How to Open a Bank Account in Germany
If you’re relocating and need an account to hold, spend and receive euros, you may be wondering how to open a bank account in Germany. While there are lots of great banks to choose from in Germany and the broader Eurozone, getting an account opened before you have a German proof of residence can be tricky. That may mean opening your German bank account ahead of time – or before you have a full set of documents – is pretty much impossible.
This guide walks through account opening options and requirements for some major German banks – and some alternatives like Wise and Revolut as a more flexible comparison. More on that, later.
What documents do I need?
The exact documents you need to open an account with a traditional German bank will vary a little based on the account type. However, in most cases here’s what’s required to open a German bank account:
- Proof of ID – like a passport or National identity card
- Proof of address – such as a utility or phone bill or a rent agreement
Other documents like a proof of income – pay slip or tax statement – or a student ID may also be needed based on the account type you select.
It’s helpful to note that there are some banks – like N26 which we’ll look at in more detail later – which accept proof of ID from some other European countries as well as Germany. If you’re already a European resident you might find you have more choice for your German bank account – but if you’re still in the US you may find it trickier to get started. More on a smart solution, next.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
If you’re trying to set up a euro bank account before you move to Germany you may be better off with a modern online alternative like Wise or Revolut, instead of a traditional German bank. Providers like these offer accounts which can hold, send, spend and receive euros, alongside a range of other currencies. You’ll be able to open your account with a US proof of identity and address, which means you can access EUR bank details even if Germany isn’t your home just yet.
Set up your account online or via the provider’s app and complete the verification process digitally before you travel.
How to open a bank account in Germany
If you’re already in Germany and have a proof of ID and address, you’ll often be able to open a German bank account online using either video ID verification, or by applying online and using PostIdent – Deutsche Post’s identity verification service. Alternatively you’ll be able to walk into a bank to get your account up and running.
It’s worth noting that most banks only offer account applications online in German. Documents related to the account – terms and conditions for example – will also usually be provided in German only. That said, major banks can offer phone services in English so if you need to talk to someone about your account and can’t handle the German language just yet, you may still find someone to help.
If you don’t have a German mailing address you’ll probably find it harder to set up an account with a traditional bank – check out some digital alternatives like Wise or Revolut for EUR accounts you can open from the US.
Can I open a bank account in Germany before arrival?
It’s pretty standard to need a proof of German address to open a bank account – which in practice makes it tricky to open a regular bank account before arrival.
The key exception to this is for people with a residential address which is also in the EU or a Eurozone country.
Some banks will allow customers from elsewhere in the region to open accounts using their home proof of address, even if it’s not in Germany.
If you’re not in Europe yet you’ll probably need to try a specialist account service – we’ve got a couple coming up to kickstart your research.
Which account is best in Germany for foreigners?
While there’s a huge choice of local, regional and global banks in Germany, you may struggle to find an account you can get fully set up before you arrive and get a proof of address. Instead, digital specialist services may be a better option.
Let’s take a look at a few examples, including a couple of specialist account providers, digital bank N26 and German banking giant Deutsche Bank:
|Currencies covered||50+ currencies including EUR||Typically around 28 currencies including EUR||EUR||EUR|
|Open before you arrive in Germany||Yes||Yes||Open with proof of residence from one of 22 European countries||No|
|Opening fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Maintenance fee||No fee||No-fee standard plans are available – or customers can upgrade to accounts which have a monthly charge||Fee free standard plans are available – or customers can upgrade to accounts which have a monthly charge||Annual fees apply if you want a linked bank card|
|International money transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||Incoming and outgoing EUR payments to EU countries are usually free|
Receiving a SWIFT payment: 12.50 EUR + 0.1%
Outgoing international payments are processed through Wise – low, variable fees apply
|SEPA transfers 0.60 EUR|
Transfers outside of the SEPA area
1.5% fee (minimum 10 EUR) + 1.55 EUR SWIFT fee + 25 EUR third party fee
It may be possible to have the recipient pay these fees instead of the sender
We picked out N26 and Deutsche Bank as a couple of the more flexible German banks – N26 will let you apply with a proof of address from a range of European countries, and Deutsche Bank has fully online account opening options. However, in both cases you’ll struggle to get an account set up without being in Germany or the EU already.
If you’re still in the US an online account provider like Wise or Revolut can be a smart choice, to access low cost banking services in euros alongside USD.
Wise offers multi-currency accounts which can be used to hold, exchange, send, spend and manage 50+ currencies including both US dollars and euros.
You can open your account while you’re still in the US and get bank details for up to 10 currencies – including USD and EUR – to receive payments, as well as having the option to send money to 80+ countries and spend internationally with a linked Wise international debit card.
