Guide to OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT GERMANY
One of the first things you need to do when you move to Germany is open a German bank account. You’ll need a bank account in Germany for a lot of different things. For example, you’ll need a German bank account to get a telephone plan, internet services, set up utilities (such as water and electricity), and get various types of German insurance. This guide for expats in Germany has all the information you need on opening a bank account in Germany!
Table of Contents:
- Types of Banks in Germany
- What to Know BEFORE Opening a Bank Account in Germany
- What’s the BEST bank account in Germany for expats?
- List of Banks in Germany
- Cheapest Way to Transfer Money Abroad
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Types of Banks in Germany
Branch banks are known as “Filialbanken” in German. Branch banks are traditional banks. They have a physical location you can go to for service. To open a German bank account with a branch bank you usually need to do it in-person at one of the branches.
Online banks, as the name suggests, function through online platforms. As a result, online banks normally don’t have physical branches. To open a German bank account with an online bank you need to do it on your computer or mobile device.
Most expats in Germany choose to open bank accounts with online banks. One reason for this is because online banks usually have more services for expats than branch banks. However, ask your bank what services it has available in your language! Not all online banks offer services in English. For example, Deutsche Kreditbank AG (DKB) and ING do not have an English website nor do they have English speaking customer support.
It’s also important to note that online banks almost always have more customer service hours than branch banks. Branch banks usually have customer service available from 9:00am-5:00pm Monday-Friday. To the contrary, online banks oftentimes have customer service available past 5:00pm, and on the weekends.
2. What to Know BEFORE Opening a Bank Account in Germany
German banks are some of the best in the world. Not all German banks, however, are the best for expats in Germany. In order to choose the right German bank for yourself, you need to be aware of the services the bank offers. This includes:
The level of customer support that German banks offer ranges greatly. The easiest way to break it up is to look at the differences between branch banks and online banks. Branch banks are unique in that they offer face-to-face customer support. To the contrary, online banks offer customer support via your computer/mobile phone.
With branch banks, unless you’re close to one of the banks’ branches, it can be difficult to access customer support. Furthermore, most branch banks are open for limited hours Monday-Friday. For instance, Deutsche Bank, one of the largest German banks, is open Monday-Friday from 9:30 to 17:00. On the other hand, you can access online banks’ customer support “after hours”. Many online banks have support services in place to help their clients at any time, any day of the week. For example, Deutsche Kreditbank AG has 24/7 customer support.
Language is one of the most important things to pay attention to when you compare German Banks! This is especially true if you don’t speak fluent German. Many branch banks in Germany do not offer their services in languages other than German. Even more so, depending on the bank, it can be difficult to get customer support in your language at a branch bank. Therefore, ask your bank what languages it guarantees to offer services in.
Online banks offer their services in both English and German more often than branch banks. However, there is no guarantee, so it is still important to ask what languages your bank supports. For instance, Deutsche Kreditbank AG does not have a website nor customer support in English.
Mobile Banking: Safety & Convenience
Banking apps make banking more convenient and safer. For starters, a banking app makes banking safer because you can link your account to your phone. Then you can receive notifications anytime a transaction is made with your debit card. If you did not complete the transaction then you can go on your app and place a hold on your card.
For instance, if you receive a notification that someone used your card at an ATM, you can lock your card from your app. As a result, no one can use your card until you unlock it. You can also verify transactions if someone uses your card at an unfamiliar location. .
A banking app makes banking more convenient. You can manage your account, complete transfers and get help from customer service all from the app.
Many German banks charge fees. Therefore, you should ask what kind of fees your bank charges. There are three fees that you should be aware of before opening your bank account in Germany:
(1) General fees
Branch banks normally charge more fees than online banks. Because branch banks have to keep up with branches that you can go to in-person, they have more employees and overhead expenses. Therefore, they have more fees. If you choose to open a German bank account with a branch bank then make sure you’re aware of all the fees beforehand.
