How to open a German bank account in English - and find the best bank for YOU

Updated: Sep 2, 2021


Let's talk about money, shall we?


Money

Expats who want to open a bank account in Germany are confronted with an overwhelming amount of questions, such as:

  • Do I even need a German bank account on top of my home country account?

  • What German bank account is the best for me?

  • How can I open a bank account?

Trying to figure out all of those can be time-consuming, frustrating, and - if you pick an overpriced option - costly. But it doesn't have to be...

Here is Expat Launcher's guide to banking in Germany...

After reading this post you will know:

  • Why you might want a German bank account, even if you already have one in your home country

  • Which different banking options exist and what they will cost you

  • How to open a German bank account - 100% in English

Let's get started...

 

Why you might want a German bank account as Expat or foreigner (even if you don't plan to stay forever)


Money 2

There are a lot of good reasons to get a German bank account even if you plan to stay here only for a few months and you're a non-resident.

Since you are reading this, chances are you are already thinking about getting a German bank account. I don’t want to bore you, so you’re getting just the two biggest points among others:

It will make your life in Germany a lot

  • Easier and

  • Cheaper!

Easier:

Every time you want to pay in a restaurant, withdraw money, go online shopping or have money transferred to you: It is a hustle with a foreign account! A lot of places don’t accept credit cards but will accept a German Giro account card.

You won’t need to run miles through the city to find a bank where you can withdraw from your home bank card. People will be able to send you money and you can send out money to people.

Also, you can use it to pay companies, your phone provider, or your landlord certain amounts automatically for reoccurring payments without you having to legitimize it every time. Having an account that runs on € will not just make it easier for you in Germany, but also in most parts of €-Land when you travel.

Cheaper:

Do I need to explain this? You probably have noticed by now: Most likely your international bank will charge you extra every time you are using your account in €-Land…

...if your card is even accepted by stores and restaurants. Withdrawing, transferring, conversion charges… save yourself the extra money with a German bank account.

Open Bank Account

 

How to find the best bank in Germany

In Germany there are two different types of banks:

  • Classic brick & mortar banks

  • Online banks (or "Direktbanken")

The classic brick & mortar banks have the advantage that you actually can walk into one of their branches and speak with a real person face to face. Unfortunately, this service will cost you a monthly fee for your account ("Girokonto").

Please be aware that you might hit a language barrier when trying to contact.


Logo Deutsche Bank

Logo Commerzbank




If you plan to speak with your bank consultant a lot and your German is good, a classic bank like Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank might be the right option for you.

To open a bank account with a most brick-and-mortar banks, you will have to schedule an appointment and meet with your bank consultant to get started. Commerzbank you can apply online.

But if you prefer to save the monthly fee and use primarily online banking for money transfers as well as some cash withdrawals and deposits, an online bank like N26 bank or DKB is the way to go.


N26 Logo


DKB Logo

Online banks in general are easier to set up, offer free accounts, and come with all the online banking options you need.

We recommend N26 bank because they are the only German bank offering a bank account in the English language (at least to my knowledge). Started in 2013, by the time of this blog post they already have more than 500, 000 customers.

Of course, there are plenty of other good banks, but these are some of the reasons why we think they offer the best bank account for expats and foreigners in Germany:

  • No monthly fees

  • English language account and website

  • Set up in 8 minutes

  • Free withdrawals at all German ATMs and 7,000 participating stores (REWE, Penny, etc.) in accordance with the N26 fair use policy

  • Free withdrawals worldwide in accordance with the N26 fair use policy

  • Optional free credit card or account for stock trading

  • Send money in 19 currencies

  • Easy online banking

  • No monthly minimum

  • Optional business account and savings account

  • Optional free Maestro card

Extra bonus for non-residents: You don't need a registered address to open the account. Any German mailing address under your name is sufficient.

The one downside I noticed is that N26 doesn't come with a savings account. US-American citizens can only open one account through them as of now.

Open Bank Account
 

How to open a bank account in Germany in 8 minutes

Here is how you open a bank account with N26. To open a bank account with a different bank, please contact their customer service for further information.

N26 advertises that you can open a bank account in 8 minutes.

In our test, we needed about 15 minutes because we were taking screenshots and looked up additional information. You should be able to stay within 8 minutes if you are prepared and not planning to write a blog post. ;)

And even if not... it's still a lot quicker than any other bank I've tried.

So here is how you do it:

You will need:

  • German mailing address

  • Passport or other photo identification document

  • Smartphone (iPhone 4S / Android 4.4 or higher)

Step 1: Click this link to get to the N26 homepage in English

Step 2: Register with your personal information

Click "Open Bank Account" to start the registration process.


Step 2

After that, fill out the form with your personal information.

You will need:

  • Your email address

  • Your postal address

  • Your mobile phone number

  • First name, last name

  • A valid and supported passport or photo ID card

  • Date of birth

  • Nationality and country of birth

Make sure you enter everything correctly and agree to the terms of N26.

Step 3: Confirm your email

After going through steps 1 and 2 successfully, N26 will send you a confirmation email. Check your inbox and click the link inside to confirm your email address.


Step 3

After confirming your email, click continue on the next screen.

Step 4: Log into your online account and select your banking card

Use your email and password to log into the online banking account from a web browser.

It's time to select your banking card! You get to choose between the N26 Black Mastercard and the N26 Transparent Mastercard.

And before all hackers out there go crazy: This is obviously not Tamie's real credit card number.


Step 4