Open your german bank account

To open a german bank account can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you need some service fast. I took time to explore the options when signing up for my first account, here are my findings. 🙂

Open your german bank account : your choice will make a difference

Like in many countries, there are only  few banks splitting the market between them. The most common banks you can find in Berlin and in the rest of Germany are:

Sparkasse

Volksbank

Deutsche Bank

CommerzBank

PostBank

The 3 lasts are organized into what is called the “cash group“. Any client of a cash group bank with a german bank account can withdraw money at any ATM within the group for free. Otherwise, there is a 5€ to 8€ fee to withdraw in another bank’s ATM.

All in all, they are banks and they more or less offer the same services within similar price range.

However, opening a bank account in Germany with one of those big banks usually requires to go in an agency and talk to a reluctant employee because they don’t want to / not allowed to speak German. It is stressful and sometimes, you just don’t have time when you need to figure out accommodation or a job at the same time.

Sooner or later, you need to pay your rent and put your wage money somewhere (Ka-ching!), so you have to make a choice. What you need is a “Girokonto”, a transactional/current account where your expenses and earnings go into. That’s the standard account.

A reasonable choice for your german bank account : DKB

Although it is lesser known than the ones above, my recommendation for your german bank account would be to apply for one at DKB for the following reasons :

  • You can withdraw money for free everywhere in the world with the free visa card they offer. Not all banks give credit cards for free.
  • It offers the GiroKonto  without fees which not all banks do. Some banks require at least 1000€ credit on the account to manage it for free. Not with the DKB.
  • No hidden fees, easy to close the account.
  • It also comes with free online banking AND free international money transfer which is not the case for all banks.
  • Everything is manageable online, starting with opening the account. You don’t need to go talk to someone in an agency, which is a relief when you don’t speak so much German. No pressure to sign a document if you are not sure either.
  • They were rated best online GiroKonto by consumer tests in 2015.
open a german bank account in Berlin

Pretty much how Deutsche Post employees looked at me the first time. But it gets better… 🙂

Click here, and then click on “Jetzt online eröffnen” (open online now). Once you filled out the form to open a german bank account online, they send you documents by post or by email to confirm your identity. What this means is that you get a unique ID “tag” that you need to verify by going in a Deutsche Post office. Simply bring a copy your Anmeldungbescheinigung and your passport. The whole procedure is a breeze as the Deutsche Post employees are used to it.

You can even bypass this by confirming your identity online with a webcam directly with them. That’s fast.

If you are unsure about opening the account, you can still sign-up online to receive the documents. They come with all the conditions and contracts so you can have a look at all of it at home, with no pressure. As long as don’t you send anything back, you are not committed to anything.

I’ve personally been very satisfied with their services so far and i think a few of my expats friends would agree with me.

Other kinds of bank accounts in Germany & key terms :

  • Sparbuchkonto : Savings accounts. This is money you lock away for a long time in exchange for interesting rates.
  • Sperrkonto : Locked account. Typically used to allow foreigners to acquire visas. This is to prove they have sufficient means to stay in Germany.
  • Mietkautionskonto – Mietkaution Sparkonto: Deposit for your appartement. In case you can’t give your landord the full amount, the bank provides deposit money that you repay with an interest. It can be relevant for international students.
  • Disposition Kredit (DispoKredit) : The overdraft limit you are allowed. As with any banks, this comes at a cost, generally depending on your monthly earnings.
  • Zinsen : Interest rates
  • Überweisung : Money transfer
  • Bargeld : cash

What if i want to transfer some of my savings to my new account (e.g: for visas, deposits)?

We all have been there; we sometimes need to pay something big like a deposit on a flat or your simply need to prove you have the means to stay in Germany to obtain your visa. Since there isn’t much money yet on the new bank account, you might want to transfer some of your savings there to pay for those things. Depending on your bank at home, they might charge you up to 5% of the said amount to make that transfer from another currency. So e.g, on a $3000 transfer, you might pay up to $150 just to move money around!

If that’s true for you, you might want to use services TransferWise which thanks to its unique system, allows you to transfer money in other currencies with a very reduced fee. It has no hidden fees like most of banks have!

Tip 1: If you are staying for a short period of time, it might not be necessary to open a German bank account, especially if you live within the E.U. It might be  less of an hassle to subscribe to an international service package at your domestic bank.  It might be enough if you pay your rent in cash and you don’t have to pay withdrawal fees at ATMs for example.

Tip 1: You will most likely get an EC Karte, which is a debit card. At the moment of opening your account, it’s sometimes not possible to get a visa credit card. The reason for that is that your schufa record at the time of opening is non existant if you have just arrived. More information about the schufa here. But it was not a problem for me with the DKB.

