Current Account and Banking in Germany
Banking in Germany is similar to other advanced countries – except that many things are in Germany possible in a more diverse way, cheaper or even free.
Every second German current account is free of charge!
On this page, you will find the most important information on how banking in Germany works. You are welcome to ask your question at the end of the page using the comments feature, if something needs to be clarified.
The current account (in American English “checking account”) is the basic account. If you (want to) live in Germany, then you need this kind of account to receive salary payments or social transfers. Almost every German citizen older than 16 years has one or more current accounts.
Most expenses, such as rent, insurance or taxes, are also paid through this account. One can receive one or more bank cards to the current account in order to be able to pay cashless.
Variants of Current Accounts
The current account is available in different variants depending on the bank:
Current account on prepaid credit basis (Guthabenbasis)
One has to deposit money at the bank before using the account. If the account is empty, one cannot use it. The bank cards will not work in this case.
Current account with overdraft facility (Girokonto mit Dispo)
A credit line is added to the current account. That means that the account also works even if there is no money in it. One receives a loan at the bank and pays interest on the loan. One usually gets this account only if one has a steady income and disposes of a positive credit worthiness assessment (Bonitätsbewertung).
Current account for students
These accounts work just like regular current accounts with or without an overdraft facility. However, they are free at almost any bank.
Business Account (Geschäftskonto)
The current account for entrepreneurs or companies is called “Business Account” and works similar to a current account for private persons, but not all banks offer business accounts. The fees for business accounts are generally higher than for normal current accounts.
Seizure Protection Account (P-Konto, Pfändungsschutzkonto)
This type of account is a current account on a prepaid credit basis, which cannot be distrained by creditors (Gläubiger) or only up to the seizure exemption amount (Pfändungsfreibetrag). For this account, one cannot apply directly. Only existing current accounts can be converted into seizure protection accounts. However, this is only recommended for over-indebted people.
Current account for free or with fees?
The biggest difference between current accounts for many German people is whether a monthly account maintenance fee (Kontoführungsgebühr) applies or not. Whoever looks at the various account offers will find that there is no difference in quality between the two variants.
You can find recommendable current accounts for each usage type in the section “Banks“.
Cards for the current account
Bank card (Debit Card)
A bank card (Bankkarte) is almost standard in a current account. Depending on the issuing bank, this bank card is called Girocard, Sparkassen Card, VR Card, V Pay Card, Maestro Card, or the like.
It is always a debit card. Performed transactions with the card will be debited immediately from the current account.
Formerly, the term EC-card was common. Nowadays, it is used colloquially.
In Germany, the word “credit card” is mostly used as a synonym for a Visa or MasterCard – regardless of whether it is a card with its own credit limit.
You can read more about it on the page Credit cards in Germany. However, at this point, we want to say that credit cards become more popular in Germany from year to year. The acceptance is growing constantly, so that you can pay for many services and goods with this card.
There is a number of banks that offer different credit card types for free or at a favourable annual fee.
Although American Express is available in Germany, the credit cards nor their acceptance are widespread.
The days when one withdrew cash (Bargeld) at a counter during the opening hours of a bank are as good as gone. You can still do it, but hardly any of the younger generation in Germany does.
It is common to withdraw the cash from the ATM (Geldautomat). This is often free of charge. However, depending on the bank where one is customer, one has to check which ATMs for which bank cards are free of charge.
First of all, one important difference: For banks with its own branch network, withdrawing cash with the Girocard from their own ATMs or from partner banks is usually free. For direct banks (Direktbanken) (online banks), it is usually the Visa or MasterCard.
Withdrawing cash free of charge at the ATM
This overview should be understood as a rule of thumb (deviations are possible depending on the bank):
|Bank group||Card for cash||ATMs|
|Sparkasse||Sparkassen Card||almost all Sparkassen within Germany|
|VR-Banken||VR Card||all Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken|
|Big private banks and their direct bank subsidiaries||Girocard||Network of ATM providers “Cash Group“|
|Small private banks and their direct bank subsidiaries||Network of ATM providers “CashPool“|
|Independent direct banks||Visa- or MasterCard||all ATMs|
Payments by cheques (crossed cheque (Verrechnungsscheck)) almost do not exist anymore in Germany. However, one can still order cheques at some banks or create them by oneself using a software in combination with the cheque forms.
