Compare the best options on the market and choose the one which best adapts to your day-to-day needs.
Best Overall Bank Account
Our Rating: 9.5/10 Read Full Review
✔️ Great for choosing to invest your money sustainably
✔️ Excellent money management features
✔️ Really worth it if you go for the higher tiers that aren’t free
✔️ Choice of Mastercard and Maestro debit cards, as well as a Mastercard credit card
Best Online Bank backed by a Traditional Bank
Our Rating: 9.3/10 Read Full Review
✔️ Free ATM cash withdrawal from huge Cashgroup ATM network and rest of Eurozone outside of Germany
✔️ Great customer service and satsifaction
✔️ Sign-up process and support only in German, but mobile banking app available in English
✔️ Free and open to any residency
Best Traditional Bank
Our Rating: 9.2/10 Read Full Review
✔️ Massive Physical Branch Network
✔️ Great access to loans, mortgages, insurance, etc
✔️ Free ATM cash withdrawals only in Germany
✔️ Only for German residents
Best Overall for Germans
Our Rating: 8.9/10 Read Full Review
✔️ No fees as long as your monthly intake is at least €700
✔️ Excellent combo of overdraft rates cashback programs
✔️ Support only in German
✔️ Couples Account available
✔️ Awarded “Best Direct Bank” in Germany
Things to know about German Bank Accounts
Just a quick 2 min read about the most common issues we see with our readers:
What do “EC-Karte” or “Girocard” mean?
If you’ve arrived in Germany, then you’ve likely come across someone asking for your “Girocard” or “EC-Karte” when you want to pay with a card. Most people who come to Germany get confused by this.
Basically, EC-Karte is the predecessor to the Girocard (the current debit payment system in Germany) yet many may still commonly refer to Girocard as EC-Karte.
There is no real difference between them so don’t be alarmed. They are both essentially the German debit card system, where payments or cash withdrawals are directly linked to your current/checking account.
Is having an EC-Karte or Girocard important in Germany?
Overall it is not super important as most places accept MasterCard or Visa, but some small shops and businesses still work exclusively with the Girocard system and will often ask you for an “EC-Karte”.
So whilst not completely necessary, it could save you some trouble by having one rather than not having one.
However, most banks will provide you with debit cards that have both Girocard and Mastercard/Visa functionality so you can make payments both in and outside of Germany.
How do I open a bank account in Germany?
Opening a checking account with a bank in Germany is relatively simple to do, and can be done especially quickly (under 15 minutes for some banks) if you do it with one of the online banks.
But usually, there are some information or document requirements that may vary from bank to bank but if you follow this list, you should be pretty safe.
Usual requirements for opening checking accounts in Germany:
- Completed application form with Name, Address, Nationality, Income, etc
- Valid Passport or ID (if you are opening a joint account with another person, make sure they have their documents too)
- Proof of address or registration (like a recent utility bill)
- Initial Deposit (depends on your bank how much they will require as a minimum)
- Proof of income or employment (usually only required by more strict banks like DKB)
- SCHUFA credit rating (few banks require this, but if you open with a local bank not on this list, they might ask for this)
If you open things up with a bank that has physical branches, you might have to actually visit them to open up an account.
But, if you open with an online bank, you can do so from the comfort of your laptop or phone. Be prepared though to have a scanner (your phone is usually good enough) and/or webcam to verify your identity online.
How to close or change bank accounts in Germany
Closing or switching bank accounts is pretty simple to do in Germany as long as you don’t owe the bank any money.
Usually, there tends to be a “closing account order” application you need to complete and sign. Or, you can either visit a physical branch or call them and they’re usually very friendly in helping you out in closing your account.
Make sure to ask that you’re following all the correct requirements and don’t have any fees that you have not paid off yet. Things you have to make sure to do are:
- Make sure you don’t get charged any penalty fees for closing the account before a specified “minimum” time has elapsed since you opened the account.
- Get written confirmation in the form of a letter or email that the account has officially been closed
- If you’re switching over to a new account, transfer over all future incoming and outgoing payments such as direct debits, salaries, or standing orders. Usually, either the old bank or the new bank that you’re switching to will take care of this if you ask.
- Make sure you’ve transferred all your money out of the old account and into the new account.
- Let your employer and others who would transfer money to you, know that your old account will no longer work.
So overall you can see, choosing a bank account can be hard at first, but becomes easier if you know what exactly that you want. So try to make a list of the things that are important to you such as language or having physical branches, etc.
