Best German Bank Account
One of the most important things you have to do is to open a German bank account once you move to Berlin.
Without one you will not be able to rent a house, get a German mobile contract or get an internet contract.
Any German landlords will ask you to provide German bank account details from which your rent will be deducted from.
The same goes for a German mobile phone contract or any other contract. You will need to provide your German account details for that.
And most importantly, employers usually only transfer your hard earned salary to a German bank account – no foreign account will be accepted.
Furthermore, if you are still mainly paying cash and therefore need to withdraw it from ATMs in Berlin you might be charged a hefty fee with yourr foreign bank account.
After pointing out the importance of opening a German bank account there are some things you might want to consider before you sign up with a specific bank.
ATM shortage in Berlin
Berlin and other big German cities have a serious shortage of ATMs.
That means that if you signed up with the wrong bank you might pay some really heavy fees when withdrawing money from an ATM which is not from your bank.
These fees can vary depending on which bank the ATM belongs to.
But you can be sure that the fee for taking money out of an ATM that is not from your bank can be as high as 5€ per withdrawal.
Make sure your new German bank not only issues a Girocard or Maestro Card, but also a (free of charge) credit card.
This way you will be able to pay by card, which makes the ATM shortage less annoying than it used to be.
Bank Account with Girocard or Maestro
If you don’t like the idea of carrying a lot of cash around with you then a Girocard (sometimes still called EC-Card) or a Maestrocard will come in handy.
Both Girocard and Maestrocards are widely accepted in Germany, from restaurants to supermarkets.
With both cards you will also be able to get out cash at ATMs (make sure that they have the Girocard and/or Maestrocard logo) with your personal PIN number.
Furthermore both cards are always connected with your checking account.
Whenever you pay with these cards the money will be directly taken out of your account.
So if you run low on money and you do not have enough cash on your checking account a credit card will com in handy.
Bank Account including a Credit Card
Credit cards are not yet that widely accepted in Berlin and Germany as they are in e.g. the US or UK.
Especially in Berlin you will experience rather sooner than later that many restaurants still do not accept credit cards (and neither EC cards).
But even so, a credit card comes in handy, especially when you order online or when you don’t have enough money in your savings account.
Most German banks will offer you a credit card (either free of charge or anywhere around 3€ per month) when opening a bank account, but be careful with the interests you have to pay when you are in an overdraft.
Only lately since the pandemic we see more and more businesses accepting credit cards in Berlin.
Make sure to get a new credit card with a contactless payment option, which does not even require you to enter a PIN for sums of below 30-40€.
Also be careful that most German banks nowadays charge for their credit cards a monthly fee.
Most free of charge bank accounts only include a Visa or Mastercard debit card, which in theory works similar to a real credit card, but with some slight disadvantages.
With a Visa/Mastercard debit card your bank account will be charged the moment you make a purchase, while a real credit card only charges at the end of the month.
And we have heard from friends that some hotels or car rentals do not accept debit cards, which might cause problems while travelling.
Comparison of Best Bank Accounts in Berlin and Germany
|English sign up process||No||Yes||No||No|
|Sign up from abroad||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Bank account fees||0€||0€||1,90€/month||0€|
|Free cash withdrawal Germany||Unlimited|
|Yes, 3 times/month at any ATM||Yes, limited|
Free withdrawal at 12.000 ATMs of Cash Group
|Yes with Girocard|
|Free cash withdrawal worldwide||Yes, unlimited||Only with paid account||No||Yes, ATM with Visa sign|
|Foreign transaction fees||No||No||Yes, 1,85%||Yes, 1,75%|
|Credit/Debit card included||Visa Debit 0€/month|
Visa Credit Card 2,49€/month
|Mastercard Debit 0€/month||Visa Credit Card 0€ first year, afterwards 29€/year||Visa Debit Card 0€/month|
Visa Credit Card 1,90€/month
|Overdraft fees||6,58% – 7,18%interest p.a.||8,9% interest p.a.||Not clearly stated on website||6,5% – 11,0% interest p.a.|
|Additional services||DKB Live|
Free tickets for football, icehockey & much more
|Unlimited free cash withdrawal at 11.500 retail stores||Nextbike limited free usage.||Sign up bonus of up to 150€ (certain conditions apply)|
Finding the Best Bank in Germany
There are so many different banks in Germany you can choose from that talking about all of them would take up too much time.
