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Open a bank account in Germany

What you need to know about the fees, payment options and features on a range of current accounts in Germany.

Whether you’re new to Germany or a native German resident, you may find opening a bank account in Germany to be essential. The right current account can help you manage your day-to-day expenses, pay your bills, receive your salary or make purchases wherever and whenever you want.

Read on to find out more on what to look for with current accounts in Germany, the features and fees these accounts come with and how to open an account.

A brief introduction to the German banking system

Before you open a bank account in Germany, it’s good to familiarise yourself with the country’s banking system – which is one of the largest in the world.

Its banking sector operates on a unique ‘three-pillar’ structure that consists of private-sector banks, public-sector banks, and cooperatives. On top of these, there are also a variety of international banks and new digital entrants.

  • Private commercial banks. Private commercial banks (PCB) provides banking, investment, tax management, and other financial services to businesses or high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). PCBs make up a large percentage of all the banks in Germany.
  • Public savings banks. These financial institutions are typically held directly or indirectly by public sector entities. The local banks are known as Sparkassen, and the regional ones are called Landesbanken.
  • Co-operative banks. These banks are members of regional organisations that provide additional support for the local banks, such as the provision of specialised salesforces or training bank staff. They also serve as an audit body in compliance with German banking law.
  • International banks. Foreign banks with overseas branches in Germany.
  • Investment banks. Local banks or financial services companies that act as an intermediary in large and complex financial transactions.
  • Digital banks. These are fintech companies that have a digital front end and operations. They typically provide the same functions as a traditional bank, but without the brick and mortar branches.

Types of bank accounts in Germany

The two main types of bank accounts in Germany are:

Current Account (Griokonto)

A current account (or checking account), is the standard type of bank account in Germany used for day-to-day transactions such as salary crediting, bill payments and making EFTPOS purchases with a linked debit card. A Griokonto comes with an International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and a German debit card known as Girocard.

If you’re an expat living in Germany, you’d probably need a Griokontoto transfer funds between your bank account in your home country and your new bank account. German banks also tend to offer both general current accounts and specialised accounts (for students and youth), so make sure to choose one that best suit your needs.

Savings Account (Sparkonto and Depot)

In Germany, there are two different types of savings account – limited access savings account (Sparkonto) and fixed deposit account (Festgeldkonto).

A Sparkonto is an interest-bearing savings account that can be opened alongside a Girokonto, so that you’d be able to deposit money from your current account to accrue interest. These accounts may be high-yield accounts that come with high interest and stricter eligibility requirements, or low-interest accounts available to most applicants. If you need to access your balance in the Sparkonto, you may do so anytime.

On the other hand, a Festgeldkontohas a locked-in period whereby you set aside a minimum deposit for a specific period of time to earn higher interest rates. This means that you’d only be able to access the money from this account after the term ends.

Benefits of current accounts in Germany

  • Safer than cash. Current accounts in Germany offer a secure place to hold your money, which is much safer (and easier) than keeping your money in physical cash. Thanks to a policy known as Entschädigungseinrichtung deutscher Banken, your deposit of up to €100,000 in a German bank account is protected by the German Government.
  • Easy access to your money. The money in your bank account is yours to access whenever you want. You can withdraw cash from your bank account at an ATM, use a debit card to purchase things in stores, pay your bills or shop online 24/7.
  • Free debit card. Current accounts in Germany usually come with a free Visa or Mastercard debit card that’s linked to your account. You can use this debit card in stores in Germany and overseas, at ATMs and online. Unlike a credit card, the money on your debit card is limited to what you deposit into the account.
  • Transaction history. You can see your past bank account transactions by logging into your Internet banking portal or mobile banking app. This is a handy way to keep track of where and how you’re spending your money.
  • No interest charged. Unlike a credit card which is a type of loan that you need to repay, the money in your bank account is your money. You can only spend what you have in the bank account, so there are no interest repayments to worry about and there’s no risk of spending more than you have.
  • Mobile banking app. Most bank accounts in Germany offer mobile app access. This means you can keep track of your bank account, manage your expenses and see your transactions in the mobile banking app

How to compare current accounts in Germany

When comparing current accounts, consider the following features to make sure you choose the right bank account for you.

