Banking in Germany
Opening a bank account online
One of the first questions new arrivals often ask is "how do I open a bank account in Germany?".
Well, now with online banking the answer couldn't be any easier. Many banks offer the possibility to open current accounts (Girokonto), Instant access savings accounts (Tagesgeldkonto), limited access savings accounts (Sparbuch), securities accounts (depot) etc. without even going into the branch (although you will have 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 month (Comdirect, Commerzbank, Postbank, Hypovereinsbank, DKB) 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. EC-cards (Debits card) are issued as part of the package. Some banks offer Visa Debit cards as well for free. Most banks charge extra for Credit cards. The most widely accepted are MasterCard and Visa. American Express is not so popular in Germany but still has its advantages. 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.
The advantage of filling out the forms online is that you don't have deal with grumpy 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.
Choosing the right bank
The only question you really have to answer is "which bank?"
The answer to this depends entirely on your situation and needs. If you require simple online banking and access to cash machines (Geldautomaten) then you have a wide choice. Cash machines in Germany are grouped into two large networks than allow free withdrawls within their own network. Some smaller banks and foreign owned banks also offer free withdrawles from any cash machine. Your location might play an important role. Customers in smaller towns and villages will tend to be limited to their local Sparkasse. Some banks offer services which many ex-pats find interesting (e.g. Citibank offer US$ accounts or online banking in English)
Some banks (Citibank, Comdirect
and Deutsche Kredit Bank DKB
are some) offer free access to all cash machines worldwide through a Visa card as an alternative to Cashpool/Cashgroup mentioned below. Remeber to read the terms and conditions for each account to find out how the costs of this card are hidden or if it truly is free.
Cashgroup comprises of 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).
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". These banks are the bank of choice for those who enjoy a more personal relationship with their bank. The banks usually have strong relationships with local businesses and offer more branches, especially in smaller towns and villages. However, many people find these banks to be far too beaurocratic and inflexible, especially when it comes to international transactions. Every local Sparkasse is a member of the Sparkassenverbund, so customers can withdraw money without charge in any Sparkasse cash machine in the country.
Step By Step Guide on opening a bank account online
The process of opening a bank account "online" is roughly the same at all banks. Since Comdirect specialise in online banking and are currently offering one of the best packages (current account, instant access savings account giving 3,8% interest, Ec-card, Visa-Debit, free securities deposit account. This bank account is better than free, they also pay YOU €1 per month for holding the account as long as €1,250 flows into the account each month), this can be best used as an example:
go the relevant website and find the link for "Privatkunden" and then look for either a link to the accounts. This is the link for Comdirect:
Open a Comdirect bank account online
Fill out the form. You will able to select from a few options. If you wish to use this account for your wages/salary and would like an overdraft, you have to select this option. (Overdrafts are normally given after 6-months credit history and with a positive SCHUFA rating and you usually get 2 to 3 times your usual monthly salary) The options for Visa-card with PIN, securities deposit account and instant access savings accounts are already selected. If you do not wish to have one of these, you have to de-select the option.
Check the completed form and print it off.
follow the instructions and take the application forms together with the "Postident" form and take them along with your passport or identity card (as a new arrival it may be necessary to also provide a copy of your residential registration, "Anmeldebescheinigung") to any post office (Deutsche Post). Deutsche Post will confirm your identity (necessary to comply to EU laws on money laundering) and sent this confirmation along with your account application to the bank in question. You will then be informed a few days later whether you application has been succesful.
Happy hour offers by Postbank - Step by step English Instructions
Postbank provides Happyhour deals with various benifits including free account, free Visa card, €100 joining bonus etc,. This is only available when opening the account online and during the specific time. Step-by-step instruction with screenshots to open a Postbank account online can be found here
Opening a bank account in person
If you prefer the personal touch and perhaps require some advice before opening an account you can drop into any branch, though some banks require you to make an appointment first, so it is best to check at the branch first.
Banks (and branches) vary in the paperwork they require from you but as you can see from the online application, the minimum is your identity card or passport and "Anmeldebescheinigung". Some banks also require you to provide proof of earnings, so it isn't a bad idea to bring along your employment contract stating your earnings. Some banks even require a rental contract to proove your address, though this is seldom. If you wish for an overdraft and credit cards you have to prove a credit history in Germany, so as a new arrival, this may not be possible for the first 6 months. It is probably a good idea to maintain your account and credit cards in your home country at least for the first 6 months (or you entire stay if you plan on returning)
Deutsche Bank 24
Note that Deutsche Bank 24 no longer exists. Some time around 2002, "Deutsche Bank" decided to change the name of their bank for "personal" acccounts to "Deutsche Bank 24". A year later they decided that this name change wasn't such a cunning idea and they reversed the change.
provides English information about different banks in Germany with instruction on how to open open a bank account.
offers a comparison of bank and insurance products.
This issue of Die Welt has an article
about changing banks to reduce banking fees. The print version (currently being given away for free around Munich) also has a table comparing the costs and benefits.
Not sure when the above information was written but this is what i discovered feb 10 2014
City bank is no longer in germany, it is targo bank.City bank Offers free transfers to targoTargo bank has a monthly fee of 5€ unless you have a minimum of €20,000 in the account or monthly deposit of 1,000€You can link savings accounts so you earn interest, but i doubt the rate ould be highGeld automat card
Commerz bank requires a minimum of 1,000€ in the account or also a monthly feeof 5€Free cash geld automat card at db, commerz and some otherNo free transfers
Apparently the transfer fees come from the bank of origin, i want to transfer aud in australia to euro
My friend tells me there is an online only account that looks good
I need the account to get my visa, otherwise i wouldnt bother with one
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