That’s why you gonna hear only about the best options for you.
You can open the most modern German bank account right now at N26.
While most German banks still seem to be stuck in the 20th century (a lot of paperwork, physical locations with long queues, only in German, etc.) N26 brings banking to your smartphone and computer.
Signing up with N26 can be done completely online and without sending any papers. Also it does not take more than 10 minutes to go through the whole signup process.
All you need is your ID/passport, provide your address and then during the signup process you will do a online verification via your webcam.
Oh yes, and a major advantage is that the whole process is also in English (alternatively also in Spanish, French and Italian)!
That is a huge thing, as we know the struggle with other banks and their completely German sign up process.
Furthermore opening a N26 bank account is completely free of charge and inlcudes a free Maestro card & a free Mastercard debit card.
And to top it off you can with you can get out cash for free at
- Any ATM in Germany up to 3 times/ month (as almost anybody qualifies for the Fair Use Policy)
- Any ATM outside of Germany for as often as you want
- Up to 11.500 retail stores for as often as you like
All N26 cards come with a NFC chip for contactless payments, which is a great feature nowadays.
Payments up to around 40€ don’t even require a PIN anymore, so no touching number-pads during Corona-times.
Honestly, N26 right now is a really great option for all foreigners (as it offers all services also in English) as well as Germans.
The interface and mobile app is far better than that of any other bank we have seen so far and the conditions are really unbeatable.
See our complete article about how to sign up for a German bank account from abroad.
Plus, as we already mentioned, the whole sign-up process is online and in English.
And the cherry on the top is that N26 does not charge any foreign transaction fees, which makes it a perfect bank account for world travelers.
DKB is, in our opinion, together with N26 the best German bank.
That is if you are comfortable with doing all your banking online and you don’t mind to sign up for your account in German.
DKB – Deutsche Kredit Bank has some outstanding advantages other traditional banks do not offer.
With your free of charge DKB debit card you can withdraw cashfrom any ATM without charges no matter what company that ATM is from.
Remember the problem, that there are not many ATMs around in Berlin?
When you sign up for a credit card with DKB Cash you will not have that problem at all.
And even better, no matter where in the world you need to get cash out of an ATM it will always be for free.
So if you plan on travelling a lot DKB is a great option for you, especially DKB does not charge a foreign transaction fee.
This means that if you pay something with your card in Pounds or Dollars, you are not charged a percentage of around 1,75% (average foreign transaction fee) on top of your purchase.
All new DKB deibt cards come with the option to pay contactless, which comes in very handy during corona-times.
Of course they can also be used for Google and Apple Pay.
After pointing out all advantages keep in mind that DKB is strictly an online bank and you cannot walk into one of their branches if you encounter any problems.
That being said you can always call them or write an email for any assistance.
Furthermore, they have a 24/7 emergency number that will help you out with any problem that might occur.
Lately, and probably due to the incredible success of N26, DKB also heavily improved their mobile banking services.
Once you install the DKB mobile app and the mobile TAN app all your banking can be easily done via your smartphone instead of your laptop.
Another decent alternative to N26 and DKB is Postbank, the biggest retail-customer bank in Germany.
Their most interesting product is called “Postbank Giro direct”, which includes a free EC-card. Alternatively you can also opt in for a free Visa credit card (at least first year free of charges).
The Postbank Grio direkt charges a monthly fee of 1,90€ per month.
However, if you are a student or an Azubi you might be able to get this Girokonto completely free of charge.
Although credit cards are not widely accepted in Germany and especially Berlin it will always come in handy, e.g. if you want to buy stuff online.
What makes Postbank a good choice for you is the fact, that you can get out cash for free with the EC card at around 12.000 ATMs around Germany.
Plus you can get cash at almost any post shop (Deutsche Post) or Shell gas stations.
This is especially important as you might remember that in Berlin there are only few ATMs around and if you happen to need cash from an ATM which is not affiliated with your bank you are going to pay some heavy fees.
Very similar to DKB, comdirect also offers a free Visa credit card and is purely online.
There are no Comdirect branches around Germany, but this will not be a problem for you, as the visa credit card also allows you to get cash out at any machine around Germany and abroad without any fees.
Signing up with Comdirect is as easy as it can get.
All you need to do is apply for your Comdirect Visa card online and they will send everything to your place by post.
