I felt compelled to do a blog post on digital bank accounts such as N26 and Revolut, given the rise in questions recently. Bank fees are a hugely contentious issue. Banking in Ireland is expensive and is a cost that is difficult to control (hard to reduce the number of direct debits, withdrawals, lodgements etc).
I always recommend that even the smallest of businesses open a separate bank account. Many small business owners are concerned about the cost of banking when opening a separate account and are turning to free options like N26 and Revolut. Bank of Ireland and AIB offer free business banking for two years for start-ups which is worth looking at.
N26 Smart account is an online option for a fee-free bank account that is regulated in Germany. Irish deposits are protected by the German bank guarantee scheme (up to €100,000) so it is as safe as the traditional Irish high street banks. It is digital only with no branches so it is not possible to lodge cash or cheques. Be aware that it is only fee-free up to certain limitations so check the terms and conditions to ensure it is right for you. It can be a great option to suit some business types who are just starting off and don’t need to have clients lodging directly into their bank accounts. You will have a German IBAN if you go with this option which has caused issues for some business owners.
Revolut is another digital-only bank offering fee-free banking up to certain limits. It is increasing in popularity for this reason plus it has a really handy savings feature called Vaults. The ease of transferring payments with Revolut also has helped it gain popularity.
However, I am going to give it a big caveat right now. Irish Revolut customers are not protected under any bank guarantee scheme since Brexit. They are licenced under the Lithuanian e-money licence and are not covered by either the Irish or Lithuanian deposit guarantee scheme. Revolut is in the process of applying for an Irish e-money licence which is expected within 12 months. This means another change of IBAN’s for Irish customers but will also mean more protection. It is also worth noting when transacting with Revolut, you do not have the same protection as Paypal as a buyer either.
At the moment, I am not recommending Revolut. I think it has excellent functionality (particularly the Vault system and it’s easy for day to day consumer banking). I look forward to using it as a consumer when the Irish licence has been approved.
Check out my other blog posts here for more important information for small business owners!