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Opening a bank account in Germany

How to open a bank account in Germany? Get to know the application process and the documents required
Updated: 04.10.2021
Reading Time: 6 mins
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Opening a bank account in Germany: Guide and recommendations

Everyone moving to Germany to study, work or simply enjoy German beautiful forests for a longer period of time needs a bank account for life’s basics. In Germany you will need to open a bank account in order to get your salary, pay the rent and transfer and receive money from abroad.

Since we know that opening a bank account in Germany is one of the first obstacles for foreigners, workers and students coming to Germany, in this article we guide you through the entire application process and we will show you:

GIROMATCH is your independent credit platform. Our team guides you through German banking and financial products, writes reviews for foreigners living in Germany and provides you with important information to improve your financial situation in Germany.

Types of banks in Germany: Which options are there?

Even if the number of institutions is constantly sinking, Germany remains one of the few countries with more than 2000 banks. If you want to open an account there, you will have to choose between a Mobile Bank, an Online Bank or a Traditional Banks.

Mobile banks are banks which operate mainly through online banking or an App. They are usually modern banks such as N26, Vivid Money and bunq. The application process to open a bank account is usually quick and uncomplicated. If you are a digital native, they are a very good option for you! Besides, some of them offer a 24-hours customer service per Whatsapp or Live Chat. However, many mobile banks do not offer the entire spectrum of financial services as personal loans or mortgages. If you want to know more, you can have a look at our dedicated area.

An Online bank (in German “Direktbank”) is a bank which operates online but offers the same financial products of traditional banks. You will be able to apply for personal loans and mortgages or to invest in funds. However, you can do it only online, since online banks do not have physical branches. ING, comdirect and DKB are some of the most known.

Traditional banks are brick and mortar banks which offer every kind of financial service online and offline. If you wish to go to the physical branch and have personal support to open your bank account, you can direct to Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, one of the Savings Banks (Sparkassen) or Cooperative Banks (“Volksbanken”). 

Types of bank accounts: Choose the right option for your needs

When it comes to choose your future German bank account, you could run into difficulties. However, we simplified the process for you. First of all, you will need to look at your necessities:

  • you may need to open a bank account in Germany without living there
  • you may want to avoid paperwork and German slow bureaucracy and find the fastest way to open a bank account in Germany
  • you may want to open a bank account with specific features (e.g. a bank account for students, investments’ offers, saving accounts’ options)

To find out the best German bank for your need, you can have a look at our Best German Banks’ Guide in English.

How to open a bank account online?

If you are not living in Germany and wish to open a bank account online, a mobile bank could be a good option for you. In this case, you will have:

  • a quick application process
  • English speaking support (via Chat or Email)
  • instant access to your bank account

Mobile banks are banks which operate mainly through online banking or an App. If you are a digital nomad or still do not have a residence permit in Germany, neobanks as Monese or N26 could be perfect for your case.

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Opening a bank account online

The application process

In a typical mobile bank, these are the steps to open your bank account online:

  1. Download the bank’s app
  2. Enter your personal data and select your account model
  3. Confirm your identity via videocall, video or selfie
  4. Top up your account and off you go!

Monese: Our best option to open a bank account online

Monese offers a bank account for non-resident, students an expats. When opening Monese’s free account, you will not need to show your residence permit and the application process takes only few minutes. Besides, you will have instant access to your bank account and virtual debit card, a customer service available in 14 languages and the possibilitz to tranfer money in 19 different foreing currencies.

Monese

Speed: 5/5

Account and cards: 4/5

Costs: 4.5/5

Service: 4/5
Google Pay LogoMastercard Logo
RESULT
4.3
05/2022

Speed: 5/5

Account and cards: 4/5

Costs: 4.5/5

Service: 4/5
Google Pay LogoMastercard Logo
  • Instant account opening in 3 minutes
  • Free account with real-time transactions, debit card
  • Instantly generate virtual credit card
  • Support in 14 languages, incl. German, Turkish, Romanian, Polish and more
  • No address verification or credit check
  • International transactions in 19 different currencies

Opening a bank account while in Germany

Of course, by opening a bank account online, you have a time-advantage in comparison to go to a bank branch. However, if you have a grasp of the German language and are already in Germany, you may want to go to a physical branch.

