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Germany - Banking

In Germany it is a very straightforward process to open a bank account and in a study by Global Finance magazine German banks made up 4 out of the top 10 safest banks in the world. It is possible to open a current account (Girokonto) or a savings account – whether instant access (Tagesgeldkonto) or limited access (Sparbuch). There are four types of banks in Germany: public sector commercial banks (Private Geschäftsbanken); savings banks (Sparkassen); credit cooperatives (Kreditgenossenschaften) and the Postbank. However all four types of banks offer the same range of services and account options.

If you would like to open a bank account in Germany you can do so in person or online. In person, you may need to make an appointment or it may be possible to simply stop in at your local branch. The required documentation can vary between different banks, but you will normally need some form of ID, proof of address and possibly proof of earnings. You will also need money for an initial deposit. If you are transferring funds from another account there may be a waiting period before the account can be confirmed. To open an account online you should visit the bank’s website where there will normally be step by step instructions and an application form to fill out. You’ll then need to print out the completed form and take it to a Post Office with your passport or ID card. The Post Office will confirm your identity and you can then post everything to your bank.

A bank account in Germany will normally involve a monthly charge of up to 8 Euros, or there may be a charge per transaction. It is usually free to use your debit card (EC-Karte) but there may be charges associated with using a credit card. Credit cards are not as widely used in Germany as in many other countries, for example most restaurants do not accept credit cards (debit cards only). Mastercard and VISA are more likely to be accepted, whereas American Express may not be.

Here is a list of some of the most widely used banks in Germany:

Commerzbank AG
A leading international commercial bank.
Tel: +49 69 136 20

Deutsche Kreditbank AG
A German bank founded in 1990 with headquarters in Berlin.
Tel: 030 120 300 00
Email: info@dkb.epost.de

Part of UniCredit, one of the largest banking groups in Europe.
Tel: +49 (0)89 3780
Email: info@unicredit.de

Deutsche Postbank
One of the largest retail banks in Germany.
Tel: +49 228 5500 3300

The following website is also useful for comparing banking services in Germany:


With regards to ATMs, German banks are mostly grouped into two large networks (Cashgroup and Cashpool), and it will be free to use any ATM from within your bank’s network. In addition to these two networks, you can opt to open an account with Sparkassen, which are state owned banks. This can be a good option if you are living somewhere more rural, as they have branches in most small towns and villages and tend to provide a much more personal relationship with their customers. The disadvantages to Sparkassen are that their services can be inflexible and outdated, and particularly pertinent for expats, it can be a complicated process to make international transactions.

If you are making a payment you will need to work out whether you want to make a transfer (Überweisung), a standing order (Dauerauftrag) or a direct debit (Lastschrift). Transfers are simple one-off payments between two accounts, standing orders are recurring payments of a set amount, and direct debits are recurring payments of varying amounts.

To apply for an overdraft or loan in Germany you will usually need to have at least 6 months’ history with a German bank and a positive SCHUFA rating. You will normally be allowed to take 2-3 times your net salary and the interest rate charged is normally between 11% and 18%.

Some banks in Germany offer services that can be very helpful for expats. For example, Commerzbank and Targobank provide online banking services in English. Several large banks also have dedicated international desks which provide specific help for foreigners.

Banks in Germany are normally open between 8.30am and 4pm on weekdays, with special late opening hours on Thursdays between 5.30pm and 6.30pm. Some smaller branches may close at lunchtime.

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