What is the best German bank for expats?

This guide helps you pick a bank in Germany. You need a bank account to pay rent, get paid by your employer, and many other things.

Before you start, learn how banking works in Germany. It helps you choose better.

Cash coins cards german banks

German banks for expats

When you open your first bank account, choose an expat-friendly bank like N26, bunq, Revolut, Wise, Monese, Tomorrow or Vivid.

An expat-friendly bank…

N26

In my opinion, N26 is the most expat-friendly German bank. I use them since 2016. They let you open an account quickly, without an Anmeldung. They speak English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Their basic account covers all your basic needs: no monthly fees, free ATM withdrawals, multiple languages, a German IBAN and a solid mobile banking experience.

The biggest disadvantage: the required documents. Depending on your nationality, you might need a plastic residence permit that’s valid for 1 year. This is a problem for some recent immigrants.

My review of N26

bunq

They are a good alternative to N26. They’re more expensive, but they accept more passport types. They let you open an account quickly, without an Anmeldung.36 They speak English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

The free account is a little limited. The paid accounts have free ATM withdrawals. If you pay more, you get a German IBAN.

Revolut and Wise

Revolut and Wise are the easiest way to get a bank account. They have the easiest requirements, and accept the most passport types.3 You can open an account before you arrive in Germany, without a German address, a residence permit or an Anmeldung.

The free account includes most of what you need: free ATM withdrawals (up to 200€ per month), multiple languages, and a good mobile app. You don’t get a German IBAN: Wise gives you a Belgian IBAN, and Revolut gives you a Lithuanian IBAN. This is not a big problem.

Revolut speaks English and German. Wise speaks English, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian.

Banks that are not expat-friendly

These banks are not expat-friendly:

  • Sparkasse
    If you want a traditional bank with physical branches, this is the best option. They accept Russians, Iranians, Syrians and citizens of other sanctioned countries.2 You need a registered address and a residence permit.11 Basic online banking is in English, everything else is in German.
  • Deutsche Bank
    It takes too long to open an account.9 They mostly speak German. Online banking, customer service and some documents are in English.6 You might need a residence permit.35
  • Commerzbank
    It takes too long to open an account.8 You need a registration certificate and a residence permit that’s valid for at least 6 months.5 Basic online banking is in English, everything else is in German.
  • C24
    It’s an excellent bank, but they accept fewer passports and might require a residence permit.1 They only speak German.
  • ING
    It’s a good bank, but you need EU citizenship or German permanent residence to open an account.13 They only speak German.
  • DKB
    It’s a good bank, but they refuse recent immigrants.12 They only speak German.
  • comdirect
    You need an Anmeldung, or you must follow extra steps. They only speak German.

English-speaking banks

These banks let you do everything in English. Their online banking, documents and customer service are in English.

  • Wise – English, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian
  • Monese – English, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Polish, Czech, Turkish, Estonian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian
  • bunq – English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish
  • N26 – English, French, German, Italian and Spanish
  • Revolut – English

These banks let you do some things in English. They have physical branches, and some employees might speak English.

Banks with no monthly fees

I strongly recommend to get a free bank account. Don’t pay your bank to hold your money. In theory, every bank must offer a free account (the Basiskonto), but this account is often too limited.

These banks offer a free bank account with no monthly fees:

  • C24 
    The best free bank account in my opinion. It’s the only free account that includes a Girocard. They only speak German.
  • N26 
    The best free bank account if you don’t speak German. It covers all your basic banking needs.
  • bunq
    The free account is very limited: no free ATM withdrawals, no payment card, and no German IBAN. The paid accounts make more sense.
  • Revolut
  • Wise

These banks have no monthly fee if you deposit at least 700€ per month:

These banks have no monthly fee for young people:

These banks have no monthly fee for students:

These banks might still charge for a credit card, or to withdraw money from an ATM. Choose a bank with no ATM fees.

Banks with no ATM fees

Choose a bank with free ATM withdrawals. In Germany, you often need cash. On average, Germans withdraw cash 3 times per month. They withdraw around 200€ per month.10 Don’t pay 5€ to 7€ every time you use an ATM. It’s a waste of money.

These banks let you use any ATM in Germany for free:

  • DKB
  • ING – Minimum withdrawal is 50€.25
  • bunq – 6 free withdrawals per month.23 You can only withdraw 250€ per day in the first 3 months, and 500€ per day after 3 months.24
  • C24 – 4 free withdrawals per month.
  • N26 – 3 free withdrawals per month, then 2€ per withdrawal.
  • Wise – Withdraw up to 200€ per month for free.
  • Revolut – Withdraw up to 200€ per month for free.
  • comdirect – 3 free withdrawals per month. Use Cash Group ATMs for free (15% of ATMs). 9.90€ per withdrawal outside the Eurozone.

