Best Online Banks in Europe in 2022

Opening an bank account is easier than ever before. In Europe, there are a number of great online banks to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the best European online banks in 2022.

Today, let’s talk about European online banks. Like the stockbroking industry, the banking sector has been dramatically transformed over the past decade. We saw the first ‘electronic money institution’ (EMI) come to live in 2001 (it was Skrill, then called Moneybookers), but it wasn’t until the second ‘E-Money Directive’ was adopted in 2009 that things really took off. This important enabled EMIs to connect to the computer systems of traditional banks. It meant they could create and administer user accounts without needing to set up a costly bricks-and-mortar infrastructure.

In the EU’s Payment Institutions Register, there are now around 266 EMIs and licensed banks registered that operate entirely online (not including those from the UK and Switzerland). It’s safe to say that digital banking has become increasingly popular as a way for Europeans to manage their money online. In fact, many people today prefer doing their transactions through online banks over traditional banks because of the features and functionalities they offer. 

The best online banks in Europe

Below, you’ll find the best European online bank picks for personal use. “Best” may mean something different to everyone, so your mileage may vary depending on where you live and your personal preferences.

  • Revolut – Best overall European online bank
  • Wise – Best multi-currency account
  • Nuri – Best crypto bank
  • Vivid Money – Best for cashback and investing
  • Curve – Best cashback card
  • Monese – Best UK bank account

Read more: The best online business banks in Europe

The best European online banks provide more than just an account number: they offer free foreign currency exchange, interbank rates, cashback on spending, investing tools, 24/7 customer service, and reliable security measures to keep your money safe from fraudsters.

best overall online bank

Revolut

  • Free EUR IBAN and free UK account
  • Fee-free currency exchange up to €1K per month
  • Hold, send, and receive up to 30 currencies

On Revolut’s secure website

Revolut is a free, financial super-app that combines a multi-currency account, commission-free foreign exchange, and a contactless Mastercard, all accessible from one app.

You can hold and exchange up to 30 currencies, including EUR, GBP, and USD, and spend fee-free in over 150 countries with the Revolut card. You may exchange currencies up to €1,000 each month without paying any fees or hidden extra charges.

You also get access to investment products and fee-free ATM withdrawals up to €200 per month.

The Premium and Metal premium subscriptions offer unlimited free currency exchanges and ATM withdrawals of €400/€800 per month. Other benefits include cashback on card transactions and insurance programs such as baggage and flight protection, medical insurance, and purchase protection.

Downsides to Revolut include an unfortunate history of locking users out of their accounts and the fact that it’s not a regulated bank in every country. If this affects you, you may want to consider other options if you’re looking for a more traditional banking experience.

Features

  • The app gives you a personal, unique IBAN account you can use to send and receive multiple foreign currencies.
  • Revolut is regulated as a real bank in 10 European countries. Customers in these jurisdictions have their deposits protected under the deposit guarantee scheme up to €100,000.
  • You can spend in 150 currencies fee-free up to the limit of your plan when you use your Revolut card.
  • You’ll get a physical card and unlimited amounts of virtual cards that can be linked to Google or Apple pay, so you can pay with your phone.
  • The app includes investment tools for stocks, ETFs, commodities, and cryptocurrencies. However, it’s not very well-developed, and you might want to use a proper stock broker instead.
  • There are no fees for sending or receiving money in any currency.
  • Get cashback on card transactions, insurance products, and more with a Premium or Metal subscription. 

Pros and cons

  • Free EUR IBAN account and UK account number and sort code
  • Instant or fast fee-free money transfers
  • Access to multiple currencies
  • Virtual cards to spend safely online
  • Spend in foreign currencies with no secret fees
    Get interbank rates on your money
  • History of locking user accounts due to “fraud detection”
  • No branches, people to talk to, or personal account manager
  • Contact with customer support can be a mixed experience
  • Not a regulated bank in every country
  • Investment tools are basic
best multi-currency account

Wise

  • Free EUR, UK, and US accounts
  • 50+ currencies available
  • Available almost everywhere

On Wise’s secure website

Wise is a global online bank with roots in the UK and Estonia. The company was founded by Skype’s first employee in 2011 and went public on the London Stock Exchange in 2021.

