Whether it is for work or to study, relocating to Germany can be exciting! However, setting up your bank account may seem like quite a challenge with over 2, 500 commercial banking institutions to choose from! While the options for foreigners may be somewhat limited, Germany does offer a good selection of domestic and international banks for expats to select from. Germany’s larger banks are often the number one choice of many expats since many offer teams that cater specifically to foreigners.
Best Bank Accounts for Expats in Germany
The best bank for you depends a lot on your banking needs. You will have plenty of banks to choose from if you are looking for simple online banking access to cash machines (Geldautomaten).
There are two big networks of cash machines and some foreign owned smaller banks that offer free withdrawals within their own network.
Where you live may be an important factor in your decision since smaller villages and towns are often limited to their local Sparkasse.
Here are some special offers that expats in Germany find to be especially appealing:
Targobank and Commerzbank offer online banking services in English.
Some banks like Deutsche Kredit Bank DKB and Comdirect offer free access to all cash machines worldwide through a Visa card.
What are my Banking Choices in Germany?
Local State-Owned Banks: Sparkassen
If you prefer a personal connection when you do your banking, your local state owned Sparkasse would be an option. Keep these things in mind:
For ex-pats, this may not be the best option since they tend to be inflexible and bureaucratic especially when it comes to international transactions.
These banks usually have many branches in smaller towns and villages and have good connections to local businesses.
As a member of the Sparkassenverbund, local Sparkassen customers can withdraw money free of charge in all Sparkasse cash machines across the country.
- Stadtsparkasse Duesseldorf
- Koeln Bonn Sparkasse
- Berliner Sparkasse
- Frankfurter Sparkasse
- Sparkasse Nuernberg
- Sparkasse Neuss
Cashgroup is made up of Deutsche Post as well as the large national banks and their subsidiaries. Cash machines in smaller village and towns are often limited to Hypovereinsbank and Post Bank. Cash machines are available in all larger cities and towns. Here is a list of some Cashgroup banks:
- Deutsche Bank
- Dresdner Bank
- Post Bank
- Comdirect Bank
Cashpool is made up of smaller local banks as well as a mix of foreign owned banks. Here is a list of some Cashpool banks:
- BBBank eG
- Degussa Bank GmbH
- GE Money Bank
- Santander Consumer Bank
Types of bank accounts in Germany
The two main accounts in Germany are the Girokonto, a checking account that is often used for bill payments via transfers (Überweisung), direct debit (Lastschrift) or standing orders (Dauerauftrag). Girokonto accounts typically offer a debit card useful for shopping.
Instant-access savings accounts (Tagesgeldkonto), are offered to both residents and non-residents and you can apply for them online by providing a notarized copy of your passport or national ID card. Additional checks may be required so be prepared!
Opening a Bank Account in Germany
Here are some on the banks that are highly recommended for expats opening an account online:
DKB: This is a very popular option since you can get a free current account as well as a free VISA card with free worldwide withdrawals in any currency (any charges are reimbursed upon your request). English instructions are available here.
COMDIRECT: This bank also offers a Free Bank account with a free VISA card. Here is a list of services they offer:
- Online current account for German-speaking people worldwide
- Online account application,
- Proof of identity through PostIdent or foreign notaries
- Free account management
- Free VISA credit card / Prepaid Card
- Free Girocard
- Free cash deposits through branch offices
- Free cash supply in Germany and abroad
For in-person banking, here are two good options for you:
COMMERZBANK: You can have a free account if you can deposit 1200 euro per month. They also offer an online banking website in English. More information is available here.
POSTBANK: As long as you deposit your income every month (no minimum required), you get a free account for monthly salary deposit (no minimum limit).
It is best to call ahead and find out what you need and make an appointment. Be prepared to pay up to a 5 euros fee for withdrawals from ATMs (Geldautomat) operated by other banks. Even with some one-off bonuses for new account holders, and free banking, banking can be an expensive endeavour in Germany!