The challenger banking scene has become super-competitive in recent years. With new-age providers such as Revolut, Monese, Starling and N26 now boasting a multi-million customer base, established banks are finally starting to take notice.
One of the latest entrants to this ever-growing market is bunq.
bunq offers a Euro-based account available to people within the UK that allows you to send and receive money at the click of a button. In fact, as the platform is 100% mobile-based, there’s no need to ever visit a physical bank branch again.
With that said, bunq won’t be able to facilitate all of your banking needs, so it’s best that you read our in-depth review prior to opening an account. Within it, we cover the ins and outs of how bunq works, what the app allows you to do, fees, regulation, and more.
Please Note: bunq is Available for People Within the UK
What is bunq?
In its most basic form, bunq is a challenger banking app that seeks to offer an alternative to mainstream financial institutions. In a similar nature to other mobile-based banking apps, bunq allows you to perform a range of everyday transactions. This includes the ability to transfer money in and out of your account, all of which can be done through your mobile phone.
bunq also comes with a fully-fledged debit card, including that of a social responsibility program that plants a new tree every time you spend €100. With the card issued by MasterCard, you’ll be able to use bunq to purchase goods and services online and in-person. Moreover, you can also withdraw cash from an ATM.
Although the above services do not differ from a traditional high street bank account, bunq offers a number of features that presents an interesting alternative. Firstly, all of your transactions are posted to your mobile phone in real-time, which allows you to keep track of your spending habits with ease.
bunq can also be used as a travel debit card, not least because the provider doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees. Furthermore, the platform has partnered with TransferWise, meaning that you can transfer funds internationally both cheaply and quickly.
bunq is limited to just Euro-denominated bank accounts. As such, those of you in the UK will need to consider just how beneficial the app is for non-travel related purchases.
On the flip side, you can still use the bunq debit card in the UK much in the same way as you normally would, as you’ll get the inter-banking GBP/EUR exchange rate, as well as up to 10 free ATM withdrawals per month on the premium account.
So now that you know what bunq is, in the next section we are going to explore the app’s features and benefits in more detail.
bunq Features and Benefits
If you’re currently using a challenger banking app like Revolut or Monzo, the features offered by bunq are largely the same. Nevertheless, we’ve unraveled what a bunq account offers in more detail below.
Note: The following features are available on all bunq account types unless stated otherwise.
The most basic feature offered by bunq is the ability to send and receive money. As noted above, bunq only works with Euros. As such, if you’re based in the UK, you won’t get a domestic account number and sort code. Instead, the account operates like a European checking account.
Nevertheless, when it comes to funding your account, bunq offers a number of options. This includes an external bank transfer, debit/credit card, or a cash deposit via a supported third-party agent.
Once you have money in your bunq account, you can transfer funds out both domestically and internationally. If you want somebody to transfer funds into your bunq account, you’ll need to provide your unique IBAN number.
bunq offers two different debit card products with its personal accounts – both of which are issued by MasterCard. Before we explain how the two differ, let’s explore what both debit cards allow you to do.
- Spend Online and In-Person: Much like any other MasterCard available in the market, you can purchase goods and services online. You can also spend the card in-store by entering your unique 4-digit PIN.
- ATM Withdrawals: You can withdraw cash with your bunq debit card at any ATM that accepts MasterCard. You’ll be given 10 free withdrawals per month, after which you’ll pay €0.99 per transaction.
- Real-Time Notifications: Every time you use your bunq debit card – whether that’s online, in-person, or at an ATM, you will receive a notification in real-time. This allows you to monitor your spending, and be made aware of unauthorized usage at the point of sale.
- Real Exchange Rate: Using a traditional debit card abroad can be a costly endeavor. You’ll likely pay a 3-5% in foreign exchange fees, as well as a flat-fee every time you use the card. On the contrary, bunq gives you the actual mid-market rate that it receives itself.
- Enable/Disable Card: As is the case with most challenger banking apps, bunq allows you to enable and disable your debit card with ease. This is useful if you misplace the card, but you want to see if you can locate it before reporting it as lost or stolen. Simply open the app and enable/disable the card as and when you see fit.
- Categorize Transactions: On top of real-time notifications, the bunq debit card will automatically categorize transactions. For example, a Netflix payment would fall within the remit ‘entertainment’, and coffee as ‘food and drink’. This is a really handy way to see where your money typically goes throughout the month, and thus, it can promote sensible spending.
Metal Card vs Travel Card
The Metal Card is now included in the SuperGreen subscription which you’ll pay 19,99 euros/month for the Business SuperGreen and 16,99 euros/month for the Premium SuperGreen subscription
As the name suggests, the Metal Card allows you to combine everyday spending with social responsibility. The overarching concept is that by spending with the Metal Card, bunq will donate money to green causes. More specifically, every time you spend €100 on the card, bunq claims to plant a tree.
The banking app is able to do this via its partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects. The organization is behind the plantation of 265 million trees across 82 different sites. According to bunq itself, spending €1,000 with the app would allow you to become fully carbon-neutral in just 5 years. This is impressive.
It is also important to note that the Metal Card itself is made of socially responsible materials, which outlasts a traditional plastic card by 50%.
For all intents and purposes, the Travel Card operates much in the same way as the Metal Card. For example, you’ll still benefit from fee-free foreign transactions, as well as up to 10 free ATM withdrawals per month. Moreover, you’ll receive instant notifications every time you use the card.
