of spending, request/send money, split bill, separate savings account, , and more. It also allows personal loans, phone and travel insurance, and decent customer service. Its one issue is that it lacks phone support, but it does have chat support, albeit not a very quick one.
Main benefits of N26:
- Has EU banking licence: Deposit guarantee up to €100,000 (both personal and business)
- Free business account with cashback on all purchases 🆓
- 5 free ATM withdrawals per month in €
- Free payments in any foreign currency
- Insurance options included in premium versions (travel & medical)
- Mastercard 3D Secured
- No minimum deposit
- Separate sub-accounts for managing your expenses and saving
- Regulated by BaFin
- Deposit Guarantee: €100,000 🔒
- Time to open an account: Around 8 minutes
- Bank holding the money: N26 Bank
While N26 doesn’t offer the same free benefits as Revolut, there is no reason not to combine the two, since opening and maintaining your account is completely free of charge.
Monese: Free UK Account, Also For Non Residents 💷
Monese gives you a free, 100% mobile-based GBP or EUR current account, with zero credit checks and no proof of address in the UK required.
Monese is available to anyone living within the European Economic Area (EEA), accepting almost every customer that applies for an account.
This makes Monese an ideal choice for non-residents, expats, digital nomads, newcomers to the country, and others who might not currently live in the UK, or costumers with no credit history to show for.
Opening a standard account with Monese is 100% free. On top of that, accounts have no minimum balance requirements and maintaining it incurs no hidden fees.
Their app offers a number of attractive and useful features. You’ll be able to keep track of your spending activity in real-time, generate account statements on the spot, set future budgets and set small savings aside from your daily spendings, and much more.
Main benefits of Monese:
- Free UK-based current account for anyone living in the EEA 💷
- Personal UK account number and sorting code
- Hold and receive £ or € for free
- Send money abroad at the inter-bank rate through TransferWise with low fees
- 6 free ATM withdrawals every month
- Free top-ups from most pay point locations and with debit card
- Instantly lock card through the app in case it gets lost 🔒
- Unlimited transactions
- Fast bank transfers
- Direct debits
- Transparent about fees
- Integration with PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay
While Monese provides a number of interesting features for its users, there are similar options out there that offer better smartphone-based banking services with more benefits included.
bunq: Top European Mobile Bank With Interest
Bunq is a fully-fledged, European virtual bank from the Netherlands that enjoys quite a reputation among individuals and businesses.
The company specializes in separating money flows from each other, which improves its clients’ income organization.
It offers low to no-fee international wire transfers, MasterCard debit cards, and it is available worldwide (however only EU citizens can receive a card).
Having no physical branches, their services are handled 100% through the smartphone based app.
Its major strength lies in the fact that it offers numerous bank cards, whereas many of its competitors offer only a single one.
Some important details include:
- Premium account holders earn 0.27% monthly interest on their account balance
- bunq Travel Card available for low one-time price
- Zero fees for Euro withdrawals
- Transparent fees
- Up to 10 free withdrawals per month
- Banking licence and deposit guarantee up to €100,000
- Available in 30 European countries
- Time to open an account: A few minutes
Curve: Consolidate Your Banking into One Place
Curve is a unique banking services provider that was designed to offer its users with a unified platform for keeping track of their different accounts, expenses, and much more.
The main selling point of Curve: “One place to spend, send, see and save money.” This makes it a perfect choice for those who have multiple accounts and are struggling to keep them in order.
Curve offers a debit MasterCard that you can use to facilitate all current account transactions, but its primary focus is on linking different accounts
Main benefits of Curve:
- Great for collect all your cards in one single place
- Get up to 1% cashback on Spotify, Uber, Netflix and other popular services
- Instant notifications on how much you’ve spent
- Authorised in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- Trustpilot rating: 4.3
- Time to open an account: A few minutes
How Do European Challenger Banks Work?
Now that we’ve reached the end of our list of the best digital banks in Europe, it’s time we’ve looked into how these ‘challengers’ actually work.
If you’ve had any experience with challenger banks, you may have noticed that they’re rather similar to traditional banks and other financial institutions in some ways.
This is no coincidence, as many of them were, in fact, modelled after traditional institutions.
That way, they can be user-friendly and their customers can still be familiar with how they work, despite the fact that they represent an entirely new trend.
Of course, there are exceptions — some banks in the digital banking space that differ from familiar financial institutions entirely, and likely, that is exactly what their intention was when they were designed.
