Banking in Germany just got a little easier
If are planning on moving to Germany or if you have just arrived, one of the first steps you should take is to open a German bank account. Having a German bank account will enable you to receive your salary (very important), rent an apartment, take out health insurance, and transfer money abroad.
Do your research
Before opening a bank account (Konto), it is advisable to research which bank best suits your needs. Germany has more banks per capita than anywhere else in the developed world, so there are plenty of options. This can be overwhelming, but we are here to help guide you through the process.
There are three main categories of banks in Germany: private banks, public savings banks and cooperative banking associations, and direct and mobile banks.
- Private banks are nationwide banks that offer everyday banking services, but also have a stronger focus on wealth management, real estate, and investment banking.
- Direct and mobile banks are online-only banks that offer lower fees and telephone-based customer service, sometimes in English.
- Public savings banks and cooperative banking associations are local banks with a strong focus on small and medium-sized businesses and local investment.
What do I need to open an account?
To open a private current account (Girokonto) in Germany, you can make an appointment online or visit your local branch with all of your paperwork. You can also open your account entirely online by filling out the relevant form on the bank’s website and then confirming your identity either by video chat or Postident.
This step depends on your personal preference and the bank you chose to work with. The good thing about opening an account in person is you can have your questions answered more easily. Confirming your identity over the phone or online can be a bit annoying, as you will need to follow some very specific steps to ensure you are showing valid identification.
You will need to provide the following items to open your account:
- a valid identification such as a passport or identity card
- a certificate of registration
- a visa or residence permit if applicable
- If your bank has a minimum income requirement, you may also have to provide proof of income with payslips or an employment contract.
Once your identity has been confirmed and all the details have been processed, you just need to wait until your account is set up and your new debit card (Girocard) and PIN are sent to you in the post.
Heads up – most banks in Germany charge a yearly fee and may also charge a fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM belonging to a different bank.
Here are two of our top choices for your Girokonto
Direct and mobile banks
If you want to open a mobile bank account, you will need to follow the same steps as opening a private bank account – however, you will have to verify everything online. N26 is a great mobile bank account option.
To open an online bank account through N26, you’ll typically need to provide the following information and documentation:
- Personal information: You’ll need to provide basic personal information such as your full name, date of birth, address, and email address.
- Identification documents: You’ll be required to provide a government-issued identification document, such as a passport or ID card. N26 will typically ask you to take a picture of your ID with your smartphone during the sign-up process.
- Proof of address: You’ll need to provide proof of address, such as a utility bill or bank statement. This is to verify your address and ensure that you are a resident of a country where N26 offers its services.
- Smartphone: You’ll need a smartphone to download the N26 app and complete the sign-up process.
- Bank account: You’ll need a bank account to link to your N26 account, so you can fund your account and withdraw money. You can link any bank account that uses the SEPA payment system. SEPA, or Single Euro Payments Area, is an initiative of the European Union that came into effect on February 1, 2014. It affects bank transfers of euros, seeking to improve the efficiency of cross-border payments. Using your IBAN, or International Bank Account Number, you can make or receive payments to any account located in the SEPA.
- A few minutes of your time: The sign-up process for N26 is typically quick and straightforward. You can complete the sign-up process in a matter of minutes, assuming you have all the required information and documents ready.
No source of income yet or are you a student?
If you are from outside the EU and you have no source of income in Germany, you might need to prove your financial subsistence with a blocked bank account (Sperrkonto), which is a special type of account that limits your monthly withdrawals. The process for opening a blocked bank account is slightly different from opening a regular bank account. You will need to prepare that you may need to have a large sum of money – around 11K – in this account for your visa.
Tell me more about online banking
Most banks in Germany offer some sort of Internet banking for you to conduct your financial affairs online. However, sometimes you will have to specially request online banking when opening your account. Most banks offer internet services only in German, but you can ask for a tutorial from the bank staff member when you open your account. Bot of our recommendations, N26 and DKB, offer an app for your smartphone in English as well, N26 even provides support in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and of course in German.
To make Internet banking more secure, many German banks use TANs, or transaction authentication numbers, which are single-use passwords required to log in to online banking or authorize online transactions. German banks used to print these out 50 at a time for customers, but it is becoming increasingly common to have a TAN sent as an SMS to your mobile phone or generated by a smartphone app.
What if I am a freelancer or starting my own business?
If you are planning to start up your own business in Germany, you might also need to open a German business bank account (Geschäftskonto). Most banks offer different types of business accounts, depending on the size of your company. If you are a freelancer, you may not need to open a business account.
How do I pay my invoices or charge my clients?
IBAN (International Bank Account Number) is a unique identifier used to facilitate international bank transfers. It is an alphanumeric code that includes the country code, bank code, branch code, and account number.
When you need to make an international payment, you will need to provide the recipient’s IBAN, along with their name and the name of their bank. You will also need to provide your own IBAN to the bank to authorize the transfer. The bank will use this information to transfer funds from your account to the recipient’s account.
If you are receiving an international payment, you will need to provide your IBAN to the payer. This information allows the payer’s bank to transfer funds to your account.
When it comes to paying or charging invoices using IBAN, the process is straightforward. Invoices should include the payee’s IBAN, which is the account number where the funds should be transferred. If you are paying the invoice, you will use this IBAN to transfer funds from your account to the payee’s account. You will typically find this information at the bottom of your invoices for things like doctor bills and services.
Similarly, if you are sending an invoice to a customer, you should include your own IBAN so that the customer can transfer funds to your account.
It is important to ensure that the IBAN is entered correctly, as even a small mistake can result in the transfer of funds to the wrong account. It is also a good idea to double-check the name of the account holder to ensure that it matches the name on the account to which you are transferring funds.
I’m still unsure how to get my bank account and which type to choose from
It can be very difficult, and perhaps a bit stressful, at first if you are not sure about how things work in Germany. If you want to make sure you are making the best choice for your needs, or if you need help with opening your account – we have you covered. We can help guide you throughout the entire process.