“And In This Corner …” A Look at Germany’s Top 10 Challenger Banks

How is the battle of the challenger banks manifesting itself in Germany? As FinovateEurope gets started in Berlin this week, we take a look at some of the top challenger banks in the country.

Bitwala – Based in Berlin, Germany, Bitwala leverages blockchain technology to offer a banking experience for holders of both fiat and cryptocurrencies. Co-founded by Benjamin Jones, Jorg von Minckwitz, and Jan Goslicki in 2015, Bitwala has raised more than $21 million in funding. Late last summer, the challenger bank launched its all-in-one mobile bitcoin app, enabling customers in 30+ countries to open a German bank account with an integrated Bitcoin wallet and trading functionality.

Consorsbank – Founded in 2014 – and sporting an origin story that goes back to 1994 – Consorsbank is owned by BNP Paribas SA Niederlassung Deutschland. The bank offers a current account and two free debit cards, as well as a securities trading account with fee-free trading in ETFs and funds. In 2018, Consorsbank introduced its new installment loan product, and last year, the company went live with both Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Fidor Bank – Headquartered in Munich, Fidor Bank was founded in 2009, and serves both retail and business banking customers. The firm was acquired by Groupe BPCE of France in 2016, one year after Fidor Bank began operations in the U.K. Fidor offers a business account and card solutions, as well as financing products including installment loans and lines of credit. The bank also facilitates customer investment in foreign currencies and online savings bonds. Fidor Bank celebrated its 10th anniversary last May, and currently has 250,000 private and 40,000 business customers.

Fyrst -Bonn-based Fyrst Bank is the latest challenger bank in Germany to offer financial services to freelancers and the self-employed. Launched in 2019, Fyrst charges no account management fees and offers integrated accounting and invoice management, instant payment transfers and inexpensive financing options. Fyrst is backed by DB Privat- and Firmenkundenbank AG, and is a division of Postbank.

Insha – Founded in 2018 and proclaiming itself to be the first interest-free mobile bank in Europe upon its launch a year later, Insha is a spin-off from Turkey’s Albaraka Turk Participation Bank. Insha is headquarted in Berlin and offers a mobile account and Insha Mastercard debit card, money transfers, and financial wellness tools inSave and inSight to help customers manage their money better. Insha also provides a zakat calculator to help Islamic customers accurately determine the amount of their annual zakat obligation.

Kontist – A bank that specializes in serving freelancers and workers in the gig economy, Kontist is based in Berlin and was founded in 2015. The challenger bank calls itself the only bank that calculates and sets aside taxes in real-time – responding to a major pain point for workers with irregular or untraditional sources of income. Kontist offers its customers a mobile app and business account, and supports its customers accounting by keeping banking and bookkeeping in “permanent sync.” Kontist also provides a Mastercard Business debit card. The company is a strategic partner of solarisBank.

N26 – Berlin-based N26 provides mobile and online banking services to customers throughout the E.U. Earning its banking license in 2016 and rebranding from Number 26 to N26Bank, the company has raised $683 million in funding, including a $470 million Series D completed last summer. This funding was accompanied by the bank’s expansion to the U.S. With a valuation of more than $2.7 billion, N26 is regarded as one of the most valuable challenger banks in Europe.

Penta – Founded in 2016, Penta provides banking services – including expense management, accounting, and corporate cards – for SMEs and startup companies. Penta customers can establish sub-accounts to more readily monitor various business cash flows, and take advantage of a variety of small business financing options. Headquartered in Berlin, and acquired by finleap in spring of 2019, Penta introduced its all-in-one founder’s package, Kompass, in January. Kompass includes a set of legal documents and guidelines to help ensure successful company launch.

solarisBank – A self-described technology company with a banking license, solarisBank was founded in 2016, and has both its own banking license as well as a banking platform to help other firms to offer their own financial solutions. The Berlin-based firm offers a suite of RESTful APIs to enable its partners to integrate its modular financial services solutions within their own product line. solarisBank announced a partnership with Penta last fall to support the business banking platform’s expansion into Italy. In December, the bank launched its subsidiary, Digital Assets, to provide a custody solution that takes advantage of the growing ownership of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.

Tomorrow – Tomorrow offers a current account that gives customers the opportunity to make a positive difference on the environment. The bank finances renewable energy and organic agriculture, as well as other climate-supporting initiatives. The challenger bank’s account features a digital budget with automatic categorization, and real-time, push notifications for every transaction. Tomorrow was founded by Inas Nureldin, Michael Schweikart and Jacob Berndt and is based out of Hamburg. Tomorrow closed its first round of funding in 2019, pulling in €8.5 million from impact investors.

8 Banks You’ll Compete with if You Offer More Than 2% on Savings

Banks are facing an increased number of competitors these days. Not only are traditional banks vying for customer deposits, but fintechs and challenger banks want part of their funds, as well.

The average U.S. savings rate is just 0.09% APY, so any amount banks can offer beyond that is a differentiator. However, some banks have gone all out and are offering more than 2% interest. The highest APY we saw totaled a whopping 6.17%.

Here are the 8 financial institutions (listed in alphabetical order) we found that are offering accounts currently paying more than 2% interest:

BrioDirect

2.1% APY with a minimum balance of $25

Digital Federal Credit Union

6.17% APY on first $1,000 with a minimum balance of $5

Elements Financial

New accountholders can earn 2.1% APY for one year on a minimum of $2,500 that has been transferred from another financial institution.

Fitness Bank

Members earn 2.20% APY on a minimum balance of $100 if they walk 12,500 steps or more per day (or 10,000 steps per day for those age 65 or older) as calculated on their fitness tracker.

GreenDot

Users earn 3% APY, which is paid on a maximum of $10,000 and is held in a separate account that the consumer is unable to access until the account anniversary. The high yield savings account must be opened in tandem with Green Dot’s Unlimited Cash Back account, which pays customers a 3% cash-back bonus on all online and in-app purchases. The account charges a $7.95 monthly fee if a consumer’s purchases (excluding mobile bill payments, ATM withdrawals, and ACH transactions) are less than $1,000.

T-Mobile Money

Users earn 4% APY on balances of $3,000 or less. Any amount over the $3,000 threshold earns 1% APY. There is no minimum balance requirement but account holders must deposit at least $200 per month into the account to earn 4% APY.

TotalDirectBank

2.1% APY on balances of at least $5,000 and no more than $500,000.

Vio Bank

2.02% APY with a minimum deposit of $100


Many of these financial institutions are able to offer higher-than-average rates by keeping their operating costs low. In most cases, the lower operating cost is the result of being an online-only bank. However, two of the banks listed above (Digital Federal Credit Union and Elements Financial) have physical branch locations, as well.

Another aspect that helps with offering high interest is setting appropriate limitations. Interestingly, the two banks on this list that have branch locations (re: higher operating costs) are the two with the most stringent restrictions on their savings accounts. Setting up appropriate limits on account earnings can make banks’ offerings look attractive without costing too much. Conversely, too many restrictions will frustrate consumers and, perhaps worse, compromise trust.