Banking in Germany for Expats: A Complete Guide 2023

Banking in Germany for Expats

Living in Germany as an ex-pat comes with countless exciting opportunities. However, to fully embrace your new adventure, there’s one crucial step you must take: getting a German bank account. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Whether you’re a hardworking employee or a self-employed mastermind, having a German bank account is essential. It’s the gateway to receiving your hard-earned salary securely and efficiently.

But that’s not all! With a German IBAN, you’ll open the doors to a world of convenience. Setting up direct debits for your bills becomes a breeze. Say goodbye to endless paperwork and hello to seamless transactions. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about banking in Germany for expats.

Banking Options in Germany

Germany’s banking system consists of three main pillars:

Additionally, there are several international banks, online banks, and mobile banks operating in the country. The Deutsche Bundesbank serves as the national central bank, while the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) is responsible for regulating banking and financial services in Germany.

Why open a German bank account?

If you reside in Germany, having an account with a German bank is not mandatory. However, you will require some form of account to facilitate sending and receiving payments. 

This could be an international bank account, either with a Germany-based bank or a bank specifically designed to handle financial transactions for customers based in Germany. 

Alternatively, you may opt for a German mobile bank. It is essential to have an operational account in Germany to ensure regular payments, such as utility bills or German insurance premiums. 

Additionally, when applying for a German mortgage, you will need to provide proof of an active account in Germany.

Types of German Bank Accounts


Girokonto, or current account, is the primary bank account in Germany used for bill payments, deposits, withdrawals, and receiving money transfers.
 It serves as the standard account for receiving salaries and managing day-to-day expenses. German banks offer general current accounts as well as specialized options for students and young individuals.


Sparkonto, or savings account, in Germany, offers interest on deposited funds, although current rates are low.

Banks provide options such as instant access accounts (Tagesgeldkonto) for flexibility and fixed deposits (Festgeldkonto) with higher interest rates and a minimum deposit requirement. The latter is commonly used for investment purposes. 

Savings accounts are accessible to both German residents and non-residents.

Non-resident Account

Standard current accounts in Germany are typically limited to residents with a permanent address in the country. 

However, several online and mobile-only German banks cater to individuals living abroad, making them suitable for those intending to relocate or work in Germany. These accounts serve as a convenient option for non-residents.

Mobile accounts

German banks provide Internet banking and mobile account options through banking apps. Major banks offer these digital services, and there are also several online-only and mobile-only banks in operation within Germany.


Tagesgeldkonto, also known as an instant access account, offers potentially higher interest rates than a regular bank account. However, it does not allow check writing from the funds held within the account. It serves as a convenient option for individuals seeking a separate account to hold their surplus funds. 

Transfers to and from the Tagesgeldkonto are typically limited to a reference account, often a Girokonto.

Best Banks for Expats in Germany

Germany has a well-developed banking system with many local and international banks to choose from. However, not all banks are equally suited for ex-pats, as some may have higher fees, stricter requirements, or limited services for non-residents. To help you make an informed decision, we have compiled a list of some of the best banks for expats in Germany, based on their features, benefits, and drawbacks.

