Updated on Jan 24 • 5 minute read
Opening a bank account in Germany is essential and helpful. First, Germany is a cash-heavy country, and you want to save money on transaction fees when withdrawing. Second, it will make it much easier to receive your German salary or even set up direct debits to pay for the mandatory health insurance or for your mobile plan.
So, let’s look at how you open a German bank account as an expat moving to Germany. We’ll help you figure out the basics of banking in Germany and keep it simple by listing the most expat friendly options for your situation as a student or expat.Do I need a German bank account as an international?
For most expats who're planning to stay in Germany for a year or more, having a German bank account can make some of the processes of moving to and living in Germany a lot easier. If you're here for a few months only, then it might be worthwhile keeping your foreign bank account or using one of the multi-currency travel cards. But considering Germany is reliant on cash, it's highly recommended to open a local account.
Cash culture in Germany
Despite being one of the largest and important economies in the EU and the world, Germany is behind in the adoption of modern payment methods. Cash has been king in Germany for a long time.
While bank transfers are used for larger transactions, you still need cash for daily transactions. For instance, trying to do your shopping at the grocery store or buying your drinks at the bar could run you the risk of being unable to pay. You can use a card only if your amount is above a minimum threshold (e.g. €10 or more). So, the ability to withdraw cash from an ATM with little to no cost is a very important perk!
German banking basics
German banks generally offer 2 types of bank accounts: a standard account (Girokonto) for normal bank transfers and card usage and a savings account (Sparkonto).
Germany has 3 different types of banks: Banken, Volksbanken und Sparkasse. The difference between these 3 are basically the "owner":
- Banken: Private money institutions (e.g. Deutsche Bank).
- Volksbanken: is owned by its community, you need to be a member to open up an account here.
- Sparkasse: A public bank that usually belongs to the city.
The accounts at these local banks are often reserved for either German citizens or people with a German address. But I’m an expat, what do I do?! No worries, you essentially have 2 options.Long stay: a bank account at a German Bank
If you’re in Germany for a longer period of time, having a bank account at a local German bank is the best option. Especially when you need some of the more advanced banking services, such as a mortgage or loan.
What to consider when choosing a German bank
Cost. Some (online) banks have free accounts. Others charge a monthly fee, so make sure you know what you’re getting into. That said, some paid accounts might offer features or insurances you might want to make use of.(Video) Step by Step Guide: Opening Free Bank Account (Girokonto) in Germany with Detailed Comparisons
Fees. As an expat, free international transfers, currency exchange rates and fees (or lack thereof) for ATM withdrawals can make a world of difference.
Services. Does the bank offer English language customer service? Also, regular banks often offer useful services such as health, vehicle or home insurance.
So, which German banks are the most friendly towards expats like you?
Which German banks are the most expat friendly?
If you want to get a head start before you arrive in the country, an international bank is probably your best option. You open an account at your local branch and then have it transferred to the German branch of the bank.
4 well known international banks that offer these kinds of services are:
- Deutsche Bank (for Americans moving to Germany or UK citizens, DB has a partnership with Bank of America and Barclays).
Which documents do I need to set up my German bank account?
If you opt to open a bank account at a local German bank, you’ll need to provide a number of documents for them to consider your application. It’s best to have these documents ready to go, to show that you’re well prepared. Why? Well, German banks can very easily reject your application if they feel something is fishy or they’re not confident that you meet their standards.
- A copy of a valid passport or photo ID.
- A copy of your visa or residence permit. Remember, though, some banks only allow German residents to open an account.
- Proof of address. Many German banks need you to have a German address to open an account. Please note that your booking confirmation from HousingAnywhere can often be used as proof of address.
- Evidence of income/employment. Required by most banks, depending on the account you want to open. Many banks also need you to make a minimum deposit to open an account. Additionally, having your salary (or a minimum amount) on a monthly basis can get you additional benefits as well!
- Proof of enrollment. This may replace a proof of income, as well as allow you to open special student accounts that have reduced fees and other benefits.
- SCHUFA credit rating. A credit rating report required by some banks. You can request this report online, for around €29,99. Remember, though, that you'll need a German address to get a report. This can be a circular issue for many expats! They can’t get SCHUFA because they don’t have a German address, and they can’t get a German address because they lack a SCHUFA report. Thankfully, most German landlords on HousingAnywhere don’t require a report, so it’s a great means to get a foothold in the country without any hassle.
