Banks in Germany: Choosing a German bank

Banks in Germany: Choosing a German bank

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Last update on January 14, 2019

Find a list of banks in Germany to help you choose the best bank in Germany for your needs, including online banks and international banks in Germany.

The German banking system consists of both private and public banks that have existed together for more than 200 years. Foreigners living or working in Germany can choose from a wide selection of German banks, online banks and international banks that have branches in Germany.

Accounts with German banks are not always free of charges, which can add up – for example, using ATMs or services from another German bank – so it pays to do your research to find the best bank in Germany suitable to your needs. Some banks, for example, offer free worldwide withdrawals or free credit cards. Non-residents who can’t prove a physical address in Germany will be limited to certain banks that offer non-resident services, international banks with branches in both countries or German online banks.

This guide includes a list of banks in Germany, along with information on:

Banks in Germany

Germany has what is known as a ‘three-pillar’ banking system made up of private commercial banks, public savings banks (Sparkassen and Landesbanken) and co-operative banks (Genossenschaftsbanken). These exist alongside international banks in Germany and a growing number of German online banks. There are only a small number of large, centralised banks, with most of the banks in Germany being smaller regional banks. Altogether there are more than 1,800 banks in Germany (including foreign banks) with more than 35,000 branches.

German banks mostly resemble the typical UK/US high-street banks in terms of banking operations and payment options, although cash is still popular. As Germany is a Eurozone country, money can be transferred to banks in Germany from other Eurozone countries for the same cost as a local transfer (under SEPA agreements). Other ways to make payments include a bank transfer (Uberweisung), standing order (Dauerauftrag) for regular payments of a fixed amount, and direct debit (Lastschrift) for regular payments that vary in amount. Payments by cheque are not so common in Germany nowadays.

Banks in Germany

You will be able to obtain credit cards, debit cards and cash cards (EC Karte) from most banks in Germany and they offer overdraft facilities if you have a regular income. See our guide to opening a bank account in Germany for more information.

German banks

Private banks in Germany make up around 40 percent of all German banks, with around two-thirds of them belonging to big centralised chains. There are also around 200 smaller regional banks in Germany.

Private commercial banks in Germany include large centralised banks such as:

For savings banks in Germany, there are local savings banks (Sparkassen) and regional savings banks (Landesbanken), which are owned and controlled by the German government. There are Sparkassen in most German cities, such as Berlin and Munich. There are seven Landesbanken in Germany, which act as the main central public banks in the regional German states, such as BayernLB and HSH Nordbank.

Co-operative banks in Germany make up the third pillar. There are more than 1,000 independent co-operative institutions, many of them operating under the Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken umbrella.

There are also a number of international banks in Germany (see below) and German online banks (Direktbanken), such as ComDirect, DKB and N26, many of them online subsidiaries of German banks with a physical presence. Many of the commercial, public and co-operative banks in Germany also have online banking options.

Most German banks offer a wide range of financial services including mortgages in Germany, currency exchange and a range of German insurances. Larger German banks cater for English-speaking clients, usually with an ‘international desk’ within the branch.

ATMs (Geldautomat) can be found at bank branches as well as other locations such as supermarkets, shopping centres, train stations and main streets. Use of ATMs is free but there can be a charge of up to EUR 5–10 if you use an ATM at a different German bank.

You can find the nearest ATM that takes Visa cards in Germany here.

Types of bank account in Germany

There are two main types of bank accounts in Germany:

  • Current account (Girokonto) – the standard bank account in Germany which can be used for receiving salary in Germany and paying bills.
  • Savings account these can be either instant access (Tagesgeldkonto) for saving money for things such as holidays, or fixed deposit (Festgeldkonto) which is a higher interest account with a minimum deposit and a fixed period that the money has to stay in the account, used more for investment banking purposes.

Current accounts are generally only available to German residents, as you typically need to have a permanent address in Germany to open an account, although some online German banks offer current accounts to non-residents. Savings accounts are offered to both residents and non-residents and can be opened from abroad with many German banks.