In particular, if you need some additional features for your banking experience, there you will meet your personal financial advisor, who will analyze your situation and show you the bank’s complete products’ palette.

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The advantages of a traditional bank

The advantages of a traditional German bank

At a German traditional bank as Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank, you will get:

  • a longer application process and up to 10 days for effectively using your bank account
  • often a German speaking customer service
  • a personal financial advisor for your needs
  • a broader products’ palette which includes mortgage, loans and savings accounts

Documents required to open a bank account in Germany

Both in a bank branch or online, you will need some basic documents in order to be able to open a bank account in Germany:

  • application form (provided by the bank)
  • your passport or identity card, if you come from a European country
  • proof of residence in Germany (“Anmeldung” or “Meldebescheinigung” in German)
  • proof of income or 
  • proof of your student status

Besides, according to the type of bank, you may need

  • an initial deposit, whose amount is determined by the bank
  • your SCHUFA entry (which is automatically checked by the bank once you agreed the SCHUFA clause)
Best Bank Account Info
GIROMATCH's Guide

Which bank is the best for you?

If you still do not know where to start when looking for your future German bank, you can have a look at our guide on Germany's best banks! There you will find a list of options at your disposal, their different account models and all advantages or disadvantages of different providers.

Why is a proof of residence required to open a bank account in Germany?

In Germany, when opening a bank account, credit institutions carry out a legitimation test, pursuant to Section 154 of the German Fiscal Code. This is intended to prevent third parties from opening an account in another name or taking out loans in the name of a non-existent person, for example, in order to obtain money illegally or to carry out transactions that violate the Money Laundering Act.

The Money Laundering Act regulates which information must be collected in order to determine your identity, this includes:

  • Surname and first name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Address
  • Nationality
  • Identity card’s details

As a foreigner living in Germany, your identification document may not contain your current German address, that is why you are required to show proof of your German residence (“Meldebescheinigung”). The majority of German traditional branch-based banks (in German “Filialbanken”) offer a personal application service in order to open a bank account. Your identification is therefore carried out personally by checking your documents. 

However, if you still do not live in Germany and you want to open a bank account from another country, you can have a look at online or mobile banks. Some of these banks enable you to open a bank account online and identify yourself per video-call. In this case you will only need your identity document and a mobile phone number in order to pass the legitimation test. We’ve recollected a list of mobile banks where you can open a bank account without having a German residence. Try to have a look at bunq, N26, Tomorrow Bank and Vivid Money!

What you should consider when opening a bank account in Germany

Sometimes you may be in a hurry to open your bank account because you need it quickly. However, it is worth taking your time to analyze different options. A complete bank account with different features may spare you money and efforts looking for additional options somewhere else. Besides, knowing the possibilities of your bank account will turn you into a power user. Here we list some of the most important features you should consider when applying for a bank account in Germany:

FeaturesWhat you should consider
Monthly fee
costs
Is the fee you will pay balanced with the additional features of the bank account? 
Does the account’s monthly fee aggravate your monthly budget for your stay in Germany? 
Did you consider the advantages granted by more expensive accounts such as sustainable banking? 
If you are applying for a free bank account: do you need a minimum monthly income or a specific status (e.g. student)?
Cash withdrawals
investments
How much do cash withdrawals cost abroad?
Is there a monthly limit for cash withdrawals?
At which ATMs can you withdraw your money in Germany and abroad?
Is there an additional fee to withdraw money in different currencies?
Credit cards
Credit Card
Are credit cards included in the bank account?
What type of credit card are you granted? 
Does your credit card grant you a credit line or is it a debit card which you can only pay by direct debit with?
Personal loans
personal-loan
Does your bank offer personal loans? 
Do you have the possibility to apply for a charge credit card or a revolving credit card? 
Does your bank account have an overdraft facility in case of economic hardship? And which additional costs does it imply?
Additional features
Service and Customer Satisfaction
Does your bank have a sustainability focus?
Do you have an English speaking customer service at your disposal?
Do you want a stocks and crypto trading account?
How can you contact your bank: face-to-face, online or by telephone?
Are there any offers such as cashback and bonus?

