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  • Hari Krishnan

Getting Started: Opening a Bank Account in Germany for Expats

Updated: Jan 2

If you are planning to live and work in Germany, one of the first things you will need is a bank account. A bank account will allow you to receive your salary, pay your bills, rent an apartment, transfer money abroad, or take out health insurance. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of opening a bank account in Germany as an expat.

German bank for expats with english support

Types of bank accounts in Germany

There are different types of bank accounts in Germany, depending on your needs and preferences. However, there are only 2 types of accounts that are relevant to expats:

  • Current account (Girokonto): This is the standard account for everyday banking. You can use it to deposit and withdraw money, make payments with a debit card or online banking, and set up direct debits or standing orders. Most banks charge a monthly or yearly fee for this account, but some online banks offer it for free.

  • Savings account (Sparkonto): This is an account where you can save money and earn some interest. You usually cannot access your money as easily as with a current account, and there may be limits on how much you can deposit or withdraw. Some banks offer special savings accounts for students or young people with higher interest rates.

How to choose a bank in Germany

There are many banks in Germany that offer different services and fees. You should compare them and find the one that suits your needs best. Some factors to consider are:

  • Fees: How much does the bank charge for opening and maintaining an account, withdrawing cash, making transfers, or using other services? Are there any hidden fees or extra charges?

  • Services: What kind of services does the bank offer? Can you use online banking, mobile banking, or telephone banking? Can you set up direct debits or standing orders? Can you get a credit card, an overdraft, or a loan?

  • Customer service: How easy is it to contact the bank if you have any questions or problems? Do they have English-speaking staff or an English website? Do they have branches near your location or partner ATMs where you can withdraw cash for free?

  • Reputation: How reliable and trustworthy is the bank? What do other customers say about their experience with the bank? Is the bank regulated by the German authorities and covered by the deposit protection scheme?

Some of the most popular banks in Germany for expats are:

  • Deutsche Bank: This is one of the largest and oldest private banks in Germany. It has a wide network of branches and ATMs across the country and abroad. It offers various products and services for personal and business banking, as well as wealth management and investment banking.

  • Commerzbank: This is another major private bank in Germany. It has over 1,000 branches and 9,000 ATMs nationwide. It offers current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, insurance, and investment products for individuals and businesses. It also has a special offer for expats called “Commerzbank StartKonto”, which gives you a free current account with a debit card and online banking.

  • N26: This is a mobile-only bank that operates in 25 countries. It offers free current accounts with a debit card and mobile banking, as well as savings accounts, credit cards, loans, insurance, and investment products. It has no branches but you can withdraw cash for free at any ATM in Germany up to five times per month.

  • Tomorrow Bank: This is a digital-only bank that focuses on sustainability and social impact. It offers free current accounts with a debit card and mobile banking, as well as savings accounts, credit cards, loans, insurance, and investment products. It has no branches but you can withdraw cash for free at any ATM in Germany up to three times per month.

How to open a bank account in Germany as an expat

The process of opening a bank account in Germany as an expat may vary depending on the bank and the type of account you choose. However, the general steps are:

  • Gather the necessary documents: You will need to provide some documents to prove your identity and your residence status in Germany. These may include:

    • Your valid passport and current German residence permit (if applicable)

    • Your certificate of registration (Anmeldebestätigung) or proof of address in Germany

    • Your proof of income or employment (such as payslips or an employment contract) or proof of enrolment or language proficiency if you are a student

    • Your tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer) or social security number (Sozialversicherungsnummer)

  • Visit a branch or apply online: Depending on the bank and the type of account you want, you may have to visit a branch in person or apply online. If you visit a branch, you will need to make an appointment beforehand and bring your documents with you. If you apply online, you will need to fill out an application form on the bank’s website and upload your documents electronically.

  • Verify your identity: You will need to verify your identity by showing your documents to the bank staff or following an online procedure. This may involve:

    • A video chat with a bank representative who will check your documents and ask you some questions

    • A post-ident procedure where you will receive a letter from the bank with a code that you will have to show at a post office along with your documents

    • A photo-ident procedure where you will have to take a selfie with your documents and send it to the bank via an app or email

  • Make an initial deposit: Some banks may require you to make an initial deposit to activate your account. This could be a minimum amount or a percentage of your monthly income. You can make the deposit by transferring money from another account or by cashing in a cheque at a branch or ATM.

  • Wait for confirmation: Once you have completed all the steps, you will have to wait for a few hours to a few days until your account is opened and confirmed by the bank. You will receive an email or a letter with your account details and instructions on how to access your online banking or mobile banking. You will also receive your debit card and PIN by mail separately.

Tips for opening a bank account in Germany as an expat

Here are some tips to make the process of opening a bank account in Germany as an expat easier and smoother:

  • Do some research before choosing a bank: Compare different banks and their fees, services, customer service, and reputation. Read reviews from other customers and expats who have used the bank. Ask for recommendations from friends, colleagues, or online forums.

  • Check the language options: Make sure that the bank offers English support and information, either online, by phone, or in person. If not, you may need to use a translator or ask someone who speaks German to help you.

  • Prepare your documents in advance: Make sure that you have all the required documents ready before applying for an account. Check that they are valid, clear, and up-to-date. Make copies or scans of them in case you need them later.

  • Choose the right type of account for your needs: Think about how often and how much you will use your account, what kind of services you need, and how much you are willing to pay for them. Consider opening more than one account if you have different purposes, such as saving money, investing money, or sending money abroad.

  • Keep track of your transactions and statements: Once you have opened your account, make sure that you monitor your transactions and statements regularly. Check for any errors or suspicious activities and report them to the bank immediately. Keep your login details and PIN safe and secure.

What is the best German bank for expats with English support?

  1. Deutsche Bank: As one of the largest banks in Germany, Deutsche Bank has branches and services that cater to international customers. They often have English-speaking staff and services tailored for expats.

  2. N26: N26 is a digital bank that offers its services in English and is well-suited for expats. It provides a user-friendly mobile app and an entirely online account opening process. N26 offers various account types and has no monthly fees for basic services.

  3. Commerzbank: Commerzbank is another major German bank with a presence in various international locations. They offer a range of banking services in English and have special accounts for non-resident customers.

Additional tip from our experience: When you choose to open a bank account, you might plan to use it as your primary bank account. This means receiving your salary in Germany, paying rent, and covering your daily needs. To keep track of your savings, you can also open a second bank account without any complications in your annual tax returns.

You can then use this secondary account to set aside your monthly surplus from your primary account. This will help you build savings more effectively. Since you primarily monitor your main account on a daily basis, you can also have better control over your spending.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a bank account in Germany as an expat?

Yes, having a German bank account is highly recommended if you plan to live and work in Germany. It's essential for receiving your salary, paying bills, and managing your finances.

Can I open a bank account in Germany as a non-resident or before I arrive in the country?

Can I open a bank account without speaking German?

How long does it take to open a bank account in Germany?

Can I use my foreign bank account while in Germany?

What is a "Schufa" credit report, and how does it affect my ability to open a bank account in Germany?

Can I open a joint bank account with a family member or partner in Germany?

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