Best Bank in Germany for Expats (2021)
Aktualisiert: Feb 16
The struggle of finding a German bank account for non-residents is real given that most banks charge high fees and fail to offer multilingual support. Moreover, the absence or lack in number of ATMs for certain banks makes it quite a task to locate the best bank in Germany that caters to all your needs and that too at an affordable price.
How to open a Bank Account in Germany?
Most banks in Germany drag the customer through a time-consuming process of going to their store, attempting at making the consultant understand your broken German and still not get the service that you came for. This problem is solved with Direct Banks (German: Direktbanken) by offering the option of post identification. This means you can fill in the forms online and verify your identity with your passport at an official post office. Still, the best solution was invented by mobile banks that enable video identification which allows you to open your bank account in no time by simply using a video chat application on your smartphone. Thus, they provide an easy approach to avoid all the hassle.
Banks in Germany compared
Basically we can differetiate between stationary banks and direct banks (also called: online banks). Stationary banks offer you personal advice in their branches. However, almost all of them ask for a management fee for the account and for other services. In contrast, direct banks do not have branches, but offer great services online. In most cases you won’t pay any fees for your account and additionaly get a free credit card, too. In the following grid, you can see the most popular banks in Germany and compare their condtions.
German Bank Account for non-residents
In our review, we have detected that N26 Bank offers the best free bank account in Germany that fits the needs of international expats and travellers. N26 Bank account works in all EU and EFTA countries when you want to use it as your primary bank account. It also offers one of the best credit cards in Germany that comes in handy while travelling; allowing you to pay everywhere in the world without any fees and withdraw money at any ATM with a Mastercard logo. Moreover, it offers multilingual support that includes German, English, Spanish, Italian and French. Given that the bank doesn’t ask for certain information like income, age, credit rating etc., you can open the account in just 8 minutes by Video ID.
N26 Bank Review
The Number26 Bank has challenged the old banks and developed their own modern solution for banking. It is progressive and user-friendly, thus allowing you to manage the banking process smoothly. N26 does not have expansive banking stores and therefore they can fully concentrate on their customers and service provision, thereby, offering a software that makes it so simple to control your balance and payments. N26 is the only bank that provides these services and therefore it checks all boxes to be considered the best bank in Germany for non-residents. Most importantly, the transactional account (German: Girokonto) and credit card (Mastercard) are for free.
Highlights: Free credit card (Mastercard debit) & giro card (Maestro Card)
Free payment with credit card / giro card + free cash withdrawal
Cheap bank transfer in foreign countries
Peer-to-peer payments in real time
N26 Support via Chat, Email & Phone in 5 different languages
Account change service
Account opening in 8 minutes
Modern banking app
Free Credit Card
N26 offers a free mastercard to make payments easier; especially when you pay online for hotel and flight bookings, credit cards are very useful as they are sometimes the only accepted payment method. The Mastercard has a high security standard. In case of credit abuse, you can lock it immediately via app or phone call and get the stolen money refunded. Optionally, you can also ask for a girocard (EC-Karte) which is a Maestro Card.
Note: The mastercard is actually a debit card, but in German often referred to a “Kreditkarte”, because it has mostly the same functions.
Free Payment and Withdrawal
With the mentioned credit card, you can pay for every transaction in the world without any fees, as long as the place accepts Mastercard. Also cash withdrawal in Euro at every ATM is free up to 5 times a month. Only in countries with non-Euro currencies you pay a small fee of 1.7% of the revenue. The N26 app also offers you a map to find the next ATM in your location.
In Germany you can additionally use the so-called Cash26 function. This includes money withdrawal or making a deposit without your cards but by using the app. This service is available in several stores including Rewe, Real and Penny supermarkets.
Cheap Foreign Bank Transfer
N26 has a partnership with TrasferWise, which is a FinTech company offering bank transfers to non-Euro countries for a price up to 5 times cheaper than usual banks or Paypal. If you want to transfer — let’s say 1.000€ to the US, the fees for that would be just 4.98€. This is substantially low as compared to other banks that make you pay around 30–45€.
With MoneyBeam, N26 offers P2P payments in real time. You can send money up to 1.000€ to a friend by using choosing his phone number or email address. If your contact also uses N26, he/she will receive the amount immediately; for contacts without N26, the bank will send a link to your friend to state his/her IBAN to receive the money on the external bank account. The same function also works when you wish to request money from a friend. Altogether, this idea is really useful for splitting bills with your friends after a night out.
N26 Customer Service
N26 offers customer support via chat, email or phone. It is the only direct bank in Germany offering support in more than one language, namely German, English, French, Spanish and Italian. The support is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Urgent inquiries like locking credits cards etc. can be manually done in the banking app.
Account Change Service
N26 offers a free account change service to inform old payment partners about the new bank account. For an easy and fast transaction, N26 has a partnership with FinReach. You just login with the account data of your old bank account so that all direct debit systems and money transfer orders as well as your balance are transferred to your new account. Optionally you can also use the service to quit the old bank account. The whole procedure usually takes less than a week.
Account Opening in 8 Minutes
N26 offers the VideoIdent process where in a matter of minutes you can confirm your identity at home by a video call on your mobile phone or computer. The staff will take a photo of you as well as of your ID and that’s it. When I opened my account at N26, it was 10 pm on Sunday night and it took just 8 minutes until the account was ready to use. In the following video you can see how the Video ID works.
Modern Banking App
N26’s Banking App is the crème de la crème the FinTech company has to offer. Besides usual function like checking your balance or doing bank transfers, the App has some more unique features:
Easy adjustment of all account function via app, e.g. if you want to lock your credit card
Push-message for every transaction, so that you can comprehend every account movement
Documentation and Categorization of your expenses so that you see a statistic on what you’ve spent your money for, e.g. groceries, bars, gas etc.
Is N26 Bank safe?
N26 and other German banks follow the high standards of the German Financial Supervision (BaFin). Furthermore, all banks in the EU have to provide a deposit protection of at least 100.000€; thereby keeping your money safe in case of bankruptcy. There used to be some criticism about N26 in when they started off. However, all security and support problems have been fixed in the past years. Moreover, unlike other mobile banks, N26 actually has an official bank license and is also supported by huge investors like Allianz, Axel Springer and Tencent.
N26 received one of the best feedbacks among all banks in Germany and most customers are satisfied with their services. In our review we’ve tested all the functions offered by the mobile bank and can confirm its reliability. We can assure you that customer support works fine via phone and chat. Our positive experience reflects several reviews in the internet: On Google N26 received over 3.000 ratings with an average of 4.7/5 stars; while on Trustpilot, the mobile bank showed that they are ahead of the game with a trust score of 8.2/10. Compared to that, the competitors like Sparkasse (1.2/10), DKB (2.7/10) and Comdirect (4.2/10) come off relatively badly. On Netzwelt.de N26 got 8.6/10 points with is the second best rating for a bank; especially because of the high transparency and innovation offered by the banking app. The only negative feedback received by N26 is based on the fact that the Mastercard is only a debit card and that withdrawal in foreign currencies is not free.
Conclusion: Not surprisingly N26 has become the No. 1 FinTech company in Germany. While most German banks still live in the 90s, N26 offers the service that a modern society actually expects from a bank: Uncomplicated procedures, no fees, English support and probably the best banking app.
HERE you can open a N26 bank account for free.