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 Santiago Wenceslao Segovia 30/01/2019 at 19:34

    Hi everybody, just bear in mind that the POSTBANK debit card can only be used in Europe.

    Cheers

  • Reply Ruth 06/12/2018 at 11:58

    Hi there,

    I love your blog – so much helpful information! I have read some pretty terrifying reviews about N26, people saying their money has gone missing, refused an account and the customer service left much to be desired. Now that you’ve been here a while, what would you say your overall experience with N26 has been?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/12/2018 at 21:29

      Hello Ruth. I suppose that there will always be unsatisfied people. Some of these reviews can date back to the moment where N26 closed a lot of accounts because people were using some features outside the fair-use limits for the cash deposits. I have heard that it was all very abrupt indeed, but i think hiccups like this belong to any young company, especially when it’s so popular with it. I have always been happy so far, customer service right from the app, and relatively fast to answer. (Money gone missing though; haven’t seen that anywhere).

  • Reply Chamo 19/11/2018 at 10:12

    Does anyone know if with N26 i can open a saving account with another currency than euro ?

    I didnt find an answer online and i need to be a customer to contact the customer service :/

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/11/2018 at 21:00

      Hey Chamo. Looking at the option in the app: it doesn’t give me any choice in the currencies. Only euros by default.

      • Reply Chamo 20/11/2018 at 15:50

        Thanks for your answer Bastien, i finally had contact with N26. It’s not possible for the moment with N26, it will be in the future probably. Have a great day

  • Reply Ben 17/11/2018 at 21:13

    Hey! Do you happen to have a list of banks that support payments with Apple Pay in Germany? Would be great to be finally able to use it here!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/11/2018 at 20:58

      Hey Ben; ApplePay is supported by N26 among others like Deutsche Bank and Santander.

  • Reply Greg 17/11/2018 at 12:15

    Hey there! Do you happen to know which banks support Apple Pay?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/11/2018 at 20:52

      Hey Greg. N26 does. Among other like Deutsche Bank or Santander.

  • Reply Henry 10/11/2018 at 12:33

    Hi Bastien,
    If I am a Yemeni national with a Yemeni passport – but now living in Berlin and working for a German organisation.. Can I open a bank account? There seems to be restrictions on some middle-east nationals that I don’t fully understand.. This is odd, since I came from UK (where I was a student) and I had no problems there at all.
    If you know about middle-eastern nationalities – can you tell us / clarify? That would be most useful and very gratefully received…
    Many thanks,
    H

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/11/2018 at 21:47

      Hey Henry. I do not know of such restrictions. Do you have specific sources on this particular issue that would lead you to think that?

  • Reply Pankaj 07/10/2018 at 09:43

    Hi

    Is there any difference between N26 debit card and debit card provided by other banks. I came across a post.

    The writer faced the problem with N26 debit card at LABO office. A per the writer, N26 card is not a true EC-card and payment machines at LABO office don’t accept N26 card.

    I am imagining this will only happen to a guy at a government office, for rest of the payments (shopping, medical bills, rent payment and other routine stuff) N26 card would be fine. Correct me if I were wrong.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2018 at 09:18

      N26 provides a Mastercard, and a Maestro card on request too. Governement/City services usually only accept EC-Karte. IF you don’t have one, they will either force you to bring the exact sum in cash, or use a sort of internal payement system with a terminal they have.

  • Reply Danilo 29/07/2018 at 21:08

    Hi there,
    thanks for your post. I am struggling with finding whether is possible or not renting a car with N26 card(s). Assuming I got more euro than it’s required as a deposit from the car rental, I was wondering if the N26 cards are broadly accepted by car rentals around the world. Any experiences guys?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/07/2018 at 22:44

      Hi Danilo. Yes, it’s a Mastercard so np. there, i recently did it myself.

      • Reply Danilo 29/07/2018 at 23:32

        Ah cool. A couple of questions: 1) I read that in Italy N26 charges around 35 euro per year if your account has more than 5000 euro, on average, per month in a year. I couldn’t find how it is in Germany. 2) You write that “You can withdraw money for free everywhere in the world with the free Mastercard they offer. Not all banks give credit cards for free.” How do Sparkasse & co. work with this? Do they charge you? Many thanks.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/07/2018 at 17:24

          Yes, they usually charge you a monthly/yearly fee for it.

        • Reply julien 19/09/2019 at 11:01

          Hello Danilo, did you find out if Sparkasse charges for withdrawals om ATMs frabroad? How has been your expereince with this bank, I am asking since I just opened an ac there. Thanks.

      • Reply Kumar Abhishek 14/08/2018 at 15:24

        Dear Sir/Mam,

        I am looking to open a bank account without anmeldung since i am staying at my friends place and looking out for job in berlin. Once i get the job will search for the house and do registration. Please suggest which bank can open an account with anmeldung since i need to transfer my money from my home country to berlin.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/08/2018 at 21:30

          Hey Kumar, N26 works for that.