Cheques can be redeemed at any bank at which one has a current account. Big companies and government agencies also accept cheques.
It is very common in Germany to take care of bank transactions via online banking. For this, most people login on the website of the bank and others use a special Banking software on the own computer.
Transfers are mostly used for one-time payments. For example, if you have received an invoice, then you login online at the bank and enter the payment data in the transfer form. Then the money from your current account will be transferred to the current account of the payee (Zahlungsempfänger).
This type of transfer is free of charge at most banks within the Euro area (SEPA Transfer).
Customers of a bank without online banking fill out a transfer form and submit it at the bank. The bank employee enters this into the online system, for which high fees accrue.
Standing order (Dauerauftrag)
This is a recurring payment of the same amount, for example, the payment of rent, maintenance or deposits to a savings plan.
- A standing order is set up once via online banking or by submitting a form at the bank and then the transfers will be performed periodically (usually monthly). This form of transfer is free of charge.
Direct debit (Lastschrift)
The direct debit (also called debit order (Abbuchungsauftrag) or direct debit mandate (Einzugsermächtigung)) works in the opposite direction. You give consent that someone else may deduct from your current account. This consent can occur once, e.g. if you have ordered something from an online shop, or regularly, e.g. for electricity providers, newspaper publisher, telephone company.
Bank statements (Kontoauszüge)
When you opt for an online current account, you receive the bank statements online in a postbox. For offline accounts, there are bank statement printers (Kontoauszugsdrucker) in the bank branch offices. Both forms are free of charge for the customers. Fees apply, if one wants to receive the bank statements by mail.
Bank statements are created monthly. However, one can always get online access to an overview of account transactions or using the bank statement printers. At some banks it is possible to query the transactions via telephone banking.
Telephone banking is offered by many, but not all German banks, as it is associated to higher costs than online banking. In telephone banking, the same actions as in online banking can be commissioned.
However, all banks are reachable via telephone, some even with 24/7 service hours. This service is offered mainly by direct banks.
Bank types for private customers in Germany
In Germany, there are different types of banks, which have evolved historically. Here you can find the details:
|Bank group||Who owns the bank?||Branch offices||Free current account?|
|Sparkassen||belong mostly to the city or other political subdivision(s)||many branch offices everywhere||often, fees apply for a current account or there are high requirements for a free account management|
|VR-Banken||cooperative banks that belong to their members, organized mostly locally.|
|Big private banks
e. g. Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank
|banks belong to international shareholders||branch offices in bigger cities|
|Small private banks
e. G. Targobank, Augsburger Aktienbank
|different ownership structures|
e. g. DKB, Comdirect, ING-DiBa
|no branch offices||current account almost always free|
Which is the appropriate bank?
If you can waive on a personal consultation or other services (e.g. depositing cash), then a good direct bank is the best choice for a current account in most cases.
However, whether the direct bank opens an account or not depends on the assessment of the customer´s creditworthiness.
Direct banks offer most services free of charge
Free services only pay off for the bank, if the customer uses the account – for example, the bank earns on the interchange fees that incur when using the bank and credit cards and are paid by the payee (this is not you).
Everybody who is interested in a very good, but free current account should take a look at the offer of the Deutsche Kreditbank AG (DKB). There you can find a current account comparison.
Opening a current account
The opening and closing of current accounts in Germany is free of charge and possible at any time.
One takes ones ID card or passport to open an account at a bank branch office. If these are not German documents, then a confirmation of residence is sometimes required. Some banks want an official “registration certificate” (Meldebescheinigung), others in turn are satisfied with ones oral statement.
Some banks also open bank accounts, if the client states an abroad place of residence.
The account opening (Kontoeröffnung) at a direct bank takes place via an account application on the Internet as well as a proof of identity through the PostIdent procedure – for this, one visits the post office with a form of the bank and ones ID document – or via webcam. In latter case, one holds the ID document in front of the camera. Both methods are free of charge for the customer.
Account opening possible via Webcam
At some banks, one has to present payslips (Gehaltsbescheinigung) for a current account with overdraft facility. Others do not require this. For example, the DKB and Comdirect carry out their credit rating (Bonitätsbewertung) only through creditworthiness rating agencies, like the Schufa (credit investigation company) and Infoscore.
