Helios review: the greenwashing neobank?

logo Helios

Helios is a neobank positioning itself as an “ecobank” advocating a banking ecosystem favorable to the preservation of the environment. But behind the speech and the ambitions, is Helios really recommendable compared to a more traditional neobank?

Features of Helios

💶 OPENING BONUS ANY
📃INCOME CONDITION ANY
💳 BANK CARD VISA
💰INITIAL DEPOSIT ANY
💸 ACCOUNT MAINTENANCE FEES ANY
🤝SPONSORSHIP YES
📱APPLICATION ANDROID/ iOS
💲MOBILE PAYMENT ANY
🔐3D SECURE YES

Helios in a nutshell

Like many neobanks that have launched in recent months, Helios is part of this caste of new banking brands that began operations in the course of 2020. The particularity of Helios is to bet on an activist discourse focused on ecology, ethics and sustainable development. However, it is far from being the first to focus on this niche, we think in particular of Tomorrow, also a German neobank, a land decidedly conducive to the genre.

A noble speech with the air of marketing pirouette

Like some Vivid Money or other Fintech brands, Helios does not have its own banking license, but works with SolarisBank, a Baas (Bank As A Service) platform for which it shares the banking license. It is therefore almost 100% dependent on this organization for the practical management of its clients’ money. However, this goes a priori against the ideals of Helios, SolarisBank being a partner of many companies in the oil and automotive sector. Moreover, Solarisbank does not guarantee that the deposits of Helios customers are used in green projects or economies. All this without mentioning the VISA organization, far from being known for its commitment to the environment, it is also a Helios partner for bank cards.

Helios' bank card is made of wood

Helios’ bank card is made of wood // Source: Frandroid

We also have trouble with the principle of monitoring the carbon footprint strongly highlighted in communication and the bank as well as on the main page of the application. As it stands, this data is difficult to verify and in no way quantifies Helios’ results in terms of environmental protection. It’s more or less the same thing with the famous wooden card (the idea having been blithely pumped at Tomorow) with which we finally see only a marketing device.

Helios Pricing

Helios offers a readable offer based on two current accounts (including a joint account) and another designed for a young active audience (18-23 years old). Inevitably it is the individual account that influences the rest. Here are the main features:

Young Helios account Helios current account Helios Joint Account
Price 3€ /month (with one-year commitment) 6€ /month 3€ /month (per person)
Initial deposit Any Any Any
Type of debit Systematic authorization Systematic authorization Systematic authorization
Income conditions Any Any Any
Payment abroad Free of charge (euro zone)
1% (outside the euro zone)
Free of charge (euro zone)
1% (outside the euro zone)
Free of charge (euro zone)
1% (outside the euro zone)
Withdrawals abroad 2 free withdrawals per month* 5 free withdrawals per month* 5 free withdrawals per month*
Payment cap €3,000 per month up to a limit of €2,000 per day €3,000 per month up to a limit of €2,000 per day €3,000 per month up to a limit of €2,000 per day
Withdrawal limit €3,000 per month up to a limit of €2,000 per day €3,000 per month up to a limit of €2,000 per day €3,000 per month up to a limit of €2,000 per day

We find ourselves more or less in what a classic neobank can offer. This is especially the case for payments and withdrawals abroad which are offered free of charge, but only in the euro zone, where other currencies will give rise to a tax of 1% on each transaction. The classic current account also entitles you to 5 free withdrawals, additional withdrawals in the euro zone being billed just as much as transactions outside the euro zone (the latter being particularly expensive). Regarding the ceilings, if a threshold is assigned automatically, it is unfortunately not possible to go beyond. Also note that all IBANs issued by Helios are German, which is far from practical for a whole host of uses.

How to fund your account?

Even if Helios does not theoretically require a compulsory contribution, we could not have access to the account without paying 30 euros to have the full means, the 6 euros of the contribution being subtracted from this sum. There is also no other way to fund his account than to go through his regular bank and make a transfer by hand. Operations that are all the more frustrating if your bank does not make instant transfers for free. All this is coupled with an unavailability of mobile payments such as Google Pay, Apple Pay and others which reinforces this difficulty, especially in the context of a secondary account. We cannot even count on sending money by SMS and SEPA transfers are not yet possible.

Open an account with Helios

It is from the Helios mobile application that you will open an account, and only this one. The operation does not take more than 5 minutes and does not require any supporting documents apart from a photo of both sides of the identity card and a selfie that can be validated by the application itself. Once the smartphone has been validated by a code sent by SMS, you have direct access to the application.

Overdraft management

No overdraft authorization is issued. You therefore agree to fund your account to guarantee a positive balance. If inadvertently, the account ends up in negative, it would then no longer be possible to make any payment or withdrawal.

Welcome bonuses

Few neobanks regularly offer welcome bonuses or bonuses when opening an account, and Helios is no exception to this rule.

Referral bonus

Helios’ acquisition strategy does not correspond exactly to what can be done at many online banks. The neobank offers users to benefit from a one-year subscription (therefore subscription) free of charge after 5 referrals.

Everything can be done from the application simply by sending the dedicated link to loved ones. However, the sponsors must have made their complete registrations before validating the sponsorship.

Helios insurance and services

All Helios cards benefit from a VISA insurance policy. It includes protections for online purchases and against fraud. But it is especially for travel that this is useful since the offer includes dedicated insurance with repatriation and winter sports insurance in the event of an accident.

Cashback

Yes, Helios does have a cashback system, it also follows the neobank’s commitment to the environment since it only concerns brands whose ideas it shares in the matter. It is therefore possible to obtain reductions after a certain amount of purchase at some stores or food services such as The fork Where Eatic, money offered in exchange for subscribing to a green electricity contract with plum Where Equater or free delivery at Wedressfair, a platform for purchasing ethical clothing.

Even if we can welcome the idea, it is still too limited and reserved for a certain fringe of customers to be a real argument of weight.

Service client

Helios customer service is accessible from the application via an instant chat system or by call. We were able to try the first solution which proved effective with a relatively fast response time. No Bot system, available advisers respond well in French and, in the majority of cases, with written and non-automated responses.

Helios review: the greenwashing neobank?

And cryptocurrency?

No support for cryptocurrencies or possibility of investment of any kind with Helios. We understand that this type of service is not compatible with the principles of neobanking. Helios is therefore not a bank suitable for this type of use.

Our opinion on the Helios mobile application

Overall, the Helios application experience is of good quality. First of all, it is nice to see that the bank has chosen to develop its own platform and interface, rather than adopting a generic ecosystem. The presentation is neat and above all extremely refined, with the highlighting of the result of its ecological commitments from the first page.

Helios review: the greenwashing neobank?

The bottom menu has 4 tabs, one of which is dedicated to support, another for transfers and a last one to access information about your bank card(s). We also appreciate the fact that it is possible to manage a virtual card in addition to its physical card, which is also mandatory to activate on the application upon receipt.

The first tab, the main one, allows you to manage your budget at a glance with the latest transactions. But the most visible menu concerns the highlighting of the bank’s activities with a series of articles defining its commitments in terms of environmental protection.

Helios review: the greenwashing neobank?

In terms of security, we are entitled to the classic package, namely authentication by biometric fingerprint or by secret code.

The Helios application is therefore effective in its approach even if the lack of functionalities is felt, as well as the bank’s services.

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