Best German bank accounts in 2022 for foreigners, including blocked accounts for visa applications

A review of the best German bank accounts in 2022 for expats. One of the first things you should do when moving to Germany is opening a checking account. You need it to pay pour rent and to receive salaries. We have a selection of the best checking accounts for foreigners in Germany. We discuss some paid and free options in this article.


This post was last updated on January 7, 2022
Close up of credit cards in various colors

What you need to know about payments in Germany

It is very hard to live in Germany without having a checking account a so called Girokonto. You need it to pay your rent, receive salaries, to get a mobile or an internet contract.

The most used payment method in shops and restaurants in Germany besides cash is the Girocard or Girokarte, sometimes also referred to as Debitkarte or EC-Karte. The Girocard is connected to your checking account. Most German banks offer online bank accounts either trough an app or trough online banking. Some banks are brick and mortar banks with branches and some are online banks only. Checking account fees vary between 0.- and up to 20.- Euros a month.

The Girocard is a German system but almost all banks offer cards which are compatible with the Mastercard/Maestro or Visa/V-Pay systems. This means you can use these cards in most parts of the world.

Payments are debited the same day or a couple of days afterwards. The banks usually offer you a bank overdraft which the Germans call Dispo if you have a regular income.

The Dispo might only work if you withdraw on ATMs issued by the bank itself and might not work at all if outside Germany.

Do not rely only on credit cards for payments as they are not always accepted. You probably want to have a Girocard as the main means of payment in Germany.

It often happens that smaller shops or restaurants ask you to pay cash. Most German credit cards and Girocards offer contactless payments without entering your pin for smaller sums, usually below 40.- Euro. The banks charge fees depdending on which ATM you withdraw money but some banks do not charge withdrawal fees at all.

Credit cards in Germany are not used for deferring payments the same way than in the US or other countries. Germans use consumer credits (Verbraucherkredit) for deferring payments or the checking accounts' overdraft when ends don't meet at the end of the month. Generally it is frowned upon to buy smaller consumer goods like a TV on credit in Germany.

Blocked account for jobseeker visa and students

A blocked account or Sperrkonto is a special bank account which lets you withdraw only a limited amount of money per month. The money is blocked. The blocked account serves as a proof that you have enough money to provide for yourself in Germany and is used by foreign students and visa applicants. A blocked account is a requirement for many German visa.

Fintiba or Deutsche Bank offer blocked accounts.

We recommend Fintiba as the best blocked account in Germany for visa applications. It is reliable and cheaper than Deutsche Bank.

Free business bank account for freelancers

We recommend using a dedicated bank account for business. Some banks like Berliner Sparkasse might tolerate business related transactions on their cheaper personal bank accounts but there is no guarantee that the bank does not shut down the account.

Deutsche Bank offers a business account starting at 15,90 Euro per month. We recommend all freelancers and small business to have a look at the online business bank account from Kontist. They offer an app for managing business finances which comes with a free business bank account in English language.

Some banks like Berliner Sparkasse and N26 let freelancers use their private accounts for invoicing.

Free credit cards from German banks

German banks offer basically two kinds of VISA or Maestro cards:

VISA or Maestro debit or prepaid cards

DKB, N26 and others offer VISA or Maestro debit cards. These cards look like a credit card, you can usually pay anywhere you see the VISA/Maestro sign and many debit cards allow free withdrawals world wide but you might have to issues with the deposit when renting a car.

Debit cards are prepaid: you can only spend up to the amount on your account.

Credit cards

Almost every bank in Germany offers at least one credit card additionally with the checking account but you usually have to pay an additional fee, around 3.- to 8.- Euro per month dependening on the bank.

Barclays offers a free real VISA credit card. You need to have a checking account with another German bank and a German address in order to apply. It took me 15 minutes to apply for a Barclay credit card online.

The trick to keep the Barclay account really free of charges is to configure it so that you always pay off your credit immediately from the checking account at your other bank.

Best banks for expats in Germany

All of the banks listed below offer checking accounts with Girocards or VISA/Maestro debit cards and most also optional credit cards.

Summary of the pro and cons of the banks in this review

Name Remote application* Service in English Fees Support Checking account Blocked account Free for students For freelancers
DKB + - +/- + + - + -
Nuri + + + ? + - + ?
N26 + + +/- - + - + +
bunq + + - ? + - - + source
1822direkt ? - + ? + - - -
ING-DiBa + - + + + - + -
Comdirect + - + + + - - -
Deutsche Bank - - - + + + + -
Berliner Sparkasse - - +/- + + Only some branches +/- +
Fintiba + + + + - + -

*Remote application from another country before you arrive in Germany is possible.

