Opening a German bank account is one of the first things you should do once you move to Germany. Although the question of whether you really need to open a bank account might arise, let us tell you that a German bank account is a necessity when it comes to renting an apartment, receiving a salary, or even purchasing electronics. So, sooner or later, you will need to open one, so it is better to do so as soon as you move to Germany.
Just like the majority of expats, you must also be having questions when it comes to the procedure of opening a German bank account or even how banking in Germany works. But, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Below, you will find everything you need to know regarding how to open a German bank account, and more.
How Does Banking in Germany Work?
In Germany, there is a ‘three-pillar’ banking system consisting of private commercial banks, public savings banks (Sparkassen and Landesbanken), as well as cooperative banks (Genossenschaftsbanken). Apart from these, you can also find a variety of international banks, online and mobile banks in Germany, which are user-friendly and make banking fairly simpler.
Which Are the Types of German Bank Accounts?
The two main types of bank accounts in Germany are:
- Griokonto: This is a current account, which is the standard type of bank account in Germany, used to receive pay-checks as well as pay bills. German banks tend to offer both, general current accounts as well as specialized accounts (for students and youth).
- Sparkonto: This is a savings account, which can be opened at the same time you open a Girokonto, and you can use it to save money and earn interest. This type of account can be opened by both, German residents as well as non-residents.
Alternatively, if you are a student in Germany (up to a certain age, typically 29), you have the possibility of opting for a student account which exempts you from paying fees.
What German Bank Options Can I Choose From?
Depending on your preferences and circumstances, you may choose from the following banking options:
A simpler alternative: TransferWise
Let’s begin with one of the simplest (and cheapest) alternatives, TransferWise. This is available to you regardless of your citizenship and country of residence. The Transferwise multi-currency borderless account acts as a bank account through which you can receive your salary, make bill payments, receive money while you’re in Germany, and transfer money between currencies at no commission or fees.
You can create a free account online within minutes with TransferWise, where you can send and receive money in different currencies. Your money will be exchanged at the mid-market exchange rate and it is up to eight times cheaper than traditional banks. A worthy option, I’d say!
Sparkassen & Volksbanken (Savings and Cooperative Banks)
Sparkassen & Volksbanken are local banks that focus primarily on smaller businesses and long-term customers. Aiming towards regional economic development, these banks have large branch networks which can be found into city suburbs as well as rural areas.
Nationwide Banks (Private Banks)
The major banks belonging to this category are Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, HypoVereinsBank, and Postbank. What these banks have in common is that they are all part of the Cash Group, meaning ATM withdrawals are free if you bank with them and use their ATMs. Basically, these major banks cooperate as the Cash Group and allow free withdrawals from one another’s ATMs. Other ATMs may charge you as much as 5€ per withdrawal.
Online and Mobile Banks
Online and mobile banks are also becoming pretty common in Germany by the day, they include the likes of DKB Cash, 1822direkt, N26, O2 Banking, and Santander, among others. The good thing about online banking is that they are usually cheaper than traditional banks, and more convenient with terms of customer service. In order to withdraw cash from these types of banks, the online bank usually teams up with a traditional bank, so customers can use their cash machines. Additionally, some online banks issue MasterCard or Visa, which in turn allow individuals to use any cash machine that has the MasterCard or Visa logo.
How to Open a Bank Account in Germany
While some banks are open to working with expats, there are others that tend to be unwilling to do so, due to lack of credit history. However, regardless of which bank you choose to open your account with, you will be required to provide a complete set of documents.
To open a bank account in Germany, you should provide the following documents:
- Duly completed application form.
- Your valid passport and current German residence permit.
- Proof of registration/address.
- Initial deposit (the minimum depends on the bank of your choice)
- Proof of income/employment.
- Proof that you are a student (if you’re opening a student account).
- SCHUFA credit rating (some, not all, banks require it).
German Online Bank Account Requirements
To open an online bank account in Germany, you will also be required to verify your identity. So, to do so, you might need to use a webcam, email verifying code, or use PostIdent, which is an approved substitute used to identify your identity, with the fee paid by the corresponding online bank. To verify your identity with PostIdent, you will be required to download a verification sheet from the bank’s website and submit it at the post office, along with your passport. The documents are, in turn, signed and sent to the bank.
Factors to Consider When Opening a Bank Account in Germany
Before you make your decision on the type of account you want to open or which bank you want to opt for, make sure you consider a few factors regarding the services, branches, ATMs, and fees.
Here is what you need to consider before opening a German bank account:
- Banking services. Before making your decision and opening an account on a particular bank, make sure to ask and research about the services the bank offers. Although generally, banks in Germany provide comprehensive services, it is important to gather the full set of information beforehand.