As you can see there are many similarities between DKB and Comdirect, so with either of them you will have made a good choice.
Another big advantage of Comdirect is that they do not have tough joining requirements for potential clients.
In the past, DKB refused some clients as they could not provide proof of enough income, whereas Comdirect seems to be a bit less restrictive.
Other German Banks
If all this online banking is not for you Sparkasse is probably your best choice.
Sparkasse has some branches throughout Berlin, the busiest one right at Alexanderplatz, and other central locations in Berlin.
Keep in mind if you are in need of money they will charge you if you get money out of a non-Sparkasse ATM.
Commerzbank currently offers a bank account including EC-card (but without a credit card) free of charge, if you open your bank account online.
Best of all Commerzbank offers some nice bonuses from time to time. Right now, as far as we can see, there are no bonuses for a sign-up, but it is worth keeping your eyes open.
Commerzbank has been one of the best rated banks in Germany for years now, so I think they are pretty sure about themselves being one of the best banks in Germany.
Otherwise they probably would not offer you from time to time a 50€ compensation in case that you don’t like their service.
Best German Bank Account for Foreigners and Expats
The good news is that most expats and foreigners are able to open a German bank account from abroad already.
We can highly recommend signing up with N26 if you need to have a German bank account from the day you start living in Berlin.
During the sign-up process simply state your current foreign address and you are going to be able to sign up for your German bank account including the free Mastercard (virtual or for 10€ plastic) from abroad.
Furthermore N26 is offering German banking completely translated to English.
This will save you a lot of time and hassle when moving to Berlin.
Free Credit Cards in Berlin
As you have noticed above most bank accounts come with a free Visa or Mastercard Debit Card.
In theory these Debit Cards work similar to a real Credit Card, but there are some important differences.
If you travel a lot you might notice rather sooner than later that many hotels and/or car rentals do not accept debit cards.
Do not worry, we have a solution for this.
You can always apply for a completely free of charge Barclays Credit Card.
Once you sign up for the Barclays Credit Card you need to connect it to a German bank account so that Barclays can deduct the money spent at the end of each month.
Continue reading about the best Credit Cards in Berlin to learn more.
How to open a German Bank Account step by step
If you are a German citizen and you already have a brand new Personalausweis then you can easily open a bank account just with your Personalausweis, a reader and a so called AusweisApp.
Anyhow, as most of you either are not German or still have an old German Personalausweis, the most common way to open a German bank account is the following:
No matter if N26, DKB, Comdirect, Commerzbank or any other bank, the sign up process will always be very similar.
First of all you will need to provide a lot of personal information including name, age, nationality, monthly income, address and so on.
Also don’t be surprised that the banks already gonna ask you how much you earn.
Depending on this answer you might either be accepted or declined as a client.
Especially DKB is known to be very restrictive unfortunately, so if you don’t have a stable income your chances to open a bank account with DKB are very slim.
After entering all your information you will be asked to accept several terms and conditions, including a statement that says you are not laundering money.
Be aware that you might also need to have your Anmeldebescheinigung already in some cases.
And if you are from outside the European Union and your country has no bilateral agreement with Germany you might even need to wait until you get your Steueridentifikationsnummer (tax ID) from the German IRS before you can open a bank account,
Now all that is left to do is wait until you get all kinds of letters to the address you stated and with these forms and your ID you have to identify yourself at a local Deutsche Post branch.
Alternatively you can also do the Online-ID-process, which is way more comfortable.
In order to identify yourself online you need a webcam, your current ID or passport and a Pin-number, which you will receive via email from DKB.
Also N26 offers an Online-ID-process that only requieres a webcam and a 5 minute validation of your passport/ID.
And after following through all the above mentioned steps you have succesfully opened a German bank account.
Just a reminder that opening a German bank account is probably the most important thing to do when moving to Berlin.
But with our help you can take on these tasks in no time.
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Table of Contents of this Article
- Best German Bank Account
- ATM shortage in Berlin
- Bank Account with Girocard or Maestro
- Bank Account including a Credit Card
- Comparison of Best Bank Accounts in Berlin and Germany
- Finding the Best Bank in Germany
- N26 – The Mobile Bank
- DKB – Deutsche Kredit Bank
- Other German Banks
- Best German Bank Account for Foreigners and Expats
- Free Credit Cards in Berlin
- How to open a German Bank Account step by step