Consider the account fees.

Consider fees including registration fees, card delivery fees, monthly fees, fall-below fees, ATM withdrawal fees and foreign exchange fees. The latter is especially important for expatriates to consider since additional currency costs could add up.

Interest rates.

This is more applicable to long-term account holders looking to grow their nest egg. Higher interest rates mean better returns and stronger capital growth.

Check the deposit conditions.

If the account does require your to meet a monthly deposit requirement, make sure it’s an amount that you can easily meet each month.

Check the ATM fees.

Will you be charged an ATM withdrawal fee to access your cash? Don’t forget to check the overseas ATM withdrawal fee, too, as this can be quite high with some bank accounts in Germany.

Compare the overseas fees and charges.

If you travel a lot or regularly shop online from overseas retailers, check the international transaction fees when comparing bank accounts. Some German bank accounts don’t charge an international transaction fee at all, and others will waive this fee if you meet certain deposit conditions. Sending or receiving money in a currency other than euros can be expensive with a standard current account.

Look at the linked savings account.

If you want to link a savings account, or Sparkonto, to your bank account with the same bank, check what interest rate you can earn with the savings account. However, most savings accounts in Germany currently offer interest of about 0.1% to 0.5%, so don’t worry if the linked savings account comes with a low interest rate.

Perks and rewards.

Interested in cashback perks and shopping rewards? Find a provider that offers rewards in line with your interests. For example, shopaholics may want to consider providers with tempting shopping vouchers, while food-lovers may prefer a bank offering exclusive dining deals.

Consider the payment options.

If you want to make contactless purchases with your phone, check that the bank account supports Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.

Check the customer support language options.

This could be the most important consideration for expatriates looking to open a bank account in Germany. If you do not speak German fluently, you should strongly consider German banks with good English customer service. This is mostly offered by multinational German banks, and less often by local German banks like Sparkassen and Volksbanken.

What features am I looking for?

There is a good range of current accounts in Germany, each with its own product options. Consider which features you’re looking for — whether it’s mobile banking, overdraft facilities, or cheap international transfers — before choosing a current account. If you prefer having centralised control over all your finances, you might also want an account that offers bill payment, tax payment, budgeting, investment and health insurance purchase features.

Ease and convenience of account management.

Digital bank accounts offer higher levels of account management and convenience than standard bank accounts. You could also find this convenience with bank accounts from traditional banks that come with online banking add-ons.

Do I need a joint account?

If you’re looking for a bank account in Germany that you can share with another person (for example your partner), make sure you check if the account can be opened as a joint account.

How to apply for a bank account in Germany

Whether you’re applying for a digital bank account or a traditional bank account, most providers today offer online registration. Simply visit the provider’s website and fill out the online application form to get started. Alternatively, you can always visit a local bank branch to open your account.

If you are registering for an online bank account, you’d be required to complete a quick identity verification process through a webcam, selfie, email verifying code, or PostIdent.

Eligibility criteria

  • German resident or foreigner with a valid visa.
  • At least 18 years of age (for most account types)

Required documents

Here are some common documents that may be requested from you in order to open a bank account in Germany:

  • Identity proof. A German ID, driver’s license (issued in the EU) or valid passport. Foreign applicants will also need to provide a valid visa or residence permit.
  • Proof of residential address. A recent utility/telco bill, mortgage payment or bank statement.
  • Proof of employment. You may have to submit an employment verification letter with your employer or company details.
  • Proof of study. If you’re a student, you’ll also need to provide documents to prove your student status, such as your enrolment or scholarship letters.
  • Credit history. Some banks may require your SCHUFA credit rating

Compare a range of banks accounts in Germany

Name Product Management Fee Interest Rate Overdraft Card Fee
Commerzbank Free current account
0 €
0%
0%
9.90 €

