Opening a bank account in Germany can be time-consuming and unpleasant, especially if you're an expat who doesn't understand the language. Whether you do it online or locally, slow bureaucracy, folders of documents, strange jargon, and the unsettling feeling that you don't know exactly what you're getting are all part of the tradition. Surely, everyone has gone through that .
We've also wondered why it takes a week to open an account, why a PIN must be supplied via paper mail, and why certain representatives understand English yet are not permitted to communicate with you in English. We believe there is a better approach, so let's go over everything you need to know step by step.
In order to start your new life in Germany, you'll need to open a bank account. You'll need to set up utilities for your new house, as well as German TV and internet services and, as needed by law, German insurance coverage; all of this is contingent on having money in the bank.
That said, this guide compiles all what you need to know about German banks and how you can easily open a bank account in Germany online as a resident, non resident from overseas or as an expat.
Banking System in Germany
Germany is a great country and is made up of 3 banking systems that stand out among all; — Private commercial banks, public savings banks (Sparkassen and Landesbanken), and cooperative banks (Genossenschaftsbanken) make up Germany's financial system.
Germany also has a large number of international banks, online banks, and mobile banks. The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) is the country's banking and financial services regulator, while the Deutsche Bundesbank is the country's central bank. For additional information, see our guide to banking in Germany.
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Bank Accounts In Germany
German banks offer the following types of bank accounts to applicants:
- Girokonto (also known as a current account or a checking account, depending on where you live) is a German term for a bank account.
- Tagesgeldkonto – a savings account with immediate access
- Sparkonto - a savings account with restricted access.
- Securities account (depot)
Non Resident Bank Account in Germany
German residents are usually the only ones who can open a regular current account in the country. To open an account, you usually need a permanent address in Germany. Many German digital and mobile banks also provide accounts to expats. These are important for people who are planning to migrate to Germany or who already live there.
Online Bank Accounts in Germany
Major German banks now provide online banking as well as mobile banking via banking apps. Germany also has a large number of online banks.
Offshore Bank Accounts in Germany
Expats in Germany may find that the best approach to handle their funds is to open an international offshore bank account. This is especially useful for someone who works overseas, spends a lot of time in multiple countries, or transfers money often between them.
Offshore accounts are those that are held outside of the account holder's home country and typically provide specific benefits such as a greater range of cross-border services and lower taxation on funds. They're generally thought to be steady, dependable, and safe. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank both have international divisions that provide offshore banking services.
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Bank Cards In Germany
The different types of bank cards in Germany are as follows:
- Electronic Cash (EC) Card / Girocard — a debit card that is linked to your account and may be used for direct payments and ATM withdrawals, but does not contain a 16-digit number for other transactions such as online shopping.
- "Kreditkarte" Visa or Mastercard — a debit card connected to your account with a 16-digit number you can use for all payments and withdrawals.
- Credit Card (Kreditkarte) — a physical credit card with a credit limit that is automatically deducted from your account once a month by SEPA direct debit (SEPA-Lastschrift), ensuring that your entire debt is paid. Some German banks enable you to carry debt from month to month, but this is unusual.
- Maestro Card — a debit card that is linked to your account and has a 16-digit number that you can use for all payments and withdrawals.
Why Do You Need a Bank Account in Germany
If you live in Germany, you are not required to open an account with a German bank. To send and receive payments, you'll need an account. This could be a German mobile bank or an international bank account (either with a German bank or one set up to handle financial transactions for German-based consumers).
You'll need a checking account with the ability to make monthly payments, such as utility bills or German insurance premiums. To get a German mortgage, you'll need to show that you have a valid bank account in Germany.
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What to Consider Before Opening a Bank Account in Germany
If you are relocating to Germany and do not have a German bank account, you can handle your funds from a foreign account at first. The major international debit and credit cards, such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, are accepted by the majority of German businesses. However, if your foreign account is with a bank that does not have a presence in Germany, you will almost certainly accrue a significant amount of fees.
If you're anxious about going without a German bank account for a while, you can open a non-resident account with one of the many online or mobile German banks before you relocate (direktbanks). In Germany, many international banks such as HSBC and Citibank exist, so if you bank with them, you can inquire about moving your bank account to Germany before you relocate.
Types of Banks in Germany
If you want to open a bank account in Germany, you have a lot of options. You must first choose between a private German bank, a public savings bank (Sparkassen), a cooperative bank (Volksbanken/Raiffeisenbanken), an international bank, or an online bank (direkt bank) to open an account.
Here are the different types of banks in Germany
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Private German Banks
The private bank with the largest customer base is Deutsche Bank, which serves around 12 million customers through its subsidiary Postbank. With nearly four million customers, Commerzbank comes in second.