Our checking account recommendation for expats in Germany

I recommend starting with app based banks who have an easy application process like N26 or bunq for people who just moved to Germany. Download the bunq app here.

I see more and more people switching to brick and mortar banks like Sparkasse after they have been in Germany for a while because they want better or face to face support and more reliability. Please note that there is a Hamburger Sparkasse, a Berliner Sparkasse and many more but they are different organisations with different conditions.

DKB is a great option because of their debit card with free global withdrawals. Apply for the DKB-Girokonto account here.

Fintiba is a great option to open a blocked account. The registration form for the Fintiba blocked account is here.

Internet banks do not have branches or ATMs. Their fees are often cheaper. We selected a few for you which we think offer good value.

DKB

Pros:

  • Visa debit card can be used anywhere in the world without withdrawal fees if you are a Aktivkunde (client who has a monthly money income of more than 700.- Euro). It's not a real credit card because you can only spend the amount of money you deposit in the account.
  • Lets you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Reliability: I never had any issues with withdrawing money in EU countries or the US.
  • Customer service: they usually replied to my requests in a day. The answers were always helpful. They once switched my account from the free to the paid plan by mistake but corrected their error immediately after emailing them.

Cons:

  • Website and service in German only.
  • VISA debit card might be problematic to deposit money for a rental car source. Optional real VISA credit card available for 2.49 Euro per month.
  • Restrictive, they might reject your application if you don't have a steady income.
  • The bank came under denial of service attacks in 2020. As a result DKB Customers couldn't access their accounts for several hours source. However no money was lost.
  • Free Girocard withdrawals at selected ATMs only.
  • As of late 2022 the giro card costs 0.99 Euro per month.
  • No branches, online service only.

Fees:

  • No monthly fees if you have a monthly cash flow of at least 700.- Euro source.
  • Girocard costs 1.- Euro per month.
  • Free VISA debit card if you have a monthly cash flow of at least 700.- Euro.
  • Free VISA debit card withdrawals globally. DKB often also pays the fee from the bank which owns the ATM.
  • Optional real credit card available for 2.49 Euro per month.
  • Girocard withdrawals at other ATMs cost 1,00 % of the amount but at least 10.- Euro.
  • Checking account overdraft fees are 6,74% p.a.

Opinion:

  • I use the DKB as a second free banking account because in my opinion they offer the best VISA card plan with free global withdrawals. The only reason I don't use it as my main account are the limited free withdrawals options and monthly fees for their Girocard. The online banking looks a bit old school. The VISA debit card can be used everywhere you would usually pay with a credit card as long as there is sufficient money in your account. The free VISA debit card with free withdrawals world wide is main reason I am with DKB.
  • Open a DKB account here

N26

Pros:

  • Website and service 100% availaible in German and English.
  • N26 seems to be a candidate for many expats, at least I see many recommendations in Expat Facebook groups.
  • Lets you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Lets you open an account without an official German address.
  • Very quick and easy application process with a webcam in minutes.
  • Less restrictive when approving applications.
  • Verification of ID is done via video chat function on your smartphone.
  • A partnership with Transferwise lets you send internation transfers in 19 currencies directly from the N26 app for lower fees than when using traditional banks.
  • N26 is developed as app based bank so their app includes all the services whereas other bank apps are often more limited.
  • Shared spaces features if you need a shared account with friends or family members.

Cons:

  • N26 does not offer a Giocard source but offers a Mastercard instead. Many shops in Germany don't accept Mastercards
  • Limited free Mastercard withdrawals.
  • A coworker of mine had unauthorized withdrawals from his N26 account and it took the bank some time until the money was back. There are reports that N26 bank accounts got hacked and that customers couldn't access their money for weeks and that the N26 customer support stopped communicating altogether. In some cases the money on N26 accounts was lost source. As to my knowledge no such incidents were reported in 2022 however.
  • Reportedly bad customer support source.
  • No branches, online service only.

Fees:

  • No monthly fees.
  • 5 free withdrawals per month from any ATM. After that you pay 2 Euro per withdrawal.
  • Overdraft fees are 8.9% p.a.

Opinion:

  • I recommend N26 if you have issues signing up with other German banks but personally would not use N26 as my main account.

1822direkt

Pros:

Cons:

  • Service in German only.
  • Only 4 withdrawals per month are free.

