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

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.

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.

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 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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