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 and it can be tricky to open an account for newcomers. However, it’s the only free bank account that provides a true free credit card. You can read a full-length review of DKB’s Cash account here.

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! 🙂

177 Comments

  • Reply Anne Jensen 16/02/2018 at 10:19

    Hello
    Thanks for your great advice!

    I recently moved to Hamburg and took your advice to open an account at N26, and it works fine. Only thing is that I can only have 1 account there – the one where I receive my salary. Do you have any recommendations when I want to also have a “budget account” and a “savings account”? It shouldn’t be special types of account; just something for me to keep a structure on my financials.

    best,
    Anne

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/02/2018 at 11:01

      Hi Anne. There is savings or invest service in the app i believe.

      • Reply Anne Jensen 20/02/2018 at 10:18

        Hi again – yes, there is, but I don’t wish to invest at this point; just to have my own money structured on more accounts. I guess it is possible in the more traditional banks? Do you have any knowledge on that?

        All the best
        Anne

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/02/2018 at 16:51

          I don’t understand what you need then. For me a savings account is helping you to make that money grow while you don’t use it…

  • Reply Muhammad muaz 25/01/2018 at 17:17

    Hey! I’m from Pakistan. I opened my close account in Germany in a dustche bank with a closing amount of 8400 euros. I want to withdraw that money as i dont proceed my visa case.
    Can u please guide me that how it is possible for me to take my money out from german bank.
    If u will help me it will b an honour for me.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/01/2018 at 09:54

      Hi Muhammad. Simply make a transfer to your domestic bank account i suppose.

  • Reply derya derya 17/01/2018 at 18:02

    hi,
    I just moved in Frankfurt yesterday and I need to solve this bank account issue as soon as possible. N26 sounds great but when I read the pricing list, I see that a free is charged (1.5%) on deposits after the first 100 eur/month. So I need to pay a fee to put money that is exceeding 100 eur into the account?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2018 at 19:47

      Hi Derya. I believe it’s for cash deposits that they charge fees after 100€ per month.

  • Reply Kai 06/11/2017 at 23:57

    Hi, thanks for the great information. I’ve been with DB for some years now (started with the Sperrkonto for the visa). Now I have a research job with the university and would like to seitch banks – perhaps to Ing-DiBa or DKB, but since I have an income now (from the job + some freelance copy-editing job), I am wondering if I should get a Tagesgeldkonto to earn a little interest or continue to have a Girokonto. Do you have advice for this? And which bank would you recommend for the Tagesgeldkonto? Thanks very much in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/11/2017 at 18:02

      Hi Kai. No particular advice on the Tagesgeld konto; only it’s terrible interest rates.

  • Reply paul 01/11/2017 at 07:44

    Hey there, great article! I live in Berlin with my husband and I’m paid bi-monthly VIA direct deposit from my company in the USA–do German banks charge fees for international direct deposit of wages?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/11/2017 at 09:39

      In general, there are no fees if the transfer comes from the EU. Outside the EU, you will need to check bank by bank as they have different policies.

  • Reply Guillermo kesselbrenner 31/10/2017 at 13:15

    I want to open a bank account, I have a German passport and I want to transfer over 2 milion dollar from my account in NYC.
    Do I need to frovide declaration for the origin of the money?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/11/2017 at 09:37

      Hi Guillermo, in this case, you will probably need to declare this extraordinary transfer either when opening the account or during your Steuererklärung the year after. Maybe it’d be wise to ask an asset manager how to do that best.

  • Reply Kyriakos 13/08/2017 at 17:30

    Hello Bastien, I have a question about N26 account! If I open a bank account with them, can I put some money through an ATM to my account in order to pay my radio, TV taxes online? Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/08/2017 at 11:30

      Hi Kyriakos, it’s possible to deposit cash money into your account via the app by going through one of their partners (a lot of supermarkets and other local branches).

  • Reply Larisa fica 02/08/2017 at 16:01

    Hi, amazing article, very helpful! I just moved to Berlin and I want to open a bank account – I have my rent in cash and I have to send it via bank transfer, I read that at N26 you cant make cash deposits. Is that correct? Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/08/2017 at 22:47

      No that is not correct. You can make cash desposit via the app and a barcode system at Supermarkets like Rewe, Real or Penny or any Mobilcom Debitel branch.

