Alternative Finances

Will Retail Shops Be The New Bank Branches? Number26 Thinks So

There are a variety of visions for what the bank of the future should be — a coffee shop, a digital destination accessible mainly from a smartphone — but for the good folks over at Number26, the bank of the future basically isn’t a bank at all. It’s a store.

Number26 isn’t new to this game. For the last several years, the German startup has been trying to reconfigure the European banking experience for the better.

Its latest approach involves partnering with retailers to turn shops into dual-purpose banking hubs. The newly conceived physical solution is rolling out across Germany today (Oct. 22) as part of a partnership with Barzahlen.

For German shoppers, that means that 3,000 drugstores, grocery stores and other retail chains dotting the German landscape will be available for customers who want to make deposits or withdrawals. The taking money out part is not much of a value proposition — any MasterCard ATM allows Number26 account holders to grab cash — but depositing locations are a new service.

To use the service, customers need to access the Cash26 feature in the Number26 app while at a checkout area with their phone. After typing in the amount of cash to be deposited (or withdrawn) and scanning a barcode, users enter a PIN and hand over the deposit. Cash deposits appear immediately in their account.

The easy cash-in and cash-out points are key in the startup’s German home market, as cash payments remain more common there than in other parts of the world. While checking has gone by the wayside, card payments are not ubiquitous, meaning Germans tend to both carry (and need to deposit) more cash and have a more frequent need for withdrawals.

The app has been reviewed as “much better designed than your average banking app” by TechCrunch, and Number26 is currently working to expand its usability, particularly around 3D Touch for the newest iPhone iterations.

Barzahlen — Number26’s partner in this effort — is familiar with this kind of banking partnership (it offers it to a few other clients) and with making a grocery store a personal finance hub (users can also pay utility bills and rent at its clients’ store locations).

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