Credit rating data of almost everyone, who takes part in the economic life of Germany, is stored there, because banks and other commercial and service companies report their creditworthiness data to them.
More bank services
More popular banking services in Germany are:
- Credit cards
- Loans (Kredite)
- Savings Accounts (Sparkonten)
- Securities accounts (Wertpapierkonten) (incl. savings plans)
Questions on Banking in Germany?
Please use the comments box …
Images: German bank card: PixelPower (fotolia.com)
I am try to open an current account with DKB. But i can not read the apply form because is on German.
How can we do that, please?
I live in England.
Hope to hear soon
Here is our translation: https://www.deutscheskonto.org/en/open-dkb-bank-account/
But sadly you can’t get this account because the DKB don’t open (at the moment) account for people with residence UK. Exception you have a passport from Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
Maybe you want open a current account at another bank? But most internet banks make the ID check over PostIdent. So you have to visit Germany for that.
I opened a non-residents account in garbsen germany bank. The purpose of this account is for money transfer transaction. I sent already the transfer transaction charges amounting to 10 percent of the money to be transferred. The bank told me that my account is not active because of its short holiday last July 31 to August 3 2015. The bank is demanding another fees for reactivation of my account to be able to process the money transfer. My question is, is it according to the law in germany. Am living in the philippines now.
In Germany, there are no charges for opening and no charges for closing a current account.
However, price listings – depending on the bank – include a lot of other charges.
For this special portal, we have selected the best German banks that we know and use personally. We cannot provide you with information of another bank – especially, if it has not been mentioned here
If you feel treated unfairly, you can contact the “ombudsman” of the corresponding banking group and ask for help.
I feel overwhelmed by the information offered here and would appreciate some help:
I am aged 80 (as is my wife). We have British nationality but reside in Cyprus. We have bank accounts in both countries. Are we eligible to open joint accounts with DKB? Are there any death or inheritance taxes in Germany? Would we have to pay tax on interest received there?
We would like to open both a current and a deposit account. We may well wish to trade on the German stock markets. We would prefer not to have to travel to Germany to open our accounts.
Thank you, David Jones.
Are there any death or inheritance taxes in Germany? We understand that there is no upper limit to the guarantees offered for money on deposit with DKB. Is that correct?
Unfortunately, since 30th of June 2014, you can no longer open an account at the DKB, because the bank has changed its policy.
Besides the withholding tax on dividends of domestic shares in Germany, you would not pay taxes. Moreover, no taxes on interest, because you have your place of residence and tax domicile (life centre) outside Germany.
If you understand the German language, then the Comdirect bank might be interesting for you. It has a very good free current account with Visa credit card, different savings accounts (call money, fixed deposit account) and an excellent securities account.
You can purchase and sell securities on good terms on the German stock markets. Online cheaply. Upon request, also by phone. However, this is a bit more expensive. Nevertheless, it could be interesting at first, as most staff members of the bank speak English well.
Account opening and online banking, however, is only available in German language. The account can only be applied for online. These are the rules of Comdirect.
Further information on the account opening: https://www.deutscheskonto.org/en/comdirect-opening-current-account/
If I have understood you correctly, you would come to Germany to open an account. So perhaps the Deutsche Bank would be of interest too. Its online banking is in English. Similarly, also the customer service and the account opening is possible in English language. In this case, it is recommended to make an appointment in one of the branches of the Deutsche Bank.
I am sorry for not being able to give you further advice to the Deutsche Bank or generally to retail banks in Germany, because this web portal specialized in direct banks.
Last but not least: The deposit insurance in Germany is – exactly like in Cyprus and in the UK (converted) by law Euros 100,000 per person and account (joint account Euros 200,000). However, most German banks have a higher deposit insurance. There are additional deposit insurers.
At the DKB, deposits are secured in unlimited amounts:
a) statutory deposit guarantee
b) deposit insurance of public banks in Germany
c) guarantee issued by the Bayerische Landesbank (parent bank of the DKB, a member of the Free State of Bavaria).
Does this information help you?
Thank you for your helpful response. I do wish to open a joint account in Germany now that I understand the advantages. We both have a little German and would be able to visit your country if necessary so either Comdirekt or Deutsche Bank would be OK. I am sorry that DKW is not available.
