Chad Hensley
Apr 9 · 5 min read

This story is part of a series showcasing what you can expect from banking with N26. In this edition, we’ll explore what makes checking our phones so addicting, and how N26 uses push notifications to empower customers financially.


Do you remember the last time you misplaced your phone? If you experienced a small-scale panic attack, you’re not alone. In a very short period of time, technology has transformed how we work, shop, learn, socialize, exercise, date, travel, and even how we sleep. The average person spends over four hours a day using their phone, which adds up to over 2,600 taps and swipes per day. Four in 10 Americans would rather lose their voice for a day than lose their phone for 24 hours, and many of us are so preoccupied with our devices that we can sometimes feel them vibrating in our pockets even when they aren’t there.

We depend on our phones for a lot. Using our mobile devices, we can get whatever we want within seconds, whether it be the number of Mexican restaurants closeby, updates from our friends and distant relatives, or validation from trendy strangers. Without even realizing it, our brains have learned to depend on our phones to guide us through nearly everything that we do. How did we become so enchanted by these beguiling pieces of technology? Two words: push notifications.

At their core, push notifications were designed to quickly alert users to important information and updates from apps and services to which they’ve subscribed. We put a great deal of thought into this seemingly simple feature here at N26. We use push notifications to help customers empower themselves financially. When developing our app, our engineering and design teams set out to cut through the clutter of our busy, digital lives and provide customers with instant financial clarity and peace of mind.

“We developed this feature to help customers solve problems using concepts and features they’re already familiar with and look forward to receiving. It’s a matter of building trust,” explains Christian Hertlein, Head of Design at N26.

“These milliseconds make a huge difference in the reliability of the experience. The fact that you get a notification so quickly makes users feel that they’re ahead of the merchant. Even just a vibration in a user’s pocket creates an immediate connection that the transaction was successful without even needing to pull their device out,” he continues.

“Our instant transaction notifications give users real-time transparency and control over their finances,” adds Helen Li, Product Manager Lead for N26 in the US. “For every purchase, deposit, and withdrawal from your N26 account, we send your phone a notification, which helps customers keep their finances top-of-mind without hassle.”

When developing the feature, it was important that the push notifications went beyond the instant gratification we’ve learned to expect from mobile applications and provided real value to customers.

“The notifications are genuinely helpful,” describes Shruti Ramiah, N26’s Senior Lead Design Researcher, from our headquarters in Berlin. “Last year I was visiting New York and my card was rejected when the hotel staff tried it. Before they got back to me, my phone buzzed with a notification telling me that the transaction was declined because I had international transactions disabled. No fumbling around trying to troubleshoot the situation. I opened the app and fixed it instantly.”

These alerts can be particularly helpful when traveling internationally, helping users avoid the mental accounting that ensues when spending in a country that uses a different currency. “The notification shows you the purchase amount in your home currency, a language you understand,” Ramiah continues. “So you have a much better sense of what you’ve spent.”

Transaction notifications also help safeguard customers against fraud, which is particularly advantageous when you consider that there is a new victim of identity theft every 2 seconds.

“With these notifications, you’ll know instantly if your card or account is being used fraudulently,” Li outlines. “Sometimes you don’t catch these things until you’re looking over your statement at a later date after the damage has been done. Instant notifications allow you to react much faster in these situations.”

“Awareness is the first step to making smarter financial decisions, and that’s what our instant notifications support. Just helping you be more aware of your spending on the day-to-day.”

Earlier in this post, we mentioned that we designed our instant transaction notifications as a means to establish trust between us and our customers. Trust is more than a buzzword for us at N26. It’s no secret that 75% of millennials don’t trust big banks, and who can blame them? From dodgy, extortionate banking fees to IT failures, many regard banks as a necessary evil. So in acknowledging all of the rewards customers can reap from our instant transaction notifications, we must also address the elephant in the room — we all already receive too many notifications. Sure, our phones can help us stay in touch with friends and coworkers and direct us when we’re lost, but they can also be a huge timesuck. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your devices, there are a few things you do to improve your mobile experience without losing out on the benefits that push notifications were designed to provide.

Both Apple and Android have developed a do-not-disturb mode and time monitoring features, which help users enjoy time away from their devices. You can also manage which notifications are pushed to your device and disable alerts that are not time sensitive. Maybe you don’t need to be notified each time your aunt uploads a new photo to her Facebook account or whenever someone swipes right on your Tinder profile. Turning off inessential push notifications will allow you to focus on messages that actually require your attention.

As smart devices become even more ubiquitous, it’s evident that users will need to learn how to optimize usage to their benefit. A significant part of N26’s vision moving forward is to continue to explore ways of communicating with customers using means that are useful rather than disruptive.

“In the future, notifications will become an even more powerful element,” Hertlein notes. “If we think about wearables and voice interfaces, their appearance will change and a deep integration will allow different, more nuanced behavior.”

“Awareness is the first step to making smarter financial decisions, and that’s what our instant notifications support,” Ramiah adds. “Just helping you be more aware of your spending on the day-to-day.”

What notifications do you enjoy receiving and which would you like to silence? Share your two cents with us on Twitter and Facebook.


Think banking can’t be fast, flexible, and transparent? From instant transaction notifications to money management tools that actually work, N26 is revolutionizing the banking experience and putting the power where it belongs — in your hands. Join our waitlist for early access.

N26 US Magazine

N26 is coming to the US

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