Recently I’ve been oddly excited about banking. Usually banking and dealing with your bank is something where you’re happy if it does not hurt too much. Having moved around a bit the last few years I’ve experienced the state of banking in Austria, UK, Sweden and then Austria again.
I consider my needs from a bank quite simple.
- Personal money transfers
- Keeping track of what goes in and out
- Automatic categorisation of expenses
Bank Austria was my first bank-account in Austria, I went with them mostly because it was closest to where I was working at the time. A major annoyance was that my personal contact-person on the bank kept calling me all the time to set up a meeting on investing my money and trying to upsell other services even if I had said multiple times that I had no interest.
When my wife and I moved back to Austria after a few years in Sweden we decided to go with Erste Bank and their George. Comparing it to Bank Austria it looked quite good. It did do automatic categorisation of expenses. Unfortunately also here we had problems with the bank calling us, this time to get some signature that they were missing and when we went to the bank office the people there had no idea what we were talking about. This went on for a while.
(I’m not even going to mention my experiences with HSBC in UK)
The next generation
A few years back I did sign up for a free account with Bunq, a new(ish) dutch mobile-first bank. It looked and behaved nice but since I did not really want to spread my money over multiple accounts I did not really do anything more than play around with it a bit.
But a while back a friend (Hey Patrick 👋🏻) showed me how he was using it and what had changed since I last tried it and I decided to give Bunq a real chance and upgraded the free account to a joint account for my wife and I, ordered a Mastercard Debit card for the both of us and finally transferred my full salary to the account and decided to only that account for all things.
Since Bunq is a dutch bank you will get a dutch IBAN. I expected this to be more of a problem than it then actually turned out to be. So far I’ve not had any issues switching from the austrian IBAN to the new dutch one and I’ve changed the IBAN at my home insure provider, power provider as well as some austrian agencies without any problems.
Personal money transfers
Still not really solved by Bunq and can’t really be solved by a single bank. I would love to have something like the Swedish Swish system here in Austria where you can instantly transfer money to anyone that you know the phone number of. Bunq does instant transfers to any IBAN within SEPA which is a huge step forward but it’s still too inconvenient to get the IBAN of a someone just to pay them back for a coffee.
Keeping track of what goes in and out
This is where Bunq really shines. I can finally get notifications on everything happening on my account with all the information visible in the actual notification. George can really learn from this.
Automatic categorisation of expenses
It just works. It’s quite minimal and at first was annoyed that you can’t invent new categories but now after a while I think it’s better like that.
Since you can very easily create new sub-accounts it’s easy to have a specific account for e.g. Groceries. With their latest update I can automatically transfer a specific amount from my salary to the Groceries-account. They also have a nice dual-pin feature which means that you can use a second pin when paying by card and charge it to the Groceries account.
So far we’re only 2 months into the experiment but I feel I’m more in control of what’s happening. I very much like the fact that Bunq is mobile first and online only. With traditional banks there are always certain things that you have to come into the office for but with Bunq they have been forced to make it possible online and in the app.
I’m often surprised by the attention to detail in the app and for the first time in my life I’m slightly excited about banking.