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. This post is based on real-life experience and an honest review of the different banks presented here.

Open a bank account in Germany

A quick overview of the best bank accounts in Germany

For people that want info fast, this table sums this post up and compare features nicely. There is more information waiting under the table too.


Price / month


Credit card

(Fees)


Debit card



ATM fees



Open account online



English support?



Requires Anmeldung?


For freelancers too?


Google + Apple Pay?


Overall satisfaction


0€ 


Yes

(0€)


Yes

Maestro


0 €

in Germany and abroad


Yes

in 8 minutes with your phone


Yes

+ french, spanish, italian


No


Yes


Yes


Popular choice


0€


Yes

(0€)


Yes

EC-Karte


0 €

in Germany and abroad


Yes

With webcam


No



Yes


No


Yes



3,90€


On request

(29€ / year)


Yes

EC-Karte


0 €

in cash group ATMs only


No

in agency


No



Yes


No


No



Opening your German bank account : your choice will make a difference

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 account where your expenses and earnings go into. That’s the standard account.

However, opening a bank account in Germany with one of the traditional big banks usually requires to go in an agency and talk to a reluctant employee because they don’t want to/are not allowed to speak English. 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.

The best option for most people for a German bank account: N26

I’ve been using N26 for a few years and it has always served me well in Germany or abroad. I’ve personally been very satisfied with their services so far and I think a few of my expats friends would agree with me. I also read on forums and Facebook groups that it’s a very recommended choice as far German bank account for expats goes. You can read my full N26 review here.

Although it might be a less established brand, my recommendation for your German bank account would be to apply for one at N26 for the following reasons :

No fees

  • It offers the Girokonto with no fees attached.
  • Free credit card.
  • Free withdrawals worldwide.
  • Free online banking and free international money transfer.

Ease of use

  • Interface and customer support available in English.
  • You can open the account online in a few minutes with a webcam.
  • No need to be a German resident (for most cases).
  • No need to have a registered address in Germany (Meldebescheinigung) to open a bank account.
  • Everything is manageable from your phone and online, starting with opening the account. 
  • No hidden fees, easy to close the account.

Although it’s an all digital bank, it also offers the same guarantees as traditional ones. The funds deposited in your account are insured against theft, or hacking in case that happens.

This is how you open your N26 bank account in Germany online

  • Click here, and then click on “Open bank account”.
  • Enter your email adress
  • You just need your passport and a smartphone
  • Go through the ID check with the customer support. Alternatively, you can also simply visit a post office for the ID check.
  • Receive your cards within 2-3 days

You can even your identity online with a webcam directly with them. That’s faster.

It is a younger bank, so it sometimes dealing with scaling/growing issues. It is so popular and growing very fast, so sometimes, customer service might be lackluster. Still, most people are happy with it.

A pictural representation of how smooth my experience with N26 has been so far. 🙂

An solid alternative choice for an online German bank account: DKB

If for some reason you are looking for another online bank option, a great runner-up is DKB. It offers the same advantages as N26 and the same easy process to open the account online. However, they do not not support English as a communication language. More info this way.

DKB has been rated consistently as one of the top online banks in Germany for many years. If German is not an issue, it is also a very strong option to open a German bank account online.

An alternative if you are looking for physical branches: Postbank

Like in many countries, there are only a brick & mortar banks splitting the market between them. The most common you can find in Germany are:

The 3 lasts are organized into what is called the “cash group“. Any customer 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 any other bank’s ATM.

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

Not everyone is looking for the same things when looking for a banking service. For some, it’s about paying just a little bit more to obtain more service and more flexibility in return. If this sounds more suitable to you and you speak a little bit of German, Postbank is a good choice for the following reasons:

  • The bank has agencies everywhere in Germany, even in the smallest cities, which can become handy in case you need services on holidays or if you move outside of Berlin.
  • Their Girokonto plus is for free if you are still student, otherwise it costs 3,90€ per month, which stay relatively cheap.
  • Visa cards comes for free the first year, then 29€ per year.

German bank account for freelancers and self-employed

If you are currently self-employed and you are looking for a separate bank account to manage all your business related expenses and income, you might be surprised by how costly it is to manage and extra bank account for this. Some banks make you pay a premium or will bill you depending on the movements on the said account. Some banks are also simply refusing to open another account for you because your income is too low, or if your SCHUFA score doesn’t fit. N26 steps in here nicely again and offers a business German bank account for self-employed people. You might want to check it out.


