Home Finance Banking Mobile banking in Germany
Last update on July 14, 2020

Find out all about mobile banking in Germany with this guide explaining how German banks have been going digital and what is available.

There has been a move towards mobile and online banking across Europe as much of the population takes advantage of apps that enable users to do everything on their smartphones. In fact, Germany is at the forefront of developments and is home to some of Europe’s most innovative banks. Dutch mobile banking service bunq takes a look at what’s on offer in the country.

bunq

With bunq, you can open your full bank accounts in just five minutes using nothing more than your mobile phone. You get real-time access to your account, instant payments and dedicated customer support available in English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish. 

Mobile banking in Germany

German banks have been quick to embrace the technological boom in financial services. Established big brand names and newer start-up financial providers offer a range of financial services. However, the German public have been slightly slower than many other European countries in their uptake of mobile banking. Around 59% of Germans use internet banking, which is above the EU average; however, that’s well below many other nations such as France, Belgium, UK, and the Netherlands. Germany also trails behind many European countries as well as Australia and the United States when it comes to using mobile devices for banking, according to a 2018 study by ING.

German residents have a wealth of mobile banking options including:

  • National German banks such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, and Volkswagen bank.
  • Newer online-only banks including bunq, N26, and Revolut. These offer several language options, including English.
  • International banks such as HSBC, which offers expat-dedicated customer support and products tailored for internationals, including English-language online banking.
  • Multinational companies such as Apple, Google, and PayPal. These offer mobile payment services and the option to store funds in digital wallets.

Features of mobile banking in Germany

It’s easy to set yourself up with mobile banking in Germany. You just download the banking app onto your mobile device and set an account up in minutes. Documentation can be submitted online and ID verification can be done with a video check. Each German banking provider will have its own app with distinct features, but you can expect things such as:

  • payment options, so that you can pay bills, go shopping and make P2P payments to other mobile users.
  • quick and easy money transferring services.
  • financial management tools to help you keep track of what’s coming in and out.
  • instant notifications so that you know when transactions have occurred.
  • links to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • lower banking fees. As online banking reduces overheads for banks, service costs can be cut. Many mobile banks offer basic account services for free.

Many German banking apps have customized features so that you can set things up in a way that works for you. Expats can take advantage of the money transferring and international payment options. With bunq, for example, international payments are easy and are 3% cheaper than other providers. Payments in other currencies are also up to eight times cheaper.

There are some limitations as not all banking services are available via apps at the moment. Most don’t have the capability to transfer money into foreign currency accounts, and lending options are also limited. You will also be reliant on good Wi-Fi, which might be a problem in more rural areas (although the overall internet coverage across Germany is very good).

Mobile payments in Germany

While mobile banks have been at the forefront of innovation, mobile payments in Germany have been slow to take off. Germans have traditionally shown a strong attachment to cash when it comes to regular shopping; over half of payments made in cash and only 7.4% made by credit card in 2017. The two market leaders in mobile payments, Google Pay and Apple Pay, only launched in 2018; not all German retailers and banks are linked up with these payment providers, however. In fact, Germany currently lags behind other global leaders in terms of mobile payments with only 11% of smartphone owners using payment apps; world-leader China is at 79.4%.

Mobile payments are contactless payments made using a smartphone instead of cash or a credit card. They are carried out using Near Field Communication (NFC) or QR matrix barcode technology, enabling users to pay by simply waving their mobile device over a payment terminal or barcode. Google Pay is the leading service provider, as around 75% of German smartphone users have Android phones. Some German banks operate their own payment apps, such as Deutsche Bank and Volksbanken credit unions.

Mobile banking security in Germany

German residents, similarly to those in many other European countries, have their reservations about the safety and security of mobile banking. This may go some way to explain the lower take up rates of mobile payments and mobile banking in Germany. However, providers have been taking steps to ensure that digital banking is the most secure way to bank. Security features include high-strength ID protection (e.g., fingerprint or voice/face recognition), high encryption and instant blocking on lost or stolen cards.

To keep your personal data safe when mobile banking in Germany, make sure you:

  • keep everything password protected. If you are not protected by biometric ID recognition, choose a high-strength password.
  • avoid using public networks with free WiFi when logging into your account.
  • always log out of your account immediately after using it.

Opening a bank account in Germany

Most German banks require you to go to a branch and open up the account, although some now offer online sign-ups. German banks are typically only available to residents and you may need to provide proof of registration in you are from outside the EU. Banks are not obliged to give you an account and your application may be refused if you do not meet certain criteria. You will need to provide ID (e.g., passport) and proof of registration (Meldebescheinigung), plus possibly evidence that you work or study in Germany. Some banks also have minimum income requirements so you may also need to show proof of earnings.

You can choose between private German banks, savings banks (Sparkassen), or cooperatives (Volksbanken). Expats who want the flexibility of being able to open and operate their account remotely can also choose an online or mobile bank that they can access from their smartphone. This is a good way of reducing overheads too.