However, your purchases won’t go towards the green cause of planting more trees, nor is the card made of socially responsible materials. In terms of pricing, the Travel Card costs a one off fee of €9.99
In a similar nature to fellow banking app Monzo, the team at bunq has formed a partnership with TransferWise. This is highly beneficial if you are planning to send money overseas, as the process is significantly faster and cheaper than using conventional channels.
For example, while the likes of SWIFT can take 3-5 working days to settle an international transfer, TransferWise is typically processed on a same-day basis. It is able to do this by using the many bank accounts it has throughout the world, meaning that the beneficiary gets the funds from a local bank account.
This also means that your TransferWise-backed bunq transfer will benefit from industry-leading fees. Other than paying a very small transaction fee, the exchange will be made at inter-banking rates.
bunq also offers a really innovative group expenses feature that allows you and your friends to collectively track spending. For example, let’s say that you go on holiday with a group of friends, and you’ve agreed to split everything equally.
If you all had an account with bunq, you could review the transactions at the end of the holiday. Moreover, as transactions are automatically categorized, it would be easy to see who owes what. This could include flights, taxis, drinks, hotel bills, and more.
In order to split everything evenly, you simply need to tap a button within your bunq account, and the app will take care of the rest.
An additional feature offered by bunq that mirrors other challenger banking apps in the market is that of its savings tools. Firstly, both debit cards allow you to round up your purchases to the nearest €1, €2, or €5. The balance will then be added to your savings pot.
For example, let’s say that you purchase a salad box for lunch, which costs you €2.50. If you decide to round all purchases up to the nearest €1, then you will have €3 debited from your primary account.
As such, while the merchant will still get the €2.50 for its salad box, the remaining €0.50 will be sent to your savings account.
You also have the option of setting up dedicated savings pots. For example, if you want to start saving towards your next big traveling trip, the app will give you daily reports on how far away you are from reaching your target.
Account Types at bunq
The pricing structure at bunq is somewhat confusing at first glance, as the application offers separate subscriptions on its debit cards and bank accounts. However, by signing up for one of its paid-for bank accounts, you’ll automatically get a debit card for free.
Here’s the gist of what an account at bunq will cost you:
- Premium Account – €7.99 per month The Premium Account offers you a fully-fledged Euro bank account and your choice of debit card.
- Business Account – €9.99 per month The business account at bunq could be useful if you’re a nomad working in the digital economy. You’ll benefit from super-competitive international transfers, as well as a range of tools to support your business. This includes receipt scanning, invoice scanning, and automated VAT calculations.
Other Fees to Consider at bunq
Although bunq claims to be super-transparent with its costings, you have to do some digging to get the full brunt of what it charges.
There are no fees to send international payments via SEPA, and if choosing TransferWise you’ll pay a small flat fee (this depends on the specific transaction itself, but it’s minute nonetheless).
However, if somebody sends you a payment in a currency other than the Euro, or the incoming transaction was sent via SWIFT, you’ll need to pay a fee. Anything below €10,000 attracts a €5 fee, while payments of between €10,000 and €100,000 will cost €10.
If you make the unfortunate mistake of losing your debit card, you’ll also need to pay a fee. While the travel card will cost you €9, replacing a green card will set you back a staggering €89! Finally, you will need to pay €0.99 per ATM transaction once you exceed your monthly allocation of 10 fee-free withdrawals
Is my Money Safe at bunq?
If you’re yet to open an account with a challenger banking app, you might be concerned about the safety of your money. With that said, your money at bunq is 100% safe up to the first €100,000.
The reason for this is that bunq holds a Dutch banking license, meaning that it falls within the remit of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme. As the scheme is backed by the Dutch National Bank, all deposits of up to €100,000 would be covered even if bunq went out of business.
In terms of keeping your account safe, bunq offers a number of security controls. At the forefront of this is a requirement to enter your PIN every time you wish to log in to your account.
Furthermore – and as we covered earlier, you also have the option of freezing your debit card if you misplace it. This gives you enough time to look for the card before reporting it as stolen. If you are lucky enough to recover the card, you can simply unfreeze it from within the app.
How do I Contact bunq?
If you need to speak with a customer support agent, bunq offers a number of options. The easiest way to make contact is via live chat. You will need to access this through your bunq app, which is handy as there will be no requirement to confirm your personal information.
You can also send an email to email@example.com if your query is more substantial, or waiting times for live chat are extensive.
It could also be worth trying the public support group if your question concerns non-sensitive data. For example, if you need guidance finding out how much a TransferWise transaction costs, the public support group should be able to provide speedy assistance.
bunq Review: The Verdict?
In summary, bunq is a handy alternative to mainstream banks. You’ll benefit from a number of innovative features – such as real-time transaction notifications, no foreign exchange fees, and international transfers that are facilitated by TransferWise.
You’ll also get a fully-fledged debit card that provides 10 free ATM withdrawals per year. We also like the Green Card initiative, which sees bunq plant a new tree every time you spend €100.
In terms of getting the account open, the process takes less than 5 minutes. Crucially, all of the features and benefits offered by bunq can be executed through your mobile phone, so everything is super convenient.
With that said, it is a shame that the app is yet to offer UK GBP accounts, as everything thus far is dominated in Euros.
Moreover, you will still need to use a traditional bank account for other areas of finance – such as loans, mortgages, and overdrafts.
Nevertheless, bunq is a great option for everyday spending and traveling abroad.