I use Kontist as my main business account since January 2022. This is my review of Kontist, feature by feature.
Cost and fees
A Kontist account costs 9€ to 13€ per month. Other banks have similar monthly fees.
The other fees are too high:
- 10 free transactions per month, then 0.15€ per transaction (incoming and outgoing).
- 1.7% fee on foreign currency transactions (incoming and outgoing).7 For example, if you get 1,000 USD from a client, you pay around 17€ in fees.
- 2€ per ATM withdrawal.
If you get paid in foreign currencies, or have many small transactions, Kontist can get very expensive. N26 Business has much lower fees.
They added the transaction fee in October 2022.5 Since then, I pay twice as much for the same service. It was a slap in the face.
Kontist has a free account. Since October 2022, it’s almost useless:
- You can only have 300€ per month in transactions.
- You only get 10 free transactions per month, then you pay 0.15€ per transaction.5
- It only comes with a virtual credit card, no physical card.
- No invoicing, no data exports, and no integration with bookkeeping tools.
- No automatic bookkeeping.
This means that for almost everyone, the free account is not free. N26 Business has a better free account.
Automatic tax deductions
When you are self-employed, you must save some of your income for income tax and VAT payments. It’s hard to know how much money you really have. Sometimes, you have 5,000€ in your bank account, but only 1,000€ is really yours. The rest is for the Finanzamt.
Kontist promises to fix this. It automatically saves money for VAT and income tax payments. It shows you how much money is for you, and how much is for the Finanzamt. It even categorises your transactions automatically!
This is a great feature. It’s why I opened a Kontist account. There is only one problem: it does not work. I explain why below.
You decide how much VAT to set aside for each transaction: 0%, 7% or 19%.
Kontist uses AI to guess the correct VAT rate for each transaction. It’s often wrong. Instead of leaving transactions uncategorised, it puts them in the wrong category, with the wrong VAT rate. When you correct the AI, it makes the same mistakes the next month.
Since I have to double-check every transaction, the AI just creates more work for me. There is no way to turn it off.
Instead, I do everything in Lexoffice, and I ignore what Kontist tells me. The automatic VAT feature is useless to me. If you don’t speak German, Accountable is an English-speaking alternative to Lexoffice.
Automatic income tax
Kontist also sets some of your income aside for income tax.
This time, there is no AI magic. You manually set your income tax rate, and Kontist takes that amount out of every transaction. Use my income tax calculator to calculate your income tax rate.
When you pay your income tax, you can’t reset how much income tax you owe. Kontist can keep too much money aside. You can’t do anything about it.
Kontist does not understand trade tax. This makes the income tax calculation even less precise.
In the end, this feature is too crude to help.
Invoicing and bookkeeping
You can create invoices in Kontist, but Kontist does not send them for you. You must download them and email them manually.
When your client pays you, Kontist marks the invoice as paid. This is a nice feature.
If you don’t send many invoices, the invoicing tool is good enough. If you plan to grow your business, get real invoicing software. I use Lexoffice.
You can see how much you have, and how much you owe the Finanzamt. That’s all.
You can’t see how much you made last month, or last year. If your income varies a lot, this information is really important. Most accounting software shows you this. Holvi is a business bank that shows this information.
Exporting your data
You can export your transactions as CSV or MT940. This lets you import them into your accounting software.
You can’t do this in the web app, only in the mobile app. You must export the files on your phone, then send them to your computer.
For monthly account statements (Kontoauszug), it’s the opposite. You can export them in the web app, but not in the mobile app.
There is no way to export all transactions and attached invoices. You must ask their customer support.
Kontist makes it too hard to reliably export your data. If you want to use other accounting tools, it’s a problem. Kontist should not hold your data hostage.
Integration with other services
You can match Kontist bank transactions to receipts and invoices in Lexoffice. Most other banks also sync with Lexoffice, so this is nothing special.
Sometimes, some transactions don’t sync. One time, a client paid me. I could see the transaction in Kontist, but not in Lexoffice. All other transactions were there. I manually marked the invoice as paid.
A few months later, the missing transaction appeared in Lexoffice. There were a dozen more transactions, all of them very late. If this happened a little later, my tax declaration would have been wrong, and I could have been fined by the Finanzamt. This is really bad!