Can you please explain how your banks will handle our affairs when, first, one of us dies and, later, when both are dead. I assume we would need German wills and wonder how to arrange that.
Again, sincere thanks for your assistance.
Okay, I have spoken with the Comdirect and found out some details:
If you have a joint account and one of you dies, then the joint account must be converted into a single account. The single account will then get a new account number. These are the legal regulations.
One will not be forced to do this right away. You will get enough time to do it. The bank helps you. There is a special “Kontoumzugsservice” (account moving service) with which the bank changes, if necessary, standing orders or writes to the partner of regular direct debits.
The Comdirect has an own department for deaths in order to guarantee a sensitive treatment.
Tip: You can also authorize someone close to you to manage the account (e.g. own children). If you are no longer capable of managing things with the bank, then the authorized person may do this on your behalf
Note: We have answered your questions with pleasure and we love to find or develop solutions for life’s challenges.
We do this as a “special portal for clever banking in Germany and abroad” online and editorially. A personal service (active consulting, account opening service, document and pick up service) is currently not available … as many people want to get everything for free and this logically does not work with personal services. If there are sufficient people in the future, who are willing to pay in accordance with such helpful services, we can offer the appropriate resources. Until then, we are glad to help through the comments box of the site 🙂
I will study a masters degree in germany this year, i wanted to know if its possible in Germany to deposit money on someone else account, lets say I bring cash to Germany and want to deposit on a third party account, is that possible ?
Yes, cash deposits to the bank account by a third party is possible. Should this be performed directly at the bank of the third party? This can be a free or paid service. However, our special portal does not deal with retail banks.
At direct banks, deposits are only possible through machines (if available). In this case, no deposits from third parties are possible. One has to go to another bank with branch offices and deposit or transfer the money there (quite expensive).
The most favourable option is the account to account transfer. This is free at most German banks! Good luck in Germany 🙂
Thank you Tanya. You have been most helpful and we shall be opening an account right away. You overlooked one of my questions however. That was enquiring whether Germany imposes a death or inheritance tax on non-residents.
Thank you again, David.
There isn’t any tax in this case.
How can I set up transfers of money from my current account to my Prepaid Creditkarte if I do not have access to internet or telephone banking when abroad?
You can set up a monthly standing order, for example.
My friend has have an funds deposited in escrew account in Sparkasse Hannover Bank at Garbsen Germany. She wanted to transfer the said funds into my account in the Philippine bank. But the Germany bank said that I need first to open a non-resident account in Germany bank in order for the funds to be transferred to my bank account in the Philippines. Is this the proper way or is it lawfull? Thank you very much for your response.
We are not customers of the Sparkasse and that have a reason!
Sorry, we don’t can say anything about this bank.
Thank you for that advice. Do you know if it is possible to set up a standing order by email? Or would I have to send a hard copy of a standing order form by airmail post?
Hey, hey. Please ask your bank directly. I don’t know at which bank you are a customer. German banks are different 🙂
Thank you for your help, Gregor. I will do as you advise.
How to close a Commerzbank account?
I moved out of Germany two years ago. I have commerzbank checking account for me and my wife. They are charging about 10 Euro every month since we have no deposits.
I tried to close and move the money to my current country (USA). But the process seem complicated.
Can I do this from abroad? What process?
Closing a giro account in Germany is very easy in most cases and can be done via regular mail (letter with original signature)
Feel free to use the sample letter that we offer in German regarding another bank: https://www.deutscheskonto.org/de/dkb/konto-kuendigen/#2
Simply exchange the name of the bank and add your personal information.
Within Germany it works very well to have the remaining deposit transferred to the new account. Whether the same goes for an international transfer, we cannot say yet. Maybe you would like to give us some feedback afterwards about how it has worked out for you?
Alternatively, you could make a cash withdrawal in the USA with your bank card to get the rest of your money, or you could make an international transfer using Transferwise https://www.deutscheskonto.org/en/transferwise-transfer/ which is relatively inexpensive. Then state in your letter to the bank that you relinquish any still remaining money on that closed account. A rest of 15 Euro should be sufficient.
In case the account is a joint account it is important that both account holders sign the letter personally.
