Opening a bank account in Germany

Opening a bank account in Germany

Which is the best bank for expats in Germany? That is the most frequently asked questions by expats once they registered themselves here. Let’s answer this question with an overview of available banks and their pros&cons.

Quick comparison

Revolut

N26

Tomorrow

Pure Online/Branch

Online

Online

Online

Monthly Fee

Free

Free

3EUR

Support

Chat & Email

Chat & Email

Phone, Email & Chat

Cash Deposit Available

No

Yes

No

Credit Card

No

No

No

Investment Options

Yes

No

No

Overdraft Possible

No

Yes

No

Loan Possible

No

Upto 25K

No

According to the Federal Office for statistics Germany has about 1900 registered banks – which is a lot compared to the population in Germany. The banking landscape can be segregated into three main parts:
  1. Private banks: These would be Commerzbank*, Deutsche Bank, ING, just to name a few. These will be stocks based and will look at shareholder values and maximizing profits as their main goals.
  2. Public banks: The red “S” logo with a Sparkasse in the title would be public banks: E.g. “Kreissparkasse”, “Stadtsparkasse”, “Sparkasse”. Although sharing the same name, each of these banks has its own CEO; CIO, financial guideline, fee-structure, customer service and so on. They are local in nature meaning that they will be focusing on clients who live in / around their town.
  3. Cooperative institutions: Volksbanken & Raiffaisen banks are also local in nature and also have individual guidelines on how to operate.
A lot of public and coop banks are merging in order to reduce cost and get more efficient. You can use online tools such as Verivox and Tarifcheck, to compare and check all the providers,with their ongoing promotions.

Can I have multiple bank accounts as an Expat?

Definitely yes; and you should. What’s worked out best is to have one current account (Girokonto) and a saving account (Tagesgeldkonto). Although there’s not much to be earned on the savings part, you might want to save up for a rainy fund or a vacation – and it’s definitely not bad to segregate these “investments”/ expenses from your daily stuff. There’s no one stopping you from getting multiple current or savings accounts – you just need to take care about things not getting messy. Our suggestion is to have not more than 2 current accounts in order to safeguard your credit score (as each Girokonto would have a line of credit, which in turn could reduce your credit score). While choosing a bank for your current account, you’ll need to take into account to have a good access to ATM landscape in Germany if you regularly use cash as a mode of payment.

How do I open a German bank account?

That’s pretty straight forward as long as you fulfill certain requirements:
  • Passport (needs to be valid)
  • Valid visa (Blue Card, Family Reunion, Permanent Residencyship, Work Visa, ..)
  • City registration (=”Meldebescheinigung” so that the bank can send letters)
As an EU citizen you may be able to open an account online with video verification. As a non-EU citizen, you’ll need to be in Germany (either because you need to visit the branch OR because you need to get identified at a local post office = PostIdent). We’ve provided direct links to the account opening forms in the table below.

Criteria to choose a bank account

Online vs branch
This highly depends on the services you want to use. Do you prefer to have some guide you throughout your financial life? Would you rather have someone consult (=sell) you other financial products like insurances, savings plans, etc.? Then a branch bank like Commerzbank or Deutsche Bank would suit your needs best. If you, on the other hand would have a no-thrills bank without the hassle of someone calling you and offering a “perfect” solution for a problem you didn’t know existed; then online banks would better fit the bill. As mentioned above, you can have more than one account, in more than one bank – so it’s not a decision for life nor is it a decision which is non-reversable. Commerzbank Girokonto Banner 300x250
Amongst the online banks nowadays – Revolut, N26, Vivid and Tomorrow are the more sought after ones. Please do not take the first best bank which is hyped due to some new hot thing. There are banks like e.g. Nuri who offered a good English speaking service, but lacked financial backing of their investors. They needed to file for bankruptcy on 09.08.2022 – hence they are not in the comparison table.
Fees
The less service you need (=get) the less fees a bank will levy on its product of a current account. There are free current accounts available – some banks mandate you to have a regular income of 700EUR some are 100% free. The monthly fee is only a couple of EUR.
Withdrawing Cash
Cash is still very popular in Germany and hence you’ll need a bank which either offers an ATM pool from which you can withdraw money free of charge OR a bank which offers you a card to withdraw money from any ATM free of charge. There are some accounts which will let you withdraw money only for a fee. Have closer look at your requirements on cash on a daily basis to see which bank is a better fit. Perhaps it makes sense to choose a free-of-cost account and spend the occasional 5 bucks to withdraw money? At some supermarkets like Aldi, Rewe, Edeka, Lidl, Hit, Penny, Kaufland, … offer to withdraw cash once you exceed a certain threshold of grocery shopping (~10EUR / 20EUR) – why not explore that option as well. There might just not be the need for an ATM. You can use filters,on comparison portals Verivox and TarifCheck, when searching and comparing the providers, to get the best results suited to your needs.
Credit Cards
The easiest and most convenient way to search and apply for a credit here in Germany, would be via Verivox or Tarifcheck. Not only do they compare all the features for you on these portals, but also you can directly apply via these platforms. One can use various filters, to search and compare the best one suited to your personal needs.

English Speaking Banks in Germany

Revolut*N26*Commerzbank*Deutsche Bank*Vivid*Tomorrow*
English Website & supporticon yesicon yesicon partiallyicon partiallyicon yesicon yes
Pure online / branchOnlineOnlineBranchBranchOnlineOnline
Credit Card Availableupon requestupon requestupon requestupon requestupon requestupon request
Monthly Feefree (other plans available)freeonly with min. 700EUR monthly inputonly with min. 700EUR monthly inputfree3EUR
Free Cash Withdrawalsup to 5x a month (max 200EUR/month)up to 3x a monthunlimited at Cash Group ATMsunlimited at Cash Group ATMs + Shell gas stationsUp to €200 a month2EUR per withdrawal
Free Payment CardsPrepaid Visa Credit CardVirtual Debit MastercardEC Girocard & Virtual Debit CardEC Girocard Visa DebitVisa Debit
Identification methodPhoto of ID & SelfiePostIdent / Video IdentPostIdent / Video IdentPostIdent / Video IdentPostIdent / Video IdentPostIdent / Video Ident
Loan Possibleicon noup to 25k upto 80kupto 80kicon noicon no
Line of crediticon noicon yesicon yesicon yesicon noicon no
Nationalities acceptedLimited (US included)Extensive
(almost all countries)
Extensive
(almost all countries)
Extensive
(almost all countries)
Limited Limited
SupportChat & EmailChat & EmailPhone, Email & in personPhone, Email & in PersonChat & EmailPhone, Email & Chat
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