Glossary of terms: GIROMATCH guides you through German banking

GermanEnglish
BankkontoBank account
KontoinhaberAccount holder
KontostandAccount's balance
GirokontoChecking account
SparkontoSavings account
BankrateBank rate
BankauszugBank statement
KreditkartenabrechnungCredit card invoice
AbrechnungsperiodeBilling period
SollDebit
ÜberweisungBank transference
GuthabenBalance (money you dispose of)
BargeldCash
StudentenausweisStudent card, Immatrikulation letter
EC-KarteBank card
AuszahlungPayment
EinzahlungDeposit
GeldautomatATM (cash dispenser)

FAQs about opening a bank account in Germany

Can a bank reject opening a bank account?

From 2016, everyone in Germany has the right to own a basic bank account which enables money transfers and cashless payments. Therefore every bank has the duty to offer this possibility. However there are some cases where your application may be rejected:

  • you already have a functioning basic bank account
  • you have been convicted of an intentional criminal offense to the detriment of the institute, its employees or customers within the last three years
  • you owned a basic account with the institution and
  • you used it for unlawful purposes or you did not pay the account management fee, which leads to the termination of the account
  • the institution cannot fullfill its due diligence obligations under the Money Laundering Act or the German Banking Act.

How to open a bank account in Germany with bad credit?

According to German law, you cannot be rejected to open a basic bank account because of bad credit. Since everyone has the right to open a bank account in Germany, banks have the duty to grant you with a basic bank account. However, some banks may reject you in case of bad creditworthiness, if you are applying for a bank account with an overdraft facility. In that case, banks will check your creditworthiness to determine whether to grant an overdraft and its amount.
However, you can have a look a modern neobanks which do not check your credit history when opening a bank account. bunq and Vivid Money are two examples. We have also tried them out!

Can I open a bank account in Germany without address?

The majority of German traditional banks such as Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank will ask you to provide proof of residence in Germany in order to open a bank account. However, you could have a look at N26, Tomorrow Bank, bunq and Vivid Money, since these mobile banks do not require you to live in Germany to open a basic account.

Can I transfer money to an international bank account?

Once you open a bank account, you may want to transfer your money to someone else. In this case, you can either use your online banking, your telephone banking or go directly to a bank branch with the money you want to transfer. In order to do a correct transfer, you will need: the name of the bank account holder, the IBAN of the bank account where you want to transfer money to, its BIC (Bank Identifier Code), the amount of the transfer, its payment reference and your credentials.

How can I close my bank account?

As a bank account holder, you can close your account at any time without additional fees. You can use this template (in German) for your closing letter. You should send it as a certified letter to your bank.If you open a bank account remotely, you have the right to withdraw it in 14 days upon opening.

How can I open a bank account for someone else?

In Germany, you cannot open a bank account for someone else. Only in case you are the health care proxy of the person who needs a bank account, you can ask the bank a form which grants you power of attorney in order to open a bank account.

Can a minor open a bank account in Germany?

Minors of the age between 7 and 17 can open a bank account with the presence of their parents. It means that when applying for a bank account, the bank will require identity documents of both the minor and of his or her parents. If you want to open a bank account for a minor who still does not have an identity document, you will need his or her birth certificate.

How can I open a bank account in another country?

If you have a bank account in a bank which operates abroad, you can ask your bank to transfer your account to an international branch. Otherwise, you could check these mobile banks, which do not require proof of German residency: N26, Tomorrow Bank, bunq and Vivid Money.

What this an international bank account number?

The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a 34 alphanumeric code expressed in groups of 4 which identifies your bank account according to the international standard ISO 13616:2020. It comprises:

  • a country code
  • two check digits
  • the domestic bank account number with
    the branch identifier

Here you have a sample of Germany’s international bank number:

DE91 1000 0000 0123 4567 89

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