What would be some good banks for a German citizen living in USA who makes trips back to Germany about every year to year and a half and would like to invest in German stocks and property but not sure if will return permanently.
Due to the strict US tax laws and court decisions re. that matter, US tax payers cannot get a securities portfolio in Germany anymore.
For the purpose of travelling in Germany/the Euro zone, we can give you this recommendation for a giro account with free Visa Cardz: https://www.deutscheskonto.org/en/open-dkb-account-from-usa/
I’d like to set up a “pay-on-death” account naming my brother as the beneficiary in case of my death. Is this easily done? Can an existing account be retitled as “POD”? Is the beneficiary required to present himself and provide identification to the bank at the time the account is titled?
For this topic we regrettably cannot give you any tips, because such accounts are not common in Germany. Maybe you should google for a special financial advisor (e.g. re. inheritance law) who might be able to help you. Good luck!
What about safe deposit boxes? Can a beneficiary be named to claim the contents upon the death of the box holder?
I have a student account in Germany. As a part of my part time job, I tried to cash out an international bank check into my account. AT firstly the bank took my check and told me that it will be cashed out in two weeks. After three days my bank consultant (Berater) called me and said, “it’s not possible to cash out this high amount of check as my account is a student account and it’s not possible to return my check to me though it’s not possible to cash out.” And then that check is still at the bank and they won’t give it back to me.
And finally after a few days of this incident, they sent me a letter of termination of my relationship with the bank. They have given me two months deadline to close my account but they are still saying they won’t give my check back to me.
Could you please inform me, whether all the situations are right or is there any misguides?
And they just want to close my account. is it a bad news for me that the bank wants to close my account without my wish?
Hey hey, what are we supposed to say to regarding bank that we don’t know? On this special portal we like to help people with the clever use of bank account that we have as well. That is the reason why we can provide such helpful answers and solutions regarding DKB, Comdirect and Co.
Maybe you take the current situation as cause to open an account at a bank that suits you better. Good luck!
Im a medical student from Brazil who wants to open a bank account to get a visa student to do a Germany course next year.
I read all informations here, but I’m a bit confused.
Could you help me telling me sept by step what I have to do to open this account??
Thank you so much for your attention.
Hello, are there also business accounts at these banks? For a German business with foreign CEO? We were rejected by many German banks. The CEO / Geschäftsführer is a non-German citizen.
We have made good experiences with the German Skatbank (https://ssl.skatbank.de/kontoeroeffnung_trumpfkonto_business). A good German business current account with good conditions. However, the bank also likes to select the customers a bit.
If you should not be lucky, you can get a current account at the PayCenter quite easily. Nevertheless, the fees are a little higher.
At both providers, a commercial register extract (not older than 6 months) is required at account opening.
How much it cost (per month) for the current account to keep it active in Sparkasse bank?
In Germany, there are several hundreds of Sparkassen, and they all have their own price list – so, sorry, I don’t have a general answer for you.
If you are actually considering to become a Sparkasse customer, the best would be to inquire for the prices of your local Sparkassse/Sparkasse of your choice.
Can the client receive copies of monthly statements in English?
Which bank do you mean? Generally, this is not customary in Germany, since with most German banks a residence in Germany is a requirement for the account opening, and one agrees as part of the account agreement, that the agreement and communication language is German.
In contrast to several smaller countries in Europe, German banks do not advertise for customers from abroad, the German banking market being big enough. The truth is also, that the account opening and administration is often more complicated and more expensive when it comes to foreign customers. In addition, the banks on average obtain considerably less income from them as with German customers. This is the background on why banks in Germany are not that eager when it comes to account openings from abroad.
Especially because of our specialty portal we are currently discussing with several providers to implement English as second language there. One provider plans to start that this year.
I am polish and live in Poland, but want open German Bank Accout is it possible? can I make it online or have to visit Germany? Which bank dont required confirmation of residence?
The challenge is that most German banks are not interested in opening an account for people who live abroad.
There are two giro account providers that are independent from banks, where an account opening is relatively easy, since these accounts are credit accounts, they are financed via the fees. You can find an overview here: https://www.deutscheskonto.org/en/account/current/opening/
I wanted to open DKB-Cash inkl. DKB-Student-Card but unfortunately getting rejections everytime after automatic online verification. So I tried to see which input is causing the problem. I found that when I say ‘nein’ to the question “Ist Ihr Aufenthaltstitel unbefristet”, I get rejection and ‘Ja’ takes my application for further steps.
