Foreign nationals can easily open bank accounts in Germany. All they need to do is choose a bank and submit a valid passport, a residency certificate, and possibly recent payslips. An ATM card and/or a debit card ("EC-Karte" accepted in most shops and ATMs) are easily delivered and can be used at ATMs and in most shops.
Choosing your bank in Germany
The German banking system is divided into three separate parts: private banks like Commerzbank or Deutsche Bank, co-operative banks such as Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken, and public banks.
When choosing your future bank in Germany, check for:
- monthly current account fees which range from free of charge to up to €5 per month. These may vary depending on your monthly income.
- minimum monthly income
- transaction fees to/from your home country
- local availability of ATMs. Most banks are part of ATM networks and may charge a fee for withdrawing cash from a different ATM group. For example, the four biggest private banks (Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Hypovereinsbank and Postbank) are part of Cash Group and you may be charged up to €5 per withdrawal when using an ATM that is not part of their network.
Virtual banks are very popular in Germany such as DKB, whose account is free of charge with free money transfer and free cash withdrawal worldwide! There are no physical offices, but if you are used to online banking you won’t need them anyway.
Once you have chosen a bank, you can submit the following documents in person. For accounts opened via the internet, an ID verification can be done through the “PostIdent“ procedure at the local post office (Deutsche Post). Usually, you will be asked to provide:
- a valid passport or EU national ID card
- residency certificate.
- student ID (Studentenausweis) if applicable
- some banks require a minimum monthly income that will be transferred into the new account. In that case, you may need to bring recent payslips.
- proof of your current monthly income if you would like an overdraft facility (Dispositionskredit),
Most banks won’t allow you to change your pin code manually. Equally, if you forget your pin you may be charged for having to re-issue a new bank card with your new pin.
Good to know:
Students may be able to benefit from special offers.
Current accounts and EC card
You’ll need to open a Girokonto (current account), which is usually used for salaries and transactions. It is well worth comparing different banks as conditions vary widely regarding basic fees, interest rates, overdraft and transaction fees etc.
An ATM card and/or a debit card (EC-Karte, usually EC/Maestro) accepted in most shops and ATMs as well as PIN code and TAN numbers for online access will be delivered by post without difficulty.
You will notice that regional availability of ATMs varies a lot in Germany. A bank with plenty of free ATMs in Frankfurt can turn out pricey when taking out cash near Lake Constance.
Credit cards in Germany
While credit cards are widely used for online payments in Germany, they are not usually used in physical shops. Moreover, credit cards are more difficult to obtain. Depending on the bank institute you may have to wait a few months until you are granted a credit card with a rather low limit that can gradually be extended. Most banks offer Visa and Mastercards that are processed either monthly or directly to a bank account.
Citizens from the EU-EEA can use their international credit card in most German shops with no commission or bank fees. However, bank fees may apply if you withdraw cash from ATMs.
It’s hard to believe, but many shops – especially smaller companies – might refuse to accept payment by credit card and will most likely send you to the nearest ATM to get cash. This is often due to the higher processing fees for credit cards in comparison to the German EC card for merchants.
Dresdner Bank www.dresdner-bank.com
PostIdent Deutsche Post https://www.deutschepost.de/en/p/postident/identifizierungsverfahren/verfahren-postfiliale.html