Wise is a basic personal account that’s free to set up and use. It gives you a EUR IBAN account and personal accounts in foreign currencies such as the USD, GBP, AUD, and other major currencies. There are no fees for sending or receiving money in EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, RON, HUF SGD, and no fees for USD when using ACH transfers.

Users can store around 50 different currencies in their account, which they can convert between for low fees. In addition to the free virtual cards, you can also order a physical Wise debit card for a small fee and link it to Google or Apple Pay.

Unfortunately, Wise is not a real bank, so it doesn’t have the same protections as a regulated bank. However, they hold funds with major global banks, which gives customers some peace of mind.

Features

  • Wise gives you a free multi-currency account which includes a EUR bank account and around 50 other currencies. In addition to the EUR account, you get unique account details for USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, SGD, RON, CAD, HUF, and TL.
  • A unique, personal IBAN, so that incoming and outgoing transfers are made in your name
  • There are no fees for opening an account, keeping money in it, spending euros with the Wise card, or receiving and sending money.
  • To pay for monthly subscriptions like phone or energy bills, you may use your EUR account details to set up Direct Debits.
  • A fee-free physical and virtual multi-currency debit card that allows you to use funds from your account. If you don’t have the currency in your account, there is a conversion spread, starting at 0.24%.

Pros & cons

  • A free EUR IBAN account
  • Accounts in GBP, USD, and other currencies
  • Transfers in EUR and GBP are often instant or arrive the same day
  • It’s possible to set up direct debits in different currencies
  • Cards can be added to Google and Apple Pay
  • Fees for foreign exchange transactions are typically not as low as those of other providers
  • Wise is not a licensed bank, and money held in its accounts are not insured (no deposit guarantee)
  • Many users have complained about having their account frozen without warning and customer care being unhelpful
best crypto bank

Nuri

  • €100,000-insured free EUR bank account
  • 5% interest on BTC
  • Fee-free foreign currency spending

On Nuri’s secure website

Nuri (formerly Bitwala) is a deposit-insured German crypto bank. It was founded in 2015 in Berlin and allows you to hold, manage, and exchange euros, bitcoin, and ethereum. EUR deposits are covered by a €100,000 Banking Deposit Guarantee, while BTC held with Nuri generates up to 5% interest per year.

Nuri offers a free, personal EUR IBAN account which you can use to receive salary payments, pay bills, or make transfers. You can also get a debit card and spend from that card fee-free like you would with a regular bank account. There are no mark-ups when spending foreign currencies, as Nuri directly uses Visa’s exchange rates.

  • A regulated European bank account with deposit insurance
  • The ability to hold, manage and exchange euros, bitcoin, and ethereum
  • A free personal EUR IBAN account with a debit
  • Unlimited free ATM withdrawals

Features

  • Nuri uses the infrastructure of Solaris Bank to offer a regulated bank account that is protected by the German Banking Deposit Guarantee. This means your money is insured up to €100,000.
  • You can use Nuri to hold, manage and exchange euros, bitcoin, and ethereum.
  • Nuri offers a free personal EUR IBAN account with no monthly fees. You can also get a debit card which you can use fee-free in Europe.
  • It lets you earn interest on bitcoin and invest in Savings Plans, allowing you to purchase cryptocurrencies regularly.
  • Nuri allows you to spend foreign currencies with no mark-ups, as it uses Visa’s exchange rates directly.

Pros & cons

  • A regulated European bank account with deposit insurance
  • The ability to hold, manage and exchange euros, bitcoin, and ethereum
  • A free personal EUR IBAN account with a debit
  • Unlimited free ATM withdrawals
  • The onboarding process is complex and fails for many users
  • Customer support can be slow and unresponsive
  • While unique in its crypto integration, Nuri’s banking products are basic
best cashback Account

Vivid Money

  • Free German EUR IBAN account
  • Protected up to €100,000
  • Cashback on card spending

On Vivid Money’s secure website

Vivid Money, a free, €100,000-insured German online bank, checks a lot of boxes. It offers a free SEPA-eligible Euro IBAN account (up to 15 unique accounts), cashback on card spending, free cash withdrawal globally (limit depends on account tier), fee-free payments globally, and fee-free direct debits.

Plus, Vivid Money offers investing tools, including commission-free stock and ETF trades, fractional shares, and cryptocurrencies. The bank also offers stock and ETF saving plans which let you invest a fixed sum of money every month.

