A few months ago, I signed up for bunq, one of these new neo-banks that offer you all the services of a bank through an app on your smartphone.
I’ve been eyeing neo-banks for a while, as they offer functionalities no other bank in the country where I live (Luxembourg) seems to want to adopt. Namely multiple sub-accounts, automation and API integrations. Also, and this is due to how my brain works, a card that — while it functions as a credit card technically, i.e. let me use it online — is much more akin to a debit card using the money in your bank account immediately, and not only by the end of the month.
bunq offers all this and more. Between them, Revolut, N26 and some other apps I am too lazy to name here, my choice fell on bunq for two reasons: Up to 25 sub-accounts and a pretty great API.
Let’s talk a bit more about bunq in detail.
What I like
First, a disclaimer. Bunq is not my main bank account. I still own the traditional bank account I had for at least 20 years. This is where my salary comes in, and the most important bills get paid (mortgage, insurance, etc.).
I use bunq as a daily expenditure account. All the money I got there is for everything that’s not a fixed cost. The same goes for my fiancée, and we own a few shared sub-accounts.
In all, I have 14 of these sub-accounts on bunq, half of them shared. Starting with my personal ones:
- Main: This is where I wire part of my salary once a month. From here, things get automatically split between the sub-accounts, but more on that below.
- Online Shopping: This is the account I use for random online purchases. I’ve created a digital credit card for this purpose only, which gets a new CVC code after every purchase.
- Subscriptions: This is the account I use for all my subscriptions, e.g. Netflix, Ghost, Spotify. I have another digital credit card for subscriptions only but without changing CVC. This would be annoying otherwise. bunq has a tab for subscriptions in the app, which is a great way to check when you signed up for too much shit.
- Offline Shopping: This is for all the purchases that are not online, like clothing or something I see in a store. I don’t use this that often so over time, money accumulates on here for more significant purchases.
- Going Out: Whenever I believe I want to be social, I put money on this account. It’s for restaurants and drinks with friends and family (though not with my fiancée, there’s another account for that.) Whenever I run out of money on this account, I tell my friends I am poor and can’t make it. I have my main card mapped to this.
- Savings: This is what it says on the cover. Money that goes in here gets saved for rainy days.
- iPhone: This is a second savings account with a fixed goal, displayed in percentages. The goal is to save money to buy the next iPhone whenever it comes out in September.
As with my main account, I share a bank account at my traditional bank for everything that is a fixed cost with my fiancée.
What follows below is — again, like with me — what we consider non-essentials, or whatever we want to budget better by using multiple accounts.
- Restaurant: This is an account I share with my fiancée for our weekly restaurant visits or takeaway orders. We could rename it to “Sushi”, to be honest. My secondary card has this as the second account.
- Groceries: An obvious one, this is what we use for groceries. So far, we have never had to top up the account, so our budgeting has been working. My secondary card has this as the first account, and my main card has this as a second account.
- Shopping: Whenever we want to buy something for the apartment, this is the account we use.
- Animals: We have two pets, a cat and a dog. This is an account that mainly accumulates money every month for our vet visits twice per year and monthly food orders.
- Medical: For shared medical visits, aka couple’s counsellor. You should see one, too.
- Sports: Three times per week, we see our trainer. This might be the account with the most money.
- Holidays: This is a savings account shown in percentage. It’s called holidays, as we’re saving for a more extensive trip in September, but technically we could call it whatever.
I have five cards through bunq, two digital ones, only used online (see above), and three physical ones: my primary credit card, made out of metal (though this one is on its way right now), a second credit that I use for the shared accounts only, and a third debit card as a backup for countries or stores that don’t accept credit cards.
What is excellent about cards from bunq — and I have to admit I have no clue if any other bank does this — is that you can have up to two different PIN codes per card. What this allows is you to be able to use two sub-accounts with one single card. Above in the lists, I shared what I have the cards usually mapped, too.
But it’s super easy, barely an inconvenience to quickly change the account a card uses. I’ve done this a few times by now, and I am surprised by how fast this works every time. Compare this to when I tried to change my card limit at my old bank — because I was about to buy something expensive — I had to do this several days in advance.
Many accounts mean I have a lot of money moving left and right regularly. bunq has a feature to automatically send money from one account to another whenever you have funds coming in.
But thanks to fantastic API support, I can use a second app called Flow to create automation on top of my bank account.
What this app does is that, depending on a few triggers, it sends money from one account to another.
For example, I have one flow which splits money from the main account to all the sub-accounts at the tap of one button. As I don’t always get paid on the same day and thus can’t make the wire from my OG account to bunq on the same day, I do it manually. But then, whenever the money hits bunq, I tap one button, and everything gets split to all the different accounts I mentioned above.
I also have another automation, which goes over a few of my accounts (i.e. going out, shared restaurant, and whenever something is on the main account because someone paid back something) and, at the end of the month, tops up the different savings accounts with whatever was remaining on that account for that month.
With Flow, you can have up to three free, basic automation, and if you want to go for crazy stuff, you can subscribe for three eurodollars per month. Flow also supports other banks, so you don’t need bunq for this.
A few downsides
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and neither is bunq. Here are a few annoying things:
- There is no Apple Pay in Luxembourg. No clue why. It’s offered in other countries, but no chance if you live in Luxembourg. Feels a bit random to me.
- There are no Luxembourgish IBANs. This one is a bit more understandable; after all, Luxembourg is tiny. But it would help a lot. So far, I only use Dutch IBANs.
- The app is sometimes a bit buggy: Nothing major, and I never fear for my money, but as an example, the light mode is not always working correctly — then again, the light mode is labelled as a beta.
- The community features are a bit too in your face. I don’t care about other people's problems, especially since it seems most people cannot write a proper support request. I’m happy I don’t work in customer service.
- While nothing to do with the app and I can easily opt out of the marketing emails are sometimes… stupid. They don’t always give you value. Hey @bunq, hire my services, and I’ll fix that for you.
- This is not strictly a bunq issue, but my OG bank being a bit old-school and annoying, blocks transfers from my OG account to my bunq-account for 24 hours. Something to do with security measures, as "there was a lot of fraud concerning neo-banks". I don't yet know if I call bullshit or not. I guess a Luxembourgish IBAN would fix this issue.
I like bunq. It’s my new main bank account for most of my daily expenditures. But I feel like I haven’t even scratched most of the available features. The APIs are crazy extensive, and I want to see how far I can take them.
For example, I want to see if I can find a tracking app that works great and can hook up to bunq — or maybe even write my own in Python.
I also want to see if I can create an automation which checks my savings account, and whenever it reaches a certain amount, it sends the remaining money to my investment app and buys some stock.
bunq has freed up a lot of mental energy for how I use my money. Thanks to all the automation and different sub-accounts, I never have to do the math mentally to figure out if I can go for one more beer or get this one game on sale on Steam. All it takes is a glance, and I have the answer.
A funny side-effect is that I also have more money I can use for things. So technically, I can now buy more shit. But because I only have one account dedicated to offline purchases, I don't because I don't put a lot of money on that one.
But it still takes some mental power not to use the account meant to pay the personal trainer to buy two extra-large pizzas. So far, I have been strong!