On the other hand, online banks have fewer fees. These type of German banks are more cost-efficient. You can get a German online bank account with no monthly service fees.
(2) Card fees
Almost all banks will give you a debit card for free when you open a bank account. Credit cards, however, aren’t always free. It depends on what bank you have, but credit cards usually have a fee that ranges between €30 and €100 per year. For example, Commerzbank’s Classic Credit Card is €39.99 per year and a Gold Credit Card is €99.00 per year. With Deutsche Bank, you can get a standard MasterCard credit card for €39.99 per year.
(3) ATM fees
All German banks have different ATM fees, so make sure you ask your bank about its ATM fees. Some German banks have agreements between one another to waive ATM fees for their customers that use any ATMs that belong to other banks that are a part of the agreement. For instance, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, HypoVereinsbank and Postbank have an agreement to waive ATM fees for their customers. Therefore, if you have an account with Commerzbank then you can withdraw money fee-free from Deutsche Bank, Postbank and HypoVereinsbank ATMs.
One of the most popular German banks amongst expats in Germany is N26. One reason for this is because N26 offers a bank account that has 5 free ATM withdrawals per month. It’s important to note, however, that these withdrawals are only free if the currency being withdrawn is in euros. This also comes with a free MasterCard debit card.
3. What’s the BEST bank account in Germany for expats?
You should choose an online bank with an English website and English-speaking customer support. N26 is the BEST bank for expats in Germany. Below you will find a comparison of the 3 most popular online banks in Germany!
- Monthly Fees
- Free Credit/Debit Card
- ATM Fees
- English Website
- English Speaking Customer Support
- German Residency Required
- Banking For Selfemployed/Freelancers
- Works With Apple Pay/Google Pay
What Is N26 Spaces?
How Can I Open An N26 Bank Account Online?
First, go to the N26 website and fill out an online application. Then you’ll get a confirmation email from N26 to activate your new account.
As with any German bank account, you have to verify your ID. Doing this with N26 is way easier than it is with most other German banks! To verify your ID, you’ll download the N26 app to your phone. Then you’ll either do quick video chat with N26 or send a selfie.
What Are The N26 Safety Features?
Your N26 Mastercard also has 3D Secure for online transactions. Simply put, 3D Secure protects your N26 card from fraudulent use when making purchases online. It lets you validate transactions so no one can steal your card information to make online payments.
How N26 Helps Protect Your Transactions
– Payments made outside Germany
– Payments made online
– Cash withdrawals from ATMs
For example, you can block cash withdrawals from ATMs. If you need to withdraw cash, however, you can go to the app and temporarily allow cash withdrawals. With this effective security, it’s much harder for someone to steal your money.
Additional option: You can also get N26 Black, which comes with a few extra benefits:
– Expense coverage for acute medical emergencies
– Mobile phone theft insurance
– Air travel insurance
– Unlimited free withdrawals from ATMs anywhere in the world
What Are The Benefits Of An N26 Account?
– Free to open an account: Setting up your N26 bank account comes with no additional costs.
– Opening an account online: You don’t have to wait in lines or struggle with the language barrier of opening an account in-person.
– It’s in English: The N26 website and app can be accessed in English.
– Costumer support: Get live costumer support straight from the app, in English.
– No foreign transaction fees: Make purchases from anywhere in the world, online or in stores, without any extra costs.
– Banking from the app: The app is free and easy to use with any smartphone. You can manage your account, make transfers, and pair it with your phone to verify transactions, all from the tip of your fingers.
– Push notifications: N26 will also send you push notifications whenever your card has been used. Firstly, this is helpful if you’re traveling abroad, say to the United States, because the push notification will tell you how much you paid in EUR. Secondly, you can instantly see when your card was used. If someone has stolen your card information you can go to the app and immediately block your card from being used again.
Can I Open A Business Bank Account With N26?