Opening hours of German banks

Opening hours of German banks vary but standard business hours are typically from around 8.30–9am to around 4.30–5.30pm. Some banks open later on Thursdays and some open on Saturdays. Some smaller regional banks close for lunch.

Best banks in Germany

According to rankings published by Accuity, the best German bank in terms of assets is Deutsche Bank, which is also ranked number 10 in the world. Commerzbank and KfW (German development bank) round out the top three banks in Germany in terms of assets.

For foreigners looking to open a bank account in Germany, the best German bank will depend on what you are looking for. The larger commercial banks are more likely to have English-speaking staff (e.g. Deutsche Bank), more services and more ATMs, although you may find lower fees and lower deposit requirements in some public savings banks and co-operative banks. If you are comfortable carrying out all of your banking transactions over the internet, a German online bank can also be a viable option.

Best banks in Germany

There are several German banks with offers of free accounts, money withdrawals and Visa or Mastercards – particularly for online German bank accounts – including N26 (online bank with English support), DKB (includes free worldwide withdrawals and some non-residents), ING, Comdirect (takes non-residents, withdrawals abroad), 1822direkt (free withdrawals abroad), Norisbank (takes EEA residents), Santander, Wüstenrot direct and Netbank (worldwide withdrawals). Other banks offer free deals once you meet a certain threshold, for example, Commerzbank voids all fees (Kostenloses Girokonto, free-of-charge account) if you have a minimum monthly deposit of EUR 1,200.

To compare banks, our guide to opening a bank account in Germany assesses six national German banks.

List of banks in Germany

Private commercial banks in Germany

Public savings banks in Germany – Sparkassen

Co-operative banks in Germany

Online banking in Germany

Online banking in Germany is fairly straightforward and very common. Accounts, services and information are either accessed via software provided by the bank or via a web environment. Both will allow you to check your balance or order a fund transfer from your own computer or other device. Security is done by means of PIN numbers (also used for ATMs) and TAN numbers (used to make online transfers). TAN numbers are sent to your mobile phone via text message or generated by a special device provided by the bank.

Besides most German banks offering online services, a number of banks focus solely on online banking.

Online banks (Direkt Banks) in Germany

German investment banks

Besides the larger, international institutions with offices in Germany, there are also local investment banks.

German banks

Investment banks in Germany

International banks in Germany

With a large selection of foreign banks in Germany, many expats choose to open an account with a bank from their home nation rather than a German bank. This can be a convenient option if your existing bank has a presence in Germany as you can sort out the paperwork to transfer your account to the German branch before you travel to Germany.

British banks in Germany

American banks in Germany

Other foreign banks in Germany

How to open a German bank account

You can open an account with a German bank by visiting one of their branches in person. Direkt banks and some of the larger standard banks allow you to start an account online, although you will have to provide a notarized copy of your identification along with copies of other documents.

Documents to be provided include ID, proof of address and proof of immigration status. Some German bank accounts require proof of employment status along with pay slips (or proof that you are a student if opening a student account) and a minimum initial deposit to open the account. See our guide to opening a bank account in Germany for more information.

German debit and credit cards

Most current accounts with German banks will offer credit or debit cards such as Visa or Mastercard, with fees varying depending on the type of account. You may also be issued with a cash card (EC Karte) for withdrawing money from ATMs. This card can be ‘charged’ with cash and used to make everyday payments. See our guide to opening a bank account in Germany for more information.

Transferring money to a German bank

You can transfer money to and from a German bank account for free if the other account involved in the transaction is based in a country within the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. If making a payment from a bank in Germany to another bank, you will need the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and SWIFTBIC (Bank Identifier Code) for the bank that is receiving payment.

International transfers between banks in Germany and banks outside the EU/EEA will usually involve a charge which varies between banks. One option to reduce fees is to use an online money transfer company such as PayPal or Skrill.

Offshore banking in Germany

Both Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have international arms that offer offshore banking. See our guide to offshore banking in Germany for more information.

Click to the top of our guide to banks in Germany.