If you know you’re only going to stay for a few months or up to a year, an online bank account might be the best option for you.
These digital banks don’t have an actual physical location, but will send you a bank card (usually Mastercard) that you can use at almost any ATM in Germany. They also enable contactless payments and allow you to send or receive regular bank transfers. This makes it an ideal option for newly-arrived expats, international students and interns who are unable or do not want to set up a local account before arriving in Germany.
We’ve selected 2 of the easiest online banks for you to consider!
N26 started as a German startup from Berlin! Now they’re one of the most popular online banks.
Things to consider:
- Open a free account with a virtual vard or choose from 3 paid accounts, starting at €4.90 per month.
- 3 free ATM withdrawals per month with the free card.
- Online verification of account, using valid ID
- No need for a Meldebescheinigung (proof of residency)
Bunq is a Dutch online bank that has been active in Germany since 2017.
Things to consider:
- Open a free savings account or choose form 3 other paid plans, starting at €2.99 per month.
- Get 2 free withdrawals per month with the savings account or unlimited withdrawals with the other plans.
- Get a German IBAN number or multiple IBANs valid across Europe.
- Any money you have on your bunq account is protected up to €100,000 by the Deposit Guarantee Scheme of the Dutch National Bank (DNB).
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.
How can an expat open a bank account in Germany? ›
- Duly completed application form.
- Your valid passport and current German residence permit.
- Proof of registration/address.
- Initial deposit (the minimum depends on the bank of your choice)
- Proof of income/employment.
For the third year in a row, it was voted the best branch bank in 2020. It is a private bank and part of the Cash Group (Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank & Postbank). In the past years, Commerzbank has invested heavily to keep up with current trends and to also appeal to foreigners.
Yes, foreigners can open German bank accounts. However, you'll often be asked for a German proof of address, or at the very least an address from another Eurozone or EEA country. If you're still based in the US a flexible multi-currency account from a specialist provider like Wise or Revolut may be a better option.Can I open a bank account in Germany without residency? ›
Although it is theoretically possible for anyone to open a business account with any bank, non-German citizens who don't reside in Germany can usually only open accounts with so-called direct banks (Direktbanken).Can I open a bank account in Germany without residence permit? ›
To open a bank account, you usually require the following documents: a valid passport, a residence permit, a certificate of registration, and a wage statement (depending on the type of account).Does Bank of America have a partner bank in Germany? ›
Bank of America account holders.
|Coverage Area||Global ATM Alliance Bank|
|Luxembourg||BGL BNP Paribas|
|Germany, Spain||Deutsche Bank|
- Fee free online transfers: OFX.
- Best for exchange rates, expats or family: Wise.
- Better rates for larger transfers: XE Money Transfers.
- Ideal for small remittances: WorldRemit.
It's possible to open a bank account in Europe for many US citizens. However, providers, such as Wise offer multi-currency accounts in several different European currencies. You can also get a card that lets you spend like a local in over 170 countries.What is the best German bank for Americans? ›
If you speak German, look at DKB and ING. People often recommend them. If no banks accept your passport, try Deutsche Bank. Online banks like bunq, Monese, Revolut and Wise also accept more passport types.Which bank is best in Germany for non residents? ›
- Deutsche Bank.
- *Wise and *Revolut do not ask for a registered address according to some sources. source
Can I set up a German bank account online? ›
You can even open an online account before arriving in Germany, although you'll need to verify your address before receiving your debit card.Is it illegal for a US citizen to have a foreign bank account? ›
And, while it is absolutely legal to own a foreign bank account, there are some additional reporting and tax requirements that US persons should be aware of so that they can remain in IRS tax and reporting compliance and avoid unnecessary fines and penalties.Do German banks accept US checks? ›
Avoid Trying to Cash a US Personal Check in Germany
Even though written personal checks are becoming increasingly rare in the US, if you want to cash one at a German bank, it can be almost impossible. The German banking system is simply not geared to deal with a check drawn on a US bank.