Vivid Money is mobile-only. The bank’s app is highly regarded on the App Store and Google Play, and it caters to the digital generation with its easy design and emphasis on mobile money management.

Features

  • A free, insured German bank account in EUR
  • Cashback on card spending and rewards from shops
  • A 3D-secure card that works with Google / Apple Pay
  • Commission-free investing in stocks and ETFs

Pros & cons

  • German Euro IBAN account
  • Deposit insurance up to €100,000 per depositor
  • Cashback on card spending
  • Investment tools
  • Relatively new start-up founded in 2019
  • Not as well-known as competitors
best cashback card

Curve

  • Combines all your cards
  • 1% cashback during the first 30 days
  • Fee-free foreign currency spending (limits apply)

On Curve’s secure website

Curve is not an online bank but a payment app that lets you consolidate all your cards into one. This means you can use Curve to spend money anywhere with any card and receive merchant rewards without carrying around multiple cards. It may take a little before realizing the full benefits of using Curve, but once you do, it can be a game-changer.

Curve also offers fee-free foreign exchange when spending in a foreign currency (limits depend on your Curve plan). For example, the Curve card allows you to pay fee-free in euros, although your bank card is in British pounds. Say you’ve reached the monthly FX limit on your Revolut card. In that case, you can use Curve to spend with.

A patented, unique feature is the ability to “go back in time.” You can change the card you originally paid with up to two weeks after the transaction. If you accidentally paid with your local bank account card instead of your Revolut card, you can go back and change it. By doing so, the amount is refunded to the first card, and deducted from the account balance of the new card.

While Curve is unique in its offerings, it does not have a large menu of finance products. It hasn’t evolved much from its original offering, which is a digital consolidation of your cards. That said, its core features are incredibly useful and not found anywhere else.

Features

  • Curve works by linking your debit, credit, and crypto cards to the Curve app. You then use the Curve card or Google or Apple Pay to spend anywhere with any of your linked cards.
  • In the first 30 days, you’ll get 1% cashback on your purchases. If you upgrade your plan, you can continue to earn cashback up to a total of 20%.
  • There are no foreign exchange fees on spending in a foreign currency, and Curve will always use the best available rate.
  • You can also “go back in time” and change the card you originally paid with up to two weeks after the transaction. If you accidentally paid with your local bank
  • Crypto cards (Crypto.com, Wirex, Binance, Coinbase, Plutus, etc.) are accepted by Curve, so you can save on FX fees, get cashback, and have better protection.
  • Curve Card purchases are covered by Curve Customer Protection.

Pros & cons

  • It can be linked to almost any card, incl. Revolut and Starling
  • Works with Google and Apple Pay
  • Go Back in Time feature lets you change cards retroactively
  • Curve works with most crypto debit cards
  • Cashback rewards
  • No foreign exchange fees (limits depend on plan)
  • Curve’s website is very confusing, hard to navigate, and it’s difficult to find basic information about the plans, limits, and availability.
  • Some users complain refunds take over 2 weeks to show up.
best UK Account

Monese

  • Free EUR and UK accounts
  • Savings accounts with interest

On Monese’s secure website

Monese is a UK digital bank available throughout Europe, with a mobile-only approach. It was started in 2015 by an Estonian expat to help people who couldn’t open a UK bank account because they didn’t have a credit history or proof of address. Since then, Monese has grown to around 2 million users.

Monese’s free basic plan gives you GBP, EUR, and RON accounts. Local transfers are free, and you’ll also get a Visa debit card that you can use to spend with or withdraw cash from ATMs (fees apply).

Features

  • A free, personal bank account in GBP and EUR
  • Monese has all the features of a regular bank, except deposit insurance; however, Monese only works on mobile.
  • Some users have access to interest-bearing savings accounts
  • The paid plans offer perks such as travel insurance and purchase protection

Pros & cons

  • A UK bank account that can be opened from anywhere in the EEA without proof of residence
  • It can be opened in minutes on your mobile phone
  • High fees for spending in currencies other than GBP and EUR
  • No physical branches or customer service telephone support

Comparison of the best European online banks

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the best online banks in Europe, based on the free tiers offered by each bank.