For foreigners, choosing one of the larger and more well-known German banks may be the better option. These banks have better experience working with international customers and banks. They're usually more accessible, especially if you're traveling internationally.
The Active Account, which is coherent with internet-only and mobile banking has an initial free period (€5.90 a month subsequently); the BestKonto, which is a premium account that includes a Mastercard Gold credit card and international health insurance choices for €11.90 a month; and the free Teenage Account for students, young workers, and volunteers from European union member states under the age of 30.
Three current account types are issued by Commerzbank: — The Girokonto is a free basic account that comes with a debit card and can be opened as a digital or mobile account; the KlassikKonto costs €4.90 a month and includes an additional Mastercard debit card and money transfer options; and the PremiumKonto costs €12.90 a month and includes up to 4 bank cards, free cash withdrawals at all ATMs, and insurance options.
Both the Girokonto and KlassikKonto accounts come with a €100 initial balance, plus an additional €100 if you refer new users to the Girokonto account.
HypoVereinsbank as well provides four checking account options: a free starter account for students, apprentices, and those under the age of 26; an Active Account for €2.90 per month plus €5 per year for the girocard debit card; the Plus Account for €7.90 per month with a wider range of payment processing options and credit cards; and the Exclusive Account for €14.90 per month with services including worldwide withdrawals.
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Sparkasse Bank Account
Sparkasse are public savings banks that are owned by cities or municipalities. These accounts are well-known among German residents. Sparkasse may be found in all of Germany's major cities, with notable examples include BerlinerSparkasse, Stadtsparkasse Munich, and Frankfurter Sparkasse.
With a Sparkasse, you can open a basic current account (a checking account or Girokonto). You can pick between an EC card, a debit card, mobile banking alternatives, and other account formats. A fixed-term deposit account and an instant savings account are also available. However ,you must be a German resident to open a Sparkasse current account.
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Volksbanken/Raiffeisenbanken Bank Account
The third pillar of German banking is made up of banking cooperatives and credit unions. Many of them are affiliated with Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken. Different types of current accounts are available, including a basic account with free banking, debit card payments, money transfers, and internet banking (providing the individual Volksbank you have an account with is set up for this).
Those who prefer a more collaborative approach to banking prefer cooperative banking. To open an account, you must live in Germany, same like with Sparkassen.
International Banks in Germany
Germany, as one of the world's most advanced post-industrial economies, is a desirable site for international business. This is one of the reasons why many foreign banks have local branches in Germany. International banking has the advantage of allowing you to open an account in your home country and then move it to a German location.
International banks in Germany provide expat-friendly services and accounting alternatives that are comparable to those offered by major German banks (at comparable prices).
Here are some international banks in Germany
- Barclays Bank
- ING Bank
- BNP Paribas
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Best Digital Banks to Open an Online Bank Account in Germany
In Germany, online-only banks are known as direktbanks. They don't have any local branches and instead rely on other banks' cash machines. They are able to offer more financially appealing facilities since they are able to save on those costs. Some Direktbanks provide no-fee banking accounts with no minimum deposit requirements.
Here are some online banks in Germany
What to Look In German Bank Accounts
Before going in for a German bank account, it is a good thing you know what you are going in for. Here are some factors to consider in German bank accounts:
- Costs — Many German banks provide free basic current accounts, but services are limited. For items like money transfers, online and mobile banks are frequently less expensive. They may have a limit on the number of transactions you can make per month.
- English-language services — If you need English-speaking employees, websites, or mobile apps, international and mobile banks will provide them. English-speaking services are also likely to be available at larger German multinational banks. Sparkassen and Volksbanken, on the other hand, are less so.
- Wide range of products and services — Expats are more inclined to prefer services such as free global withdrawals and low-cost international money transfers. Other options that increase account flexibility, such as credit cards, overdraft facilities, and free nationwide ATM access, may also be considered.
- Easy access — if you open an online or mobile account, you will have access to your account 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most major banks provide this service, and there are additional mobile-only solutions.
- Non-resident account availability — you will need to open an account with a direktbank or an international bank before moving to Germany. Customers with German addresses are eligible for national German bank account alternatives.
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How to Open a Bank Account in Germany as an Expat
While EU citizens will have no trouble opening a basic bank account with a German bank, non-EU citizens will need to show proof of residency in Germany as well as a German work permit. You are not obligated to open a bank account with a certain bank.
If you do not have a financial history, you may face issues. The best way to open a bank account in Germany is to go to a branch and present your documents in person.
The documents required by German banks include:
- A valid visa or residency permit with your passport/photo ID
- Address proof is required.