We offer our accounts in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (not available for residents in the DOM/TOM), Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.Where can I open a bank account without residency in Europe? ›
As a rule, anyone 18 or over with a valid passport or other form of national ID is eligible to open a European bank account. Residents of a certain country can usually apply with just their passport and proof of address. Slovenia, for example, even lets tourists open a bank account without having official residency.Where can I open a bank account without residency? ›
These banks require a social security number, which non-citizens don't have. This is the most common problem that foreigners realize. However, larger banks such as US Bank, TD Bank, Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo will allow non-residents to set up a checking account and a savings account.What documents are required for N26? ›
Open an online account in just 8 minutes—all you'll need is your smartphone, a valid address in Germany, and a valid photo ID. You'll get an official German IBAN, so you can pay and be paid like a local.Is N26 a safe bank? ›
N26 operates with a full European banking license, which protects deposits up to €100,000, as directed under EU law. With 3D Secure and Mastercard Identity Check, as well as fingerprint and face recognition, your online payments are even better protected.Can I open a bank account without a permanent address? ›
If you have no proof of where you live, you could use a temporary address. You could provide a letter from a hostel, refuge or the council. Ask the bank if they can be more flexible with their checks and try another bank if the staff aren't very helpful.Which U.S. Bank is in Germany? ›
us bank Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany.
Can I use my US debit card in Germany? ›
Debit cards from any major US bank will work in any standard European bank's ATM (ideally, use a debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo). As for credit cards, Visa and MasterCard are universal, American Express is less common, and Discover is unknown in Europe.What states have German American banks? ›
German American is a very strong financial services provider in southern Indiana and Kentucky, specializing in banking, insurance, investments and wealth management for business and retail customers.How much money can you transfer without being reported in Germany? ›
Cash sums totalling 10,000 or more euros on trips to and from Germany must be declared to the customs authorities. This applies to both cash and equivalent means of payment.Is Zelle in Germany? ›
No, Zelle® can only be used to send funds to someone who has a bank account in the United States.What is the cheapest way to send money to Germany from USA? ›
Bank transfers are usually the cheapest option when it comes to funding your international money transfer with Wise. Bank transfers can be slower than debit or credit cards, but they usually give you the best value for your money.
What is this? The good news is that, in some countries, like Lithuania, Poland and Bulgaria, you can easily open a bank account without being a resident. In some cases, all you need to provide is your passport. In other cases, you will need to provide a proof of residency from your country.Which country in Europe is best to open bank account? ›
While privacy is fully guaranteed in Swiss bank accounts, these are also generally considered the safest possible investment due to the financially stable economic system.
- Georgia: This country is one of the easiest jurisdictions for an American to open an offshore account. ...
- Singapore: This is one of my favorite banking locations in the world. ...
- Vanuatu: This less-known option offers both privacy and is FATCA-compliant.
The best bank in Europe is KfW in Germany, which was voted number one in the list of the 50 safest banks in Europe 2023.How much does it cost to open bank account at German American bank? ›
|Minimum to Open||$100||$100|
|Monthly Service Fee||For a low $7.00 account maintenance fee, this account can pay for itself if you use the benefits.||Enroll in eStatements to avoid a $3 monthly paper statement fee.|
|Learn More Open Account||Learn More Open Account|
What is the best way to send money from USA to Germany? ›
- Best Exchange Rates (and Fastest): Wise.
- Fee Free: OFX.
- Sending Money to Family and Friends: WorldRemit.
- Large Amounts: XE. Best Big Brand: Xoom, powered by PayPal. Wise (formerly known as TransferWise)
Many expats prefer to keep their German banking account(s) even after they have left the country. In any event, it's a good idea to keep your account at least for several months after you leave, in order to pay last-minute expenses and take care of other financial matters.Which online banking is best in Germany? ›
- Best current account — N26.
- Best for sustainable banking — Tomorrow.
- Best all-rounder — Revolut.
- Best for foreign currency spending — Wise.
- Best paid current account — bunq.
- Best for cashback — Vivid Money.
- Best EUR account for UK residents — Starling Bank.
Citibank is one of the best international banks in the US for expat banking because of their very international model. It currently physically operates in 97 markets 2, supporting clients from more than 160 countries, making access to their ATMs more convenient.How do I maintain my US address while living abroad? ›
Overseas Mail Forwarding Services
The most convenient way to maintain a functional U.S. address while living abroad is to use a virtual mailbox service that you can activate online. This service scans, holds, and offers mail forwarding services for a few dollars per month.