FeatureRevolutWiseNuriVivid MoneyCurveMonese
Founding year 201520102015201920162015
Country of originUKUKDEDEUKUK
Free EUR accountn/a
Free USD accountn/a
Free GBP accountn/a
Monthly fee€0€0€0€0€0€0
SEPA transfer€0€0€0€0n/a€0
Inactivity fee€0€0€0€0€0€0
Free ATM withdrawals€200/m€200/m€10,000/m€200/m€200/m€1.5 per withdrawal
FX fee€1,000/m free;
0.5% after
~0.47%Free
(Visa exchange rate)
0.5%£500/m free;
0.5% after
Free
(Mastercard rate)
Google Pay€0€0
Apple Pay€0€0
Investing tools
Last verified: April 27, 2022.

EMIs vs. banks

Many online banks are not real banks but electronic money institutions (EMIs). An EMI does not have a banking license but are digital money (E-money) service providers that falls under the EU Electronic Money Directive. An E-money institution is a financial company holding a license to issue money based on virtual funds, which can be used to make online payments. 

EMIs offer many of the same services as banks, but they operate differently because they are not banks. Most importantly, EMIs do not store customers’ funds themselves but rely on partner banks to do so. This means that the money you deposit to an EMI is held with another institution, not the EMI itself.

Therefore, the most significant risk of using EMIs is not with the EMI but with its partner. However, EMIs are required to keep customer funds separate from their own, so in the event of an EMI failure, your money should still be safe with the custodial bank.

EMIs

EMIs have both advantages and disadvantages in comparison to banks. EMIs are not allowed to lend money, limiting their ability to provide some banks’ services. They are also not allowed to give overdrafts or loans. However, this also limits the risk associated with credit products that banks are often criticized for.

Directive 2009/110/EC is the primary law for electronic money institutions in the European Union. The EU’s regulatory authorities that grant e-money institution licenses are bound by Directive 2009/110/EC. The FCA is the regulatory authority that issues e-money licenses in the UK. The UK, Lithuania, and Germany have been at the forefront of EMI innovation.

Here are the typical services that EMIs offer:

  • Provide virtual IBANs and instant SEPA payments
  • Conduct transfers on customers’ behalf from their partner banks
  • Issue and distribute electronic money
  • Operate in multiple different currencies
  • Money transfers and remittance
    • Cash withdrawals and deposits
    • Transfer of funds
  • Issue physical and virtual debit payment cards

EMIs do not:

  • Offer bank accounts insured under a deposit insurance scheme
  • Issue credit products
  • Offer loans or overdrafts
  • Provide mortgage products

Why don’t EMIs just become banks?

The simple answer is that obtaining a full banking license is costly and time-consuming. The application process for an EU bank license can take up to five years and cost over €100 million. In contrast, the process for an EMI license takes less than a year and requires an initial share capital of only €350,000.

It’s also worth noting that not all EMIs aspire to become banks. Many believe that the banking sector is bloated with inefficiency and bureaucracy. They view themselves as digital-first, customer-centric companies that can offer a better experience at a lower cost than traditional banks.

What’s the deal with these online banks then?

Traditional banks can be quite frustrating when it comes to certain activities, such as dealing in non-local currencies and sending international payments. However, with online banks, these processes are often made much simpler (and they’re cheaper, too).

The benefits of these new digital online banks over traditional banks are hard to overlook. European online banks stand out because they’re free, offer personal or business IBAN accounts, are easy to travel with, and let you transact and spend in multiple different currencies without sky-high fees. Accounts in Euro, British Pound, US Dollar, and Swiss Franc are available with many of the best European online banks.

Is my money safe with an online bank?

If your online bank has a banking license, your money should be as safe as it would be in any other bank. This is because all banks, whether online-only or with physical branches, are bound by the same regulations. In Europe, the two primary regulations that banks must follow are the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) and the Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive (DGSD).

Whether money stored with electronic money institutions is safe is up to debate. It’s important to remember that an EMI does not hold customer funds directly. Instead, it keeps the money in pooled accounts with its partner banks. The biggest EMIs in Europe typically use “too big to fail” banks with a long financial stable history. There is little risk to customers if the EMI fails, as the custodial banks should still be standing.

E-Money issuers can’t do much with your money once it’s in their hands. The EMI pools your funds with other customers and builds a virtual balance in your account. An EMI is not permitted to loan out or utilize your deposited money for any purpose other than what it was intended for. EMIs can provide debit cards, establish IBANs, conduct transfers, set their own costs, and do a variety of basic bank-like operations; however, they cannot expose your money to credit or investment risk.

