DKB review: is this the best online bank in Germany?

Doing a DKB review today is trickier than what it used to be. Expat-friendly neobanks have conquered the hearts of many in the past few years. Clean interfaces & multilingual customer support has indeed been a game changer in an often slow-moving industry.

DKB was once ahead of the game as an online-only bank. Not so much anymore. Should you however dismiss it entirely? Should it earn its place on your shortlist? This DKB bank review aims at answering those questions so you can make an informed decision.

DKB review: TL;DR

This article is purposefully long, in order to give you all relevant details. You can however find a quick summary below and read onto the sections that interest you the most.

  • DKB offers one of the best value account there is in Germany. The only bank account in Germany with a truly free credit card.
  • Free current account. Free credit card. Free payments worldwide. Free ATM withdrawals worldwide.
  • Sign-up is relatively fast and painless, but it takes up to 2 weeks to receive cards and logins.
  • Not available to newcomers as you need a good enough SCHUFA score to be eligible.
  • Not available to non-German residents.
  • Customer support, contracts and service available in German only.
  • Credit limit is somewhat restricted in the beginning.
  • Web apps & native apps do the job fine, but the interface is bit clunky and suffers comparison to neobanks.
  • Most DKB users are happy about the terrific value they enjoy but they complain about the apps and credit restrictions.

What’s different about DKB?

Originally founded in 1990 as East Germany’s first private bank, Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB) has gone through several reincarnations over the decades before becoming one of Germany’s most popular online banks. 

As a long-established subsidiary of Bayerische Landesbank (partially owned by the region of Bavaria), DKB offers its three million customers an extensive portfolio, from current accounts to personal loans and investment options. The bank caters to users of all ages and budgets, providing several accounts to choose from, all of which are free at the point of use. DKB also makes credit cards extremely accessible, with no annual fee. Particularly in comparison to other online banks, it’s an impressive range of services.

DKB’s main features

As far as online banks go, DKB is one of the most comprehensive options you’ll encounter, compared to other banking options in Germany. Accounts are fully accessible via the DKB website, with many banking and payment options seamlessly integrated into an app to augment the user experience. Here’s a glance at some of DKB’s current account (DKB Cash) most frequently used features and benefits:

  • Free debit card – This is linked to your current account and IBAN. The card also comes with an option for contactless payments.
  • Free Visa credit card – Visa payments are deducted from a separate credit card account, which is billed once a month. This card also comes with a contactless option.
  • Mobile payments – the DKB app is integrated with Apple Pay and Google Pay, so both Android and iPhone users can make payments instantly. 
  • Unlimited free ATM withdrawals – whether abroad or at home, all ATM withdrawals are completely free anywhere in the world for active users. As usual: DKB won’t charge you anything but ATM providers might, especially in the US or South East Asia.
  • Unlimited free withdrawals and ‘Cash im Shop’ deposits – Customers can also withdraw anywhere between €50 and €300 at participating stores, including REWE, Penny, dm and Rossmann. These stores also permit cash deposits of up to €999.99 a day, with a transaction fee of 1.5%
  • Unlimited free deposits at DKB ATMs – to save on deposit fees, customers can also use the DKB ATMs to deposit cash. There are around 20 such ATMs across Germany.


Active customer benefits

Something that gives DKB an edge over its competitors is its dedication to customer retention; active customers have access to a range of additional benefits that can help you manage your finances both at home and abroad. 

All DKB customers are automatically granted ‘active customer’ status for 12 months after opening an account. To maintain this status, you need to consistently have at least €700 per month coming into your current account – this can come from a salary, pension, benefits or transfers from other accounts. If your income dips below this amount after the first year, you must maintain incoming payments of at least €700 for three months for your status to be reinstated. 

Active customer benefits include:

  • Free transactions and withdrawals worldwide – Active users can avoid paying fees on their card payments and cash withdrawals outside of the Euro zone, enjoying unlimited transactions and barrier-free access to their money anywhere in the world.
  • Emergency packages – If you lose your card, you can get a replacement card or cash delivered by courier within 48 hours – no matter where in the world you are.
  • Card insurance – Active customers do not incur fees for blocking or replacing their card
  • Favourable interest rates – As an active customer, you only pay 6.65% on your overdraft, as opposed to the 7.25% fee for inactive customers. Interest rates on personal loans stay steady at 0.2% on the annual interest rate.
  • Cashback – Active customers can receive up to 20% cashback at participating online stores, including Expedia, Lidl and Otto.
  • Partner deals – Active users can sign up to DKB Live to get exclusive access to tickets for sporting and cultural events.

