Berlin is a prosperous city offering many opportunities to its residents and visitors both in terms of finding a job and quality of life. Included in the process of finding an apartment, work, acquiring a postpaid mobile phone, or even receiving your salary, a bank account is inevitable. Luckily, the process to open a bank account in Berlin, is an effortless task with the right guidance.
In this guide, you will get to discover the required steps and documents, that can help you open a bank account in various different banks and banking methods in Berlin. This guide also gives you an introduction to some of the recommended banks and reasons why they are popular amongst expats in Berlin.
Understanding the Banking System in Berlin, Germany
The German Banking system consists of three main pillars, which are;
- Saving banks
- Cooperative banks
- Private Commercial banks.
In the recent years, access to online banks and mobile banks increased drastically in Germany. Apart from that, it is home to many international banks. The national central bank in Germany is the Deutsche Bundesbank. The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), on the other hand, regulates the country’s financial and banking services.
Many expats coming from abroad are often anxious that the process to open a bank account in Berlin, is very time consuming and nerve-wracking, in order to get approved. But this should not be the case. Despite getting a current account as a non-resident may prove to be quite challenging, there are many other alternatives for banking as an expat in Berlin.
You should primarily be aware, that you can opt to sign up for a non-resident account, which will give access to banking very fast.
The good news, is that multinational banks like Citibank and HSBC also have branches in Germany. Thus, if you already own an account with any of these international banks, you can inquire about shifting your account to the Germany, before opening a new one.
Type of Bank Accounts that You Can Open in Berlin
When it comes to the type of bank account that you can open, the German banking system offers four main types of accounts. The following are the main types of bank accounts that you can open:
Girokonto - Current Account
This account is the most common and used type of bank account. A current account helps you to pay bills, receive your salary and any transactions required. Apart from the general current bank account, you will also find specialized accounts designed for young people and students, offering incentives. This is the main bank account that you will need during the process of moving to Berlin. With that being said, with most banks, only residents in Germany are eligible for this.
Sparkonto - Savings Account
You can open a savings account for a fixed deposit, known as the ‘Festgeldkont’ or for an instant access account to start putting some money aside. The German translation for this account is ‘Tagesgeldkonto’. With this type of account, you need to deposit a specific minimum amount, agreed with the bank, to benefit from attractive interests, while the money has to remain in the account for a particular fixed period. This account is ideal for individuals interested in investment purposes. Both German residents, as well as non-residents, can be eligible to open a savings account.
A Non-resident Account
As mentioned above, the ordinary current accounts are mostly only accessible to the German residents. If you do not have a permanent address, then this account is for you. It is important to note, that if you live overseas, you can also get an account with most mobile-only and online-only German banks.
These types of banks are ideal for those who are working in Germany for a short period of time, working in Germany from overseas or those who are still in the process of planning to relocate to Germany.
Mobile and Digital Accounts
The advancement of technology and the internet has simplified the way people access their bank accounts. Now, most major banks in Germany offer mobile bank accounts and internet banking via banking applications. In Berlin, you can also find banks that offer only online services and have no physical branches.
What are the Types of Banking Options available in Berlin?
The Traditional Banks
These are the banks that have physical branches, where you can visit and open an account of your choice. If you plan to follow this route, it would be advisable to join the large and most popular German banks, especially if you’re a foreigner. A large bank, in most cases, has the experience that everyone looks for when it comes to working with foreigners and foreign banks. If you often travel overseas, you can have easy access to your account.
The Major Traditional Banks in Germany
The Deutsche Bank – Not only is this bank the largest and most popular bank in Germany, but also one of the most renowned, worldwide. The bank provides a wide range of services and options to suit your needs. The Deutsche Bank, had partnered with the Bank of America, which makes it effortless, for members wanting to transfer money.
Commerzbank – Also one of the largest in Germany and boasts a widespread of branches, devoted to helping their customers. The bank offers free bank accounts, travel insurance and a premium account that comes with two debit cards. If you open an account online, you’ll get a girocard (debit not credit card). The bank is renowned for the customer service it offers. The bank’s website is available in English, and new sign-ups can enjoy many offers and promotions.
Comdirect – This is an online bank, which makes part of the parent company, Commerzbank. The sign-up process is very fast and straightforward. Upon a successful registration, you will also receive a free credit card – VISA. With the credit card, you can get money out of ATMs in both Germany and overseas for free. Luckily, Comdirect is one of the few online banks in Germany, that does not demand you to have a German postal address or Germany residence.
The World of Online Banking in Berlin
The number of banks that solely operate on the internet in Berlin, has significantly grown over the last few years, thanks to the growth of technology and the internet. The online banking is a good option, especially if you want to open a bank account in Berlin, before arriving to the city. The best thing about most online banks is that they allow customers to open a bank account in Berlin without having to visit the branch physically.