Other advantages that challenger banks have over traditional financial institutions include their adaptability and a strong focus on technology.
The two are closely connected, as technology is often their key focus, and the reason for their existence, in the first place.
With the world taking a step back from computers and focusing more on smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets, challenger banks were quick to emerge with a fintech solution.
Meanwhile, traditional banks believed the technological shift to be a passing trend, or at the very least, they lacked the imagination to come up with a solution that would allow them to dominate the online markets.
Consequentially, virtual banks emerged to satisfy the growing demand, which allowed them not only to survive in a highly competitive market but also to become a fierce competition.
Of course, they’re still significantly smaller than traditional banks, but they also have an advantage of not featuring sluggish legacy systems that established banks still suffer from.
In the end, you could say that their “secret” lies in the fact that they’re modern, efficient, technologically-focused, and adaptable to modern society’s needs.
What Do the Best European Mobile Banks Offer?
Apart from the greater efficiency and availability, challenger banks also conquer the market due to the fact that they can offer the same services as regular banks. Not only that, but they often do it at a lower price.
Since they do not require physical offices, they can also afford to have fewer staff members. All of this results in significantly lower fees, which ultimately creates a better deal for their clients.
Meanwhile, their services can keep the same quality and diversity. This may differ from one digital bank to another, depending on its focus. However, they all have offers that include:
- Savings and Checking Accounts
- Credit cards
- Merchant accounts
- Investment accounts
- Retirement savings
- Consumer lending
- Mobile banking
- Cryptocurrency trading
- Customized financial planning advice
- Greater control over the card, with features such as geo-locking and freezing
- and more.
Apart from that, their services also offer practical benefits, such as:
- Convenience in deposits
- Simple loan applications
- Automation of multiple financial services (such as bill payments)
- Free cash transfers on a local and international level
- The ability to split bills
- Real-time notifications
- Cheap ATM withdrawals
- Inexpensive spending
- Global availability
- Improved customer service
- No minimum deposits
- Easy access to banking services
- Greater transparency regarding fees and charges
- Quick and easy account opening process
- Fast processing
- and more.
Can I Open a European Bank Account Online?
As mentioned above, the ability to easily and quickly open a bank account online comes as one of the greatest advantages of mobile banking.
Despite the fact that our focus remains on European challenger banks, many of them remain capable of providing services to non-European residents, as well.
However, Revolut is our top pick for opening a European bank account for non-residents, given that you live in Australia, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, or the United States.
Anyone living outside these countries might want to explore TransferWise to get a free, borderless account with a European account number and IBAN.
A free international bank account should be available to anyone, as long as they live in a country that a specific bank covers.
This might mean that not every bank will be available to every non-European, but if you do, in fact, live in Europe, then you should have no problem accessing their financial services through online banking.
Your online bank account will come with everything you may require to spend, save, and keep track of your money. You can do it all from a single app, which is usually very user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Better yet, you’re also likely to receive a free debit card, set daily spending limits, lock or unlock your card, reset your PIN from anywhere and at any time, and more.
Opening an account usually only lasts a couple of minutes, and there are no dozens of forms that you need to sign, wait in line, and suffer similar inconveniences that you likely experienced in traditional banks.
What to Look For In a Top European Mobile Bank
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the largest and most popular digital banks, we should try to answer some important questions, including what digital banks are, how they work, and other similar matters.
With the banking sector already being highly competitive, challenger banks need to try not only to be better than traditional institutions but also other online banks. However, not all of them provide an identical offer, which is not surprising — after all, they differ in quality, focus, and services that they feature.
As a result, anyone who might be looking to open an account with one of them needs to do proper research before determining whether or not the chosen bank is the right pick for them.
This means reviewing a number of different aspects, such as fees, security, support, premium benefits, their business account, currency exchange fees (for travelers), whether or not they offer cryptocurrency support, and more.
In order to show you the importance of thorough research, as well as how different aspects can impact your satisfaction with your online bank of choice, let’s take a deeper look into these aspects and see why they’re so important.
Without a doubt, fees are among the most important aspects that you need to look into when choosing a bank. This goes for the challenger and traditional banks alike. Traditional banks tend to charge fees for everything — account opening, payments, withdrawals, switching between currencies, and more.
Challenger banks, on the other hand, handle things quite differently, which is one of the reasons why people prefer them these days. While they’re not entirely fee-less, they still charge significantly lower fees (around 2%, as opposed to 5% or more in many traditional banks), and in some situations, fees are eliminated entirely.