Then, try visiting their websites or even physical branches if they have any, to check out the different accounts (if they have more than one) and other products that they offer. You should be able to get a feeling for the banks pretty quickly and which one suits you.
If you feel comfortable with these banks you may even want to get more products from them like a savings account to earn interest on your money.
Once you’ve developed a relationship with your bank, later on, you might even get a business account, loan, or mortgage from them once you develop a bit of credit history that they can evaluate you on.
But don’t worry too much about it if you end up opening an account with a bank which you don’t end up liking later. Banks in Germany allow you to close an account and switch over to another pretty easily and without a hassle.
Keep in mind though that I personally find it very useful to have two checking accounts instead of just one. So that in case there is ever an issue with one, you can still access your money in the other, so you’re not left stranded with no money.
Personally, I’ve become a fan of the online digital banks because of how simple and easy it is to do everything with banks like N26 or DKB from the comfort of my phone or laptop. But of course, you should only do so if you’re comfortable with doing all your banking online.
On the other hand, online banks tend to not offer more complex financial management services like loans, health insurance or mortgages that you would find at a traditional bank. So if you want some of those more complex products, you might need to look at more traditional banks like Commerzbank.
But don’t worry you can easily have a checking account at an online bank and still have other more complex products from other banks.
If you’re arriving in Germany soon, make sure to sort out your bank account sooner rather than later in case there are any delays, depending on the bank you sign up with. Life will be a lot more difficult if you don’t have one.
In the end, it is up to you and what you need that will decide which is the best bank for you. Hopefully this article will have helped you with it.
Good luck with opening a bank account in Germany. If you have any questions or want us to write another post on something else too, let us know here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a foreigner or non-resident open a bank account in Germany?
A person of any nationality can open a bank account in Germany, but some banks might require at least a residence in Germany or in the EU/EFTA region. Usually, it tends to be the online banks that are the most open with residence requirements and some even allow residence from pretty much anywhere in the world.
But, it’s important to check with a bank yourself if they accept your country of residence. You can usually do so on the website or during the sign-up process.
Can I have two bank accounts in Germany?
Yes, you can have as many bank accounts as you like in Germany. Just be aware of the extra hassle and possibly extra cost if you go for accounts that charge monthly fees.
Even if you go with a “free” account as the extra one, check that you keep meeting the minimum flow of income if it is required to keep them from charging you a fee. Some banks like DKB tend to do this so check in case.
Can I keep my German bank account even after I leave Germany?
Yes, you can keep your German bank accounts even after you leave Germany, but be aware of some changes that might happen with how you handle your account.
Your tax status may change or some banks may not be able to send you important notifications and PIN numbers if you change to a foreign number. But these things vary a lot from bank to bank and its best to ask them and they should be happy to help. Overall it’s usually very helpful to keep your account since it might come in handy later.
How long do applications for bank accounts in Germany take?
Standard traditional banks usually take anywhere from 2-5 days to approve and open a new bank account. Usually tends to take longer than digital banks since they sometimes need to send you documents to your address.
Online digital banks instead usually approve and open your bank account for you within 24 hours.
How can I set up an overdraft?
The process to set up an overdraft will depend on the bank itself and will often have very different policies and requirements. Usually, you have to complete an overdraft application form in order to set up the facility for an overdraft in case you might need it.
Digital banks tend to reply and approve/reject your application within a few days or even within the same day. On the other end, traditional banks can sometimes take weeks to process your application. Be aware that banks like DKB tend to be quite strict with their overdrafts and may require months of credit history before accepting an application.
Banks will also differ in the amount they allow for you to have on your overdraft. Some will allow a fixed amount (such as up to €10,000 for an N26 overdraft) or an amount relative to your average net monthly income.
But be careful with your overdraft and make sure to pay it off as quickly as possible to avoid the interest charges (which vary from bank to bank).
What is the minimum age to open a bank account in Germany?
Usually, banks require a minimum age of 18 in order to open your own bank account, but this can vary from bank to bank, especially for digital banks.
Normally, banks tend to allow parents or legal guardians to open bank accounts for their children if they are under the age of 18.
Can I open a bank account for my children?
Yes, you can open a bank account for your child if he/she is under the age of 18. Remember that you will need to provide the ID or Passport for both you and your child. Some banks might require that the parent needs to already have an account with the same bank too.