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How to open a German bank account

Learn how to open a German bank account as an expatriate.

Opening a bank account in Germany doesn’t have to be a hassle — all you need is to pick the right account and prepare your paperwork before getting started.

This guide will cover how non-residents can open a bank account in Germany, including a step-by-step breakdown of the application process.

Am I eligible for a bank account in Germany?

Yes, you can open a German bank account if you’re moving to Germany for work or study. Most German banks accept German residents or foreigners with valid visas. Many accounts also require you to be above the age of 18.

Do you need a bank account in Germany?

While it’s not a legal requirement to have a German bank account when you live in Germany, it’s certainly more convenient and cost-effective to manage your finances locally than from an overseas bank account. Especially for day-to-day transactions such as paying rent, bills, public transport or withdrawing cash from the ATMs.

Which kinds of bank accounts are available to non-residents in the 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 suits your needs.

Savings Account (Sparkonto and Depot)

In Germany, there are two different types of savings accounts – 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 is 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.

Which German banks offer bank account for non-residents?

Here are the top banking picks for expat residents:

Local bank accounts

Local German bank accounts have their own unique sign-up process requiring your relevant identification or visa and proof of residence. German bank providers include Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Comdirect and DKB.

COMMERZBANK

Best for English-speaking expats

Headquartered in Frankfurt, Commerzbank is one of the largest banks in Germany and provides most information in German and English.

It has physical branches all around the country, as well as mobile and online banking platforms.

DEUTSCHE BANK

Best traditional bank for expats

Deutsche Bank is a major German bank in Germany and offers a range of savings and current account options designed for different customer profiles. Its facilities also include a mobile app and an online banking portal with both English and German support.

International bank accounts

You may also want to consider opening an account with an international bank that has branches in Germany, especially if these banks are available in your country.

If you wish to sign up for an international bank account in Germany, you should follow the bank’s specific sign-up process which may resemble an international registration process instead.

For instance, you may not be asked for a German utility bill or proof of residence in Germany. Additionally, most international banks offer their services in English, a huge point of consideration if you aren’t familiar with German.

These are some of the top international banks in Germany:

  • ING
  • Bank of America
  • BNP Paribas

Digital banks

Digital banks in Germany have the most flexible registration requirements. They are available in multiple countries and offer great benefits to expats, such as holding multiple currencies or low ATM fees. To sign up you will usually only need your national identification card and proof of income.

Here are some of the most popular digital banks in Germany:

Compare current accounts in Germany

1 - 14 of 14
Name Product Mobile view Current Account English Management Fee Interest Rate Overdraft Card Fee
Commerzbank Free current account
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    9.90 €

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
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

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
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

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
  • Management Fee

    4.90 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    6.5% p.a.

  • Card Fee

    0 €

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.
Norisbank Top Current Account
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    10.85% p.a.

  • Card Fee

    0 €

0 €
0%
10.85%
0 €
Benefit from a 0 € account fee, free Maestro card and free cash withdrawals from thousands of locations worldwide.
N26 Standard
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    8.9% p.a.

  • Card Fee

    10 €

0 €
0%
8.90%
10 €
Benefit from no monthly fee, no currency conversion fees and a raft of in-app budgeting features to help you save.
TARGOBANK Starter Account
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

0 €
0%
0%
0 €
Equipped with all essential banking features, this free account designed to help students or young adults below 30 years old to kickstart their financial independence.
Commerzbank StartKonto
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

0 €
0%
0%
0 €
A free current account for young people with a free Young Visa credit card. Cashbacks and discounts in more than 2,000 online shops.
N26 Metal
  • Management Fee

    16.90 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    8.9% p.a.

  • Card Fee

    0 €

16.90 €
0%
8.90%
0 €
Receive a stainless steel Metal card available in 3 shades, an insurance package and exclusive offers.
TARGOBANK Online-Account
  • Management Fee

    3.95 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

3.95 €
0%
0%
0 €
An online current account that comes with a Visa credit card. Free online transfers and free cash withdrawals at more than 3,000 ATMs.
DKB-Cash: Free current account
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

0 €
0%
0%
0 €
A current account with fees that comes with a free Visa credit card and free cash withdrawals worldwide.
N26 Smart
  • Management Fee

    4.90 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    8.9% p.a.

  • Card Fee

    0 €

4.90 €
0%
8.90%
0 €
A mid-tier, premium subscription plan that comes with a range of essential money management features to help you better manage your finances.
Openbank Free Current Account
  • Management Fee

    0 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    0%

  • Card Fee

    0 €

0 €
0%
0%
0 €
A free current account with free euro transfers within the eurozone. Includes a debit card with free cash withdrawals worldwide.
N26 You
  • Management Fee

    9.90 €

  • Interest Rate

    0%

  • Overdraft

    8.9% p.a.

  • Card Fee

    0 €

9.90 €
0%
8.90%
0 €
A smart IBAN account with no currency conversion fees, complimentary insurances and no ATM fees here or abroad.
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Compare up to 4 providers

What are the benefits of opening a bank account in the 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

What should foreigners and expats look for in a bank account?

The bank account you should choose ultimately depends on your reason for opening an account and features that suit your needs.

Here are common features that non-residents want when they open a German bank account.

  • Low fees. Most German banks charge minimal monthly fees, but card-related fees, international money transfers and currency conversion costs could really add up. You should keep an eye out for bank accounts with low charges.
  • Range of services. Consider what are some of the banking services or financial products you’d need. Most German banks offer services such as loans, insurance and investment products on top of their savings and transactional accounts.
  • Debit cards. A basic debit card is a must-have in Germany.
  • Accessibility. Will you be visiting your bank branch often for customer support? Or would you prefer to manage your banking services online? This will determine whether you opt for a traditional bank or digital bank account.
  • International transfers. It’s likely that non-residents might want to transfer money back home. In this case, you should ensure that your chosen account offers international transfers at a competitive price point.
  • Multicurrency features. Expats might find it useful to hold a bank account with multicurrency features. This way, you won’t need to constantly convert money and incur exchange rate fees.
  • English-speaking customer service. For those unfamiliar with German, having a bank account that comes with English-speaking customer service is a must.

How should a non-resident open 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.

To open an account in Germany:

  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 accounts immediately after approval.

Required documents:

Once you’ve checked that you’re eligible to apply, start gathering your essential documents. This generally includes:

  • 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

How to open a German bank account from abroad?

If you have yet to move to Germany and wish to get your local bank account set up in advance, find out if the German bank of your choice offers that option (although most of them don’t allow the online opening of overseas accounts and requires in-person verification at a branch).

Alternatively, check if the German bank has any arrangement with a correspondent bank or a branch in your country. Or consider a digital or mobile bank account.

Bottom line

Choosing the right bank account for you will make your shift into Germany much easier. You can settle your day-to-day transactions without worrying about incurring foreign currency exchange fees or be charged a fee every time you withdraw cash – assuming that you decide to use the bank account in your home country for local transactions.

Since the process of opening a bank account in Germany as a non-resident is a straightforward process, make sure to take the time and compare all the options available before applying for one that best suits your needs.

Frequently asked questions

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