- Customer support. Customer support is an important aspect when it comes to banking. Especially when it comes to the language. If you can’t speak German, you must register with a bank that has English-speaking customer support.
- Maintenance and withdrawal fees. Fees can add up and therefore they are an important part to consider when choosing a financial provider. Make sure you ask questions when it comes to maintenance and withdrawal fees since some ATMs can charge as much as 5€.
- The network of branches and ATMs. The majority of banks in Germany have a wide network of branches and ATMs. Having access to your money, at any time and place, is invaluable.
- Online services. At the time of the internet, the online world has become super important and convenient. Banking services online are essential and save time.
Below, we will list some of the banks in Germany providing comprehensive, convenient, and excellent services.
Best Banks in Germany:
Here are the best banks in Germany:
- Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank is Germany’s largest nationwide bank, highly regarded internationally. They have a partnership with the Bank of America, which can make money transfers simpler. This bank offers numerous services which are convenient for students or other professionals.
- Now owned by Deutsche Bank, this bank was once the biggest retail-customer bank in Germany. This bank has a large network of ATMs, which makes money accessible and the bank particularly convenient. It offers a free Girocard bank card and a free Girokonto if you maintain an auto-deposited minimum of 1,000€ per month.
- Commerzbank has a wide range of branch networks especially dedicated to customers. As one of the biggest banks in Germany, this bank is highly-regarded for its customer service, accounts, and site dedicated to English speaking customers.
- HypoVereinsbank (UniCredit Bank AG). The site of this bank is only available in German, however, it is known as the fifth-largest of the German financial institutions, ranked according to its total assets.
- BayernLB, or Bayerische Landesbank, is one of the six Landesbanken or state-owned banks in Germany. It is a public regulated bank based in Munich, and as so it offers private and commercial customers a variety of services. This bank fully owns DKB (Deutsche Kreditbank), which is perfect if you’re aiming for lower fees and want to do all your banking online.
- Norddeutsche Landesbank. This is one of the largest commercial banks in Germany. Majority-owned by the federal states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, this public corporation has its head office in Hanover and branches in Braunschweig and Magdeburg.
- Landesbank Baden-Württemberg. Landesbank Baden-Württemberg is the biggest state-backed Landesbank lender. It is a full-service, commercial bank and central bank for savings in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony. LBBW has a comprehensive and innovative portfolio of services which is truly convenient for customers.
- KfW Bankengruppe. This German state-owned development bank based in Frankfurt was formed in 1948 and it is the third-largest bank by the balance sheet, according to 2018 statistics.
- ING-DiBa. It was founded in 1965 in Frankfurt, Germany. Outside opening hours, there are 58,000 ATMs for free cash withdrawals in Germany, which can be done using the Visa Card. You get two free cards, a Visa Card (debit), and a Girocard (debit).
- DAB BNP Paribas, Munich. The DAB is a direct bank offering private customers a free custody account. Even without its own branch system, this bank is competing with some of the best banks in Germany.
- N26. The mobile bank, N26, offers a free bank account with no hidden fees. It operates with a European banking license and helps you manage your bank account through your mobile.
- Sparkasse. Every large German city has its own Sparkasse. These banks are run as non-profit public service and they have a variety of network branches and ATMs all around Germany.
- Volksbank. ‘Volksbank’ translates to ‘people’s bank’, and there are several European banks that operate under this name. In Germany, there are 1,099 local Volksbanken.
German Banking Glossary
Here are a few terms you should know when it comes to banking in Germany:
|Das Bankkonto||Bank Account|
|Der Kontostand||Bank Balance|
|Das Girokonto||Current Account|
|Das Sparkonto||Savings Account|
|Die Bankrate||Bank Draft|
|Das Bankdarlehen||Bank Loan|
|Der Bankauszug||Bank Statement|
|Die Banküberweisung||Bank Transfer|
|Das Guthaben||Credit Balance|
|Die Kreditkarte||Credit Card|
|Die Feste Rate||Fixed Rate|
|Der Zinssatz||Interest Rate|
|Das Ausländerkonto||Non-Resident Account|
|Sperrkonto||Blocked Account For Visa Requirements|
Other articles you might be interested in:
- How to Transfer Money Within Germany and Abroad
- How to Open a Blocked Bank Account in Germany
- How to Transfer Money to Blocked Account in Germany
- How to Open an N26 Bank Account in Germany
Free E-Book: The Essential Guide to Studying in Germany for Free
To increase your chances of getting admitted at a Germany university, learn more about the requirements for international students, and best prepare yourself for studying and living in Germany, check out our FREE guide for international students.
Download our guide for free and join our email newsletter to receive our latest articles and news about studying in Germany via email, along with regular scholarships, study abroad opportunities and offers.