How an EMI protects your funds

An EMI holds customer funds in segregated accounts with a bank, credit institution, or with the central bank where the EMI is incorporated. This account is commonly referred to as the “bulk money account” or “omnibus account” The customer funds in this account cannot be used for any risk-related purposes other than to settle transactions with customers.

EMIs can only invest the funds in low-risk, highly liquid assets such as government bonds, covered bonds, and money market funds. These investments are made to ensure that there are always enough funds available to meet customer needs and so that the money does not decrease due to negative interest.

All European bank loans must also have professional indemnity insurance or another assurance against liability. This insurance protects customers if an EMI cannot meet its obligations as a business. In addition, many EMIs are licensed and regulated by competent national authorities. These organizations conduct regular audits of the EMI to ensure compliance with regulations.

How to choose an online bank

When choosing the best online bank for you, it’s important to consider a few key factors. For starters, online banks typically have lower fees than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. They also offer higher rates and more intuitive digital banking products. However, not all online banks are the same, so it’s important to do your research before signing up.

Here are some other things to consider when choosing an online bank:

  • Fees. Most online banks have a free starter account without registration or monthly maintenance fees. SEPA transfers are also usually free. However, some banks do charge for foreign currency exchanges and other services. But it’s easy to avoid fees at all by opening multiple accounts with different banks.
  • Currencies. A free EUR account with a personal IBAN is necessary for any European online bank. If you live outside the Eurozone, having access to a free EUR account is a significant perk. If you frequently travel or do business internationally, it’s crucial to choose a bank that offers other currencies. This way, you can avoid costly foreign transaction fees.
  • ATM withdrawals. While cash is slowly becoming obsolete, there are still times when you need it. Most online banks offer free ATM withdrawals from partner machines, but check the bank’s website for a complete list of participating institutions. The bank may not charge any fees, but the ATM owner may. Search the internet for the best deals on withdrawing cash abroad.
  • Deposit insurance. Online banks in the European Union are not required to be members of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS). There’s no guarantee that your deposited funds up to €100,000 will be reimbursed if the bank goes bankrupt. However, digital banks are increasingly joining the DGS, so checking before opening an account is essential. If your bank is not a regulated institution, it’s worth considering how much risk you’re willing to take by keeping your money with them.
  • Safety. Aside from bankruptcy protection, check if the bank has fraud insurance. This will safeguard your funds if your account is hacked or you are a victim of identity theft. Banks with two-factor authentication (where you need a code from your phone to log in) are typically more secure than those without this feature. SMS codes are generally not reliable because they are prone to SIM-swapping scams.
  • Investing tools. Having a place to park your cash may not be enough for some people anymore. With the rise of retail investing, online banks are starting to offer simple investment products. These can help you grow your money without having to open a separate brokerage account.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What exactly is an online bank?

An online bank is a financial institution that offers digital banking products and services via the internet. Online banks have no physical branches, so you can manage your accounts from anywhere in the world at any time.

How are online banks different from traditional banks?

The main difference between online and traditional banks is that online banks operate primarily through digital channels. This means that they have lower fees and more intuitive banking products. Online banks also tend to be more international, offering foreign currency accounts and other services for travelers.

What are the best online banks in Europe?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as each person’s needs will differ. If you’re satisfied with your current bank, it’s probably best to stick with them. However, suppose you’re looking for a more affordable and convenient option. In that case, there are plenty of great online banks in Europe to choose from. Just do your research before signing up.

Are European online banks insured?

Not all European online banks are insured, but many are members of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS). This means that your deposited funds up to €100,000 will be reimbursed if the bank goes bankrupt. However, only banks with a license from the national bank regulator and the European Central Bank must join the DGS. Electronic money institutions are not banks but rely on the infrastructure of licensed banks, so they’re not covered by the DGS directly.

What is the safest online bank in Europe?

The safest online banks are those that are regulated as real banks by the national bank regulator. These banks are required to follow strict rules on managing customer funds, and they’re also subject to regular audits. Most importantly, they are protected by deposit insurance in the event of bankruptcy. Look for banks that are members of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS) to be sure your funds are safe.

The bottom line

There are a lot of great online banks in Europe, but it’s crucial to do your research before signing up. Make sure you understand the fees, terms, and conditions associated with each account. And don’t forget to check if the bank is insured and has proper security measures in place to protect against fraud.