Opening an online bank account tends to save you ample time and hassle of making an appointment, waiting in line, traveling, etc. The banks often do not need the proof of registration are usually offering their service in English. Most online banks offer fewer charges than the traditional banks.
The Best Online Banks in Germany
N26 - N26 is regularly endorsed because customers can register for an account before registration. Opening a bank account at N26 is typically a very efficient process. You first register for an account on N26 and then follow the guidelines on the website to create the bank account. Despite its quick process, you will still require a German address to activate the created bank account. N26 provides 100 % of its banking services in English.
Deutsche Kredit Bank (DKB) - If you like performing all your banking activities online and seek low or no fees, DKB is the ideal online bank for you. The bank offers a free Girocard, free account and free ATM withdrawals. Over the last few years, Deutsche Kredit Bank has become stricter with their requirements. As a result, you may need to have a particular level of income to open an account with them.
Factors to Consider When Opening a Bank Account in Germany
If you want to open a bank account in Berlin, there are some aspects that you need to consider. Depending on your specific needs for the bank account, you should opt for one accordingly. There are a number factors that you may need to consider;
You can open a standard bank current account for free in most German banks, but they may come with limited services. The mobile and online banks are usually significantly cheaper when it comes to money transfers. However, the mobile and online banks may limit the amount and number of transactions you can make monthly.
English Language Services
If you have no knowledge of the German language, you should ensure that your banking provides their services also in English. Most mobile and international banks offer their services in the English language.
Is their service a fit for your needs?
Most new clients are likely to go for banks that offer cheap global money transfers and free international withdrawals. But depending on your needs, several other services such as credit cards, free international ATM use, add flexibility to the account, and overdraft facilities, should also be factored into account.
Ease of Access
How and from where will you be accessing your account? By opening a mobile or online account, you’ll have round-the-clock access to your account. Most traditional banks, have also adopted online access to their banking services.
How to Open a Bank Account in Berlin?
Nothing beats a face to face interaction when opening a bank account. If you are opening a bank account in Berlin with a traditional bank, you will need to visit the designated bank branch in person, with the required documents. The process for registering for a bank account in Germany varies from bank to bank. But generally, you will require to have the following documents to open a bank account in Berlin.
- Passport or ID card
- Registered address certificate - Anmeldung
- A German Tax ID
- A residence permit
- An employment contract
Students applying for a bank account in Berlin, need to have the following additional documents:
- Foreign TIN (Tax Identification Number)
- Proof of home address
The Process of Setting up an Online Bank Account
When opening an online bank, you may need to verify your account via a code sent to your email or phone, through the webcam, or by visiting an authorized branch such as PostIdent.
PostIdent allows applicants, to download entity verification documents from their bank’s site and take them to the local post office with their passports for confirmation purposes.
These documents are signed and taken back to your bank and a processing fee is often charged. An easier method to have your documents verified is, hiring a lawyer to complete the entire process for you.
The major online-only banks available in Germany include the N26, 1822direkt, DKB Cash, Santander, NetBank, O2 Banking, and several others. Every bank has its pros and cons. N26, for example, is an online-only bank that has a cool application and English-language support, but its free account does not come with a debit card. Yes, you get a MasterCard, but a debit card is offered at a low cost.
Some banks prefer only residents in Berlin, while others demand you to wait for a specific time before authorizing you to have a credit card. Other banks require you to have a particular minimum income to sign up for an account with them. Therefore, choosing a bank entirely depends on your needs.
Most expats coming from abroad would need to provide a recommendation from their home bank.
Once you succeed in opening an online bank account, the important documents and cards will be emailed or posted to you.
The Standard Banking Fees in Germany
If you need to open a bank account in Berlin, comparing the banking fees helps you make a sound decision about the bank to join. Here’s how banking fees, commonly regarded as account management fees, work in most banks:
- Basic Fee – this is a monthly fee that you pay for possessing a bank account.
- The overdraft facility – here is a scenario where you can withdraw more cash than what’s available in your account, up to a specific contractual limit. It usually amounts to 7 % to 11 % in interest.
- Overdraft – it’s also an overdraft, but it isn’t restricted to any condition.
- Cash deposit – This is when you deposit money into your account.
- Bank statements – the German law requires the banks to send you monthly account statements, providing you with an overview of the account transactions. Besides, you can subscribe to the free digital bank statements. Remember that most banks will charge you for the statements received via post.
Once you open a bank account in Berlin, you can begin managing your money instantly while working in Germany. Follow the above mentioned easy-to-follow steps, and you’ll have a bank account and have it verified within a short period of time.