This guide helps you choose your first bank account in Germany.
Why you need a bank account
You need a bank account to…
- get paid by your employer
- pay your rent
- pay all kinds of taxes
- buy things online
- buy things in stores
You need a bank that allows SEPA transfers. This is how your employer pays you, and how you pay your rent and your taxes.
All EU banks and most European banks allow SEPA transfers.1 This is why you need a European bank account. You don’t need a German bank; just a bank in a European country.
German banks for expats
An expat-friendly bank lets you open an account anyway.
- bunq – They speak 7 languages.3 They accept many passport types. They don’t need an Anmeldung. You get a German IBAN.4 When you open an account, their app uses GPS to check if you are in Germany.5 You can bypass this if you contact customer support.
- Commerzbank – They have basic online banking in English. The rest is in German. If you open an account in person, they accept most passport types.6 You must have a residence permit, and it must be valid for at least 6 months.7
- Deutsche Bank – Online banking, customer service and some documents are in English.8 The rest is in German. If you open an account in person, they accept most passport types.9 They offer blocking accounts for foreign students.
- Monese – They speak 14 languages. They don’t ask for an Anmeldung. You get a Belgian IBAN.
- N26 – They speak 5 languages.10 They accept many passport types. You need a plastic residence permit that is valid for at least 1 year.11 They don’t ask for an Anmeldung. If you open an account from Germany, you get a German IBAN.12 You need a German address to receive your bank card, but you don’t need a registered address.
- Revolut – They speak 24 languages.13 They don’t ask for an Anmeldung.
- Wise – They speak 14 languages. They accept most passport types. They don’t ask for an Anmeldung. You might get a Belgian IBAN.
Banks that are not expat-friendly
- Berliner Sparkasse – They require a registered address and a residence permit.14
- comdirect – If you don’t have a registered address, you must follow extra steps to open an account. They only speak German.
- DKB – Recent immigrants can rarely open an account.15 They only speak German.
- ING – You need German permanent residence or citizenship to open an account.16 Some students could open an account with a residence permit. Their customer support speaks English.
German banks with English support
Banks with full English support
- bunq – English and 6 other languages
- Monese – English and 13 other languages
- N26 – English and 4 other languages
- Revolut – English and 23 other languages
- Wise – English and 13 other languages
Banks with some English support
These banks let you do some things in English, but you will sometimes need to understand German.
- Berliner Sparkasse – Basic online banking in English. Everything else is in German.
- Deutsche Bank – Customer service and online banking in English. Some documents are only in German. They’re the best option if you want a blocking account or a bank with branches, but you don’t speak German.
- Commerzbank – Basic online banking in English. Everything else is in German.
If you go to your local branch, you can usually find someone who speaks English, but all the documents and contracts will be in German.
German banks with no monthly fees
Some banks charge monthly fees just to have a bank account. Other banks don’t have monthly fees. Tarifcheck lets you compare banks with no monthly fees.
Banks with no monthly fees
- DKB – No monthly fees.17 They don’t let recent immigrants open an account.
- N26 – No monthly fees if your balance is below 50,000€18
Banks with no monthly fees if you deposit money every month
These banks remove the monthly fees if you deposit money in your account every month. In other words, if you receive your paycheck there, you don’t pay monthly fees.
- 1822direkt – 3.90€ monthly fee if you deposit less than 700€ per month.19
- comdirect – 4.90€ monthly fee if your deposit less than 700€ per month.20 No fees if you use Google Pay or Apple Pay at least 3 times per month.21
- Commerzbank – 9.90€ monthly fee if your deposit less than 700€ per month.22 A credit card costs 39.90€ per year.
- ING – 4.90€ monthly fee if you deposit less than 700€ per month.23
Banks with no monthly fee for students
- 1822direkt – No monthly fee for all people under 27 years old.24
- Berliner Sparkasse – No monthly fee for students under 26 years old.25 8.50€ per year for a debit card. Some branches offer a Sperrkonto.
- comdirect – No monthly fee for students under 28 years old.21
- Commerzbank – No monthly fee for students under 27 years old (StartKonto).22 The credit card is free if you deposit over 300€ per month.
- Deutsche Bank – No monthly fee for EU students.26 6.90€ for non-EU students.27 They offer a Sperrkonto for the German student visa.
- ING – No monthly fee for students. 1€ per month fee for a debit card.
- Volksbank – No monthly fee for students.28
Banks with monthly fees
- Berliner Sparkasse – 3€ monthly fee,29 or 1€ + 0.30€ per debit card transaction.30 2.50€ per month for a credit card.25
- bunq – Minimum 3€ per month for the card. No other monthly fee.
- Deutsche Bank – 6.90€ monthly fee.31
- Volksbank: 6€ monthly fee + 0.50€ for debit card.32
Some banks charge a fee for their credit cards. For example, Commerzbank’s cheapest credit card is 39.90€ per year.33
German banks with no ATM fees
Some banks charge you to withdraw cash at an ATM. This can get really expensive. You should choose a bank with no ATM fees.