  • Deutsche Bank: Deutsche Bank is one of the largest and most reputable banks in Germany. It offers a range of products and services for ex-pats, including current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, mortgages, and investments. Deutsche Bank also has a dedicated English-speaking customer service and online banking platform.
  • DKB: DKB offers one of the best value accounts there is in Germany. The only bank account in Germany with a truly free credit card. Free current account. DKB also offers attractive interest rates on savings accounts and loans.
  • N26: N26 is a 100% online bank, with great customer service including on weekends, and a super-easy signup process; all of this is in English! They have four plans: N26 Standard (free), N26 Smart (4,90€) N26 You (9,90€ a month), and N26 Metal (16,90€ a month). Although N26 offers personal and business accounts, you can only have one account type with them. Shared accounts and credit cards are not available. Despite its limitations, N26 is a favorite and highly rated bank amongst ex-pats.
  • Wise (Formerly Transferwise): Wise is not a bank, but a money transfer service that allows you to send and receive money internationally at low costs. Wise also offers a multi-currency account and debit card that lets you hold and spend money in over 50 currencies without any fees. Wise is ideal for ex-pats who need to deal with multiple currencies or send money abroad regularly.
  • Revolut: Revolut is another money transfer service that also offers a multi-currency account and debit card for ex-pats in Germany. Revolut allows you to exchange and spend money in over 150 currencies without any fees. However, Revolut is not a licensed bank in Germany, so your money is not protected by the German deposit guarantee scheme.
  • Commerzbank: Commerzbank is another major bank in Germany that offers a variety of products and services for expats. Commerzbank has a special account for newcomers called StartKonto, which is free of charge and comes with a debit card and online banking access. Commerzbank also has an English-speaking customer service and website. However, Commerzbank may charge higher fees than some other banks for certain transactions, such as international transfers or cash withdrawals.
  • Comdirect: Comdirect is a subsidiary of Commerzbank that operates as an online-only bank. Comdirect offers free current accounts and credit cards for ex-pats in Germany. Comdirect’s credit card allows you to withdraw cash worldwide without any fees. Comdirect also offers competitive interest rates on savings accounts and investments.

Best Banks With English Speaking Support in Germany

  • N26
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Vivid
  • Berliner Sparkasse

Best Bank Account for Students in Germany

For students in Germany, managing finances can be costly. Fortunately, there are top-notch student bank accounts available with no fees, providing credit or debit cards and additional benefits such as cashback and rewards points. Consider the following recommended options:

N26: This fee-free online bank provides a range of services, including an ATM card, with no minimum balance or monthly fees. It boasts a user-friendly app for iOS and Android.

Vivid: With cashback programs and a free tier, Vivid allows you to earn money back while spending.

Deutsche Bank: If you have a Sperrkonto for your arrival in Germany, you may already have an account with Deutsche Bank. As long as you’re a student, the account remains free. Ensure the bank is aware of your student status to avoid being charged.

How To Open a German Bank Account

EU nationals can easily open a basic bank account in Germany. Non-EU nationals must provide registration and work permit documents. Banks are not obligated to open accounts without financial history. Opening an account in person at the branch is recommended.

Documentation includes:

-Your passport/photo ID with a valid visa or residence permit

– Proof of address

– Evidence of income/employment (required by many banks, depending on the account you want to open)

– Proof that you are a student, if opening a student account

– SCHUFA credit rating (may be required with some banks)

Best Online Banks in Germany

To open a digital or mobile bank account in Germany, certain banks allow online documentation submission, eliminating the need to visit a physical branch. Existing account holders can switch to mobile banking by downloading the app.

 Opening an account with online-only or mobile-only banks is simple with a valid ID, email address, and mobile phone number. For additional details, refer to the guides on digital and mobile banking in Germany.

What German Banks Provide for the Customers

German banks offer a range of services comparable to major banks in the US, UK, and other European countries. In addition to standard offerings like accounts, debit/credit cards, money transfers, and borrowing options, they also provide insurances (vehicle, home, health), mortgage solutions, pension plans, and investment opportunities.

Closing or Changing the Bank Account in Germany

Closing or switching bank accounts in Germany is relatively simple if there are no outstanding debts. It is important to follow the proper procedures and ensure the account is fully closed to avoid incurring any fees or charges.

before closing a bank account in Germany, make sure that you:

1. Ensure there are no penalties for early account closure or any minimum period requirement associated with special offers.

2. Obtain written confirmation from the bank stating that the account has been officially closed.

3. Cancel all future payments, such as direct debits and standing orders, to prevent any further transactions from the account.

4. Notify your employer and other parties who make payments into your account about its closure to avoid any confusion or incorrect transfers.

We trust that this article has provided valuable insights and guidance in your quest for the perfect bank account. 

Making an informed decision is crucial, and we believe you now possess the knowledge to select an account that aligns with your specific requirements.

Explore our other articles for further informative content on your migration journey. Empower yourself with the information you need to thrive in the realm of your expat life.