59 Comments

  • Reply Natalia 12/01/2017 at 10:18

    Hi,
    Can you tell what is the next step after the Webcam identification? I just had one and they did not say anything about what to do next, I mean if the decision is positive and if so how to proceed.
    I would appreciate your reply.
    And your blog is so helpful, thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2017 at 10:05

      Hello Natalia, i’m glad it could help. After the Video Ident Step, you should receive a confirmation from DKB the next day that everything went well. After another two or three business days, you should receive your documents at home. Good luck.

    • Reply Ranjith 17/01/2017 at 11:23

      hi, did you get any update from DKB. I have also done the same and waiting for their update. 🙂

  • Reply Bryce 03/01/2017 at 11:25

    Hi there! Love your site and have been following it to a T since I moved to Berlin! 🙂

    I applied to DKB, went through the process over webcam, and received a letter in the mail very vaguely stating that based on the data they had, they could not open an account for me. There really aren’t specifics, and I am wondering if they may have raised the standards of acceptance?

    DKB is surely the best bank option, and I’d definitely be inclined to apply again. I’m a freelance web designer and just moved from the US – estimated income at 2000 euros per month. Just confused as to what the hold up may have been, for instance if it may have been in regards to “Bitte ergänzen Sie eine Voranschrift in den letzten 3 Jahren.” — my previous US address, my stated ‘Nationality’, my TIN (which I originally input as my US Social Security number), estimating too low of a monthly income, or exactly what would have disqualified me…

    Many thanks for any insight you have on this!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/01/2017 at 11:55

      Hi Bryce. I’m glad the blog is helping. It’s hard to tell the reason why they refuse people. If if the absence of SCHUFA record is not the issue, it often has to do with the figure you put in as your monthly income. I always recommend to put a high enough number like 2500€ for example.

      • Reply Bryce Willem 03/01/2017 at 21:40

        Awesome, will give another go. Thanks much 🙂

      • Reply Bryce 04/01/2017 at 15:52

        Sorry if this is double posting (don’t think it sent properly when I last replied). I realized and wanted to follow up because I realized I don’t currently have a SCHUFA yet. I think I might have just mixed up my order of operations here. Would you advise that I go get my phone plan set up so that that SCHUFA is automatically created, and then go to re-apply here with DKB?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/01/2017 at 10:03

          Yes, this could be a viable strategy.It depends on if the provider accepts foreign bank accounts though.

  • Reply Francisco 31/10/2016 at 08:33

    Hello!

    pretty good article, it is really helpful! I am went to DKB page and I saw that one of the benefits is the follow “DKB-VISA-Card und Girokarte, jeweils plus Partnerkarte” that means that for each card they give to you an extension? I am asking that due to my wife and I recently moved to Germany and I want to do a extension for her.

    Tahnks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/10/2016 at 09:28

      Hi there. You are signing up for a joint account, which means that both of you will get their own set of cards.

  • Reply Sarah 05/10/2016 at 20:27

    Hi, amazing website! I’ve just arrived in Berlin, it’s the first time I will be living in Germany and I’m from Belgium.
    I did my Anmeldung and I am wondering if I can get a SCHUFA with my Belgian bank account or if I first need to open a German bank account?
    Best wishes

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/10/2016 at 09:34

      Hi there Sarah. That case never came up. Maybe ask them yourself and come back to let us know what the answer was?

      • Reply Sarah 11/10/2016 at 16:53

        Hi, so unfortunately it turns out I will need a German bank account after all!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/10/2016 at 18:57

          Cool. Thanks for letting us know.

          • Alex 01/12/2016 at 11:24

            Hey! I just moved from Belgium too. Started a new job here, but trying to work out the banking / accommodation! What did you choose in the end Sarah?

  • Reply Maria 27/09/2016 at 12:42

    Hello,
    Quick question about filling in the form for DKB. They ask for the net income which I am not sure how much it issince I recently started to work as a freelancer. Can an estimate work for them?

    Thanks!
    Maria

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/09/2016 at 13:56

      Hi Maria. Yes that’d be enough for them.

  • Reply Nazira 09/09/2016 at 16:58

    Hi,i try to identify my self online by DKB but identification centre is told me that my country is not allowed to be identify by online, so i send my passport copy and registration and the EU visa by post to DKB, i am not sure if i will get an bank account,,, and how long in takes,,,can anyone suggest me is need to wait for reply or open in another bank an account.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/09/2016 at 09:40

      If you want through the Post-Ident process, it should work out without a problem. You should have your bank account within a few days now.

