This guide contains all the key information about choosing the right banks in Germany, choosing the right bank account type, key things to consider before choosing a bank, opening a bank account and a list of the best banks for expats in Germany.
July 14, 2021 — 12 min read
If you’re considering moving to Deutschland or you’re already in Germany, choosing the right financial institution for banking services is one of the key decisions you’ll have to make.
Germany is home to more than 1,800 registered banks. That list includes 400 publicly-owned banks, 200 private banks, and 1,100 member-owned credit unions.
Not all of these banks are the same. Some banking services are tailored to match some specific needs and it’s crucial to choose a bank that offers the services that you need as an expat in Germany.
However, choosing the right bank may seem tricky – especially if you’re new in Germany, you can hardly speak German, and you’re not sure about what your banking needs might be as an expat.
This guide contains all the key information you need to know about choosing the right banks in Germany, choosing the right bank account type, key things to consider before choosing a bank, opening a bank account and a list of the best banks for expats in Germany.
You’re not legally required to open a bank account in Germany as an expat in the country. Many German businesses accept various well-known international debit and credit cards such as Visa, American Express, and Mastercard. That means you can manage your finances from a foreign account. However, if your foreign bank doesn’t have a local branch in Germany, you may have to put up with a lot of charges.
But since you’re an expat in Germany and you’ll most likely be living in the country for a while, you’ll want a local bank account for making regular payments like utility bills and rents, and having Euros on hand. Many employers, landlords, and even businesses may refuse to do business with you if you don’t have a local bank account.
Even more, if you’re interested in buying a property in the country, getting a mortgage may be difficult if you don’t have a local bank account.
If you’re concerned about being in Germany for a while without having a local bank account, you should consider opening a non-resident bank account before moving. There are several mobiles or online German banks known as direktbanks. You may open one of them even before moving to Germany.
Another option is, if you’re banking with some of the international leading banks such as Citibank or HSBC, to transfer your bank account to alocal branch in Germany. You can find out how to transfer your account to Germany before moving.
Opening a bank account in Germany as an expat isn’t as complex as many people assume, though some banks are more expat-friendly than others due to a lack of credit history.
While EU nationals often enjoy an easier ride while opening bank accounts in Germany, non-EU citizens are required to prove their registration in the country, and that includes a German work permit.
Keep in mind that banks in Germany are not obliged to approve all applications to open a bank account. If you don’t have a financial history, some banks may turn down your application. Your best bet is to show up at the branch in person with the required paperwork for opening an account.
Regardless of the bank you choose, you’ll be required to provide certain documents to be eligible for opening a bank account as an expat in Germany:
Appropriately completed application form.
Your valid passport and current German residence permit.
Proof of registration/address.
Initial deposit (the minimum depends on the bank of your choice)
Proof of income/employment
Proof that you are a student (if you’re opening a student account).
SCHUFA credit rating (some, not all, banks require it)
Normally, the bank can complete the account opening process within 2 – 3 working days.
German banks offer various types of banking services including various types of bank accounts. Just like German citizens, expats in the country are eligible to choose the type of bank accounts they want. The following are the major types of bank accounts in Germany:
Current accounts are mostly relevant for day-to-day money management and transactions. They are the standard type of bank accounts for expats in Germany. You can use a current account for paying bills or receiving the salary. As an expat in Germany, you may consider opening a current account.
Typically, standard current accounts are available only to German residents. You’ll need to have an address in Germany to open a current account as an expat in the country.
Savings accounts in Germany can be opened by either German residents or non-residents from abroad, making them a good banking option for expats.
There are two major types of savings accounts in German. The first is instant access for saving money. This is often used for investment banking purposes.
The second is the fixed deposit, which includes a fixed period for money to remain in the account. It is a higher interest account with a minimum deposit as well as a precise or fixed period for money to be in the account to be eligible for interest.
Some banks in Germany offer banking services to people living abroad. Most of these banks are online-only and mobile-only German banks. These banking services are most useful to people working in Germany and those planning to move to the country.
Most of the leading banks in Germany are offering internet banking and mobile account services available via mobile banking apps. More so, there are several online-only and mobile-only banks operating in Germany.
As an expat in Deutschland, opening an international offshore bank account may be the most efficient method of managing your finances. This is mostly relevant if you’re working in more than one country or if you’re always transferring money between various countries.
Offshore bank accounts are typically considered to be secure, dependable, and stable. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank in Germany have international branches providing offshore banking services.
Offshore accounts are typically located in a foreign country where the holder isn’t residing. These accounts offer various benefits including a wider range of cross-border services and lower charges on funds including taxes.
As an expat in Germany, the first thing you’ll have to consider before choosing any bank account is the type of financial services you need. An account that is suitable for one expat, may not be suitable for another.
Here are other key factors to consider before making up your mind:
Several banks in Germany are offering basic current accounts for free, though with limited services. If you prefer cheaper charges on money transfers, consider online banks, though these banks often have a limited number of transactions you can perform in a month.
Since you’re reading this article, you’ll most likely be interested in German banks that communicate with customers in English, or in languages other than German. This includes customer support, websites, and mobile apps.
