Foreign nationals can easily open bank accounts in Germany. All you need to do is choose a bank on site and submit a valid passport with your residence permit. However, whether or not a bank takes you as clients is their free decision and bank counter officers may be very conservative. It is also helpful to have your employment contract with you or a proof of your monthly income as this will trigger how you will be treated.
An ATM card and/or a debit card ("EC-Karte" accepted in most shops and ATMs) will be provided without difficulty.
This article deals with:
- What do you need a German bank account for?
- Opening a bank account online
- Standard bank account opening
- Credit Cards
- Choosing the right bank
- Online banking in English language
WHAT DO YOU NEED A GERMAN BANK ACCOUNT FOR
- Internet & Mobile Phone: The big German providers for Internet and Phone require a German bank account for withdrawal. More on internet & phone...
- GEZ - the German public TV fee: The moment you register you are signed up with German public TV (obligatory) - they also require a German bank account. More on GEZ...
- Healthcare: Also insurers require a German bank account. More on Healthcare...
- Rental Contract: Before being able to take over the apartment you need to transfer the first rent, and the deposit. The latter is safest with a so-called "Mietkautionskonto" (deposit account with a bank). And that is only possible with a German bank account. More on the deposit...
- Apart from the above vital topics, anytime you subscribe for a service in Germany you will very likely need a German bank account
OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT ONLINE
Many banks offer the possibility to open accounts online. The most important one is the current account, in German called “Girokonto”. While you won’t need to visit the bank’s branch, you will still need to go to the Post office for an ID check. Most banks offer accounts with differing levels of service and a differing monthly charge ranging from €0 per to about €8. Accounts without a monthly fee will include free internet banking EC-cards but will charge for any transactions made in the branch. The so-called "EC-Karte" (Debits card) is issued as part of the package.
The advantage of filling out the forms online is that you don't have to deal with the bank staff. The disadvantage is that you may not be able to navigate the websites and find the type of account that best suits you if your German is limited. Further, in some cases, it is somewhat convenient to have a bank officer in charge of your account. If something with a payment goes wrong, it tends to be easier to clarify the issue with a person dedicated to supporting you specifically but a hotline employee.
STANDARD BANK ACCOUNT OPENING
The big national or international set-ups like Deutsche Bank, HASPA or Commerzbank require personal appointments if you want to open a bank account with them. You would usually need to present your signed employment contract, your passport and residence title as well as your municipal registration.
Some bank clerks make an exception for rent saving accounts, so-called “Mietkautionskonten”, because the risk is significantly lower. They would accept that the municipal registration is provided in the aftermath. This is extremely helpful as you would normally only be able to register in Hamburg once your rental agreement is effective, however, by that date you already need to have paid the deposit.
Credit cards are more difficult to obtain. They are widely accepted in shops, restaurants, and hotels. MasterCard and VISA are the most common credit cards. You may have difficulties with American Express or Diners. Small shops and restaurants or landlords of holiday apartments may not be equipped with a credit card reader. Taxis show the credit card signs on their back window if they are prepared to take credit cards. Often, a minimum purchase (10-15 EUR) is required before shops accept a credit card.
Overdrafts are usually only granted after a 6-month history with the bank (or another German bank) and a positive SCHUFA rating. They will usually grant you between 2 and 3 times your usual net salary and the interest rate will be around 11% sometimes even higher.
I want to open a bank account
We are happy to prepare the opening of you bank account and accompany to the appointment with the bank. This is usually very helpful, as the banks regularly require that you surely understand any communication the bank will send to you.
Choosing the right bank
Availability of cash machines
The answer to this depends on your situation and needs. Most banks do have their own cash machines, and although online banks often don’t, they have contracts with other banks whose cash machine you are free to use without extra charge. Three large networks of banks allow free withdrawals within their own network:
Living within one of our focus towns you will have easy access to all of them. If you will be traveling a lot and all over the world, it makes sense to go with one of the banks with a lot of branches all over the world or partner banks that allow you to withdraw cash in any place of the world without extra charge.
Cashgroup comprises the big national banks and their subsidiaries along with Deutsche Post's Post bank. Cash machines are widely available in all larger towns and cities throughout the country. Cash machines in smaller towns and villages are often limited to Post Bank and Hypovereinsbank (predominantly Bavaria). Deutsche Bank has branches all over the world, and so does Hypovereinsbank.
Cashpool comprises a mix of foreign-owned banks and smaller, local banks.
- BBBank eG
- Degussa Bank GmbH
- GE Money Bank
- Santander Consumer Bank
- Sparda Banken
Each city, town and/or local municipality has a state-owned bank called a "Sparkasse". Every local Sparkasse is a member of the Sparkassenverbund, so customers can withdraw money without charge in any Sparkasse cash machine in the country. When going to another city, it helps to know the Sparkasse's name in that city to not withdraw money from the "wrong" bank and end up paying 5 EUR charges. However, you will usually be ok if the name includes the word "Sparkasse".
Online Banking in English language
Commerzbank belongs to the cash group and offers over 9000 ATMs free of charge in Germany.
You may want to type in your new home address/ work address under "Geldautomatensuche" to see how many cash machines are in your surrounding area.
You will have access to online & telephone banking free of charge as well as a debit card. Being part of the Cashgroup, you will also benefit from the international set-up of the other member banks and can withdraw money at no charge at their ATMs, wherever in the world they are located. Commerzbank is therefor a good choice when you travel a lot.
Deutsche bank also belongs to the cash group and offers over 9000 ATMs free of charge in Germany. Since Deutsche Bank is present in many countries of the world, it is a good choice, when you are traveling a lot.
HASPA in Hamburg offers English online banking. The Berliner and Frankfurter Sparkassen also do. Likewise the Sparkasse Nürnberg, Stadtsparkasse Düsseldorf and Köln/Bonn. However, the Stadtsparkasse München, as well as Sparkasse Neuss (neighbor city of Düsseldorf), have no English online banking
The Sparkassen offer altogether over 25000 ATMs free of charge in Germany. HASPA as an example has 370 ATMs in Hamburg – however, they have no cooperation with other banks abroad.