  • Reply Ahmed 04/09/2016 at 02:09

    I come to berlin for studying so i need to open an german bank account and I found your informations great but when i tried to open an account through DBK , they asked me if i “steuerlich ansässig” and then asked for tax residence and it’s number !! I tried to search for it but i couldn’t find anything

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/09/2016 at 15:59

      They are asking you where you’re tax residence is at the moment. You can enter your information from back home as well. Does that work for you?

  • Reply Sarah 29/07/2016 at 10:52

    Hello!
    How many days it takes to have a bank account number if I apply to DKB today?
    I need to send a bank account number to my company ASAP, but with all this proceedings it seems to me that it can take longer than other banks, which can give me the number in a few minutes.
    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 29/07/2016 at 15:47

      It takes only a few days when using the option of proving your identity with the Webcam.

      • Reply Milo 12/08/2016 at 14:14

        I’m wondering this as well! I have an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde in Stuttgart in 5 days time and only verified my ID via webcam today (Fri). Also have to wait for the SWIFT transfer of AUD to the DKB account. How else can I prove my finances for the Student Aufenthaltserlaubnis if it doesn’t work in time?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/08/2016 at 14:36

          I suppose you can always bring a confirmation that you made the transfer to you german account from you Australian one if you are tight on time. As with anything regarding visa situations, i guess it will depend on the agent in front to you if they want to be a bit more lenient for you. Otherwise, you might have to make another appointment.

          • Milo 12/08/2016 at 17:24

            Thanks for the reply – hope it comes through I time. I just went to Postbank to ask if I could open account there (the one I’m waiting on is DKB) but they said I can’t open a postbank account until I have a >6 month visa.

  • Reply Gil 28/07/2016 at 16:20

    Hello,

    Thanks for the super useful information. I need an EC Kart, should I ask precisely for one or is something automatic? (I have an account with Number 26 and they don’t have an EC Kart and I need one).

    Thank You!

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 28/07/2016 at 18:22

      The standard card that you get in Germany when opening an account is an EC Karte, which is a debit card. The credit card is sometimes added on top, either only after sometime or with an additional fee. Free credit cards are actually not that common in Germany and that’s how Number26 tries to sets itself apart from the competition. DKB does provide both.

  • Reply Dana White 17/07/2016 at 18:56

    Hello,

    I am an international student (from the US) and I tried to open a DKB account online. I was rejected. Do you think it was because I do not have an address in Germany yet?

  • Reply mohammad 09/07/2016 at 11:12

    hello
    My visa has been issued for 6 months and I have to pay for health insurance. It is necessary to open a bank account or it can be pay in cash every month?

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 10/07/2016 at 11:33

      I dont think it is possible to pay cash but it’s possible to transfer the money from your home account. I guess it’s preferable to open a german bank account to pay those sort of things and others but there aren’t any fees with your domestic bank, it might not be necessary. You can also call and ask your krankenkasse for confirmation.

  • Reply Josefina 23/06/2016 at 15:40

    Hello,
    How does it work the dkb with the atm?, how much is the fee per withdrawl?, does it belong to a cash group with other banks?
    Thanks

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 24/06/2016 at 14:45

      It doesn’t belong to the cash group but there are no fees withdrawing from ATMs in banks from the cash group or Sparkasse, or most other banks abroad. There might be fees when withdrawing from those non-affiliated ATMs in Spätis or train stations though.

  • Reply Rajesh 06/06/2016 at 09:51

    One of my clients wants to do business in London and berlin .
    He needs a bank account at both the places / or a single bank with presence at both the places .

    His status and available documents is as under….

    [1] Indian citizenship – Indian passport
    [2] Personal bank account statement -Indian banks
    [3] Tax payer registration and returns filed with the income tax department of India.
    [4] UK based private limited company – incorporated recently – single director / shareholder.
    [5] Source of Funds available in bank accounts / tax papers – clearences also

    Requirement

    [1] bank account in a bank having branches at London and berlin
    [2] wants to open online if possible
    [3] if mandatory—may come to London / berlin and visit bank
    [4] wants to complete all documentary compliance in advance , before he comes there so that he is not required to stay long for opening bank account .
    [5] may be able to do transactions online / via debit / credit card once a/c is opened

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 06/06/2016 at 20:21

      Well i guess big international banks like HSBC would do.

  • Reply William Kavanagh 17/05/2016 at 12:45

    Hello,

    I am moving to Berlin in two weeks and this site has been my bible. Thank you for putting together such a useful tool! I have made an appointment for my Anmeldung a few days after I arrive, however I am keen to open an account right away. Are there any banks that will let me do this without my Anmeldung? Is it enough to take proof of an appointment? I was under the impression that Sparkasse would allow me to this?

    Thanks!