- 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.
To apply for a bank account in Germany, you need the following documents: Your ID card or passport. Proof of address registration or Meldebescheinigung (a registration certificate you must get within 14 days of living at your new address in Germany) German tax ID number.Which bank is best to open account in Germany? ›
- Norddeutsche Landesbank. ...
- Landesbank Baden-Württemberg. ...
- KfW Bankengruppe. ...
- ING-DiBa. ...
- DAB BNP Paribas, Munich. ...
- N26. ...
- Sparkasse. ...
- Volksbank. 'Volksbank' translates to 'people's bank', and there are several European banks that operate under this name.
Yes, eventually the IRS will find your foreign bank account. When they do, hopefully your foreign bank accounts with balances over $10,000 have been reported annually to the IRS on a FBAR “foreign bank account report” (Form 114).
Do foreign banks report to IRS? ›
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires foreign banks to report account numbers, balances, names, addresses, and identification numbers of account holders to the IRS.Can a US citizen open a bank account in Germany? ›
Although it is theoretically possible for anyone to open a business account with any bank, non-German citizens who don't reside in Germany can usually only open accounts with so-called direct banks (Direktbanken).How do I cash an IRS check abroad? ›
If you live in a foreign country other than Switzerland: Ask your local bank about depositing the US Treasury check. Many European banks no longer allow check deposits, they have moved past checks, so you may have trouble in those situations. When that's the case, opening a US bank account may be the best alternative.Does bank of America have a branch in Germany? ›
Contacts. Bank of America, National Association Frankfurt Branch/ Filiale Frankfurt am Main is located in Frankfurt Am Main.How do I deposit cash into Germany? ›
All you need are your passport and money for the initial deposit. You may also be asked to show proof of a German address. If you bring cash, your account is opened immediately. If you are transferring funds from your home bank, it may take some time for the amount to be credited to your account.Can you open a German bank account from abroad? ›
DKB: Foreigners can also open a bank account. Identity verification is possible at a local bank or a lawyer abroad. The lawyer or bank must complete the registration form and send it directly to the bank. The costs incurred for this are not covered by the DKB.Can I open a bank account as an expat? ›
Is it possible to open a US bank account online as a non-resident? No. Most US banks will require non-residents to apply for an account in person. That means you have to travel to the US and walk into a bank branch to set up your account.How can I open a bank account in Europe without residency? ›
As a rule, anyone 18 or over with a valid passport or other form of national ID is eligible to open a European bank account. Residents of a certain country can usually apply with just their passport and proof of address. Slovenia, for example, even lets tourists open a bank account without having official residency.Can a US resident open a bank account in Europe? ›
It's possible to open a bank account in Europe for many US citizens. However, providers, such as Wise offer multi-currency accounts in several different European currencies. You can also get a card that lets you spend like a local in over 170 countries.How to open a Sparkasse account for foreigners? ›
If you come from a country in the European Union, you can open your bank account with Berliner Sparkasse online in just a few steps. Enter your data into the online application form. Verify yourself in a few minutes with a valid ID card or passport via video ident on your computer, tablet or mobile phone. All done!
Which bank is best for expats? ›
- Revolut — Best overall digital nomad bank account.
- Wise — Best multi-currency account for digital nomads.
- N26 — Best fully-licensed neobank in Europe.
- Chime — Best fee-free ATM access for Americans.
- Starling Bank — Best international UK bank account.
ACA teamed up with the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) to help provide accounts for Americans residing abroad. This is the same account used by US citizens working at US embassies as well as many other people living around the world. You can reside full-time or part-time abroad and still qualify.Can you have a bank account in a country you don't live in? ›
Yes, but you will likely need to provide extra documentation to verify your identity, place of residence, and the legal purpose of the account.Can I use US bank in Europe? ›
Yes. Cards issued by U.S. Bank can be used in most foreign countries for transactions.Which is the best online bank in Europe? ›
- Bunq. The Amsterdam-based neobank was founded in 2012 by Ali Nikham and now serves 5.4 million customers. ...
- Revolut. The London-based digital banking titan probably needs no introduction. ...
- N26. ...
- Vivid Money. ...
- Tomorrow. ...