          • sofia berakha 25/08/2018 at 13:32

            are you sure? you can open a n26 account without the anmeldung?
            because i´ve just tried and i couldnt…I need the schufa

          • Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/08/2018 at 12:18

            Mmm… Well you don’t need to show any Meldebescheinigung, that’s for sure. Can you elaborate on your case?

  • Reply Michael 26/07/2018 at 23:57

    Thank you so much for this useful information.

    Does N26 require the verified Anmeldebescheinigung for the address that you sign up with (the address that your card will be sent to)?
    I’m sorry if this is a foolish question.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/07/2018 at 22:38

      Hi Michael. No, but you will need to verify your address at some point.

  • Reply GAIJIN 18/04/2018 at 15:35

    Hi Bastien!!

    I have followed your blog since before arriving to Germany and it had helped me a lot. I would like if you make a Post or an extension to some of our existing post addressing or at least mentioning that German “Hell” known as POSTIDENT ;-). It may affect certain groups of new arrivals in Germany (such as myself) when trying to open certain Bank accounts or even trying to activate certain pre-paid SIM-Cards after purchasing them.

    I will try to describe it as well as sharing my experience: if you are trying to open an account ONLINE in Banks like Comdirect, ING Diba, DKB (or other “Direct Banks” as they are know) or even any major Bank that offers online account opening, you will receive a Coupon (per traditional Mail or per E-Mail) which you need to bring to the nearest Post office, along with the opening contract that you need to sign and your ID-documents (Passport for most foreigners) in order to be identified according to German Laws. The Post employee will register the Coupon and then scan your document to verify your identity, and finally will send the contract and related papers to the Bank per mail, mostly free of charge. This whole process is called POSTIDENT. The problem begins when you show your foreign passport to the employee. He/She will scan it and immediatly say that your passport was not recognized by their software-system. Depending on the employee´s friendliness and the ammount of people waiting after you in the post office, he/she might try to explain you the problem with foreign passports, as the system is optimized to work with the German ID-Card and the German Passport. Please be aware that many employees in the Post office speak only German and can be “rude” with you if you try to speak with them in English, depending of the city/town you are currently living in. No other foreign documents than the Passport will be accepted for POSTIDENT, even the German Residence Permit (Aufenthaltstitel) will be rejected. Your country of origin and your passport can be your bleesing… or your curse. The same story begins when you buy a SIM-Card in a supermarket, open the Card package at home and see a POSTIDENT-Coupon needed to verify you and activate the card…

    With further investigation, I have found that this situation is not the same in all German states. The German post service (Deutsche Post) is theoretically working “hard” in order to integrate in their systems the features of all foreign passports. Until when? nobody knows, not even them. Fellow foreigners that live in really big cities like Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg or Munich might have a better chance that their passports will be accepted by POSTIDENT, but if you landed in the “German Wildlands” (like me, who lives since last year in a town in northern Bavaria), then POSTIDENT is really a no-go zone unless you want to see it by yourself: really, my passport was rejected in all Post offices in all towns and even the capital city of my entire region 🙁 and sadly I have neither the time nor the money to further test it in a big, more cosmopolitan city.

    The same Banks and mobile providers might offer a similar video-based identification procedure, called ironically VIDEOIDENT. For this you need a reasonable Internet connection. For this one, you are in luck if your country is listed here (although it is a list for pre-paid cards, it applies to Banks as well):
    https://www.vodafone.de/hilfe/prepaid/online-ident.html#welche-dokumente-brauche-ich-fuer-online-ident-bei-callya
    The employees of WebID, the German company that provides VIDEOIDENT, usually speak English (and several other foreign languages).
    BUT If your country is not among the chosen ones (the list contains almost 60 countries whose passports are accepted for video-identification), then just like POSTIDENT: forget it! Don´t waste your time with VIDEOIDENT.

    You may found extra info in English if you google something like “postident foreigners” or also hard complains googling “postident ausländer” or even “videoident ausländer” in German. The info may be a little old, but sadly the problems still persist well in 2018. I have experienced them in my own flesh and they almost gave me anxiety problems during my first months in Germany. I just don´t want that other foreigners in Germany experience the same bad situation, specially when it is their first time here. Before 2014 or earlier the employees of the Post office could make the identity verification with any passport manually just like in any other EU country, but today is not the same at least in Germany.

    As a personal advice to my fellow foreigners, it is better to buy and activate a pre-paid SIM-Card directly in the stores of the providers, namely Vodafone, Telekom, O2 or all the others mentioned here in Bastien´s blog. The identification is carried on in the same stores and there is no need of POSTIDENT, as all passports should be accepted. For Banks you can try for example the PostBank (I think it offers one of the cheapest Bank accounts in Germany) if you cannot open an online (and completely free) account at N26 or other online Banks that requiere POST- or VIDEOIDENT. If you are an employee, you may ask your employeer to help you with the Bank account and thus save you a lot of headaches. Of course later you may want to change to a Bank that offers better conditions. I hope that in the near future the situation with POST- and VIDEOIDENT changes for good.

