The digital transformation has driven the modernization of the financial sector, leading to the emergence of so-called online banks, entities that operate through the internet to offer many of the services offered by traditional banks.
What are its advantages compared to conventional banks? Do they present better conditions in terms of commissions? How is an online bank different from an online account?
In this article, we solve these doubts and explore the offer of this new generation of banks in Spain.
What is an online bank?
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An online bank is a financial institution that offers services to its customers through the internet, that is, it does not need to have physical branches.
This banking model, also called virtual banking or e-banking, has taken advantage of advances in technology to reduce or eliminate physical bank offices and thus reduce costs.
Customers no longer have to go personally to a branch to carry out operations or inquiries because they can access these services through a device with an internet connection or an app installed on their smartphone.
Online banking is aimed at an audience accustomed to the digital world. Seeing the potential, many of the conventional banks already offer this modality. On the other hand, these advances have also allowed the entry of independent companies in the sector.
How does it work
Traditionally, opening an account with a bank meant having to make an appointment and go in person to the branch to do the necessary paperwork. With online banking, you can request the opening of the account in a matter of minutes, visiting the bank’s official website and following the instructions indicated. You only need to have digitized the documents necessary to verify identity, which is specified in the instructions. Once the application is completed, it remains to wait for confirmation from the bank that all the requirements are met.
After this confirmation, which usually takes place on a business day, you can request that the card be sent to your home address and start enjoying the available services. In this way, the process has been completed without paperwork, without queuing, and without travel.
Once the account is opened, the management is done digitally. All operations and services are at your fingertips through the internet. In many cases, the management is done exclusively through the mobile app.
Convenience – The registration process is carried out in a few minutes from anywhere. Once completed, all operations are available from your mobile phone. The app allows you to control your expenses in real-time.
Simplicity – All processes have been simplified to the maximum so that the client can perform them himself from the internet, through the app or browser interface. Many entities value customer feedback to implement improvements and optimize the user experience.
Commissions – The reduction in costs of not having physical offices allows these banks to offer accounts without commissions and payroll, ideal for young people or entrepreneurs without fixed income. Commissions on international transfers also tend to improve compared to traditional banks.
Travel savings – Online bank accounts have been primarily geared towards a frequent travel audience. For this reason, many offer cards without commissions for withdrawing cash at ATMs in another country and without a surcharge for paying in foreign currency.
The disadvantages of online banks
Fewer products – The offer of online banks is focused on online checking accounts, debit or prepaid cards, and transfers. However, some already offer credit cards, loans, or insurance.
Fewer operations – Some banks do not have the means to allow operations such as depositing cash or checks.
Distrust – These entities have been in the market for a relatively short time and some prefer to bet on the consolidated entities that they already know. It is an unfounded fear since the security of these institutions is the same.
Distance between customer and bank – Despite the effort to make customers feel at home, nothing replaces the close and humane treatment of face-to-face. In some cases, the channels of contact are very limited.
Digital accounts available in Spain
Online banks in our country are not a very recent phenomenon, but in recent years we have observed how interest in them has skyrocketed.
Its advantages attract a mostly young audience looking for a simple way to send and receive money, make payments, or direct bills or payroll.
Next, we mention the online banks based in Spain or elsewhere in Europe that is most popular among Spaniards.
BBVA ( review ): online checking account without commissions or payroll, based in Spain
N26 ( review ): digital native checking account with Spanish IBAN, based in Germany
Openbank: with various types of accounts for individuals, based in Spain.
ING: various types of accounts for individuals and businesses, based in Spain.
Online accounts without a bank
Different from the online bank accounts described above are online accounts without a bank, a phenomenon that has become possible thanks to the adoption of new technologies in the financial sector.
These entities offer a light banking service and are both traditional banks and independent companies.
Online accounts without a bank mainly allow their holders to receive money and make purchases in physical establishments or online through a prepaid card, but they are not a bank as such. Its main attraction is usually the saving of commissions for withdrawing money abroad or paying in another currency.
Next is an online account with a prepaid card, which also offers exclusive discounts for popular businesses such as Uber or Netflix. The Next account does not have an IBAN, so it is not possible to direct payroll or make transfers. However, it presents the particularity that minors can open an account if they are over 14 years old with the consent of their legal guardians.
Another popular example is the Revolut prepaid card, used by many Spaniards to save commissions. Although it is a debit card associated with a digital account in the United Kingdom, in Spain it is used as a prepaid card for small expenses and travel because it is not possible to use it as a bank.
Online banks are financial entities that offer their services over the internet. Its product offering is simple and aimed at a modern audience, accustomed to the digital world.
Its main advantages are the possibility of accessing all operations immediately and comfortably from a device with an internet connection, as well as flexibility in requirements and the absence of commissions compared to traditional banks.
Among their drawbacks, we find that they do not have such a wide range of products and services as that of conventional banks and that there is no personal contact with the entity.
Due to its characteristics, it is an appropriate option for those looking for a simple, profitable, and modern solution to manage their income and make online or physical purchases. It is ideal for young people or people without a fixed payroll, freelancers, and travelers.