Most of the international, online, and mobile banks in Germany offer English language options for communication. Some of the German multinational banks also provide communication options in the English language.
Some banks in Germany offer free withdrawal services worldwide as well as low charges for international money transfers. In addition, some banks offer free ATM use worldwide, and flexibility that include overdraft facilities and credit cards.
You should consider comparing the services of various banks before settling for the most suitable one. International money transfer service and related charges will most likely be at the top of your list as an expat in Germany.
If you prefer banks that offer 24/7 services and access to your account, an online or mobile bank account may be your best bet. Also, most of the leading banks in Germany offer these services allowing customers to access their accounts 24/7 on the go.
Some banking services in Germany are limited to online while some offer both online and physical services. How to manage your bank account should be a key thing to consider when choosing a banking service in Germany. The following are the major available options:
You can walk into the physical branch of some banks to make inquiries, request customer support, or access any of their services. Though the number of bank branches is reducing due to the internet, many banks still have lots of branches.
If you prefer banks that have physical branches where you can have a face-to-face meeting, the online and mobile banks may not be the best options for you.
As we mentioned earlier, if you prefer a bank that allows you to manage your account with 24/7 access, choosing online and mobile banks are your best bet.
You’ll have 100% access to your account anytime you want and carry out any transaction you want in the comfort of your home, office, or anywhere else. You wouldn’t even have to leave your couch to access a banking service.
Similar to online banks, mobile banks allow customers to access their accounts 24/7 via smart devices such as smartphones and tablets. Mobile banks are known for their dependable mobile apps which allow users to access various banking services on the go.
However, many traditional banks in Germany now have mobile apps offering some similar services as mobile banks.
From top-quality banking services options to impeccable customer support, some of the best banks in Germany are also rated among the best in the world.
Here are the best banks in Germany for expats:
Deutsche Bank is the largest bank in Germany and it’s rated as one of the leading financial institutions worldwide. Founded in 1870, the bank has a broad presence in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, and several emerging markets.
Headquartered in Frankfurt, Deutsche Bank’s key business is investment banking and additional services in sales, M&A, the origination of debt and equity, research, trading, and risk management. Deutsche Bank currently has more than 1,600 branches across Germany making it the preferred option among many German citizens and expats.
N26 is rated as one of the best banks in Germany for expats. N26 is a free online bank that allows customers to save, spend, and monitor their transactions and savings via just one app. The bank is considered to be the best for English-speaking expats in Germany.
Free Mastercard, usable worldwide
3D secured account for safe online payments
Push notification for instant updates on all transactions
Stress-free and convenient banking
No paperwork required for opening a bank account
Available customer support in multiple languages including English, German, Italian, Spanish, and French
Rated as one of the best banks in Germany for expats, DKB boasts of serving more than 3 million customers across Germany. DKB is considered as one of the leading options to N26.
Available English-speaking customer support
Free cash withdrawal worldwide for active users
Zero charges for foreign transactions for active users
Free Visa credit card for active users
Access to credit card statements online
Postbank is one of the leading banks for expats in Germany. A current account with Postbank comes with various perks that make banking easier for expats in Germany. You also have the option of visiting local branches for face-to-face meetings if you ever need one.
English-speaking customer support
Free Postbank Visa card for the first year (after that 29 Euros per year)
Mobile banking is supported
Sign up bonus for new customers
Access to local branches across Germany
Netbank is rated as one of the leading banks in Germany for expats. The bank’s current account comes with lots of perks that are suitable for expats, pensioners, students, and various employees.
Affordable account management
Access to Netbank Mastercard
Withdraw and make cashless payments anywhere with the card
Beneficial insurance package with the card
Affordable account management
SMS notifications about your current balance
Considering the number of banks in Germany, choosing just one or more for your banking needs may seem like a complex task. But the key is to consider the financial transactions you do regularly and the bank providing relevant solutions that match your needs.
Language will most likely be among the key things you’ll have to consider before making up your mind. Don’t forget the list of banks we’ve mentioned in this article and their key perks. More so, you shouldn’t miss out on the key factors to consider before choosing a specific bank ahead of the others.
Once you open a bank account as an expat in Germany, you’ll have a way to send money from your old bank accounts to your new German bank account. Your new bank may offer a money transfer service, but it will likely also come with higher charges and additional transaction fees.
Instead, you can send money to your home country or to your new account via Xe. You can open an Xe account within minutes to get started.
You can send your money via Xe to more than 130 countries worldwide and in over 98 global currencies. The exchange rates are among the most competitive in the global markets—along with rate alerts, market orders and other tools to help you secure your ideal rate—and you won’t need to worry about the numerous third-party fees the banks would charge.
Even more, you don’t have to bother about transferring money during bank hours only. Xe services are available 24/7 and 365 days a year. You can access the various services via Xe.com or the mobile app.
Enter the currencies you’d like to exchange and the amount to get your quote.
Enter your recipient’s information name, address, bank name, bank account number, bank code, and BIC/SWIFT code. (If you’re transferring to your own account, select that option and put your own details in here.)
Choose your payment method and enter the required details (we allow you to use bank transfer, card payment, or direct debit).
Verify all the details to ensure that you’ve entered them correctly, andclick on send to complete the transfer.