These banks only let you use some ATMs for free. You might need to walk another 10 minutes to find a free ATM. I don’t recommend them.

  • Berliner Sparkasse
    Use Sparkasse ATMs for free (45% of ATMs).27 Fee of 2% (minimum 7.50€) per withdrawal from other ATMs.20
  • Berliner Volksbank
    Use BVR ATMs for free (32% of ATMs).34 Fee of 7.50€ or 1% of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.28
  • Commerzbank
    Use Cash Group ATMs for free (15% of ATMs). Fee of 1.95% (minimum 5.98€) of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.17
  • Deutsche Bank
    Use Cash Group ATMs for free (15% of ATMs).27 Fee of 6€ or 1% of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.
  • 1822direkt
    4 free withdrawals per month from Sparkasse ATMs26 (45% of ATMs).27 Otherwise, 2€ per withdrawal.26

Banks that don’t require an Anmeldung

Many banks ask for a registration certificate. You only get it after you find an apartment and register your address. If you just moved to Germany, this is not possible.

These banks don’t ask for a registration certificate:

Banks in other EU countries

You don’t need a German bank. You can use a bank in any EU country. Your money is safe with any EU bank: it’s always insured up to 100,000€.7

There are a few differences:

  • Foreign IBAN
    IBAN discrimination is illegal, but it still happens.33 Some businesses refuse foreign bank account numbers (IBAN). If your IBAN does not start with “DE”, you might get an error. If you can, choose a bank that gives you a German IBAN.
  • No Girocard
    Girocards are a common payment method in Germany. Only German banks give you a Girocard. Many small businesses only accept cash and Girocards, no Visa or Mastercard. It’s rarely a problem; you can just pay with cash. I have no Girocard since 2016, and I never had a problem.
  • No Schufa record
    Usually, opening a bank account is a good way to get your first Schufa record. Non-German banks don’t create a Schufa record.

Blocking account for students

To apply for a student visa, you usually need a proof of financial resources (Finanzierungsnachweis) like a scholarship or a blocked account (Sperrkonto).29

Usually, you only need a blocked account for the first year. When you renew your student visa, it might not be needed.14

You can open a blocked account with…

Deutsche Bank stopped offering blocked accounts.31

Which bank should I choose?

The best banks for foreigners are N26 and bunq. I use N26 since 2016, and I recommend them. Revolut and Wise are also good options, but they have a low free withdrawal limit, and no German IBAN.

None of these banks give you a Girocard. If you need one, C24 is a really good option, but they only speak German.

If you can’t open an account anywhere, Revolut or Sparkasse accept most people.3 If you are Russian, Iranian or Syrian, Sparkasse is the best option.2

The best German-speaking bank is C24. DKB and ING are also great, but they don’t accept recent immigrants.

Sources and footnotes
  1. C24 (May 2024) 

  2. Reddit, Twitter (2024) 

  3. Multiple relocation consultants (2024), Twitter, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 

  4. reddit.com/r/germany, reddit.com/r/berlin 

  5. Twitter (2024), Screenshot (2022), Twitter, Twitter (2022) 

  6. Reddit 

  7. European Banking Authority (2024) 

  8. Twitter (2024), Twitter (2024) 

  9. Twitter (2024) 

  10. Bundesbank study (2021), Twitter (2024) 

  11. Twitter, Screenshot 

  12. Reddit, community.finanztip.de, wer-weiss-was.de, kontofinder.de, Reddit 

  13. Reddit, Twitter, Twitter 

  14. Reddit (2024) 

  15. 1822direkt.de 

  16. comdirect.de 

  17. commerzbank.de 

  18. ing.de 

  19. allaboutberlin.com, 1822direkt.de 

  20. berliner-sparkasse.de 

  21. deutsche-bank.de 

  22. berliner-volksbank.de 

  23. bunq.com 

  24. together.bunq.com 

  25. ing.de 

  26. 1822direkt.de 

  27. Wikipedia 

  28. berliner-volksbank.de 

  29. study-in.de, studying-in-germany.org 

  30. reddit.com/r/germany, sparkasse.de 

  31. Twitter 

  32. Quora, msingermany.co.in 

  33. acceptmyiban.org, together.bunq.com, Twitter 

  34. Wikipedia 

  35. Twitter (2024), Twitter (2024) 

  36. Twitter (2022)