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 to open a checking account with an IBAN number. You need it to pay our rent and to receive salaries. We have a selection of the best checking accounts for foreigners in Germany in this review.


This post was last updated on September 27, 2022
Close up of credit cards in various colors

Too long to read? Here are my picks: For a quick setup (all you need is your phone) and full English language support, use *Wise or *Revolut. For a better long-term price and if you are fine with a German app and website and some English support on the phone use *1822direkt or *DKB.

What you need to know about payments in Germany

It is very hard to live in Germany without having a checking account or current 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 through an app or 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 per month.

The Girocard is a German system but almost all banks offer cards that 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 afterward. 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 depending 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 as 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.

How to wire money in Germany and Europe

You can wire money to another person or company in Europe with a SEPA transfer using IBAN and BIC numbers. This is called Überweisung.

The IBAN identifies your account, the BIC identifies the bank. Those numbers are written on your Girocard or in your accounts online area. Instant money transfers which take only a minute are possible for some accounts but money transfers between European countries can take up to several days.

This is what a German IBAN number looks like: DE89 3703 0044 0532 0130 00.

Direct debit or Lastschriftverfahren is also very popular in Germany for recurring bills.

Please note that cheques are rarely used in Europe!

Bank accounts that do not require a registered German address

You need to register with authorities once you settle down in Germany. This is called an Anmeldung. Most services in Germany, including banks, require you to be registered.

The following banks don't require an Anmeldung source:

Blocked accounts for jobseeker visas and students

A blocked account or Sperrkonto is a special bank account that lets you withdraw only a limited amount of money per month. The money is blocked. The blocked account serves as 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 visas.

I recommend *Fintiba as the best blocked account in Germany for visa applications. Deutsche Bank stopped offering blocked accounts as of July 2022 source.

*Coracle's blocked account with a 99.- Euro one-time fee for up to one year might also be an option.

Free business bank account for freelancers

I 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.

Wise, which is one of my recommendations for a German starter account, has a *Wise business account with no monthly subscription fees.

I recommend all freelancers and small businesses to have a look at the *online business bank account from Kontist. They offer an app for managing business finances which comes with a business bank account in the English language and some accounting features. The business account is free as long as you have a minimum of 300.- Euro worth of transactions per month. The first 10 transactions are free, subsequent transactions cost 0,15 each.

The *Finom business account integrates a free checking account with accounting and invoicing features and is available in English.

*Holvi is another business account for freelancers with full English support. *Click this link, then select En in the navigation.

Fyrst offers a great business account. Their starter package is free and has features like an optional credit card or cash deposits and withdrawals.

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 but aren't. You can usually pay anywhere you see the VISA/Maestro sign and many debit cards allow free withdrawals worldwide but you might have issues with the deposit when renting a car or when using for payments outside Germany. Please note that DKB does not accept newcomers as you need a good enough Schufa score to be eligible.

Credit cards

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

Comparison of the best banks for expats in Germany

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

Overview 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
Wise + + -/+ ? + - + + *Wise business has no monthly fees
Revolut + + -/+ ? + - + + *yes, but additional fees
bunq + + - ? + - - + source
DKB + - +/- + + - + -
N26 + + +/- - + - + +
1822direkt ? - + ? + - - -
ING-DiBa + - + + + - + -
Comdirect + - + + + - - -
Deutsche Bank - - - + + - + -
Berliner Sparkasse - - +/- + + Only some branches +/- +
*Fintiba + + + + - + - ?

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

Summary: checking account recommendations for expats in Germany

  • I recommend starting with a *Wise or *Revolut account. The application process is very easy, all you need is your phone, their apps are in English and you get a card and an IBAN number and you are all set up to work and shop in Germany. *Wise and *Revoluts prices are fair like there are no fixed monthly costs but it might be cheaper to switch to one of the other banks below in the long-term because of withdrawal fees. Revoluts cash withdrawal conditions are slightly better.

Wise and Revolut have nice features like *better rates for transfers outside the Eurozone and have a modern, international feel which traditional German banks don't have.

  • *bunq offers full English support and has an easy application process. The Bunq Easybank account costs 3.- Euro per month plus 1.- Euro for 5 ATM withdrawals and can be *opened in 5 minutes.

  • I hear mixed reviews about N26 and personally don't recommend it for longer use but it can make for a great starter bank.

  • 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 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 organizations with different conditions. Sparkasse accounts usually have a monthly fee. Opening an account there means walking into one of their branches and talking to a person.

  • DKB is a great option for an online bank because of its debit card with free global withdrawals and good support. *Apply for the DKB-Girokonto account here. The DKB account is free as long as you have a regular income of at least 700.- Euro per month. Please note that it only makes sense to apply for a DKB account if you have a Schufa score otherwise DKB will reject your application.