Other DKB accounts

DKB-Cash is DKB’s standard current account for individuals, which includes all of the abovementioned benefits.There’s also variations, such as DKB-Cash u18, which is specially designed for minors and offers all the same perks for active customers regardless of income, and DKB-Cash für Studenten, which comes with a free International Student Identity Card (ISIC) as well as selected perks and student discounts.

In addition to a standard current account, DKB offers several distinct packages to suit all budgets and lifestyles. Here are the range of packages on offer at a glance: 

  • DKB-Cash Gemeinschaftskonto – This joint current account is ideal for couples and small business partners, and includes free bank cards for both account holders.
  • DKB-Business – Designed with small and medium-sized businesses in mind, this account offers a special DKB-Business Visa card and comes with higher credit limits. 
  • DKB-Broker – This investment account comes without monthly fees, and permits you to trade and invest on all German stock markets. It’s also possible to open a joint broker account for couples.

DKB: Das Can Bank… Get it? Ok, I’ll see myself out. :’) Credits: Photo by Pamela Callaway on Unsplash

DKB credit card review

Although credit cards are not as ubiquitous in Germany as in other countries, there is still case to have one sometimes. In my case, renting a car is the most relevant use for it.

In Germany, the amount of choice is clearly limited when it comes to to true credit cards without a monthly fee, obtainable through your current account: Only DKB does it! Other banks will charge a yearly or monthly fee on top. Here is what you should know about the DKB credit card:

  • Free withdrawals at any and all ATMs worldwide for active customers, limited to maximum 1000€ per day.
  • You can freely set the credit amount via your dashboard, although this limit is also based on the current amount available in your current account, your SCHUFA score, as well other DKB internal criteria.
  • The amount due is billed on the 22nd of every month, taken directly on your DKB cash account. It’s not possible to link this credit card to another bank account.
  • It is possible to order a second credit card for a 10€ fee.
  • It is possible to directly top-up your credit card manually, to increase your credit limit in the short-term.
  • You can collect Miles too (paid option).

The DKB credit card is an overall convincing option, even it’s only accessible to DKB Cash holders and it doesn’t come with Miles as standard.

Optional insurance packages

Like most banks, DKB also offers a few insurance policies geared towards certain segments. Those are:

  • Travel insurance (6,90€/month) – This policy covers the usual stuff:
    • Trip cancellation: Get your money back if you need to cancel your travels on a short notice (max 5000€ to 10 000€).
    • Complementary health insurance abroad: Get your money back in case your main health insurance does not cover it.
    • Rental car insurance: Fully comprehensive cover in case of theft or damages.
    • Trip assistance: access to a 24/7 hotline for questions or emergencies abroad.
    • Do note: you can also book the “Family & friend” version of this policy (8,90€/month) to cover anybody currently travelling with you.
    • 1 year contracts, renewable every year.
  • Shopping insurance – For online shoppers (2,90€/month):
    • Price guarantee: if you find a cheaper price for an item your recently purchased, get the difference back. Limited to 3 items per year costing up to 1000€.
    • Electronic device insurance: additional warranty policy for devices you shop online, in case of repairs or replacement. Limited to 3 items per year, 5000€ max each.
  • Internet insurance (2,70€ per month):
    • Protection again identity thieves
    • Protection against credit card theft
    • Protection against conflicts with an online shop.

All in all, fairly good value but make sure to read the terms and conditions of each policy before signing up to be able to compare with other providers. Conditions might be better elsewhere.


DKB bank review: what are the drawbacks?

Sometimes, Das Kann Bank is Das Cannot Bank.

Language barrier

Easily one of DKB’s biggest drawbacks for newcomers to Germany is the language barrier. It’s important to know in advance that all services are only available in German. Although the app interface is fairly intuitive, users might encounter difficulties navigating the website or speaking to customer service without some level of German fluency.

Limited credit card initially

There are also some restrictions when it comes to your spending; your credit is initially limited to €500 per month, and will only grow if you pay off your monthly bill promptly. This limit corresponds to how much you can spend on your Visa card, so larger payments are off the cards until you prove yourself a “trustworthy” customer. These restrictions can be even harsher for expats.

Cash deposit is unpractical

Depositing cash into your account also presents a challenge; although it is free at DKB ATMs, there are only a handful of these dotted around the country. Meanwhile, the Cash-im-Shop feature, while much more freely available, comes with a fee of 1.5% attached. It’s also not possible to withdraw small amounts of cash, with the minimum amount set at €50 for all customers. 

