Best German bank accounts in 2023 for foreigners, including blocked accounts for visa applications

A review of the best German bank accounts in 2023 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. I have a selection of the best checking accounts for foreigners in Germany in this review.


This post was last updated on February 3, 2023
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 *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 Ing Diba.

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, also called Girokarte or EC-Karte. Most German banks discontinue the Girocard as of 2023 in favor of a debit card (Debitkarte). What I also see with many banks is that the Girocard is now only available as a paid option whereas the debit card is free. I think it is safe to just go with a debit card for payments in Germany and also in many other countries.

The debit card 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.

Payments are debited the same day or a couple of days afterward. The banks usually offer you a bank overdraft which the Germans call Dispositionskredit or 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 in Germany. You probably want to have a debit card as your main card and always carry some cash.

Don't be surprised if smaller shops and restaurants in Germany ask you to pay cash and do not accept any other form of payment. 😨

Most German credit cards and debit cards have a contactless payment feature. Contactless payment is possible 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. Many German bank accounts can be connected to Apple or Google pay.

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.

Please note that all checking accounts in this review are for personal use only. Have a look at my best free bank accounts for small businesses and freelancers if you are doing business in Germany and need a separate business account.

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.

Companies asking for your IBAN to direct debit from your bank account is very popular and often the only option for recurring payments (phone or gym contracts). Direct debit in Germany is called Lastschrift or Lastschriftverfahren. Handing out your IBAN to companies for direct debit is considered safe. You can cancel unwanted direct debits in your online banking.

The IBAN identifies your account, the BIC identifies the bank. Those numbers are written on your debit card 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 the format of a German IBAN number: DE89 3703 0044 0532 0130 00.

Please note that cheques are not used in Europe anymore.

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. Many banks require you to be registered before opening a bank account.

The following banks don't require an Anmeldung source:

  • N26
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Commerzbank
  • ING
  • *Wise and *Revolut do not ask for a registered address according to some sources source
  • *bunq

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 credit cards from German banks

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

  1. VISA or Maestro debit or prepaid cards

Please note that German debit cards look like credit cards 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 and sometimes with payments outside Germany.

  1. Real 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. It took me 15 minutes to apply for a Barclay credit card online. The Barclay card worked fine on all my travels.

The trick to keeping the Barclay account really free of charge 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 VISA/Maestro debit cards and most of them offer optional credit or Girocards.

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
Revolut + + -/+ ? + - + + *yes, but additional fees
Wise + + -/+ ? + - + + *Wise business has no monthly fees
bunq + + - ? + - - + source
DKB + - + + + - + -
N26 + + + - + - + +
1822direkt ? - + ? + - - -
ING-DiBa + - + + + - + -

*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 *Revolut account if you just arrived in Germany. The application process is very easy: all you need is your phone. The Revolut app is in English and you get a card and an IBAN number. *Revoluts prices are fair. 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 than those from Wise. Revolut has nice features like *better rates for transfers outside the Eurozone and a modern, international feel that traditional German bank websites 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.

  • DKB (Deutsche Kreditbank) is a great option for an online bank because of its free debit card with free global withdrawals and good 24h 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 positive Schufa credit score. You probably don't have any Schufa record at all if you just arrived in Germany. In that case the DKB bank will reject your application.

  • I hear many good things about ING lately. The ING account, including a VISA debit card, 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. 1822direkt is a good alternative in case you cannot apply with DKB. It is much easier to open a bank account with 1822direkt than with DKB. Please note that 1822direkt has a limited amount of free cash withdrawals at ATMs.

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

What about Sparkasse? 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. At the moment of writing the monthly fee for the Berliner Sparkasse is 6.- Euro/month. Opening an account with Sparkasse means walking into one of their branches and talking to a person. I only recommend Sparkasse if you need face-to-face support.

A screenshot of the DKB website. A screenshot of the DKB website. Feels like time travel to websites back in 2005. The DKB online banking and app have pretty much the same design. A screenshot of the 1822direkt website. A screenshot of the 1822mobile checking account features. 1822direkt is a traditional bank and can make for a good and low-cost starter bank. A screenshot from the bunq website displaying, A black background with a phone displaying an app. bunq is a Neobank and has a fresher look and feel and a feature set geared towards a more international audience.

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 (Deutsche Kreditbank)

Pros:

  • Free visa debit cards 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 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 Euros per month.
  • Restrictive, they might reject your application if you don't have a steady income.
  • The bank came under a denial of service attack 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.
  • Not possible to open more than one sub-account. DKB sub-accounts cost around 2.50 Euro/month.

Fees:

  • No monthly fees if you have a monthly cash flow of at least 700.- Euro source.
  • Additional accounts under the same name are 2.50 Euros 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 Euros per month.

N26

Pros:

  • Website and service are 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 you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Let 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.
  • 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 Euros per withdrawal.

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 you open an account from another EU country source.
  • Let 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 and budgeting in the app.
  • 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.

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 bank websites for prices.

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