Tarifcheck lets you find banks with no ATM fees. It also lets you filter banks by ATM network.
Banks with free ATM withdrawals
These banks let you withdraw money from any ATM without paying fees. This is very convenient.
- bunq – 4 to 5 free withdrawals per month.34 You can only withdraw 250€ per day in the first 3 months, and 500€ per day after 3 months.35
- comdirect – 3 free withdrawals per month. Free withdrawals from Cash Group ATMs (15% of ATMs). 9.90€ per withdrawal outside the Eurozone.
- DKB – Free withdrawals from any ATM.36
- ING – Free withdrawals from any ATM.37 Minimum withdrawal is 50€.
- N26 – 3 free withdrawals per month. After that, you pay 2€ per withdrawal.
Bank with free withdrawals on their ATM network
Some banks let you withdraw money for free, but only if you use their cash machines. I don’t recommend those banks. You sometimes need to walk an extra 10 minutes to find a free ATM. This is why I closed my Commerzbank account.
- 1822direkt – 4 free withdrawals per month from Sparkasse ATMs38 (45% of ATMs).39 Otherwise, 2€ per withdrawal.38
- Berliner Sparkasse – Free withdrawals from Sparkasse ATMs (45% of ATMs).39 Fee of 2% (minimum 7.50€) per withdrawal from other ATMs.25
- Commerzbank – Free withdrawals from Cash Group ATMs (15% of ATMs). Fee of 1.95% (minimum 5.98€) of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.22
- Deutsche Bank – Free withdrawals from Cash Group ATMs (15% of ATMs).39 Fee of 6€ or 1% of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.
- Volksbank – Free withdrawals from BVR ATMs (32% of ATMs).53 Fee of 7.50€ or 1% of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.40
German banks for students
Blocked account (Sperrkonto) for the student visa
If you want to apply for a student visa, you usually need a blocked account (Sperrkonto)41 as a proof of financial resources (Finanzierungsnachweis). If you need a blocked account, a few Sparkasse branches offer them.42 Some lesser-known banks such as Fintiba and X-patrio also offer this service. Deutsche Bank stopped offering blocked accounts.43
A blocked account is not always required for a student visa. A scholarship, a proof of parental income or a guarantee can also work. If you need help with your student visa, ask your German embassy or consulate, or a relocation consultant.
Banks in other EU countries
These banks are based in other EU countries. They let you open an account from Germany.
- bunq – Licenced in Belgium. Accounts can have a German IBANs.
- Monese – Licenced in Belgium. Accounts have Belgian IBANs.
- Revolut – Licenced in Belgium. Accounts have Belgian IBANs.
- Wise – Licenced in Belgium. Accounts have Belgian IBANs.
There are a few problems with non-German banks:
- Your money is insured differently
When your money is in a German bank, it’s insured up to 100,000€ by the German government.45 You get that money back even if the bank goes bankrupt. The rules can be different in other EU countries.
- You might get a non-German IBAN
This is rarely a big problem, but sometimes, you need a German IBAN. IBAN discrimination is illegal, but it happens.46 For example, people had problems when paying the vehicle tax at the Hauptzollamt.
- You can’t get a Girocard
This type of bank card only exists in Germany.47 Many small businesses only accept cash and Girocards, not Visa or MasterCard. It’s not a big problem, because you can always pay in cash. I have no Girocard since 2016, and I am fine.
How to open a bank account in Germany
The requirements to open a bank account are the same for most banks:
- A proof of German residency (your Meldebescheinigung). Some banks let you open an account without one.
- A proof of identity (your passport or national ID, and sometimes a residence permit)
Some banks require a minimum income or financial history in Germany. Other banks require permanent residence in Germany. For example, DKB often rejects foreigners.48 Some online banks only support certain passports,49 or ask for a residence permit.
Open a bank account online
Some banks like N26,bunq, DKB, ING, Comdirect, Revolut and Wise let you open an account with their app. You can do it at home. They start a video call, and they ask you to show both sides of your ID or passport. This only works with passports from certain countries.52 If they don’t accept your passport, you must use Postident to verify your documents. This takes longer, and it doesn’t always work.
With online banks, you can sometimes open your account from another country, before you arrive in Germany. They still need to send your bank card to a German address. Some people sent the bank card to their office, or to a friend’s address.
Open a bank account in person
Transfer money from another country
After you open a German bank account, use Wise or XE.com to transfer money from another country. They have better exchange rates and lower fees than banks. I used Wise when I moved to Germany. I still use it when I need to send money abroad. You can use Wise directly in the N26 app.
Which bank should I pick?
Choose a bank…
- that speaks your language
- that accepts your passport
- without monthly fees
- without ATM fees
- with a free Visa or MasterCard