This is also a great account for freelancers that are just starting their business because you don’t have to make a minimum deposit.
The N26 Business bank account also categorizes your transactions automatically. On the N26 app you can see a list of all of your purchases. In addition, you can download the list as a CVS or PDF and print it. This is really helpful if you need to keep track of your transactions for tax returns and invoicing.
Get an N26 Business Bank Account for Freelancers!
What DOCUMENTS Do I Need To Open An N26 Bank Account?
Here is a list of accepted ID documents for customers living in Germany.
Here is a list of accepted ID documents for customers living in Other Supported countries.
Here is a list of accepted ID documents for customers living in UK.
Types of N26 Bank Accounts:
You have options! N26 offers 4 different types of German bank account for expats: N26 Standard Account, N26 You, N26 Metal and N26 Business.
Every account offers zero foreign transaction fees, online banking, direct access through the N26 app, customer support in your language, and safety features.
There are a few differences, however, shown below.
ATM withdrawals in EUR1 → Cash withdrawals at ATMs can only be made using your N26 debit card. You have 5 free ATM withdrawals per month.
Allianz insurance package2→ The package includes the following:
- Coverage for medical emergencies abroad
- Mobile phone theft insurance
- Air travel insurance (If your flight or luggage is delayed for more than 4 hours, you get reimbursement)
Partner discounts3 → N26 has partnerships with brands that give you discounts. For example, you’ll receive access to discounts from WeWork, Hotels.com and GetYourGuide.
4. List of Banks in Germany
Furthermore, N26 has a partnership with Transferwise. As a result, you can make Transferwise transfers in 19 different currencies directly on the N26 app. N26 is headquartered in Berlin.
– Deutsche Bank
Opening a Bank Account in Germany with Commerzbank:
When you go to Commerzbank’s website to open a bank account, the application will ask for some of your personal information. For example, as with any other bank, you will have to provide your name, date of birth, address, nationality and occupation.
After you submit your online application, you will need to verify your identity. Don’t worry – this is easy! All you need to do is go to the Apple or Android Appstore. There you can find the Commerzbank videoIDENT app and download it onto your smartphone or tablet. Using your identity card/passport, a service employee will verify your identity through a video.
You will receive a confirmation email after you’ve been approved. Then your free online bank account will be opened immediately for you to use!
5. Cheapest Way to Transfer Money Abroad
The cheapest way to send money abroad is through TransferWise! And if you have an N26 bank account then it’s even easier. You can transfer money straight from the N26 app. There are no hidden fees or commissions. Fees to transfer money through normal banks are horrible, but Transferwise gives you a fair price. For instance, €1,000 transfer only costs around €6.00 in fees through Transferwise.
Transferwise is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest ways to transfer money! They don’t charge any hidden fees for your transfer. It’s quick too – transfers are usually done within 1-2 business days.
Our article, “TRANSFERWISE Money Transfer: What You NEED to Know,” has a lot of really helpful information about TransferWise!
BONUS with TransferWise:
6. Still have questions? Read our FAQ!
Opening A Bank Account In Germany For STUDENTS
Opening A Bank Account In Germany For FREELANCERS
Another perk of opening a bank account in Germany with N26 is that you don’t have to make a minimum deposit. Therefore, even if you’re just beginning your business, you’re able to open an account.
The N26 Business bank account also automatically categorizes your purchases. You can see a clear layout on the app of how you’re spending your money.
In addition, you can print a list of all your transactions. With N26, it’s possible to download the list as a CVS or PDF. This is especially helpful for tax returns and invoicing.
top 6 Questions to Ask before opening a Bank Account in Germany
All banks will charge penalty fees if you overdraft your account, but some banks have additional fees you should look out for. For example, some banks have fees for getting paper statements in the mail. Other banks might have requirements such as a minimum balance, and if you dip below the minimum balance the bank could charge you a penalty fee. It is also important to be aware of your bank’s ATM fees. Furthermore, brick and mortar banks (i.e. branch banks) oftentimes charge monthly service fees. When you’re opening a bank account in Germany, make sure you ask your potential bank for a comprehensive list of its fees.
