Paying high conversion fees is one of the most annoying and useless expenses when you travel abroad.
Banking costs can easily rise over $50 on one single trip, or even hundreds of dollars if you go backpacking for several months.
As I travel quite frequently, I started to search for possible ways to avoid those extra fees charged by banks. There were many websites that compare credit cards, but most of them will recommend you the one they can make the most money off.
Luckily, I found one that wouldn’t cost me any money and had huge potential for saving money during my future trip. This card was the free debit card of N26.
While most banks charge 2-3%, or some even 5%, fee when paying in foreign currencies, N26 doesn’t charge you any.
See here a summary of the main advantages of using N26
- After you signed up, the N26 will send you a free Mastercard
- No added fees when paying in foreign currency
- Official exchange rate (same as you will find on google)
- The app sends you push notifications showing you how much you spend, translated to your home currency
How the N26 Mastercard saved me almost 100 euro on one of my trips to the Philippines
When I found out about this card, I was very happy to hear that N26 also shipped the Mastercard for free to my home address in the Netherlands.
Signing up didn’t take more than 5 minutes and I received my free card within a week. Just on time to take this card with me on my upcoming trip to the Philippines.
During this trip, I tried to use the N26 card whenever possible. This way I had a clear overview of my expenses in the N26 app and was sure that I didn’t pay any extra fees.
PRO-TIP: Try to pay everything with your N26 Mastercard
Unfortunately, it wasn’t always possible to pay by card in the Philippines. For daily expenses like food or motorbike rental, I still needed to pay in cash.
However, when booking my accommodation, flight, bus or train tickets online, I always used my card. These expenses were already more than 1/3 of my total expenses, but also for some activities and many restaurants, I was able to use my N26 Mastercard.
In those 2 months, I spend about 2.000 euros with my N26 card. While I used to pay 3% fee with my former Visa card, I now saved myself the yearly contribution ( €36,50) and the total amount of €60 I saved on fees.
So what about the ATM fees?
Although I tried to limit my usage of cash, I still needed to go to the ATM every week or so. The main problem here is that all ATMs in the Philippines charge foreigners an extra fee regardless of the card they are using.
The fees that were charged by N26 were only 1.7%, which is significantly lower than most credit cards which charge 3-5%, but also lower than my former Rabobank card.
How to use the N26 Mastercard
When you sign up for the basic plan, you don’t need to pay any contribution fees. And even better, they send you the card within a few days to your home address, completely free.
As it uses the widely accepted Mastercard network, you can use your card worldwide at almost every payment machine or ATM.
Just like any credit card, the N26 card has the regular account number on the front of the card and the security code (CVC) on the back to verify your online payments. For in-store payments, you can use your pin code.
The only difference is that you first need to transfer money on your account to use the card and cannot borrow money from the bank. In my opinion, this is a safer way of spending money as it gives you more control and insight into the money you spend.
During your trip you can see exactly what you spend with the easy to use app and even categorizes on what you spend your money on (food/accommodation/flights).
So how does N26 make money?
N26 is on online bank and keeps the costs low by operating online. In addition, they also sell extra services like insurance and unlimited free ATM withdrawals when you upgrade your account.
How to sign up for a free N26 Mastercard
Follow these 3 simple steps to sign up for your account:
- Sign-up for a free account (takes less than 8 minutes)
- Download the N26 app and continue the registration process
- Transfer an x amount to your new Mastercard and you’re ready to go!