For example, many of the digital banks do not have fees for withdrawing money, or at the very least — they have a limit on free withdrawals, which usually goes between a couple of hundred dollars to $1000. Their international money transfers do come with lower fees, but money transfers to others who use the same bank are often completely free.
Naturally, there are no rules in this area, and it can all differ quite a bit from one bank to another. But, the fact still remains that traditional banks do not offer such benefits, which makes online banks quite preferable, in comparison.
Of course, while you may be interested in lower fees, security remains one thing that will always be absolutely crucial for any client of any bank. After all, the bank needs to be able to look after your money for you. If it cannot do that, its life span will not remain very long.
Now, with these banks all being on the internet — in the domain of hackers, scammers, cyber-thieves, and other criminals — banks need to do a lot in order to be able to guarantee the safety of your funds. To do it, banks tend to invest large amounts of money into security, firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software, and numerous other detection and prevention measures.
However, no code is perfect, and there is always either a flaw, an oversight, or a new way to bypass security. Banks get targeted, and money gets stolen. What then?
Well, banks have you covered. In fact, they pay for insurance of users’ funds through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which may differ from one bank to another. Some banks guarantee the protection of 100% of their customers’ funds, such as Monese. Other banks guarantee the safety up to €100,000, with some covering more, and some less than that.
There is also another approach, where banks employ third parties to look after their customers’ funds. These are professional, authorized institutions that specialize in protecting funds as per regulatory requirements. One example of a bank that uses such a solution is Revolut, which is among the best-known services of this kind.
Next, we have customer support. This is one aspect of any online service that is extremely important, and yet, many services fail to recognize that. Of course, this is hardly ever the case with challenger banks. With their entire purpose being to deliver convenience and good quality service, their customer service should, by all intents and purposes, be among the best ones you can find.
Pretty much all digital banks have customer service, and they’re usually quite easy to access, likely via phone, social media, or other methods. Support teams also need to be helpful and efficient, which they usually are. With no physical address to which users can go and request help for their problem, the customer service is pretty much all that users have, and the banks are well aware of that. You can contact them for any kind of help you need, including troubles with your card or account, questions or issues regarding the app, or help with upgrading your account, and more.
This should also be your first stop if you suspect that someone managed to break into your account and steal or spend your money. Because of all of these reasons, customer support needs to be capable and quick to react.
Banks provide a number of other benefits, known as premium benefits. Simply put, these include some of the advantages that only their clients get to enjoy, such as specific insurance (as mentioned above), multiple types of current accounts, free abroad transactions, ability to exchange cryptocurrencies, support for multiple virtual cards, spending insight, the ability to take personal loans, access to airport lounges, and alike.
Of course, such benefits differ from one bank to another, and that only serves as yet another reason to carefully examine each of the online banks’ offers before choosing one.
If you require a business account, challenger banks can satisfy such requirements as well. As you likely know, business accounts do not only revolve around storing money and making transfers. They need to be helpful when it comes to easing the administrative burden of your typical day-to-day business. Not to mention helping you manage the finances of your growing business.
Sometimes, you may even require a flexible lending service or a service that would help you invest in different growth plans. Now, depending on the bank, such accounts may be free, or they might include a small monthly fee. They usually have free card payments, bank transfers, and withdrawals. Deposits can be free or have a fixed fee, usually only around a few dollars.
As for other benefits of such accounts, they often offer multi-currency cards, very fast payments, multiple simultaneous payments, categorized transactions, partner discounts, popular software integrations, priority customer support, and more. Some banks also have some unique features for business accounts, such as Starling Bank’s Goals feature, which allows you to create financial savings goals and set a certain amount of money aside in order to achieve that goal.
Currency Exchange Fees When Traveling
Everybody likes traveling, whether for business or pleasure. However, travelling comfortably also includes being able to handle your money without much stress, difficulty, or complications. Virtual banks shine in this area, as they allow you not only to manage your funds from anywhere in the world — as long as you have an internet connection — but they also let you switch between different currencies.
Now, such services are often free of any fees, unless you’re working with large amounts of money. Let’s take Revolut as an example.
With this bank, you can change currencies for free up to £5,000 per rolling month. after that, you will trigger a 0.5% fair usage fee. Of course, you do not have to memorize or keep a note of how much money you’ve exchanged during the current month, as you’re allowed to check your remaining fee-free allowance at any time. Simply go to your Profile section and look at this data up under your current price plan.