    Anyway most of the info in your blog was really helpful for me, Bastien (specially the posts about the SCHUFA and the Tax Returns). Thanks!!!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/04/2018 at 20:24

      You sir/madam are being crowned with the title of “most thorough and longest comment on this blog to date”. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share the experience. 🙂

    • Reply Vladimir 25/04/2018 at 21:45

      Hi GAIJIN,

      Thanks for your post about POSTIDENT/VIDEOIDENT. I purchased Aldi Talk pre-paid card and based on your post, it seems that I will need to open a bank account in order to receive the Coupon, that I will present in the post office (along with my passport and bank contract). Is that correct? Is there any solution for the situation that you described, regarding not recognizing the passport in post office?

      Thanks in advance!

      • Reply GAIJIN 15/05/2018 at 11:20

        Oh hi there,
        please forgive me for the delayed Answer. I was busy moving from the tiny town to a bigger town in order to be near to my workplace and reduce some transportation costs. Finding a new home wasn’t easy at all, as explained by Bastien.
        Well, Vladimir, you may already figured out on your own, but for Prepaid Cards a bank account is not needed, unless you want to charge your SIM-card with the Online services of your Bank and you are planning to stay longer than 3 Months (that was also stated here by Bastien). With Aldi Talk you can try POSTIDENT or VIDEOIDENT if you have an EU-Passport or a Passport from most First-World Countries (although I have heard that even Greek or Swiss Passports sometimes have problems with POSTIDENT). Anyway if your Aldi Talk-Card was successfully activated with either POSTIDENT or VIDEOIDENT without big problems then Congratulations!!! If not, you can try a Prepaid Card from Telekom or O2 or Vodafone (it seems that Vodafone is the indirect provider for Aldi Talk and many other Prepaid Cards that you can find in supermarkets). Lycamobile, also mentioned by Bastien, will also work if you plan to stay for a short time in Germany or while you wait for your Bank account. It is easy to setup and also relative cheap. Identification is carried on the store itself, no need of messy Forms.
        Thanks again Bastien for all your amazing info!!! Soon I will celebrate my first year in Germany and I still haven’t visited Berlin 🙁
        If you have the time, Bastien, you could make a Post about the new European Data Protection Laws (GDPR or DSGVO auf Deutsch) and how this may affect us foreigners.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2018 at 21:48

          Mmm, GPDR do affect all of us as internet users, foreigner or not foreigner, regardless of where we are in the world. What was the idea behind this suggestion? I’m interested…

          • GAIJIN 16/05/2018 at 00:17

            Well, you could begin explaining our rights and obligations as Internet users in Germany, in terms as simple as possible. You may emphatize, for example, how freelancers or enterpreneurs from abroad should comply specially if they are making business with German or EU customers. Something like that. Right now I am also trying to better understand how it works, but hey, even in my mother tonge this law is somehow hard to digest. Like all laws, it has hidden meanings and interpretations.
            No pressure in doing that post, ok?? Maybe my suggestion is just crap and you (or another blog readers) have a better idea XD.
            Cheers and Bis bald!!!

  • Reply imran raza khan 10/04/2018 at 12:05

    Hi,
    I just started my job and living in hotel. can i start account in N26 and mention my Office address(which i can change after registration)?
    Regards,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:45

      Hi Imran. I think it’s possible. As long as you can receive the documents that they will send you by post.

  • Reply Jan 04/04/2018 at 16:41

    Hi,
    I planning to do some business in Germany and need some customer company insurance. Which would guarantee that I get paid for my invoice. Which Bank can help me with this?

    Br,
    /Jan

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:57

      Hi Jan. Sorry, i can’t help you about corporate accounts.

  • Reply Freda 30/03/2018 at 17:04

    Hi! Your blog is super detailed and easy to read. Thank you for your effort 🙂

    I am moving to Berlin in 2 months and I am shopping around for the best bank account. N26 looks very attractive but my only concern is that they charge for direct deposit (my salary) after the first month. Is this true or am I reading their fee price wrong?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2018 at 15:16

      Hi Freda. This seems to be wrong. Where did you read this?

  • Reply Thomas 26/02/2018 at 04:06

    I am dual citizen of Germany and the United States. My wife (who is a US citizen) and I are moving to Germany for a few years for grad school. At this point we do not know which city or school we are going to, or if we are accepted. That’s no worry. That will be an adventure. Here is the trouble: We want to rent an apartment ( I know it’s difficult), but to do that we need a bank account for the SCHUFA. To get this bank account we need a German address. To get this German address, we need a bank account. We can’t get this bank account without an address. ETC… How do I get a bank account to start the SCHUFA from the states, or when I get there without an address, so when we land we are ready to apply for apartments? We have an Airbnb in Berlin, but we will not sign for our Anmeldung since he just did that for a friend.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2018 at 08:41

      Hi Thomas. Please read this post.

  • Reply Eiling Hi-Fong 19/02/2018 at 13:52

    Hi! Great article!.
    I’m from Ecuador, and I’ve just moved to Berlin. I tried to open an account in N26, and I couldn’t complete the process because they can’t verify my passport.
    They told me that they are looking for the technology, but they don’t know when they will have it. So… Which bank would you recommend me… I speak NO German 🙁

  • 1 2 3 4 5

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.