Fees:

  • No monthly fees if you deposit a small amount of money in your account once a month source.
  • 4 free withdrawals from ATMs on the 1822direkt network, otherwise 2.- Euro per withdrawal. Free withdrawals possible in some REWE, Aldi, Lidl, DM and other stores.
  • Click here to open a 1822MOBILE account

bunq

Pros:

  • Website and service available in English.
  • Lets you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Lets you open an account without an official German address.
  • Very quick and easy application process.
  • Less restrictive when approving applications.
  • Verification of ID is done via video chat function on your smartphone, accepts many forms of ID verification.
  • A partnership with Transferwise lets you send internation transfers in 19 currencies directly from the app for lower fees than when using traditional banks.
  • Multicurrency accounts with local IBAN numbers.
  • Download the bunq app here.

Cons:

  • No phone support.
  • No branches, online service only.
  • Higher fees than other banks.

Fees:

  • Monthly fees starting at 7.99 Euro per month which can include three cards, Maestro, Mastercard debit and Mastercard credit source. No discounts for students.
  • 10 free withdrawals per month from any ATM in the EU for free.

A banner promoting the bunq app

ING-DiBa

Pros:

  • Lets you open an account without an official German address.

Cons:

  • Website and service in German only.
  • PostIdent only for ID verification.
  • No branches, online service only.

Fees:

  • Girocard costs 0.99 Euro per month source.
  • Free VISA debit card.
  • Free Girocard withdrawals at most ATM source.
  • Overdraft fees are 6.99% p.a.

Comdirect

Pros:

  • Overdraft fees are 6.5% p.a which is on the lower end of the banks in this review.
  • Lets you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Lets you open an account without an official German address.
  • Verification of ID can be done via video chat function on your smartphone.

Cons:

  • Website and banking interface in German only
  • No branches, online service only

Fees:

  • No monthly fees source.
  • Free Girocard.
  • Free credit card.
  • Free Girocard withdrawals from any ATM in countries which use the Euro as currency source. The bank who owns the ATM might charge a fee however.
  • Free Visa card withdrawals in all countries source.

Brick and mortar banks

All the banks listed below offer online banking and have large networks of ATMs and branches. Cash withdrawal is often only free at ATMs owned by the bank.

Deutsche Bank

Pros:

  • Online banking and service available in English but not all correspondence is in English.
  • Lets you open an account without an official German address.
  • Many branches all over Germany.

Cons:

  • Website and most of the service in German only.
  • Free withdrawals only at 2900 Cash Group ATMs in Germany source.

Fees:

  • 5.90 Euro monthly fee. No monthly fee for students source.
  • Free withdrawals from Cash Group ATMs. Fee of 6€ or 1% of withdrawal amount for other ATMs.

Banks in Berlin

We have a recommendation for all those who want to move to Berlin.

Berliner Sparkasse

Pros:

  • Large network of ATMs.
  • Many branches in Berlin.
  • Reliable.

Cons:

  • Website and service in German only

Fees:

  • 3.- Euro monthly fee. No monthly fee for students up to the age of 25 source.
  • 8.50 Euro fee per year for the Girocard source.
  • 0 to 0.30 Euro per withdrawal from Sparkasse ATMs depending on account type. 4.95 Euro per withdrawal from other ATMs source.
  • 3.25 Euro per month for an optional credit card.

Opinion:

  • I use the Berliner Sparkasse as a my main checkings account. They have branches all over Berlin, many ATMs and I never experienced any issues when using their services.

Nuri - a German bank with cryptocurrency features

The Nuri app is a great option to manage Bitcoin and Ethereum in a bank account with a German IBAN. A Nuri bank account can be opened online within 15 minutes. Nuri is backed by Solarisbank so you get all the securities you would expect from a German bank. I find the Nuri app very easy to use. It has a great design and an English version!

What I like about Nuri are the options to transfer cryptocurrencies quickly between the Nuri checking account and my crypto wallets. At the moment of writing Nuri supports Bitcoin and Ethereum. There is also a savings plan feature to schedule deposits from a Euro account into your crypto vaults.

The Nuri bank account itself is free of charge and there are no hidden costs source. Moving crypto has a transaction cost of 1%.

You can of course use the Nuri bank account in combination with their Visa debit card for Euro transfers without using the cryptocurrency features.

How to open a bank account online in Germany

Most German bank accounts allow you to open the bank account using your phone. This usually involves an online video chat with a person to check your identity. That person might only speak German and usually asks you to hold your passport into the camera and read out loud your name, birth date and place, reason of the call and your passport number. I did this several times and the call duration was usually around 10 to 15 minutes.

Some banks only offer an in person indentity check at the post office called Postident.

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