    Will

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 17/05/2016 at 18:04

      In my knowledge, this has proven to be difficult because a passport alone is not enough. However, you can always try and let us know if that worked. 🙂

    • Reply Nicolas Bouliane 18/05/2016 at 15:44

      I managed to do it with Commerzbank as a Canadian resident. They needed a couple of papers for proof, but it worked out alright.

  • Reply Laura 10/05/2016 at 22:07

    Hi,

    I’ve just tried to open a DKB account online but it wont let me complete the process, saying it can only open accounts for people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Has anyone else come across this problem and can anyone suggest a solution? Is it because I’m entering a UK address? Do I have to wait until I have a German address and then apply from there?

    Thanks

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 11/05/2016 at 09:34

      Yes, you have to enter a German address to open a bank account with DKB. Wait a little bit until you have one.

  • Reply Skalka 28/04/2016 at 20:40

    Hi!

    Is it necessary to have a job already to open a GiroKonto in DKB bank? Or can i open one before i found a job?
    I opened an account in sparkasse today, and they made it a hard time for me in the beginning because i don’t have a job yet, but in the end they agreed. The thing is that i need to pay 6.95 euro a month for the account. So maybe i should switch to DKB?

    Cheers!

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 28/04/2016 at 22:56

      Yes, many banks in Germany charge you when you don’t have a certain income per month going into the account. It’s called “Kontoführung Gebühren”. The DKB doesn’t have that. It’s really non-sense that this is still happening these days, when everything is going through computers.

  • Reply Jason Hyndman 20/04/2016 at 02:56

    Have you heard of NUMBER26? What are your thoughts on them?

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 20/04/2016 at 09:37

      I have heard good things about them so far but i want to wait a little while more before recommending it here, to make sure that the experience is as good as i have heard.

      • Reply Jason Hyndman 13/05/2016 at 16:00

        That’s okay then, I’m thinking on going with them except the give a credit card which is not accepted everywhere. Is DKB the same? Can they provide debit cards or credit cards only?

        • Reply settle_in_Berlin 14/05/2016 at 10:47

          DKB provides a VISA card for free that you can use worldwide without any fees when withdrawing money or when paying with it. It also provides the standard EC Karte (debit card) for Germany.

  • Reply New Berliner 31/03/2016 at 12:42

    Thanks for the help!!

  • Reply yael weiss gadish 23/01/2016 at 16:06

    Hollo, as an international company located in Israel, can we open bank account in Berlin or do we need a companey registrated in Germany for that?

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 24/01/2016 at 12:09

      I must say i don’t know i haven’t never opened an account while not being in Germany. The DKB seems to allow to open from outside the country but you need an extra ID check via a local partner branch in your home country or something. You can have a look on their website.

  • Reply Aileen 21/12/2015 at 15:15

    Do you know what the best way is to open a Sperrkonto? I went to the branch in Deutch Bank, but they told me I had to register online, and activate it at the branch in person. I tried finding the application form online, but I can’t find it anywhere

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 21/12/2015 at 16:47

      A sparkonto ? Are you sure you need a savings account ? Correct me if i’m wrong but you need maybe more a GiroKonto ? Let me know if that’s the case. You can find application form for such a bank account therethere for Postbank, there for Commerzbank, and there for Consorsbank.

      • Reply Peter 04/01/2016 at 00:31

        A Sperrkonto is not the same as a Sparkonto. It is a type of account from which only a limited amount can be withdrawn per month. The owner is “blocked” from withdrawing more, so to speak. Such an account is often needed by foreign students to demonstrate proof of sufficient means.

        • Reply Aditya 03/04/2016 at 19:08

          Yeah i also need to open an account so which bank is best

          • settle_in_Berlin 04/04/2016 at 14:08

            DKB is highly recommendable, free Girokonto, no fees paying or withdrawing money, even abroad. <

  • Reply SZhan 12/10/2015 at 15:02

    Thanks for the very useful tips and options! I’m really grateful that you wrote this article to help newcomers along. German bureaucracy can be so intimidating. Keep up the great work!

  • Reply peter odonnell 18/07/2015 at 19:36

    I only have my UK passport, and a birth cert, if i cant find someone speeking english in the bank i wont get far.
    have euros in cash luckily as im having visa issues after a purchace on a new zealand bank account.
    I Need an account here in Berlin and a visa to make it work .
    Any help or advice would be appreciated

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 28/07/2015 at 11:16

      I’m not sure i get everything of your situation but i try other banks to find help in English, or alternatively, online banks that can serve you in English. Also ; if you have a UK passport, you shouldn’t need a visa right ? Are you not considered EU citizen then ?

  • Reply margaret lindsey 07/03/2015 at 11:55

    interested in opening bank account with bank of berlin germany
    deutsche bank
    need urgent information

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