Not available to most newcomers

Another major issue: you can’t even open an account with DKB without a SCHUFA score, or credit rating. This could pose a problem if you’re “fresh off the boat”, as a SCHUFA requires you to register residence (Doing the Anmeldung) & build up some credit history in Germany. You can acquire this with regular direct debits and standing orders, such as a phone contract and rent payments. It can also be an issue if you have a history of debt, as DKB retains the right to reject customers on the basis of their SCHUFA score. If your credit score in Germany is low – or non-existent – DKB could be off the table, at least for the short term. 

It’s lagging behind the times on some things

Neobanks have changed the industry for good and DKB is still playing catch-up on some aspects. The apps don’t provide automatic expenditure sorting. There are also no push notification options when a movement is registered, which is very handy to keep track of suspicious activity. Other banks do this better.

How much does DKB cost?

No matter which package you choose, DKB is one of the most cost-efficient banks out there. There is no monthly fee attached to any of the accounts; on top of that, all cash withdrawals and card payments are completely free of charge within the Eurozone, and for active customers, around the world. Some noteworthy costs :

  • Withdrawing money outside the Eurozone in other currencies costs 2.20% for inactive customers (free for active customers).
  • Overdraft: 7,25% for inactive customers, 6,65% for active customers.

You can view a full list of prices here.


How do I open a DKB bank account?

The following steps are involved to open a DKB bank account in Germany:

  1. Make sure you are eligible:
    DKB bank accounts are only available to residents in Germany with a residence certificate (Anmeldung). You also need to have a valid SCHUFA score that meets the minimum requirements.
  2. Fill out an opening form:
    Go to this page to open a DKB account. This will ask you personal details such as name, tax ID and address. It will also ask you for financial questions like income and profession.
  3. Receive confirmation your application has been accepted:
    After a few minutes or a few hours, you will receive an email notification from DKB informing you that you application has been granted.
  4. Verify your identify with a webcam:
    Use DKB apps on your laptop or on your phone directly to proceed to identity verification, using your webcam. Make sure to have your passport with you. An agent will ask you to present it to the camera, next to your face, zoom on some details, etc. They might request to see your Meldebescheinigung (residence certificate) and your residence permit, if you have one. If this fails, you can also go to a local post office and do this process there.
  5. Receive your cards at home and start using your account:
    It then takes a few days for your cards and your login details to arrive at home. Sometimes up to two weeks.

If you’ve been in Germany for long enough to accumulate a SCHUFA record, you can go right ahead and fill out an application for an account on the DKB website. Here you’ll be directed to give personal information, such as name, address, date of birth and tax ID. In some cases, you might also be asked to state your income and profession. Once you’ve completed the form, you will be notified via email as to whether you have been accepted to open an account – this could take a couple of hours.

If you are accepted, you will then be directed to verify your identity via Video-Ident. For this, all you need is your passport and a stable internet connection. Using your smartphone or webcam, you can connect with an agent who will guide you through the verification process in a matter of minutes. Alternatively, you can choose to verify your identity at the post office with a Post-Ident form, which you can download and bring to your local post office along with the relevant ID. 


Web app features

This DKB review would not be complete without a look at your main interface. With the DKB website, users can view all activity at a glance and manage all accounts and cards in one place. Using online banking, users can:

  • Manage transfers – Customers can set up and manage their transfers, standing orders and direct debit
  • Block bank cards – Under the ‘Card Control’ tab, users can temporarily block their bank cards in the eventuality that they get lost or stolen. 
  • Access all your finances in one place – You can view all your bank statements, transfers and savings at a glance
  • Open fixed-term savings accounts – Set your own investment period to gain interest on your savings.
  • Take out loans – Whether you need an overdraft, a mortgage or just a personal loan, DKB offers a range of loans with flexible repayment plans to suit you.

Mobile app features

In addition to the comprehensive banking features available online, DKB has a supplementary app for all customers. While the app is not a native app, essentially just a mobile version of the website, it’s a handy tool to keep track of your spending on the go, while applying a further layer of security to your accounts. The DKB app provides users with:

  • Fingerprint login – This nifty feature ensures password protection and safeguards users against prying eyes.
  • Document scanning – Users can set up transfers at the touch of a button. By simply taking a photo of a document, the app’s inbuilt smart scanner identifies payment information and automatically generates a transfer dialog – all you need to do is confirm the payment.
  • Push notifications – Manage your outgoing payments on your Visa card by setting up push notifications with every transfer, giving you more control over your spending. 
  • Visa payment verification – This option allows users to confirm every online credit card payment via TAN2GO before it goes through. This has the benefit of flagging any suspicious activity on this card in real time.

How secure is DKB?