I am a student here in Germany from Non-EU country and each year I extend my resident permit. So I cannot say that I have a permanent residency, although few years later I may have one.
Now the question is, do I have any other option to get the mentioned account? Considering the situation, DKB is the best match for me, so I am kind of desperate to get an account there.
Thanks in advance…
an unlimited German residence permit is one of the requirements for getting a DKB account. Therefore, I unfortunately cannot offer you any way around that.
This website is awesome. There is so much I have learnt. Thank you for this excellent work!
I have a question regarding Santander Consumer Bank. I have with me both the Santander Consumer Bank’s Girokonto as well as the 1PLUS Card (I applied for both simultaneously).
1. I would like to close the Girokonto alone. Is it possible? I would like to then link the 1PLUS card to my N26 current account. I see that you have a sample “Quitting Letter” which I intend to use. Should there be any additional detail on it where I should request them to let my 1PLUS card stay as it is?
2. A bank personnel at Santander Consumer Bank told me that their bank might charge a surcharge (1%-2% of withdrawal) when using the 1PLUS VISA Card in foreign currency ATM’s. Is this information true? Their website does not say anything of this sort. Finally, are ATM withdrawals using 1PLUS VISA card interest free if paid before due date?
Thanks a lot again!
A giro account in Germany can be cancelled on a daily basis – there is no fee for that. Some banking products are separate, and some are connected with each other. If we remember correctly though, Santander 1Plus Visa was a separate credit card, but is now connected with the giro account. If one cancels the giro account, then one loses the credit card as well. For a cancellation, a simple letter via regular mail would suffice.
Regarding the further terms and conditions, please check back with your bank directly. As we are a web portal that is normally specialized on the better direct banks, we cannot say much regarding all the almost 2000 banks in Germany.
N26 still is to be treated with caution. We wish you best of luck and that it works out without any “accidents” 😉
I am a citizen of Armenia, 47 years old, and was admitted to the University of Passau for a 2-year Master’s program. I have already received the student visa from the German Embassy and will be flying to Germany next month.
My question is: is it possible to open online a free current account in a German bank while being still abroad (in Armenia in my case)? Through Fintiba I have already set up a Blocked account with Sutor Bank (that was a precondition for getting the visa) but I need a current account as well into which to transfer the money from a blocked account every month. Which bank would you recommend for that purpose? Your help will be much appreciated.
Hi! You should open your bank account for daily use, once you’ve arrived in Germany.
So, is it impossible to open a current account online, BEFORE arriving in Germany?
Hey guys, I am waiting on an international transfer, but they put the correct iban but the wrong name will the transfer go through or will it bounce?
Thanks a lot
Since a couple of years, the banks have not been obligated anymore to check whether the name of the account holder corresponds with the IBAN. Meanwhile, many banks don’t check this anymore. Whether that is the case with your bank, we as an external web portal cannot know.
What is the MINIMUM amount needed to open a Giro Konto ON-Line in Germany ?
Most German banks do not require a minimum deposit for the opening of a giro account. The banks that we watch on our specialty portal on behalf of our readers definitely don’t.
My mother has a Sparkasse account and I have joint custody of the account with full withdrawal rights (joint account). She has recently died and lived in America. I would like to withdraw funds for various reasons but Sparkasse temporarily locked the account upon notification of her death. Can I still withdraw funds as needed, even if the Konto is still locked? I guess it would require a personal visit. Also, I’m the only heir and there is no will or testament. Thx
My condolences. Unfortunately, we cannot give any information about Sparkasse accounts. Sparkasse runs local branch banks – with all their advantages and disadvantages – and we are the specialty portal for the best direct banks in Germany. It is best to inquire at Sparkasse directly. Best of luck to you!
Is it possible for me as an Ecuadorian, to open a bank account in Europe? (for example in Germany)
Thank you in advance!
With professional advice and fee maybe – otherwise tendencially not.
Hello my account in Commerzbank was closed due to unpaid bills and i cannot pay as this momment. Can i open another bank account to another bank company? for my salary to deposit. Thank you.
… for sure: It is possible to have more than only one bank account 😉