Expat guide on how to open a bank account in Germany

This quick and dirty guide will enable you to better understand the local landscape and inform you about the things you need to take care of before opening a bank account in Germany.

Expats can run into many troubles after moving to Germany, as most financial transactions require an established account at a local bank. For one reason or another, most German employers generally transfer salaries only to German bank accounts.

Additionally, your monthly recurring expenses such as utility costs, monthly rent, phone plans, internet packages etc. will be transferred to a German bank account. Without an active German bank account, many service providers such as telecommunication or utility companies will not sell you their services at all.

When it comes to opening a bank account in Germany, you will generally have the choice between two types:

Girokonto – current account or checking account
Tagesgeldkonto – instant access savings account

The account type that you will need to cover all your income and expenses is the Girokonto. With a Girokonto you will automatically be assigned an International Bank Account Number (IBAN), will be able to transfer money into and from your account and get a free debit card ‘EC Karte’ that will allow you to make various payments or withdraw cash from ATMs ‘Geldautomaten’.

List of major banks that you can consider:

  • Sparkasse
  • Deutsche Kredit Bank
  • Cash group: Deutsche Bank, Comerzbank, Postbank, Dresdener Bank, HypoVereinsbank, Comdirect Bank

If you choose to open a bank account in Germany with one of the Cash group member banks, you will be able to withdraw money without a cost at all Cash group member banks’ ATMs.

Things you need in order to open a bank account in Germany:

  • Make an appointment with a representative at your bank of choice.
  • Inform the representative that you would like to open a Girokonto.
  • Complete the application form.
  • Verify your personal details with a primary form of ID, ideally your passport, alternatively your national ID card.
  • Provide a copy of your German address registration ‘Meldebescheinigung’.
  • Receive a confirmation that your bank has been established and opened.

Things to remember before opening a bank account in Germany:

  • Choose a bank that offers their services in English, as most likely you will not be fluent in German after moving here.
  • Check whether the bank has an English version of their website, as this can be the first pointer to ensure that you will be able to talk to a representative that speaks English.
  • Call or visit a local branch of one of the banks listed above and ask the personel if they have English speaking advisors or ‘Berater’ on staff, that you could book an appointment with.
  • Booking a free appointment with an advisor will provide you with detailed answers to your questions about how to open a bank account in Germany and enable you to evaluate the best options. Most advisors are qualified to discuss various topics such as budgeting & saving, starting your own company, long-term financial planning, buying a property, getting a car loan, etc..
  • Check what fees the bank of your choice is charging for its services, to make sure you understand the cost structure and won’t be surprised by hidden fees at a later stage.
  • Ask the advisor about the bank’s policy on overdraft accounts ‘Dispokredit’ for internationals. In most cases this type of account structure requires a SCHUFA score check. A non-existing SCHUFA credit score complicates the bank’s evaluation of your credit worthiness, and can lead you to be declined for a ‘Dispokredit’. As you most likely haven’t lived in Germany before, you will not have a history of financial activities in Germany and will have to prove over time that you are a reliable individual that pays bills on time.

Now that you know what type of bank account you need to open up, what documents you need to provide during the application process and what kind of questions you should ask the bank advisor you can go ahead and find the best offer for yourself.

In case you have any additional questions feel free to reach out to us, as we are happy to assist you throughout the whole process establishing your new home away from home in Berlin.