DKB uses the infrastructure of Bayerische Landesbank to provide a secure service. Beyond password protection across all bank accounts,the DKB app offers fingerprint login and verification options for online payments. The bank also offers the following:

  • SSL encryption – This establishes a secure connection, and ensures your data stays safe from misuse.
  • PIN protection – If the incorrect PIN or password is entered 3 times, your cards and you online bank account will be automatically locked.
  • Virtual safe – Store all your important documents in one easily accessible place. You can access your virtual safe at any time, from anywhere in the world. 

Are there any eligibility restrictions?

In comparison to other online banks, DKB is somewhat selective with its clientele and credit limits. While DKB-Cash accounts are available to most private individuals, minimum income requirements can block access to some of the more specialized accounts. For example, a freelance worker could be eligible for a DKB-Cash account, but not a business account.

DKB also relies on extensive credit checks to designate individual credit limits, meaning that newbies could have insufficient credit history to even open an account. Your SCHUFA rating also determines your initial credit limit on your VISA credit card. While you can transfer money to your VISA card for extra credit, it can restrict your financial activity until you prove your creditworthiness.


What do DKB customers say?

DKB receives mixed reviews across the board, with an average rating of 3.7 stars on four of Germany’s biggest reviews platforms: Trusted.de, Trustpilot, Google Play Store and the App Store. Main reasons for that: despite the tremendous value, there are too many eligibility restrictions, too much credit restrictions, and a sub-par interface.

Trusted.de

With nearly 46,000 ratings, DKB has earned a solid 4 star rating on Trusted.de. There are not so many reviews available to read here, but the bank’s low fees were touted as one of the biggest advantages.

Meanwhile, there were complaints of the bank’s ‘creditworthiness’ system being too limiting, while others were frustrated by a lack of technical support.

Trustpilot

While there were hundreds of positive reviews, applauding the bank’s comprehensive functions and cheap rates, Trustpilot offered more damning reviews, with an average rating of 2.8 stars. 

There were a range of complaints about DKB’s services, from complicated and slow processes to bugs and glitches. Crucially for international customers, a number of complaints centered around the bank’s inflexible policy of providing its services in German only. 

Google Play Store

The DKB app has averaged a 4 star rating on the Google Play Store, with over 30,000 reviews. Many of these positive reviews note that the app feels secure due to the integration of TAN2GO.

A lot of customers find the German-only interface dated in comparison to other banking apps, commenting that the usability is disrupted by its clunky functions. There are also a lot of complaints that the fingerprint login is unreliable.

App Store

Despite its rudimentary appearance, the DKB app was widely praised for its efficiency and breadth of functions over on the App Store, snaring an average rating of 4 stars.

However, some users have indicated that the login functions can be clunky and unreliable, and others have complained that the app doesn’t offer a clear breakdown of your expendetures like other mobile apps can.


DKB bank review conclusion: who should consider this?

DKB Bank is a clear recommendation for anybody that has been in Germany a good amount of time.

While DKB offers its customers a great deal of flexibility with their finances, it’s acquiring an account in the first place that can be the biggest roadblock for newcomers in Germany. If you’ve been in the country for a while, and if you have a firm grasp of the German language, the bank can be a cheap and convenient alternative to a brick-and-mortar bank. Despite the lack of non-German support and clunky interface, this bank offers a great deal of advantages to its customers, particularly active customers, all at a very low cost. As for the app, what it lacks in usability, it more than makes up for in security and its vast range of functions.

If you are looking for an online bank, but would prefer to use an established institution with all the functions of an established bank, DKB is a reliable option, and one of the few online banks that offers special benefits for couples, students and minors.

I hope this DKB bank review and this DKB credit card review were useful. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or suggest improvements in the comments.


DKB bank review – FAQ

What are the eligibility criteria to open a bank account with DKB?

You need to have a positive SCHUFA score and be a German resident. There are no minium income requirements to be able to open a bank account with DKB. However, certain benefits become available to you if more than 700€ per month land on your account.

How I open a DKB bank account?

You first need to fill this an opening form, providing some personal details. After your application has been accepted, you need to verify your identity online with your passport and a webcam. You can also go to a local post office for that.

Does a DKB account come with a credit card?

Yes, DKB Cash comes with a free credit card, with an initial spending limit of 500€. This limit is then lifted once there is a little more history between you and the bank.

How are DKB reviews in Germany?

DKB reviews are above average given the great value but customers complain about clunky interfaces and harsh restrictions to open a bank account in the first place. Especially when compared to neo-banks, Apps can also be subject to glitches. Customer support is rather good but sometimes slow.

Is DKB a real bank?

Yes. DKB has it own banking license and it is completely owned by Munich-based Bayerische Landesbank. Bayerische Landesbank is owned to 75% by the Land of Bavaria. It comes with the legal set of customer protection measures one can expect.