Receive €100 starting credit after 3 months of account activity

A current account with 0 € fees and cashback at select Shell petrol stations. Includes a Mastercard Classic credit card.
1822MOBILE Current Account
1822MOBILE Current Account
0 €
0%
0%
0 €
Free account management, €20 when you open an account, up to €100 referral bonus and a free savings bank card: your current account 1822MOBILE offers all of this.
Vivid Standard
0 €
0%
0%
0 €
A free bank account with fee-free payments and transfers globally. Enjoy up to 20€ cashback per month.
Comdirect Bank Current Account
4.90 €
0%
6.50%
0 €
A current account with no minimum incoming funds. Includes a free Visa credit card and free cash withdrawals worldwide.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Your step-by-step guide to opening a bank account in Germany

We’ll take you through the entire bank account opening process, from choosing the right account for you to completing your registration:

  1. Decide on a bank account type. Before applying, make sure to consider how you’d be using the account. Will it be used for long-term savings or daily transactions? Compare your options and select one that is most suited to your financial needs.
  2. Apply for your chosen account. Once you’ve decided on an account, head over to the bank’s website and apply online.
  3. Submit the required documents. Most providers will allow you to upload these documents online. If not, you’d have to visit a physical bank branch with original copies of these documents. You’ll typically need a form of identification, an IC or Passport for EU citizens, a Meldebescheinigung for potential long-term residents and a student pass for students. Expats will need to show a work permit, residence permit, or visa. Also, you’ll also need to fill in your name, age, address and contact details as well as your residency status in the form.
  4. Verify your identity. If you’re applying online, the bank will use a system known as PostIdent to verify your identity. Once your identity is verified, your account should be opened immediately.
  5. Wait for approval and receive your debit card. Your account will be ready in a few business days and you’ll subsequently receive a linked debit card in the mail. Once this has been sorted, make sure to set up online banking (if available). Digital bank account users may also generate virtual debit cards and start using their account immediately after approval.

Considering opening a digital bank account in Germany?

Digital banks have become more popular than ever because of the convenience and control they offer. You can manage your money any time, anywhere and have a complete understanding of your finances. They’re quick and easy to apply for, and even easier to use.

Popular digital bank providers in Germany include bunq, N26, Revolut and DKB bank. However, one main downside is that digital banks might not offer financial management services that are extensive as those offered by traditional banks. For example, few digital banks offer mortgage payment features or health insurance purchasing options.

Another difference between traditional banks and digital banks is how they are licenced. Traditional banks and some digital banks, such as N26, hold bank licences. This means they can accept deposits and your money is protected up to €100,000 by the government guarantee. Finance apps such as Revolut, do not hold a bank licence. They cannot accept deposits and your money is not covered by the government guarantee.

What are some cheap bank accounts to consider in Germany?

Here are some cheap bank accounts in Germany, including a few free ones, for your consideration:

  • Deutsche Bank Junge Konto. This account is for pupils, trainees, students and federal volunteers up to and including 30 years from EU member states. It comes with no monthly fees and a complimentary Deutsche Bank debit card.
  • Comdirect Girokonto. Comdirect’s current account comes at no cost, with free cash withdrawals at all Comdirect ATMs. What’s more, this cheap German bank account is compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay, with first-time users getting a €25 bonus.
  • Commerzbank Girokonto. Commerzbank’s bank account is completely free, with a €50 start bonus. The entire application is completed through an online form and video ID check.
  • Postbank Online-konto. This standard German current account comes with a €1.90 per month account management fee but is free of charge for students and trainees. Alternatively, deposit €3000 per month into a Postbank Komfort-Konto and enjoy no account management fees, inclusive of a Postbank Visa Card or Mastercard and low interest rates for overdraft.
  • HVB Start Account. A free bank account in Germany for those under 26 that comes with a HVB GiroCard, free access to the SB-terminal and Europe-wide free payments and withdrawals.
  • 1822direkt Girokonto Klassik. This cheap bank account is completely free from any management fees, with fees for the accompanying credit card also waived for the first year. This current account can double as your receiving account to deposit your salary in.

Frequently asked questions

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