How can i 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 like 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!

About ATM fees

In Germany

Traditional banks in Germany are not really playing fair between them and won’t let customers from others banks withdraw cash without a fee. This fee can be anywhere between 3€ to 5€. That would not be a problem for all digital banks like N26. Sparkasse is usually considered to have the best network of ATMs that are well distributed through out Germany’s cities.

The other network is called the cash-group, as mentioned in the beginning of this article. Opening a bank account a Germany will also let you use smaller “independent” ATMs outside of bank branches. These are placed where banks are not good at placing cash points. Fees can reach 8€ euros however, so beware. Owning a credit card can solve that trouble for you, especially if you go with online banks, which have agreements to waive the fee.

A lesser know cash point solution too: supermarkets. Some supermarkets like Penny or Rewe will also let you withdraw money for free on top of your normal groceries’ bill. N26 also uses this to let its customers withdraw money for free, as many times as they want.

Abroad

German banks are usually reasonable on fees when withdrawing money abroad but they might charge a high conversion rate to compensate. Staying in the E.U zone also limits fees. Banks like DKB or N26 don’t charge anything at all when using credit cards at cash points.

Common banking fees across German banks

Comparing banking fees are a good way to make a decision beyond the simple flagship offer they might display everywhere. Banking fees are usually called “Kontoführungsgebühren” (Account management fee) and look like this for most banks:

  • Grundpreis – basic fee: Monthly fee for having a bank account in the first place. Yes, this still exists in a fully automated 21st century bank.
  • Dispokredit – Overdraft: that’s when you withdraw more money than you have, up to certain contractual limit. It’s usually costing 7% to 11%.
  • Uberziehung – also overdraft but not limited by any conditions.
    Here is a quick table to for a quick overview.
  • Bareinzahlung – cash deposit: that’s when you want to deposit cash into your account.
  • Kontoauszüge: German banks are legally required to send you a monthly account statement, giving you an overview of movements on the account. Also it’s mostly free if you decide to receive in a digital format, most banks will bill you the luxury of receiving by post.

Other kinds of bank accounts in Germany & key terms :

Although this post is about the standard Girokonto, which most people need when they first arrive in Germany, there are of course other types of account. Here is a quick overview with other key terms:

  • Sparbuchkonto : Savings accounts. This is money you lock away for a long time in exchange for interesting rates.
  • Sperrkonto : Blocked account for Germany. Typically used to allow foreigners to acquire visas, mostly for students visa. This is to prove they have sufficient means to stay in Germany. Follow the link for a detailed overview and comparison of providers as well.
  • Mietkautionskonto – Mietkaution Sparkonto: Deposit for your apartment. In case you can’t give your landlord 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

I hope this overview helped your decision making process. Don’t hesitate to leave your questions, comments or suggestions in the comment! 🙂

172 Comments

  • Reply Tori 20/01/2020 at 17:50

    This is the best blog. I’m glad I found this information. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Reply Vasja 31/10/2019 at 09:56

    DKB is shit! Just SHIT!!!! Got PIN for credit card and EC with 3 similar digits in a row. You cannot change pin for EC. I ordered a new PIN for credit card, waited 2 weeks each time and they send just the same card without pin. You also pay for it 10 euro each time. Customer service? What is it? I could not get hold of them even a single time. Fuck this idiots, honestly. This is the worst banking system I ever experienced. It is already 4th bank in Germany I dealt with, in general. All are shit!!!

  • Reply Mark 11/10/2019 at 12:42

    Note for all Israeli passport holders: you CANNOT open N26 bank account without a residence permit. This article fails to mention that a lot of nationalities cannot therefore open N26 bank account and you will just waste your time. Try other options.

    Good luck.

    • Reply amit 07/09/2020 at 23:41

      Same is for Indians. Also, It is same for DKB bank, Indians cant open online account.

  • Reply julien 19/09/2019 at 10:59

    Hello, thanks for this great article, wish I had read it before. I just arrived and opened an acount with Sparkasse. It seems that the monthly cost is rather high, 6.50 E!! I was looking for any comment on Sparkasse in your article but could not fin any, would you like to make any comment/ reviews on their service please? thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/09/2019 at 16:23

      Hey Julien. I have never been a client with them so i can’t really share anything about this sorry.

  • Reply Tori 13/09/2019 at 20:19

    Thank you, I was looking for information on opening a bank account.

