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Tips for choosing the right bank once you start living in Germany

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The banking landscape has changed over the years with traditional banks and digital banks competing for customers. Here are some tips to help you choice the right bank once you are in Germany.

Today the banking lndscape has changed significantly. That is why good advice is becoming more and more important. At the same time, mobile applications and online banking are playing a more important role than they were just a few years ago. The following checklist and our bank comparison show what to look for when choosing the right bank.

What should you expect from the right bank or financial institution in Germany?

The right bank for you should always cover the following 3 main expectations that are important for banking:

  1. Competent advice
  2. Savings options
  3. Personal contact

For private individuals, competent advice comes first. It is given particular importance. The reason lies in increasingly volatile stock markets, which also affects interest rates. 

The savings book is hardly suitable as a financial investment , which is why it requires a reputable advisor.

Even today, customers still want a personal contact. More than every second person would like to be given direct advice on current accounts, credit cards, fees, etc., but above all on investments, and to be able to ask real questions. This point is important as the right bank should offer more than the “standard packages” for investing. 

What protection for your money should the right bank in Germany offer?

It is important to pay attention to the legal requirements. The deposit protection fund protects customer deposits of up to 100,000 euros. A German credit institution is required. Some banks offer insurance for your money that is well above the legal standard. This happens within the framework of a voluntary deposit protection fund (fire brigade fund).

There is hardly any security when it comes to advice. With a little luck you will get a competent expert who knows his trade. In general, the right bank must offer you a product that meets your requirements. If you want little risk, the may not recommend speculative certificates. Those who pursue a conservative strategy should receive such a product.

Checklist for choosing the right bank

1. Personal needs
If you are only looking for a free current account, you do not need time-consuming consultations; a simple bank comparison is often sufficient. Here it comes down to the collateral. It does not matter whether the bank offers excellent advice. A student who receives BAföG and wants to save costs should look for a current account without account management fees. It looks different when money is to be invested immediately. Here it is important to pay attention to serious investment advice. The best bank so there is not a flat rate, but they can only be selected on the basis of personal needs.

2. Insurance
A German bank is bound by the statutory deposit protection fund. The situation is different with foreign banks, some of which do not offer any collateral. It is better to forego slightly higher interest rates, since in an emergency all of the money could be gone.

3. Branch search and ATMs
Some banks are more frequently represented in certain federal states than in others. In the case of small institutes, it can take a while to find a switch. If that bothers you, we recommend a bank with many branches.

4. Investment advice
An internet bank only works with advisors over the phone. In return, the costs are a little lower and switching bonuses are offered. The interest rates are often higher than at the local savings bank. However, there is no personal contact with an investment advisor. A real conversation is different from being advised over the phone.

Tip: The first interview should always last at least 40 minutes. The consultant is legally obliged to hand over a consultation protocol. Ask specifically about the amount of the commissions. Are they only in-house products? In this case, caution should be exercised.

5. Services and conditions
Before you open a current account, we recommend comparing your competitors. Some online interest comparison calculators will show you how high the interest is and what fees are charged for overdrafts. This can happen quickly in everyday life. Is a cheap overdraft facility offered? Make it clear beforehand what your needs are.

6. Credit Card
Some banks advertise a free credit cards. This saves costs abroad, especially if travel insurance is included.

Tips for the 2 bank that offer free checking accounts in Germany

ING

right bank

The ING has long been number one in many tests with its free current account. It also scores well in our comparison of banks.

DKB

right bank

The DKB also still offers one of the best free current accounts for private individuals. There are no flat fees, nor are there any other hidden costs.

The 3 best direct banks in Germany

Especially if you don’t want a basic fee and place more value on convenient online banking than on face-to-face advice, direct banks are the first choice. Free credit cards, with which you can pay and withdraw free of charge abroad, are more likely to be found here.

1. ING 

The institute based in the Netherlands has blossomed into one of the most popular direct banks in Germany in recent years. This is mainly due to services such as free cash throughout Europe, a free credit card and modern online banking – and all of this without a basic fee. There is also a call money account included.

2. DKB 

The DKB offers one of the strongest services among the direct banks. These include, for example, the worldwide free withdrawal of cash, a favorable overdraft interest as well as an interest-bearing credit on the Visa card.

3. Comdirect 

The Comdirect scores particularly with modern mobile banking and an exceptionally high premium for opening an account and actively using it.

The 4 best banks with a massive branch network in Germany

If you really want to invest money and attach great importance to personal advice , our bank comparison suggests to stick to the traditional institutions. One of the biggest advantages here is certainly that these banks are in many cases directly on site and you can establish a personal relationship with your advisor and the bank.

1. Volksbank

Volksbanks can also be found in small towns. There is always a personal consultation. With over 19,600 ATMs, you don’t have to look far to withdraw money. A free current account is offered for trainees, schoolchildren or students, but later account management fees are generally charged.

2. Sparkasse 

The savings banks enjoy a good reputation. With the nationwide “stock market simulation”, the institute is already trying to bring stock trading closer to school students. The institute specializes in on-site advice, even in small communities. A free current account is available from childhood until the end of your studies. A credit card costs extra. There are around 25,000 machines in total.

3. Commerzbank 

right bank

The Commerzbank is part of the Cash Group just like Deutsche Bank. This means that you can withdraw money from 9,000 ATMs from various banks. If you don’t need any real advice, you should look around at the subsidiary “Comdirect”. Here everything is done via the Internet, but sometimes with better conditions. There are also free current accounts with a real credit card for working people.

4. Deutsche Bank 

The Deutsche Bank is more represented in larger cities. As with the other banks, a free current account is offered for students. Investment advice could be of particular interest to speculative investors, as the bank is increasingly active in foreign exchange trading.

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Tim Gumbert
Tim is the go-to guy when it comes to finding all the gems regarding life as an Expat in Germany. His whole motto is discover Germany on your own and without a roadmap, explore new routes while climbing or mountain biking.
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