  • Reply David Bado 28/07/2017 at 10:18

    Hello,

    I am moving to Berlin in october and I need a german bank account for work, housing …
    So I started to read a little bit about N26 and it’s a little bit confusing with the cards. If you open an acount you will get Maestro card (debit card). How is this card different to EC card (e.g. from DKB) ? Is there a problem with acceptance of Maestro? I am EU citizen and I always had Visa credit card and Maestro debit card and never had a problem to pay anywhere in Europe (always at least on of them was accepted). Am I missing something?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/07/2017 at 11:50

      Hi David. Just like Maestro is a pretty standard debit card in the UK, EC Karte is pretty standard here too. In terms of acceptance, pretty much anywhere will accept both.

  • Reply Thomas 27/06/2017 at 09:31

    I am a US resident/citizen, although I own an apartment in Germany. Would I need a German resident card to open an N26 account, or could I just use my apartment’s address in Germany and my US passport?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/06/2017 at 10:15

      Hi Thomas, i think you need to be resident in Germany (with a Meldebescheinigung) to be able to open a bank account with them.

      • Reply David Bado 02/08/2017 at 08:16

        Do you really the german address/anmeldung for the N26 account? Because in article is stated: “Interface and customer support available in English and you don’t need to be a German resident.”

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/08/2017 at 12:36

          Hi David. You can also sign-up for an account there if you are resident in a bunch of other EU countries. They have a list there.

  • Reply Jeehoon Choo 06/06/2017 at 23:25

    Hello,

    i just arrived at here 10 days ago.

    I wondering if i only have sublease contract, can i open bank account ?

    i have a working – holidays VISA.

    I heard about that only way what can open bank account is to register address.(Anmeldung).

    I need bank account for start working.

    Any help or advice would be appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/06/2017 at 09:34

      Hi Jeehoon. Yes in your case, since you are on a visa here, you would need to register before opening a bank account. This might be quite hard as your visa is probably valid only for a very limited time, which most banks don’t like.

  • Reply Francesca 29/05/2017 at 11:55

    Hi there,
    I am trying to understand how to start building a Schufa record asap, in order to find a flat, and I was considering opening an online account with N26 to start paying phone bills etc. But looking on the web, I read this: “Since Number26 account does not make a record on the credit history, it does not affect your score”. Does that mean that opening an account with N26 does not affect the Schufa record? Then, would it be better to open a bank accound with DKB or Deutsche Bank (I need English support) ? Thank you again so much!!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2017 at 16:20

      To be clear, you will be able to create a SCHUFA record with an account with N26. The website you linked to just specifies that opening an account won’t impact your score negatively.

  • Reply Gav 12/05/2017 at 14:27

    N26 does not apply to Britian I just tried and they said they will NOT open an account from Britian. I would need a Germany address.

    • Reply Martina 17/05/2017 at 16:44

      Hello Gav, you need to have an address in a country with the Euro to be able to sign up for an N26 account!

      Cheers from N26

  • Reply Sudeshna 06/04/2017 at 13:57

    Hello! I needed some advice. I recently moved to Berlin after my wedding (my husband is a German). I have now got my Residence permit for 3 years (which allows me to work as well) and the job hunt is on. I am looking to open a bank account now (DKB seems a good option from what I read above) after which I would need to transfer some money from my Indian savings account to the German account. So, my query is, one – can I do this kind of transaction with the German banks here? Second, I was wondering if I need to pay taxes in Germany if I do this kind of money transfer from my Indian savings account to the German account. Any help?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/04/2017 at 13:47

      Hi Sudeshna. You can use Transferwise as mentioned in the article, to transfer your saving from India once you have your German bank account. It works from all countries to all countries. Regarding taxes: I’d recommend you to do research if there is a bilateral agreement between India and Germany on this matter. It’S different for each country.

  • Reply Payman 31/03/2017 at 13:17

    DKB is the most racist bank I have ever seen. I got this when I applied>

    As already stated in our previous correspondence we are not
    in a position to process your query as all of our communication
    is held in German.

    However, submitting your query in German will enable us to deal
    with it as quickly as possible.

    • Reply RG 06/04/2017 at 15:45

      What’s racist about expecting that people speak German if they want to do business in Germany?

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