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Without a German bank account, while living in Germany, you’re not going to get very far. However, the good news is that nowadays, it’s actually pretty simple to open up a bank account even without speaking German AND without even living in Germany yet. In fact, there are actually banks like N26 and vivid that run completely in the English language.
You’re going to need a German bank account before you’re able to pay your rent, register for a phone plan (although sometimes you can pay with a credit card), or register for an electricity or internet contract. You’re also going to need to find a way to get paid if you’ve moved to Germany for work. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
First, learn the lingo
When the Germans talk about a debit card/standard bank account, they often call it a Girokonto, EC-Karte, or Maestro. While an EC-Karte and Maestro card are different systems, there is one thing that you should know.
These are all bank accounts – they are not credit cards in any way, shape or form.
The Best Expat Recommended Banks
You might already be well aware that you certainly aren’t limited by the number of choices you have when it comes to picking a banking provider here in Germany. There are thousands of different options, but only a few of those stand as smart options for expats and English speakers.
After asking our local and expat community on Facebook what they thought was the best bank for expats, we’ve put together a list of the best banks for you.
NOTE FOR AMERICANS: Due to FACTA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), it may be the case that you will need to contact a number of these different banks first to see if you qualify. FACTA allows the American government to track your tax activity as a foreigner living abroad in order to avoid tax fraud. This could impact whether or not you are accepted by a European bank. For more information, check out MyExpatTaxes blog post “The FACTA for Americans Abroad“.
vivid money is the bank of the future and based in Berlin, Germany. If you don’t already have an account elsewhere here in Europe, this is one of the best banks for an all-in-one experience. Their motto wasn’t to build a company from scratch, but to take what’s been done successfully and what the biggest problems for users have been, and solve these issues with an easy-to-use app in both the English and German language. Today, vivid is now one of the most powerful mobile banks and investment portfolios available today.
Setting up a bank account and investment portfolio can be done in less than a few minutes (you don’t have to open the investment portfolio – it’s just an added feature). The best part about vivid is that you can open up multiple “pockets” or sub-accounts at the click of a button which is all associated with their own IBAN number. This allows you to organize your expenses and savings.
Includes: FREE Visa Debit card
Withdrawing Money: You can withdraw up to 200 Euros cash for free every month with the vivid standard account (minimum withdrawal of 50 Euros) from bank machines all over the world.
N26 takes pride in the fact that it will literally only take you 8 minutes in total to open up a bank account with them online. It is one of the most popular mobile banks for expats in Europe and it is extremely easy to navigate via the app. The entire site is run in English and once you’re registered, all of your banking can be done straight from your phone or laptop.
Includes: FREE Maestro card and FREE Mastercard credit card
Withdrawing Money: You can withdraw money from any ATM up to 5 times/month for free and at more than 9,000 retail locations in Germany including shops like Penny, Real- and REWE.
bunq is one of the newest “revolutionary” mobile banks targeting English speakers directly. Setting up an online bank account at bunq can be done in just about 5 minutes.
You’ll likely notice that bunq is the only bank on our list that actually costs something per month. What sets bunq apart from other banks is their unique budgeting system and their privacy agreements (your data is 100% safe with them). On the bunq app, you are able to open up as many as 25 sub-accounts (vacation fund, kids fund, an entertainment fund, insurance fund, etc.) and input different saving goals. You can even set up an auto-save that rounds all of your purchases up to the nearest Euro and submits the change into a savings account for you.
They also offer joint accounts, business accounts, travel cards, and a brand new Green Card which allows you to plant 1 tree for every 100 Euros you spend with your Green Card.
Includes: A combination of up to 3 cards – Maestro, Mastercard debit and/or bunq Travel Card (Mastercard credit)
Withdrawing Money: You can withdraw money from any ATM up to 10 times/month for free and at more than 10,000 different locations across Europe.
Want more information? We put together a full review of the bunq bank here!
DKB – Deutsche Kredit Bank
Similar to N26, DKB is a completely online bank, but if you’re comfortable doing all of your banking completely online, DKB offers some of the cheapest rates and one of the best services for expats. While they do not offer their signup process in English, it is a relatively easy process to apply and a highly rated bank for locals and expats alike.
Includes: FREE EC-Card and FREE Visa credit card
Withdrawing Money: You can withdraw money from any ATM machine for FREE worldwide (great for expats looking for travel outside of Germany)
Almost exactly the same as DKB and N26, Comdirect is a completely online banking system which means there are no branches to actually visit in person. If you do not mind managing your account completely online, Comdirect is a great banking choice. They are well known for their easy application process which doesn’t demand many pre-requirements before registering, making it a much easier bank to apply to for expats. The application process is run in German, but with a little Google translate, you’ll be able to easily guide yourself through the application.
Includes: FREE Girocard and FREE Visa credit card + Signup bonus of up to 150 Euros
Withdrawing Money: You can withdraw money from over 9,000 bank machines across Germany at the following partner banks: Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank and Postbank, as well as at any Shell gas station or with 13,000 other partner shops around Germany
Commerzbank was the only bank that made our list of top expat favorites that offers physical branches in Germany! That’s probably because it has constantly won numerous awards for being one of the best banks in Germany. So, if having a local branch is important to you, Commerzbank is a great choice.
Includes: FREE EC-Card + Signup bonus of 100 Euro (though this sale could end)
Withdrawing Money: You can withdraw money from any of the partner banks who are a part of the CashGroup: Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank, and Postbank
Other German Banks to Consider:
TIP: If you’re looking to transfer money to your new bank account, we have a list of the best options here >> The Best Options for International Money Transfers to/from Germany.
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