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

Updated: Jun 25, 2019


Let's talk about money, shall we?


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)


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…safe yourself the extra money with a German 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.



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 classic bank, you will have to schedule an appointment and meet with your bank consultant to get started.

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.



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 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 sufficent.

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.


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 the 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.


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.


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. ;)


Both cards can be used for free cash withdrawals in € and shopping at all Mastercard accepting locations on- and offline.

The Transparent Mastercard comes free, the Black Mastercard costs € 5,90 monthly. For this fee you will get additional features that do not come with the Transparent Mastercard:

  • Insurance coverage for trips abroad

  • Mobile phone theft coverage

  • Extended warranty of up to one additional year for qualified purchases

  • Fee-free foreign currency ATM withdrawals

We decided to go with the Transparent Mastercard. You can always upgrade to get the Black Mastercard later.

On the next page you can choose your method of delivery:


  • Free regular delivery in about 1 week - or

  • UPS Express Delivery for € 25 in 2 days.

Since we weren't in a rush, we went with the free option and had the card in our mailbox 5 business days later.

Step 5: Download the N26 app

Download the N26 app on your smartphone.

Log in with your email and password.

One feature I really like is that the app will show you surrounding ATMs and how many free withdrawals you have available for this month. Kinda smart...

Step 6: Verify your identity with a video call or postident

N26 offers a very quick and comfortable video identification process. It seems futuristic, but all you have to do is have a video call through your phone's camera with a friendly employee of IDnow. The IDnow app should automatically open on your phone. If not, you'll have to download it by yourself.

Show them your face and legal documents such as passport or identification card (Personalausweis) and you'll be verified in no time from the comfort of your home!

Remember the days when you had to walk to the post office, wait in line and explain in broken German that you want to be verified?


If that's too sketchy for you, you can still verify your identity with the good ol' postident.

Step 7: Pair your phone with your bank account

For safety reasons, you will need to pair your phone with your bank account.

The N26 app will guide you through all the necessary steps. You will need to:

  • confirm your mobile number,

  • receive the pairing code through SMS and

  • enter the code in the app to pair your phone.

Step 8: Receive your Mastercard and activate it

Depending on your chosen delivery method, you will receive the Mastercard within one week through the mail.

Activate it in the N26 app, select options and your PIN.

Aaaaand that's it! You're all set with your German bank account in English.

Enjoy your new account and let me know how you like it. I am looking forward to your comments. :)


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DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE THAT THE CORRECTNESS OF ANY INFORMATION ON THIS BLOG ABOUT N26's CONDITIONS IS WITHOUT ANY GUARANTEE AND MIGHT NOT BE GIVEN AT THE TIME YOU'RE READING THIS.

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