Kontist also syncs in the other direction. You can do your bookkeeping in Lexoffice, and see the changes in Kontist. This is sometimes buggy, and transactions do not sync properly.
In other cases, a transaction type exists in Lexoffice, but not in Kontist. A trade tax payment can appear as an expense, and it makes the income tax calculation completely wrong.
Tax advisor access
If you do your accounting with Kontist, you can only get a tax advisor through Kontist. Your bank should not decide which tax advisors you can work with.
Web app and mobile app
The website and mobile app are very reliable. I never had problems with them.
Everything is in English
The website, the app and the customer support are in English. You don’t need to speak German to use Kontist.
Too many ads
Kontist tries really hard to sell you more services. Every part of the app invites you to upgrade your account or refer a friend. There is no way to turn this off.
I already give Kontist around 13€ per month, so I’m not happy to see ads.
Some features only work in the mobile app:
- Exporting transactions to CSV or MT940
- Change your tax information
- Seeing how much you owe the Finanzamt (the web app only shows your total balance)
- Managing your credit cards
Other features only work in the web app:
- Creating invoices
- Exporting account statements
Other features are just missing: to change your address or personal information, you must contact customer service.
SMS confirmation codes
Kontist uses its mobile app for two-factor authentication. If you log in on the web app, you must confirm it in the mobile app. It works reliably.
Sending and receiving money
All my business transactions go through my Kontist account. Bank transfers and card payments always worked reliably.
I used my Kontist Visa card in Europe, in Nepal, and in India. It always worked well.
You can’t deposit cash
When you open an account, you get your first invoice from Kontist. You must transfer money from another account to pay it.
Kontist has phone, email and chat support. Some banks only have email or chat support.
They usually answer in 1 business day. They give complete and helpful answers, and they speak English.
Tax advisor service
Kontist has a tax advisor service. I already have a tax advisor, so I don’t use it. They also had a bookkeeping service, but discontinued it October 2022. They still advertise it in the app.
Your bank and your tax advisor should be two independent services. You should be able to change one and keep the other. This is why I don’t recommend Kontist’s tax advisor service.
Opening an account
I opened my Kontist account in 10 minutes: 5 minutes to create the account, and 5 minutes to verify my identity. You can do it in English or in German, but the terms and conditions are only in German.
You only need a phone and an ID document. You don’t need a registered address (Anmeldung). Kontist uses IDNow to verify your ID.2 Some passports are not supported by IDNow. Other online banks have the same problem.
I don’t recommend Kontist. There is no reason to choose them over another business bank. The fees are too high, and the promised features are not good enough.
Kontist was supposed to make my bookkeeping easier, but makes too many errors, so I can’t trust it.
- Banking works reliably
- The web app and mobile apps are reliable
- The Kontist Duo plan with Lexoffice is a good deal
- The invoicing tool is basic, but good enough for some people
- Transaction fees are too high
- The free account is not really free for most people
- Auto-categorization does not work. The AI keeps making mistakes
- Synchronisation issues with Lexoffice
- The income tax estimation is not precise enough to be useful
- The invoicing tool is very basic
Don’t trust what you read
Bloggers get paid to promote Kontist.6 When you open an account, they get around 50€. If they tell you that Kontist is bad, they make less money. They don’t know if Kontist is good or bad, because they don’t use it.
Read reviews from real users instead, and decide for yourself.
If you need a business bank account to start a business in Germany, there are many other options.
Your bank, your accounting software and your tax advisor should be 3 different services. You can’t find one business that does 3 things well. You should find 3 businesses that do one thing well.
Other German business banks:
- N26 Business
Exactly like N26 personal accounts, but for businesses. I am with N26 since 2016, and I like it. There is no automatic accounting, but you can put money aside in “spaces”. You can’t have a personal N26 account and an N26 Business account.
Very similar to Kontist. They have better invoicing and better reports. Your tax advisor can access your account and export transactions.
Similar to Kontist. Corporations and partnerships can also open an account.
- bunq Business
Exactly like bunq personal accounts, but for businesses. They speak English.
- Revolut Business
Exactly like Revolut personal accounts, but for businesses. They speak English.
English-speaking business bank.
German-speaking business bank.
- Traditional banks
Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and other German banks offer business accounts. They might not speak English.