Banks in Germany – which one and how to open an account

Banking in Germany has historically been very bad in terms of price and ease of use. Things are changing for the better though and we highlight the n26 bank account which has an English website/app and can be opened in only 8 minutes.

German banks have historically not been very good for several reasons

Banks in Germany have for many years provided, in our view, some of the worst service and offers across Europe. Some of the key problems with banking in Germany include:

  • It is difficult to sign up to a bank as most registration documents are in German.
  • To sign up to a bank you need a face to face meeting to verify your ID. It can also take days or even weeks to arrange this face to face meeting.
  • The basic Maestro (EC card) that is provided can not be used on most internet shopping websites.
  • For many banks you are charged a monthly fee to keep your bank account open.
  • Several banks in Germany will also charge you extra for having a credit card.
  • Charges for ATM withdrawals.
  • High charges for worldwide cash withdrawal/transfers
  • Few online banks in Germany provide an English website.

Banks in Germany are now changing for the better

Thankfully better products have recently come on the market which solve all of the above issues. We have reviewed the entire German banking market and found that the company n26 (Number26) offers the best product which solves all of the problems we listed above. Below we highlight a pricing table comparing Deutsche Bank, DKB and n26.

  •   Monthly account management fee
  •   Credit Card (Mastercard)
  •   Physical branches or online based?
  •   Free cash withdrawals from all ATM's?
  •   No foreign transaction fees?
  •   Full English website?
  •   English mobile app?
  •   Easy to open account?
  • Free
  • Free
  • Online
  • Free
  • Free
  • Online
  • €4.99 per month
  • €39 per year
  • Physical branches

Free to open, takes only 8 minutes, all in English and can be done on your mobile

n26 is totally free to open and there is no minimum activity required to keep the account active. Also you receive the standard Maestro and a Mastercard credit card for free. Even better is that it takes only 8 minutes to open an account meaning you can have your new account complete with IBAN in 8 minutes. Furthermore, the whole website and apps are all in English. This means it is totally free to try out their service. So go ahead and open an account, give it a try and if you don’t like it, then it does not really matter as you have only lost a few minutes of your time.

See why n26 is the best banking app around

n26 actually make the process of opening an account in Germany fun

If you go on the n26 website, fill in your basic details and confirm these over email, you will then be invited to complete a virtual ID confirmation. This involves you using your phone, tablet or PC webcam to speak to an agent (in English) to confirm your identity with your passport. When we did this, it was our first time doing this and it was an extremely smooth service. It seems even better when you compare it to having to arrange a face to face appointment with another company like Deutsche bank. See below for a 2 minute video showing you the sign up process

*Update March 2017* n26 reaches 300,000 accounts opened at a rate of 1,000 a day

We have received an update from the people over at n26 that their growth continues to accelerate and they now have a total of 300,000 accounts open. They also add that they are adding new people at a rate of 1,000 a day. The team here at Foreign Money Saver aren’t quite surprised by this given 1) how poor traditional german banks are, and 2) how good the n26 product is. So take a look at our app demonstration video for a better overview of the product and remember it’s free to open an account.

Other key questions

I have not heard of n26 before, how safe is my money?

German law requires a statutory protection of €100,000 per depositor. This is fully covered by the Compensation Scheme of German banks. Thus your money is fully protected up to the above amount.

Is there a fee for paying for purchases abroad?

There is no fee charged when using to buy products when abroad (note that this is different from withdrawing cash from the ATM).

There is a paid credit card available?

n26 have a ‘black’ card available for €5.90 per month which gives you the benefit of insurance and free foreign currency ATM withdrawals on your Mastercard.

Is there a fair usage policy on ATM withdrawals?

Yes – although cash withdrawals are free, there is a fair usage limit of 5 per month. If you do go over this then it is a €2 charge. We would note however it is quite rare on average to do more than 5 withdrawals in a month.


If you have found our review of the German banking market useful, then click here to visit the n26 website .