  • I hear many good things about ING recently. The ING account is free if you are under 28 or have a regular income of 700.- per month. Their Visa debit card is free, the Girocard costs 1.- Euro per month source. Free retrievals at 97% of German ATMs source. Open an ING account here.

  • *1822direkt lets you open an account in less than 8 minutes and has no monthly account fees for active users.

Please note that while some staff might speak English with you, Sparkasse, DKB, ING and 1822 services are generally in the German language only. They all have an online area and apps where you can do everything but they look old school compared to bunq and N26. They are fully functional though: the last time I had to walk into a Sparkasse branch is like years ago.

A hand holding a cell phone with the bunq app
The bunq banking app.

Wise

Pros:

  • No monthly fees.
  • Easy sign up in minutes using your phone.
  • Easy to send money in another currency.
  • Website, app and support in English.
  • Shop overseas with the real exchange rate.
  • For frequent travelers and an international audience.
  • *Open a Wise account here.

Cons:

  • Only 2 free cash withdrawals up to 200.- EUR source

Revolut

Pros:

  • No monthly fees.
  • Easy sign up in minutes using your phone.
  • Easy to send money in another currency.
  • Website, app and support in English and many other languages.
  • Modern look and feel.
  • *Open a Revolut account here.

Cons:

  • Only 5 free cash withdrawals up to 200.- EUR source which is slightly better than Wise withdrawal fees.

DKB

Pros:

  • Free visa debit card can be used anywhere in the world without withdrawal fees from DKB if you have 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.
  • Let's you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Reliability: I never had any issues with withdrawing money from EU countries or the US.
  • Customer service: they usually replied to my requests within 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.
  • *Open a DKB account here.

Cons:

  • Website and service in German only.
  • DKB only accepts clients with a Schufa record. New arrivals in Germany don't have an entry in the Schufa credit score database yet and will be rejected by DKB.
  • A 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 a 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.
  • No branches, online service only but with the feel of a brick-and-mortar bank.

Fees:

  • No monthly fees if you have a monthly cash flow of at least 700.- Euro source.
  • Girocard costs 1.- Euro per month.
  • Additional accounts under the same name are 2.50 Euro per month.
  • Free VISA debit card if you have a monthly cash flow of at least 700.- Euro.
  • No charges for 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.

N26

Pros:

  • Website and service 100% available in German and English.
  • N26 seems to be a candidate for many expats, at least I see many recommendations in Expat Facebook groups.
  • Let's you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Let's 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 a video chat function on your smartphone.
  • A partnership with Transferwise lets you send international transfers in 19 currencies directly from the N26 app for lower fees than when using traditional banks.
  • N26 is developed as an 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. To my knowledge no such incidents were reported in 2022 however.
  • Reportedly bad customer support source.
  • N26 does not accept all nationalities. Here is a list of accepted IDs by the N26 bank (PDF).

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 are possible in some REWE, Aldi, Lidl, DM and other stores.
  • *Click here to open a 1822MOBILE account

bunq

Pros:

  • The website and service are available in English.
  • Let's you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Let's you open an account without an official German address.
  • Very quick and easy application process in 5 minutes.
  • Less restrictive when approving applications.
  • Easy to open sub-accounts.
  • Verification of ID is done via the video chat function on your smartphone, which accepts many forms of ID verification.
  • A partnership with Transferwise lets you send international 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.

Fees:

  • Monthly fees start at 3 Euro per month including one card source for the Easybank package. No discounts for students.
  • 5 withdrawals cost 1.- per month in the Easybank package.

ING

Pros:

  • Let's you open an account without an official German address.
  • Very good reviews.
  • Free retrievals at 97% of German ATMs source.
  • Free under 28.
  • You can get a joined account with your partner.

Cons:

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

Fees:

  • Free account if you are under 28 or if your regular income is more than 700.- Euro per month.
  • Girocard costs 0.99 Euro per month source.
  • Free VISA debit card.
  • Free Girocard withdrawals at most German ATM source.
  • Open an ING account here.

Comdirect

Pros:

  • Let's you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Let's you open an account without an official German address.
  • Verification of ID can be done via a 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 that use the Euro as a currency source. The bank that 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 are available in English but not all correspondence is in English.
  • Let's you open an account without an official German address.
  • Many branches are all over Germany.

Cons:

  • The website and most of the services are in German only.
  • Free withdrawals only at 2900 Cash Group ATMs in Germany source.

Fees:

  • 6.90 Euro monthly fee. No monthly fee for students source.
  • Free withdrawals from Cash Group 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:

  • 5.- Euro monthly fee. No monthly fee for students up to the age of 25 source.
  • 12 Euro fee per year for the Girocard source.
  • No fees for withdrawals from the Berliner Sparkasse ATMs.

Opinion:

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

How to open a bank account online in Germany

Most German bank accounts allow you to open a 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, the reason for 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 identity check at the post office called Postident.

Prices are not guaranteed. Please check the banks' websites for the price.

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