  • Reply Sourav 17/07/2019 at 07:28

    Dear Bastien,
    Thanks for this detailed article. From my last stay in Germany (13 years ago 🙂 ), I had a Sparkasse AC, and there was always one of their ATMs round the corner, exactly as you point out! I will live again for a few months. So just wanted to check, is Sparkasse still not that English friendly and online transaction friendly?
    I also wanted to ask, in case you know how long can someone hold a bank account after leaving Germany.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/07/2019 at 14:09

      Hey Sourav. Check for each bank’s conditions for holding a bank account without being a resident. It depends from one provider to another. Regarding Sparkasse, it can happen that people would speak English to you in the branches, but the online services are not in English yet.

  • Reply Fabio 10/06/2019 at 21:56

    Hi Bastian

    Another great post and discussion here.

    I have one simple question about the closing of account. I’m leaving Germany in the next few weeks and won’t be returning back in near future. So my question, is it possible to keep my Deutsche Bank account open for few more months even though I will be deregistered in the city and won’t have a residential address?
    I have some pending payments to receive and some debts to clear as well, hence need the bank account running for few more months.I’m a non EU citizen living in Germany for last 5 years.

    Many thanks
    Fabio

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/06/2019 at 11:37

      Hey Fabio. You have to clear this DB directly, see what their terms and conditions plan for this case.

  • Reply F 04/04/2019 at 22:45

    I would also like to share some of my experiences with banks in Germany.

    First, I guess it would be beneficial for the reader to understand this is an article promoted by N26 bank.
    One form or the other, the author clearly had incentives writing this article. So called subsidized articles.

    [very very very long comment edited by SiB Editor for clarity sake. The author of the comment mentions issues he had with N26 to open a bank account. He mentions that it is not possible to open a bank account if you are not in Germany yet. He also complains about the questionable customer service he received as they were not able to accept his passport, because it was emitted too recently. Very frustrating experience, highlighting that there is no phone number to turn to.]

    If you have any doubts anything of this is real, please leave a comment here and I will contact you directly and we can have a phone call or I can identify myself.

    Happy N26 Service!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/04/2019 at 10:20

      Hey F. This article has been online years before N26 even existed and i have updated it so it includes N26 as an option. You are free to turn to other banks, as also highlighted in the post. I still think it’s the best option for most people. I do get commissions (for all 3 of them btw), but that’s all very transparent for everyone to see. Thanks for sharing your experience here. It is true that some people struggle to open an account, although it remains smooth for most people. No phone service sucks that’s true. It’s all very common issues for a very successful bank that has been growing like crazy.

    • Reply Susan 11/04/2019 at 17:59

      Hi Bastian, thanks for providing all this information. I’m looking into opening an N26 account for my business but can’t figure out if I can open an account in the name of a business rather than my personal name. Do you happen to know anything about this? Unfortunately the chat function on the N26 website doesn’t work and there doesn’t seem to be any other way to contact them.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 10:14

        Hey Susan. Hard to tell on such little information. It would be fine under your name if you were self-employed, but you might need a real business account if you are using it for a registered business.

    • Reply ruti 28/04/2019 at 10:27

      hi
      i just bought a new motorhome from dealership in germany, plan to travel in europe for a year. i have israeli passaport, i have an address in berlin and need a bank account to register the car (+insurance) . tried the post bank and was told i need a visa…. which visa? i am retired, a tourist….

  • Reply Daniele 18/03/2019 at 09:57

    Hi Everyone, and very interesting post but….. i still do not get the basics…:-)
    I’m German, always leaved and worked abroad. Now planning to return to Germany ( or better, get to Germany for the first time).
    Clearly there will be expenses to be paid of modest entity for which a direct bank account looks good, but can you kindly explain if for major purchases ( buy a car, downpayment for a property, etc etc): can you kindly advise what kind of bank/financial istitution is better to get an account with? And i’m not talking about financing, just simple transaction with available funds.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/03/2019 at 09:27

      Hey Daniele. In this case, i would still consider a direct bank account to be the best and normal solution.

  • Reply Cedric 07/02/2019 at 16:43

    Thanks a lot for this very useful page. I am considering to go for N26. However, you mention that there are “5 free withdrawals per month on ATM and then unlimited withdrawals in supermarkets”. As I am not in Germany yet, I am wondering how this works to withdraw money in supermarkets? Can you explain?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 12:14

      Hey Cedric. You simply show up at the cash register and ask the amount you would like.

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