- Proof of earnings/employment (required by many banks, depending on the account you want to open)
- Proof that you are a student, if opening a student account
- SCHUFA credit rating (may be required with some banks)
You must also use the post-ident procedure to prove your identification at a post office or online. Accounts are typically established in 2-3 business days.
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How to Open a Bank Account in Germany for Non Residents
Customers can open bank accounts with some Direktbanks from anywhere in the world. Bunq, DKB Bank, ComDirect, and N26 are among them, albeit some of them are only available to EU residents. Some banks allow you to upload your personal documents online, while others, like bunq, allow you to open an account in just a few minutes with nothing more than your smartphone.
If you wish to open a bank account in Germany before moving there, you'll need to have your German visa sorted out and a German address to use for the account. In general, opening a German bank account after you have relocated is easier.
How to Open an Online Bank Account in Germany
Some German banks allow you to open an online bank account without visiting a physical branch if they have the potential to accept online documents. If you currently have a bank account and wish to go mobile, simply download the mobile application on your mobile device. If you have an email address, a mobile phone number, and a valid ID, opening an account with a digital bank is simple.
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How to Open a Business Bank Account in Germany
It is important to open a separate business account to keep your finances separate if you are starting a business or working as a freelancer in Germany. In fact, maintaining a separate account will be a legal requirement if your company is a limited corporation.
The procedure for opening a business bank account in Germany varies depending on your business type. In most cases, sole traders and freelancers are merely required to present the same documentation as private individuals. Limited companies must submit articles of association, business registration details, certificate of incorporation, as well as a list of shareholders and trade licenses, if applicable.
Partnerships must provide details and documentation for all partners, while limited companies must submit articles of association, business registration details, certificate of incorporation, as well as a list of shareholders and trade licenses, if applicable.
Limited corporations in Germany must open their accounts in person, with the CEO of the company present.
How to Open a Bank Account in Germany for Your Children
For children and young people, several German banks provide current and savings accounts. Although products differ by bank, most German banks allow residents to open accounts on behalf of their minor children. Both you and your child will almost always be required to submit documents, such as a passport or identification card. Some banks require that both the parent and the child have an account with them.
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How to Open a Bank Account in Germany for Students
Most German banks offer students or youngster accounts for students to get started to open a bank account in Germany. The bank will require you to prove you are a student before issuing you an account.
What to do if your Application Gets Rejected by a German Bank
German banks are not obligated to open accounts for applicants and may reject an application for a variety of reasons (e.g., failed credit check, not having German residency). If you have a complaint about a German bank's treatment of you, for example, if you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the German Financial Ombudsman.
You can also file a complaint with FIN-NET, the EU financial dispute resolution network, if you are an EU/EFTA citizen.
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Managing Your Bank Account in Germany
There are several ways of managing your bank account in Germany of which some of them are:
- Face-to-face banking — according to 2016 figures, the number of bank branches in Germany has decreased in recent years, but there are still roughly 13 physical branches per 100,000 adults. Banks will have customer service teams as well as specialty personnel (e.g., a business banking manager), but if you want a face-to-face encounter and don't understand German, you'll need to look for English-speaking people.
- Online banking — most major German banks, including Sparkassen and Volksbanken, offer online banking, which allows you to access your account and services at any time. For additional information, see our guide to digital banking in Germany.
- Mobile banking — You may bank and make mobile payments using mobile banking application on your smartphone or tablet, which also feature budgeting tools.
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Switching Banks and Closing a Bank Account in Germany
Closing or changing bank accounts in Germany is rather simple as long as you do not owe the bank any money. However, make sure you follow the correct processes and close the account properly to avoid incurring any charges.
If you wish to move banks, the simplest way to do it is to first open a new account. In order to close an account in Germany, you must typically fill out and sign an account termination form. This will close the account officially, however before you close a bank account in Germany, make sure you:
- Check to see if there are any fees associated with cancelling an account before a specific date. If you received a special deal when you started an account, there may have been a requirement that you keep the account active for a certain amount of time.
- Obtain written proof from the bank that the account has been officially closed in the form of an email or a letter.
- Cancel any future payments, such as direct debits and standing orders, from the account.
- Notify your employer and anyone else who might be paying into your account that it is no longer active.
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Final Thoughts on How to Open a Bank Account in Germany Online as Resident, Non Residents, Students and Expats
Germany is one of the financially stable country due to a huge number of international banks settling branches in it. Because of that, opening a bank account in Germany online as a non resident can be quite complicated but not impossible. However, residents of the country can easily open a bank account in the country without hassle.
Many banks in Germany let you open a bank account as a student but you will need to provide some information to show that you are a student such as enrolment certificate.
Non residents can choose from the list of direktbanks (online banks) to open a German bank account from overseas before reaching the country and finalizing the process.
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