However, if you’re using Revolut Premium or Revolut Metal — you get to enjoy unlimited fee-less currency exchange. Other banks offer similar deals, but the fee-free allowances can differ, as well as the fees themselves after you break through the allowed limit.
Finally, we have cryptocurrency support, which is something of a grey area at the moment. You see, cryptocurrencies are still a very young and very new type of money. Their usage, or even support, varies greatly from country to country, and even then — there are banks that can’t wait to start dealing with them, as well as those who are completely ignoring them.
As cryptos fight for adoption, retail banking itself is undergoing a type of revolution. Many of them understand that cryptocurrencies are quite interesting to younger generations — those who will be their primary customers within a few short years. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies have already proven that they’re here to stay, and they also appeal to the banks’ own digital-first approach.
So, as millennials and Gen-Z become more and more interested in crypto, so do the up-and-coming fintech firms that are working on developing new platforms.
Of course, cryptocurrencies do not require banks to make transactions, storing money, and alike. However, it can still be relatively challenging to transfer money from cryptocurrency exchanges to your pocket easily. Businesses that accept cryptos are growing in number, but slowly. Meanwhile, the crypto sector provides many opportunities to earn money and invest in the future, which attracts a lot of people now, many of which cannot easily withdraw their money once they make it through trading.
By providing support for cryptocurrencies and connecting with exchanges, banks can allow people to invest and trade, and then easily withdraw funds once they make a profit. With cryptos being a global phenomenon that even caused entire governments and central banks of numerous nations to pay attention, establishing a strong connection between the new and old financial worlds is imperative, and many challenger banks understand this very well.
How Do Top European Mobile Banks Differ from Traditional Banks?
As you may suspect, online banking comes with numerous advantages over traditional banking. One obvious advantage is that it is available at all times, whereas traditional banks have their working hours, and are usually unavailable over the weekends.
With no physical offices, online banks also have fewer costs to think of, which allows them to reduce their fees and often eliminate them completely for a lot of aspects. Further, online customer services have become rather good over the course of the last decade, and email support and live chats are slowly eliminating phone calls, and visits to the banks’ offices, which are often wasting a lot of time and require additional effort, even when it comes to the simplest of problems.
Online banks also allow customers to immediately open new accounts, apply for a mortgage, view balances, transfer money, and more. Mobile banking has become particularly popular, and with the world being quick at adopting technology, traditional banking is slowly becoming a thing of the past.
How Is My Deposit Secured With European Mobile Banks?
As we briefly mentioned earlier, deposits are secured in numerous challenger banks by advanced security systems, but also by insurance guarantees. Many of the banks offer quite large insurances per customer, which ensures that you will be compensated in case anything goes wrong and your money ends up stolen.
While this is greatly appreciated by individuals, it is even more popular among businesses, which generally work with much larger amounts of money. In the end, a bank is a bank, and as long as it is regulated and has proper licenses, its customers will be looking for greater convenience, which is what challenger banks deliver better than any traditional bank out there.
How Safe Are the Best European Challenger Banks?
While it is comforting to know that you will receive compensation if something happens to your money, it is in everyone’s best interest not to end up in a situation where your money ends up missing in the first place. So, if you are wondering whether your money is safe with challenger banks, the answer is — absolutely.
Despite the fact that these are online banks, they still have to abide by the same rules and regulations as regular banks. That means that the security has to be up to a certain standard, and from the customer’s point of view, the only difference is greater flexibility, availability, and extra benefits.
You don’t have to go to their physical office, and you get to enjoy all the same services and features, plus some extra ones. Challenger banks are not extremely innovative, but they do provide convenience, which is one of the most sought-after qualities in the modern world.
Are Digital Banks the Future?
With the world feeling the allure of a cashless society, where all payments are made digitally, the banking industry will undoubtedly change in the future.
In fact, one study concluded that digital neobanks in Europe will serve around 85 million clients in 2023 – around 10% of the total population. At the same time, thousands of local banks branches are closing down, forcing us to access all services online.
While this allure of a cashless world gave a push to the cryptocurrency sector, although this does not mean that digital challenger banks necessarily deal with digital currencies.
Instead, they act similarly to traditional banks, mostly working with fiat (traditional) currencies only, while being regulated and licensed by the appropriate authorities.