Is there a bank that is usable with a Google-free phone?

Jure Varlec exzombie at
Thu Mar 18 19:37:23 UTC 2021

Hello everyone,

This is a rant. Don't say I didn't warn you :) . It's about EU Directive
2015/2366. This directive has been there for a while now, obviously. Yet
it was only at the end of last December that it first came to my

My bank notified me that, starting January 1st, I would only be able to
make online purchases by confirming them in their smartphone app.
They've given me *mere days* notice for something that had been cooking
for 5 years. I've been without a fully functional credit card ever

If you read the Directive, there is relevant material in articles 97(1)
and 4(30) which require "strong authentication" with at least two
factors. Not bad, I'd say.

Except _all_ banks in my country of residence decided the second factor
*must* be a smartphone and nothing else will do. I checked, I wrote to
all of them. Oh, there is one that still offers a card reader, but when
you try to open an account with them, it turns out they want you to
install an app to do so, and that the card reader is being phased out. I
think this may have to do with the processes that Visa and Mastercard
put into place; it may well be that banks don't really have a choice in
the matter, but I can only guess.

The problem is that you need an Apple or Google phone, you need an
account with either company, and there's no way around that. I was
especially angry because this came at a time when most physical stores
(except for groceries) were closed here; ordering online was not a
luxury, but necessity, and I was left (almost) without ability to do so.

There is a *single* bank that answered my query with some good news:
their Android app doesn't require a Google account! You can actually
download an APK from their web site, without going through the Play
Store. Needless to say, I opened an account with them. I had to
"augment" my Google-less LineageOS phone with microG because even their
app relies on push notifications (which go through Google servers), but
I was willing to make the compromise. Except ... confirming online
payments doesn't really work. It turns out that the purpose behind
supporting phones without Play Store is to support Huawei phones, no
more, no less.

So I tried the N26 bank which many of you probably know. I know people
who use their app successfully on LineageOS+microG. But it turned out
that the identity verification process fails on my phone, so I can't
open an account.

There are many reasons why I find the situation completely unacceptable,
but let me just point out one. I find it incredible that an institution
like a bank would require me, as their customer, to enter a relationship
with some particular third party in order to use what is nowadays a
basic service of the bank. And I mean *any* third party; that the
required parties here are Google and Apple is merely the icing on the
cake. Let me be clear: banks have other companies as contractors, they
might as well outsource some stuff to Google. I don't care. I just don't
want to enter a relationship with Google *myself* because that
relationship is not subject to the same contracts and regulations as the
relationship between a bank and its contractors.

Let me finish this, before it gets too long, with two questions.

First, am I the only one who was caught unawares by this situation? I
mean, I admit that I don't read *every* single Free Software related
piece of news, there's too much going on in our community for that. But
I fancy myself far from clueless in these matters. Perhaps that's why it
hurts more that I first heard about this not from some Free Software
blog, but from my bank, and when it was already too late.

Second, does anyone know a bank that is usable with Free Software only
and will serve international customers? N26 was my last hope. Well, not
*quite* my last hope, I still hope to be able to fix microG so that
these apps would work. That's what we Free Software developers do,
right? Scratch our itches? It's just that I'm not an Android developer,
and debugging an app that is not your own is not something this system
was designed for, I think. Also, I'd rather vote with my wallet and
support a bank that actually supports Free Software (if there is such a
thing) than hack proprietary apps that are (in the name of security)
actively hostile to such attempts.

Thanks for reading this far!


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