If you live in Germany as an Expat, you need a bank account and have the right to open a current account.
Some banks in German only offer the option to open a bank account depending on the status of the person and the country of origin. Even with a positive assessment, they only grant most foreigners a current account on a credit basis. Opening a German current account from abroad is even more difficult. There are only a few German banks to choose from.
- How to open an bank account when you are in Germany
- How to open a bank account BEFORE you arrive in Germany
How to open an bank account when you are in Germany
If you live and work in Germany, you need a current account in order to receive your wages, pay bills and earn a living. Here is a step by step guide on exactly how to open an account for foreigners domestically.
Step 1: Obtain important documents
You come from an EU country: The basic account has existed since June 19, 2016. Any consumer who is lawfully resident in the EU can open this current account for everyone . The banks are legally obliged to open the basic account. In this case you do not need any special identification papers and as an EU citizen you have free access to the German labor market. However, if you would like to have a better current account that you can also overdraw, for example, you must show the bank the registration certificate from the residents’ registration office and your last pay slip.
You come from a non-EU country: Before you can open a current account, you need the registration certificate from the residents’ registration office. Only if you can prove to the bank that you live in Germany will they set up an account for you. You also need a work permit.
Step 2: Find the right bank for you
If you are not from the EU, every German bank has the right to reject an application to open an account without giving a reason. Especially if you have only been in Germany for a few weeks, many banks refuse to open the account because you have too little information about your financial situation. The longer you live in Germany and the more money you earn, the easier it is to get a current account.
Basically, you have the choice between a branch bank and a direct bank. Here is a comparison to help you make a decision:
|BRANCH BANK||DIRECT BANK|
|Branch banks receive and advise their customers personally on site at various fixed locations. There are branches that you can visit.||Direct banks only offer their products over the Internet. There are no branches. Communication is exclusively online, mobile or by phone.|
|Particularly suitable for:|
|Everyone for whom a personal contact is important and who value a branch in their area.||People who are looking for a cheap current account, can do without personal support and do everything online.|
|Account management fees:|
|Usually between 2 and 10 euros, depending on the account type and the services included. The account management fees are often higher than with direct banks due to personnel and real estate costs.||Less than with branch banks, as the costs mentioned are not applicable. Many banks offer a free current account for regular incoming payments .|
|You can get free cash at all ATMs of the bank and partner banks. In Germany, many banks have joined together in banking associations .||In most cases, you can withdraw cash free of charge in Germany from partner banks with either the Girocard or credit card, and sometimes also worldwide.|
|A credit card is only available if you have a good credit rating. At branch banks it usually costs between 10 and 30 euros per year.||Many direct banks offer a free credit card with a good credit rating, which is also cheaper to withdraw cash abroad.|
|e.g. savings banks, VR banks, Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank, PSD banks||e.g. DKB Bank, Comdirect, ING, Consorsbank, 1822direkt, Wüstenrot Direct|
Step 3: Submit the account opening application
After you have decided on a suitable current account, either visit the respective bank in one of your branches or submit an online account opening application to the direct bank of your choice.
For non-EU citizens, the following applies: In order for a bank to process your request at all, you have to submit some documents:
- Valid passport / passport
- Registration certificate from the registration office
- If applicable, the reason for your stay
- A work permit
Step 4: Prove your identity
In Germany, due to the Money Laundering Act, an identity check is necessary. At a branch bank, the legitimation takes place directly on site. Since this is not possible with a direct bank, the Post-Ident procedure is used. You go to a Deutsche Post branch with your account opening application and passport, where an employee will confirm your identity free of charge and send the documents to the bank for you. The Video-Ident procedure, in which you identify yourself online via video telephony , has also recently been available.
Step 5: Wait for activation
If you have applied for your current account at a direct bank, it will take a few days until your opening application has been confirmed and the current account is available. Your account cards for paying and withdrawing money, as well as your PIN and other passwords will be sent by post.
If your application has been rejected by a direct bank, contact the bank by phone and ask if a new manual check is possible. If this does not work either, try another bank. Don’t give up right away.
If your application for opening a basic account did not go through or if you still haven’t heard from the bank after 10 days, you have the option of requesting administrative proceedings from the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin). Then your case will be checked and you may still get your current account opened.
How to open a bank account BEFORE you arrive in Germany
When you are outside the country, N26 offers you the best option.
N26 is one of the best Expat-friendly banking options that do not require you to speak or understand German.
As an Expat planning on moving to Germany, you can open your N26 bank account from your phone and start enjoying the benefits of controlling all your finances in one app.
- No Anmeldung necessary
- Fast sign-up process in minutes
- 100% app-based banking: no paperwork required
- Your finances in your language
How do you open your N26 bank account?
You can open an N26 bank account in the app (on your smartphone) or in the WebApp (new tab) if you:
- are at least 18 years old
- live in a supported country
- owns a compatible smartphone
- have a supported identification document (suitability depends on whether you live in Germany (new tab) or outside of Germany (new tab))
- don’t have an account with us yet
- Verify yourself in one of our supported languages (German, English, Spanish, French, Italian).
N26: List of accepted identification documents for customers residing in another supported country
Please note that not all versions of a document are compatible with the Verification can be accepted.
|Country||Passport||National ID||Residence permit*|
|China – Hong Kong||✓||No||No|
|China – Macau||✓||No||No|
Accounts are offered). The nationality of the holder must belong to one of the supported nationalities for a residence permit to be accepted. The residence permit must be valid for at least another year at the time of verification)
How to log into N26 your N26 bank account:
- After you have confirmed your email, personal details and delivery address, select your desired account type. *
- Prove your identity and link your smartphone to your account.
- From now on you can top up your account via SEPA or FPS transfers or deposit cash into your account via CASH26 (if you are in Germany, Austria or Italy).
- After a few days you will receive your Mastercard in the mail.