what is this neo-local French bank worth?

If it can be considered as the very first French neobank, Nickel offers a very different model in the form of a local payment account, much more than a real bank. But beyond its accessibility, is Nickel to be recommended compared to the rest of the banking offer in France?

The characteristics of Nickel

💶 Opening bonus None
📃 Income condition None
💳 Bank card MasterCard
💰Initial deposit None
💸 Account maintenance fees None
🤝Sponsorship Yes
📱App Android/iOS
💲Mobile payment None
🔐3D Secure Yes

Nickel in a nutshell

Nickel is a French neobank born in 2014 under the impetus of Financière des Payments Electroniques (FPE) and its founders Ryad Boulanouar and Hugues Le Bret, electronics and financial engineers respectively. The primary goal was to provide each customer with an inexpensive bank account in just a few minutes, to be activated at their nearest tobacconist, with no deposit or income requirements. The neobank is basically aimed at a well-defined audience: people in a situation of banking bans, students, precarious or even in the process of divorce who need a supplementary account that is simple to set up. All this is made possible thanks to a quick opening in any partner tobacconist. Today, Nickel has more than 2 million customers from all walks of life, even if you don’t live in France (more than 160 countries).

Nickel’s big particularity is that it is a payment institution, so it cannot speculate with its customers’ money like a traditional bank.
Nickel and FPE were 95% acquired in 2020 by the BNP Paribas group. The confederation of tobacconists is in the minority (5%).

Nickel’s rates

Nickel does not have a free account, but the basic subscription is very low: 20 euros per year for access to an account, the equivalent of 1.6 euros per month. The Nickel account entitles you to a classic Mastercard. Nickel is also very transparent about its prices and does not offer any hidden costs, even if they are relatively numerous and expensive as part of a basic account:

Nickel My Nickel Nickel-Chromium Nickel Metal
Card prices 20€ /year €22.50/year 50€ /year 100€ /year
Initial deposit None None None None
Income conditions None None None None
Withdrawal fees in France and SEPA zone – €1.5 per transaction (in France)
– €1 per operation (outside France)
– 3 free withdrawals from tobacconists and Points Nickel. The following remain at the rate of €0.5/withdrawal
– €1.5 per transaction (in France)
– €1 per transaction (outside France)
– 3 free withdrawals from tobacconists and Points Nickel. The following remain at the rate of €0.5/withdrawal
– €1.5 per operation (in France)
– €1 per operation (outside France)
– 3 free withdrawals from tobacconists and Points Nickel. The following remain at the rate of €0.5/withdrawal
– Free in France and SEPA zone
-3 free withdrawals from a tobacconist and Points Nickel. The following remain at the rate of €0.5/withdrawal
Payment abroad (Outside SEPA zone) €1 per operation €1 per operation No charge No charge
Withdrawals abroad (outside SEPA zone) €2 per operation €2 per operation €1 per operation Free
Payment cap 1,500 – 3,000 € /month 1,500 – 3,000 € /month 1,500 – 3,000 € /month 1,500 – 3,000 € /month
Withdrawal limit 300 – 800 €/ week 300 – 800 €/ week 300 – 800 €/ week 300 – 800 €/ week

The My Nickel, Chrome and Metal accounts, respectively at 22.50, 500 and 100 euros per year, are ultimately not so essential, even as part of a main account, apart from Mastercard insurance, the fault of, advantages not so far from the basic offer.

Other fees are charged to all accounts this time. We note for example the supply of the account by credit card from the customer area (2% of the amount), the cashing of checks (3 euros per deposit) or even, more surprisingly, the exceeding of 60 SMS alerts per year ( 1 euro for 10 additional SMS). Depending on how one can use a Nickel account, these fees can have a significant impact on the banking experience.

How to fund your account?

Like almost all neobanks, Nickel allows you to fund your account from any external account via the RIB and without a cap. On the other hand, it is impossible to register an external account to make quick transfers: these take on average between 24 and 48 hours.

In addition to transfers, it is possible to cash checks from the application via a convenient dedicated system. However, the collection period is very long and can take up to 15 working days.

Finally, you can also fund your account with cash directly at a partner tobacconist. However, you should know that this operation is subject to fees: 2% of the amount deposited and capped at 950 euros cumulatively over 30 calendar days. On the other hand, the balance is added in real time to the account.