2. Are services offered in English?
In Germany, many banks claim to meet the needs of expats, but not all banks will have services in your language. When you’re opening a bank account in Germany, you should ask your bank if its services are available in your language, such as English. As an expat, it’s important to choose a bank that accommodates for language barriers. Ask if your bank has a website, mobile app and customer support in your language. The best German bank account for expats, N26, has services available in English, Spanish, Italian, French and German.
3. Can I manage my bank account online/on an app?
Many German banks offer some online services, but not all banks in Germany have mobile banking available. A good question to ask before opening a bank account in Germany is what services are available online and on your phone. Ask the bank if it has an app that you can use to manage your account. Mobile banking is convenient and oftentimes offers extra security to keep your account safe.
4. Are there penalties for closing my bank account early?
Ask your bank if it charges penalty fees for your closing within a certain timeframe. For example, a bank might have a penalty fee for closing an account within the first 30 or 60 days from when you opened the account. Ask your bank to make sure you don’t end up with any unexpected penalties.
5. Does the account include a debit card?
It’s important to ask a bank if your bank account will come with a free debit card. For most banks, you will receive a debit card for free with the account. For some banks, however, you have to pay for a debit card.
6. What are the account requirements?
Be aware of the requirements before opening a bank account in Germany. For instance, some banks require account holders to maintain a minimum balance. Make sure you can meet the requirements, and ask what the consequences are if you fall below the account requirements.
What Is The Best bank For Expats In Germany?
Documents You Need For Opening A Bank Account In Germany
For branch banks, you usually need to have at least the following documents to open a German bank account:
– German address registration document (In Germany this is known as the Meldebescheinigung. After registering your address at your local Residents’ Registration Office, the Einwohnermeldeamt, you’ll get this document.)
– Proof of income/employment (e.g. a paystub or tax papers)
– Proof you’re a student, if you’re opening a student account
What Is The Cash Group?
Types of German Banks
The German banking system can also be divided into three pillars (i.e. categories):
Savings banks: Public banks, owned by federal, state or local municipalities.
Commercial banks: Private banks, owned by shareholders.
Cooperative banks: Private banks, owned by members of the cooperative.
Banks must abide by the laws established in The German Banking Act Kreditwesengesetz (KWG), which literally translates to the law of the banking system. The KWG secures the functionality of banks and protects creditors from investment capital loss. Banks are also subject to government supervision.
Types of Bank Accounts In Germany
Your employer will usually ask for your current account to pay you your salary. You can also use your current account to pay bills, such as your utility bill. A current account is similar to a USA checking account.
A savings account comes in two forms: immediate access and fixed deposit. An immediate access savings account allows you to separate your money from your current account to your savings account. As the name suggests, you can use this account to save for personal purposes, but you can withdraw money from the account at anytime. The fixed deposit savings account usually requires a minimum deposit and the money must stay in the account for a specific period of time.
How Many Banks Are In Germany?
Trends and Developments of German Banks
What Should I Know Before Opening A Bank Account in Germany?
What Fees Do Banks Charge?
Branch banks usually have more fees than online banks. The majority of branch banks have monthly service fees, but most online banks do not charge monthly service fees.
(2) Card fees
Banks will almost always give you a free debit card with your new bank account. However, credit cards usually have an annual fee. The yearly fee for most credit cards is between €30 and €100 per year.
(3) ATM fees
All banks in Germany have varying ATM fees. Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, HypoVereinsbank, Postbank and their subsidiaries are known as the Cash Group in Germany. They have an agreement to waive ATM fees for their customers that use any Cash Group ATMs. The online bank, N26, offers a free bank account that has 5 free ATM withdrawals per month.
BEST Bank If You Travel Often
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