German bank account for foreign students and professionals

Do I need a German bank account? How expensive is a German bank account? How do I apply for a bank account in Germany?

The advantage of a German bank account is that it is often free and easy to open. If you have a bank account in Germany, you can pay the rent without any additional costs, receive and transfer money to other people without any additional costs.

Many things work much faster with a bank account in Germany. In addition, some offers include free VISA or Master credit cards and are ideal for life-long savings.

Bank Account in Germany: Attractive or unnecessary?

Foreign professionals and students sometimes decide for a quick solution, and sometimes for a well thought-out solution.

Option A: Permanently cheap

Account at a bank with free VISA credit card

Option A: Recommended in Long-term
Foreign students and professionals are usually more demanding. Offers must meet their needs!

Any offer is attractive, if it includes

  • a continuously free bank account
  • and a permanently free EC-card,

as well as

  • a permanently free VISA- or Mastercard,
  • and a cheap currency exchange
  • and allows a worldwide use of you bank account

for as little costs as possible.

Variant B: Quick and easy

Account with a local or national bank or Sparkasse

Variant B: Quick and easy
In Germany there are special offers for students and pupils in nearly everybank.

Those offers include in most cases

  • a free EC-card und
  • and a cheap bank account

You can find this offer at almost every bank and Sparkasse in Germany.

However, the cheap offer is often only valid for customers who are less than 27 years old and the offer is valid only for the duration of their studies.


In Germany there are some banks that offer their accounts only on the Internet. They abandon the use of local banks, thereby saving money and being able to pass on particularly favourable conditions to their customers.

And there are banks that want to be available both offline and online. These banks usually charge fees for their different account models, but these banks offer a high degree of convenience.

Opening an account with an online bank

Account at an online bank or Sparkasse

Opening a bank account online is always useful if you do not need a permanently available representative in a bank.

If you know how to use an ATM, how to transfer money over the Internet and how to use a credit card when shopping, you probably will never need an advisor at the banking institution.

Opening an account with a bank:

Step 1: Search the Internet for one of the major banks

E.g.: IngDiBa, DKB, Comdirect

These banks offer free access to a long-term free account. Choose one of these packages and complete the application forms.

Step 2: Go to a post office

The second step is quite easy!

Once you have completed the registration forms, you can bring the form to go to Deutsche Post. Bring your identification card with you as well!

  • Bring a completed form
  • Bring an identity document (ID, passport)

Step 3: Wait for three to four days for approval

Actually, you’re done with the registration. You will receive your confirmation a few days later by post, if you have not made any mistakes on your application form.

Important note: You will receive your confirmation in a single letter. Only the following day you will receive your account number and only the second day you will receive your password! This is best for your own safety!

Alternative: Bank account with a local bank

Opening an account with a local bank or Sparkasse

Simple solutions, such as opening an account with a regional bank or a bank branch of a large institution, have advantages for students who are in great hurry. Very often it takes only one day to open an account!

Opening an account in Germany is not difficult. Often you can open an account after a few hours at the bank.

Opening process, e.g. at Sparkasse

The great advantage of a local bank or Sparkasse is that the account is theoretically ready for use after just a few hours and transfers are often available free of charge at the bank’s counter immediately after the application documents have been signed.

When opening an account near where you study, you can ask all your questions during the advisory interview, which can be dealt and answered immediately.

However, the simple solution has the disadvantage that it is often simply unsuitable for receiving money from another country or sending it to another country, as most local banks have unattractive exchange rates or fees for their customers.

Some smaller banks charge higher service fees for typical services for foreigners, such as cash withdrawals in other countries.

What should international customers keep in mind?

Recommended criteria for students and interns

The offer is perfect for students and interns, if the account has…

  • no minimum usage requirements
  • low fees for foreign currencies
  • stays free during your studies
  • and stays freeafter your studies.

Recommended criteria for foreign employees

For foreign specialists, it is also important that the account package

  • provides a free credit card
  • includes a savings account
  • is suitable for long-term savings
  • allows free transactions to other countries

Question: Thought about all of your criteria?

When looking for a new account, you should always keep long term costs in mind!

Very often, accounts are only free “for students”. As soon as you have finished your studies, you will have to pay a lot of money. If you want to keep your account after your studies, please look for an account that is really free of charge, regardless of the customer group!

Which differences exist for foreigners?

Same offer for all customers

The offer for foreigners is the same as for German customers. Banks rarely distinguish between domestic and foreign customers.

However, some banks have different criteria for opening an account. You have a very high chance of getting an account if you are already in Germany. Otherwise it might be difficult.

Some of the listed banks have a very active support service for foreign customers, while others require that you have an address in Germany at the time of registration.

For foreigners it is often very important that the accounts have high security, high availability, low exchange fees and international availability. Only then can one be relatively sure that one’s own money can be called up at any time.

But only a few banks offer to withdraw money from their accounts abroad for free. Fees for withdrawing money abroad often have to be paid outside Germany for a currency other than the euro.

Having two accounts in Germany?

Can foreigners own more than one account in Germany?

Some students and professionals want to have 2 accounts in Germany.

The reason is that many foreigners often borrow money from their relatives for their studies in Germany. It is therefore a great motivation for independence if you manage both accounts separately.

Example with main account and subaccount

Main account

Foreign account as proof of funding

The main account is used by the student to receive money from abroad. Reasons:

  • Very low fees for foreign currencies
  • Receive transfers from parents

Often the account does not have any call money or securities account included.

Sub account

Sub account for earnings

The subaccount is used by the student for all payments in Germany. Reasons:

  • the customer receives an account without monthly fees,
  • Overview of part-time jobs and personal savings

A special reason is usually that the account is completely free of charge.

Definitions

Girokonto

A current account is the “standard account” for receiving and sending money.

By law, all customers must be able to get an account if it is agreed with the bank that an overdraft of the account should not be possible.

Is there an absolutely safe way to open an account?

Tagesgeldkonto

A call account (overnight account) is not an ordinary account, because it differs from a current account. Unlike a current account, you cannot use this account to pay bills. You can usually only make transfers to a certain reference account when you have a call account.

In return, you will receive higher interest rates on your assets than with a current account. So you can often get 2 to 3 times more interest on your balance if you deposit your money in a call account. If the money remains only in an “ordinary account”, you usually only get very low interest rates, but often no interest at all!

Wertpapierdepot (Custody account or investment account)

A deposit account allows you to buy and sell shares in Germany. This is especially handy if you want to buy shares to sell them many years later.

If you leave Germany after your studies, as a foreign tax resident you often do not have to pay any taxes. Therefore, a stock deposit in Germany is very practical for long-term savings.

Of course, you can also buy other securities such as options or CFDs.

Questions and Answers

Girokonto

Can I withdraw money with an account in Germany even abroad?

Kreditkarte

Do I pay interest for using my credit card?
Are there any fees for using the VISA credit card?

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|| Last change: 26-05-2018
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