How To Open a German Bank Account

German Bank Accounts

Opening a German bank account is among the first things you must do upon your arrival in Germany because you’re going to need it for different purposes be it for paying rent, paying amenities, receiving transfers from your relatives or getting your salary from an employer.

Except you’ve studied economics-related subjects, getting the head around the banking system, terminology and their vocabulary is a bit difficult for most of us and Germany makes no exemption from this.

To a foreigner like you who is going to reside soon in Germany, this problem may be far more pronounced, especially if you have no prior knowledge about banking in Germany and the German language. Thus, it is very important for you to understand how you can open a bank account in Germany ahead of your arrival.

If this has been the case with you then look no further. In this article, we will cover into details everything you need to know about what options you have, procedures for opening a bank account in Germany and some helpful advice you can gain benefits of, in order to be able to make the right decision.

How to open a bank account in Germany?

As you might probably know, Germans are very bureaucratic. To open a bank account in Germany you will have to collect several documents and follow certain procedures.
The procedures and documents required to open a German account may vary to a certain degree among banks in Germany. However, there a list of documents which are common for most banks.

The application for opening a German bank account can be made online or in person.
If you apply online you will have to follow the procedures as explained below

  1. Open the bank’s website 
  2. Print out the application form
  3. Fill properly the application form to request the opening of your German bank account (Girokonto)
  4. Print out your “PostIdent” form and sign it
  5. Your passport or a legal ID
  6. A copy of your registered address in Germany (Meldebescheinigung)
  7. Get to the closest post branch and send your application to the address of your bank

A few days later you’re going to receive a post-mail to be confirmed the opening of your account.

Note that a primary condition to be eligible to open a bank account in Germany is to have a registered address of residence in Germany. This is required so the bank is convinced you live in Germany and knows where to send the confirmation or any other issue related to your account.

If you apply in person you will have to follow the procedures as explained below

  1. Make an appointment (if you don’t want to wait in queues)
  2. Complete the Girokonto application form
  3. Present your ID or a valid passport and a copy of registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung)
  4. Complete the initial deposit (the minimum amount varies between banks)
  5. A few days later you’re going to receive a confirmation by mail

A few things to note:

  • The amount of the initial deposit varies from bank to bank
  • Most German banks charge maintenance and withdrawal fees
  • ATMs in Germany are known as Geldautomat
  • Sparkasse bank has the widest network of ATMs (Geldautomats) in Germany
  • International transfers in EU are free of charge and take 1-3 working days

Let us now give a short introduction to the German banking system which we’ll help you understand the basics and easily navigate through the article.

The German banking system is made of three types of banks, which form the so-called “three pillars” of the country’s banking system.

  • Private banks
  • Commercial banks
  • Public banks

Note: The category of public banks includes saving banks (Sparkassen) and public regional-governed banks (Landesbanken).

All these types of banks offer a full spectrum of banking services in a wide network of branches scattered all across the country. In the present, there are over than 1,800 banks in Germany and more than 35,000 recognized branches altogether. In addition to banks of German ownership, there is a large number of international banks operating in Germany.

Banks in Germany are part of the SEPA agreement which enables citizens of EU countries to transfer money while being charged local transfer fees.

In terms of market share, state-governed banks dominate, covering 50% of the market, followed by 30% of the market belonging to private banks and the rest to cooperative banks.

Best Banks in Germany

Here are the best banks in Germany:

•    Sparkasse
•    Deutsche Bank
•    Volksbank
•    Postbank
•    Commerzbank
•    BayernLB
•    Norddeutsche Landesbank
•    HypoVereinsbank (UniCredit Bank AG)
•    Landesbank Baden-Württemberg
•    KfW Bankengruppe
•    ING-DiBa
•    DAB BNP Paribas, Munich
•    N26
•    Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen (Helaba)

The list goes on endlessly making it harder for you to filter out the best options.

> Recommended option: N26 bank account (based on quality services and convenience)

Popularity and banks’ marketing strategy may also play a role in your decision, distracting you from other suitable options for you. Moreover, your scanty knowledge around banking in Germany will make it harder for you to narrow down your focus to those banks, which offer the best deal in terms of cost and flexibility.

That said, when opening a bank account in Germany there are several things you need to consider as we’ll explain below.

Factors To Consider When Opening a Bank Account in Germany?

The set of banking services– First, you must have a basic understanding of what services a bank offers to you. Although most banks in Germany offer a comprehensive set of banking services there are always substantial differences related to these offerings and the way they’re delivered to the client.

Customer Support in English – This is a very common issue for foreigners willing to open a German bank account. In the majority of banks, officers don’t speak (or are not allowed to) English and you can hardly find one that does. If you don’t have a basic knowledge in Germany you will have to pay a German-speaking agent to communicate to the bank’s employees. Fortunately, there are still some banks in Germany which do offer customer support service in English as it is explained in our article.

Maintenance and Withdrawal fees – Banks in Germany charge various maintenance and withdrawal fees ranging somewhere between €3 to €5. Fortunately, as we’ll show below, there are still banks, however, that charge you low or no fees at all and we recommend you to consider opening your account in one of them.

The bank’s network of branches and ATMs
– A bank with an extended network of branches and ATMs will enable you to gain access to your money at any time at any place. Though the majority of German banks have a wide network of branches and ATMs across the country some of them excel in this aspect.

Online services – Nowadays time is everything. In order to save as much time as possible for yourself, you must find a bank which doesn’t require to show up in person for every minor issue you or bank’s officers may have with your bank account in Germany. For that, you need to check if the bank of your choice offers banking services online so you can carry out everything online.

Types of Bank Accounts in Germany

It is also important to differentiate the types of banks account in Germany so you will open the one you need

Banks in Germany offer the following types of bank accounts:

Girokonto – current or checking account
Tagesgeldkonto – savings accounts free access
Sparkonto – savings account with limited access
Depot – securities account

What Types of Cards German Banks Issue

There are several types of bank cards in Germany, which can account for a bit more confusion to you.

Here are the types of bank cards issued by German banks:

  • Electronic Cash (EC) Card (Girocard)
  • Visa or Mastercard (Kreditkarte)
  • Credit Card (Kreditkarte)
  • Maestro Card

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