German Bank Account
Table of Contents of this Article
Without a German bank account you will not be able to rent a house, get a German mobile contract or get an internet contract.
Furthermore employers usually only transfer money to a German bank account, so make sure to sign up for a German bank account straight away after moving to Berlin.
After pointing out the importance of opening a German bank account here some things you might want to consider before you sign up at a specific bank. Berlin does not have too many cash machines around. That means that if you signed up for the wrong company you might pay some really heavy fees when taking money out of an ATM which is not from your bank.
If you don’t like to carry too much cash on you the whole time an ec-card might be a good idea for you. You can pay literally everywhere with your ec-card from the restaurant to the supermarket. This is especially handy as credit cards are not yet that widely accepted as they are in e.g. the US. Especially in Berlin you will experience rather sooner than later that most restaurants do not accept credit cards.
Nevertheless a credit card might come in handy sometimes, when you have to pay something and you don’t have enough money in your account. Most German banks will offer you a credit card, but be careful with the interests you have to pay when you are in an overdraft. This also varies from bank to bank.
Finding the best bank in Berlin
There are literally thousands of different banks in Germany you can choose from, 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 probably the most modern bank account right now with 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 truly 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.
Oh yes, and a major advantage is that the whole process is also in English! That is huge, 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 credit card.
And to top it off you can with you can get out cash for free at
- Any ATM in Germany up to 5 times/ month (as almost anybody qualifies for the Fair Use Policy)
- Any ATM outside of Germany for as often as you want
- Up to 7.000 retail stores for as often as you like
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. Plus the whole sign-up process is online and in English.
DKB is by far the best German bank, if you are comfortable with doing all your banking online. DKB – Deutsche Kredit Bank has some outstanding advantages other traditional banks do not offer. With DKB online banking you can get cash out of any ATM without any 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 around Europe this is the best option for you. DKB Cash also will give you an ec-card which comes in handy whenever you don’t want to pay in cash. Remember again the problem, that credit cards are not accepted everywhere.
After pointing out all advantages keep in mind that DKB is 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. They have a 24/7 emergency number that will help you out with any problem that might occur.
Another good alternative to DKB is Postbank, which is the biggest retail-customer bank in Germany. Their most interesting product is called “Postbank Giro plus”, 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 Giro plus has been free of charge for a long time as long as you had a minimum of 1.000€ a month going to your account (may it be your salary or money you transfer from another account).
However, as many other German banks in the recent past, also Postbank is not offering a free account anymore and raised (at least for the moment) the monthly fee for the Postbank Giro plus to a still reasonable 3,90€ a month.
At least make sure to use the Visa Card option, which is free of charge in the first year, to make up for the monthly fee.
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 one of our top choices 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.
Netbank is another strictly online banking company. It is one of the pioneers in online banking and already in business since 1999. When signing up at Netbank you will also be able to get money out of any ATM for free in Berlin and worldwide.
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.
German bank account for foreigners
Good news for all foreigners that want to move to Berlin and have a German bank account from start. Since recently some German banks let you open a German bank account from abroad. If this is important an important point for you then again we highly recommend signing up with DKB.
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 DKB Visa card from abroad. This will save you a lot of time and hassle when moving to Berlin.
How to open a German bank account
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 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 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. 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. And after following through all the above mentioned steps you have succesfully opened a German bank account.
Opening a German bank account is probably the most important thing to do when moving to Berlin. Only with a valid German bank account you will be able to sign up for an Internet provider or to get a German mobile contract or even signing up for cable TV. But with our help you can take on these tasks in no time.