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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.
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.
The two main types of bank accounts in Germany are:
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.
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.
When comparing current accounts, consider the following features to make sure you choose the right bank account for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want to make contactless purchases with your phone, check that the bank account supports Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some common documents that may be requested from you in order to open a bank account in Germany:
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
We’ll take you through the entire bank account opening process, from choosing the right account for you to completing your registration:
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.
Here are some cheap bank accounts in Germany, including a few free ones, for your consideration:
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