Wise is a specialist in low cost currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. Use your Wise account as you transition from the US to Europe, to get low fees and great rates every time you need to switch from one currency to another.
Eligibility: Accounts are offered in most countries around the world – you’ll need a government issued ID and in some cases a proof of address or tax number to apply. Full details of availability by location available on the Wise website.
Is it safe? Yes, Wise is safe. They are also overseen by a range of global regulatory bodies around the world.
Revolut describes itself as a financial super app. Accounts are offered to customers based in the US and a range of other countries, and can hold and exchange around 28 currencies including euros. You’ll be able to spend on your linked debit card, get some no-fee currency exchange depending on your account type, and even earn interest on your account balance.
Revolut offers standard accounts without monthly fees, or if you want to unlock more features you can upgrade to a paid plan for a monthly fee.
Account types: Standard account plans don’t have monthly fees or you can upgrade to a paid plan on a variety of different tiers – if you’re in the US, plans range up to 16.99 USD/month.
Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is it safe? Yes. Revolut operates safely in the countries it serves, with oversight from a range of global bodies.
N26 is a European digital bank which offers accounts to customers in 20+ countries around Europe, including Germany. It’s free to get a basic standard account, or you can choose to pay a monthly fee of up to 16.90 EUR to upgrade to a premium account tier.
It’s worth noting that at the time of writing, N26 has some limitations on the number of accounts that can be opened per month, due to overwhelming demand. This may mean some or all products are limited based on your country of residence. Restrictions change based on demand – check the latest before you choose N26 for your euro account.
Account types: Standard, Premium and Business accounts are available. Standard accounts are free to open, with no monthly fee.
Eligibility: Available to residents of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Is it safe? Yes. N26 is a reputable European bank with a full banking license for the EU.
Deutsche Bank – one of the largest banking groups in Germany – is a solid place to start if you’re looking for an account from a local provider. There’s a good range of account options, including specialist products, with various ways to open your account via video or by calling into a local Post Office to get verified. However, the catch is that you’ll need to be in Germany, with a German address, to be eligible for an account.
If you’re eligible to apply, it’s good to know Deutsche Bank has some English customer service options, and publishes some details about its accounts in English. However, it’s pretty standard to find that the terms and conditions of any account are primarily offered in German, so you may need to have a friend help you read the fine print.
Account types: Range of account options with some English speaking customer service offered by phone and video call.
Eligibility: Accounts can be opened online but you’ll need a German address to apply.
Is it safe? Yes. Deutsche Bank is a reputable global bank with banking licenses everywhere it offers services.
What are the costs?
Opening a bank account in Germany will not usually involve paying any specific fee, but you may be asked to deposit a set minimum amount of money.
You may also find there are monthly or annual account and card fees, as well as transaction costs. Because banking in Europe can come with significantly different fees compared to the US you’ll want to review the fee schedule carefully before you start using your account.
Online specialists like Wise or Revolut can offer low-cost and often free options. Revolut has various account types with monthly fees, including a Standard account which is fee-free, while Wise personal accounts are free to open without monthly fees. .
Tips for transferring money
If you’re moving to Europe you may well need to manage your money across both EUR and USD for a while, which will mean sending transfers internationally.
Overseas payments can be pretty costly, with fees that are often confusing. You’ll need to compare both the transfer fee and the exchange rate being applied whenever you send money to make sure you get a good deal.
Here are some tips to cut the costs on international wire transfer fees:
- Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
- Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to see the transfer fee which will apply
- Check if there are third party fees associated with the SWIFT network – these can push up the overall costs
German banks commonly ask for a proof of address from Germany – or in some cases from another EU or EEA country. That can make it hard to open a German bank account with a regular bank before you relocate, or if you’re only planning on being in Germany on a temporary basis.
If you need a euro account but can’t provide a German proof of address, check out specialist providers like Wise or Revolut, to get an account opened and verified online, with EUR banking details and a linked payment card.
- Can a foreigner open an account in Germany?
Yes, foreigners can open German bank accounts. However, you’ll often be asked for a German proof of address, or at the very least an address from another Eurozone or EEA country. If you’re still based in the US a flexible multi-currency account from a specialist provider like Wise or Revolut may be a better option.
- How much do I need to open a bank account in Germany?
It’s usually free to open a German bank account, but there may be a minimum initial deposit, monthly or annual card fees, and there are always some transaction fees to consider, depending on how you use your account.
- Can I open a German bank account online?
Some German banks do allow online account opening if you have a proof of address document. Check out Deutsche Bank as one option with online opening, and English language customer service.
- Can I open a bank account in Germany before landing?
You’ll normally need proof of your German address to open an account with a mainstream bank – making it almost impossible to arrange before you arrive. However, online and digital specialist services like Wise and Revolut may be more flexible, with accounts you can open with proof of address from your home country instead.