Open an account with Nickel

1 account + 1 card + 1 RIB in 5 minutes, that’s what Nickel promises us when you connect to its site. As it stands, although we could nitpick about the timing, we must recognize that Nickel keeps his word. However, you should know that 2 steps are included in the process. The first validation is done on the site with the provision of a photo of both sides of the identity card, some personal and professional information. Everything must be validated by a facial verification via webcam or by the camera of a smartphone.

The second step is to go directly to a tobacconist or bank partner point of sale for the final opening of your account. After providing your identity card and the 20 euros of the first contribution, the tobacconist issues the card of your choice, the operation only takes a few minutes.

Then simply go to the bank’s web platform or the application and enter the identifiers located on the back of the card.

Nickel also has an offer dedicated to teenagers aged 12 to 18 and includes a Mastercard Standard bank card with systematic authorization, all offered for 20 euros per month and controlled by parents via the application.

Initial deposit and overdraft management

Apart from the contribution to obtain its account and its card, Nickel does not require any initial deposit on all of its accounts. You can therefore use the account once it has been created at your tobacconist without having a balance.

Nickel accounts, on the other hand, cannot be in debt. It is therefore impossible to obtain an overdraft authorization. If a payment exceeds the account balance, the payment will simply be declined.

Welcome bonuses

Nickel is not a neobank like the others and even less an online bank, it offers no welcome bonus of any kind for opening an account.

Nickel, on the other hand, does not skimp on solidarity operations, especially in this period of a pandemic. The bank recently made a gesture for its individual customers and partners, in particular by offering a Nickel Chrome card to tobacconists in its network and to healthcare personnel..

Referral bonus

The Nickel sponsorship offer allows customers to obtain a reward bonus when they recommend online banking to their relatives. Everything is done via a sponsor code system available from the customer area. For a sponsored godson, the godfather gets 3 euros:

  • 1 referral = 3 euros;
  • 2 referrals = 6 euros;
  • 5 referrals = 15 euros;
  • 15 referrals = 45 euros.

The bank does not give any limit, so it is theoretically possible to earn up to 3000 euros for 1000 referrals.

Insurance and services at Nickel

Accounts at Nickel are linked to the Mastercard organization. Its customers are thus dependent on the insurance package associated with the level of card chosen. Note, however, that the basic Nickel account does not offer additional insurance, only the Nickel Chrome and Nickel Metal cards have it. The first offers a classic insurance policy for travel (flight delay, loss of luggage, etc.), in the event of theft of equipment and for online purchase fraud. But it is with the Nickel Metal card that there are the most exclusive insurances, thanks in particular to the contribution of Europ Assistance for travel in addition to the guarantees included with the corresponding Mastercard card.

Nickel also offers a partnership with RIA allowing its customers to send money very simply and from the application in more than 150 countries. The service works seamlessly with perfect integration and with the currency corresponding to the country of reception.

cash back

Nickel offers since December 2020 a system of cash back allowing you to obtain a percentage of reimbursement on purchases made via partner brands, in stores or online. It is not a platform specific to the bank, but just the integration of the platform of the Mastercard organization named ” Travel Rewards “. This program will therefore only be aimed at globetrotters and more affluent customers making purchases in one of the partner brands. None of them are located in France: most of them are luxury stores and restaurants.

One has the impression that this program ofcash backwas added to inflate the list of services without having any real interest for the main target of the bank.

Customer service

From the application, it is possible to obtain access to Nickel support directly via chat, email or call. Nevertheless, the availability of advisors may vary depending on the schedule, which can be very handicapping when traveling abroad. On the other hand, the answers are well personalized and the tone is cordial. It is also possible to obtain assistance from the bank’s social networks such as Twitter or Facebook with much better responsiveness.

And cryptocurrency?

Nickel is in no way a bank designed for investors in cryptocurrency or any speculative securities. No support in this area is therefore to be credited.

Our opinion on the Nickel mobile application

Like any good self-respecting neobank, Nickel very early on equipped itself with a functional and exclusive application which does not take the form of a web-app. Even if it remains simple in its presentation, in particular by using the orange, black and white color codes of the bank, it thus gains in readability, fluidity and it is rarely faulted.

On the current account page, the display of expenses is rather clear and well prioritized thanks to an efficient categorization of expenses with visuals corresponding to each type of purchase. We are even entitled to a fairly precise timestamp, a specificity not so common on this type of application, well done! In addition to payment or transfer notifications, it is possible to fully configure your alerts (insufficient balances, ceilings reached, etc.) whether by notification, email or even SMS.

We also regret the lack of support for mobile payments via Google Pay or Apple Pay.

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