I have recently reviewed a number of credit and debit cards, predominantly from Germany, but also from other neighbouring European countries such as the United Kingdom, Austria and Poland.
While I am unable to offer any reward (as this page is operated on a non-profit basis), any review for publication is more than welcome and should be sent to . I hope this website is useful to anyone interested in obtaining a bank account and looking for a particularly safe (offline PIN capable) and compatible card.
Information on this website does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a professional (solicitor or tax accountant) before opening any bank account or transferring monies abroad.
Opening a German bank account as a non-resident (fr: compte courant allemand sans adresse allemande; pl: konto w niemieckim banku bez zameldowania) without a German address is significantly easier than opening a bank account in, say, the United Kingdom.
- Many online banks will readily give you a current account (Girokonto). However you should not expect an overdraft facility (Dispositionskredit), unless you have significant income in Germany.
- Instant access savings accounts (Tagesgeldkonto; called call money account in German English) are also available but rates are at an all-time low at the time of writing (May 2016). Expect introductory rates of ≤ 1%.
- You may even be able to open a share dealing account (Depot), making Germany an ideal place for any investment denominated in Euros. Any such account will come with a reference account (Verrechnungskonto) for incoming and outgoing monies.
- The concept of an Individual Savings Account in Germany does not exist. Any savings, for retirement, getting on the housing ladder, or other purpose are subject to double taxation, income tax when first earned and capital gains tax for any gains exceeding 801 euros in any calendar year. Incentives for first time house buyers have been abolished and subsidised pension schemes may not work out especially for savers on low incomes. If you have a choice of residence, it is not recommended to become tax resident in Germany.
- Do not expect a credit card (Kreditkarte), at least not with any reasonable limit, as German banks are traditionally conservative and risk averse. You will get a debit card (Debitkarte; EC-Karte refers to the incumbent legacy scheme now known as girocard) with your current account (usually Maestro or V PAY co-badged with the domestic girocard scheme, rather useless internationally and for e-commerce purchases but widely accepted in Germany; occasionally Visa Debit or Debit MasterCard).
- Money can be transferred cheaply to your German account by using SEPA transfers if you already have a EUR account within the EU/EEA, or TransferWise, Xendpay, or similar services if currency conversion is involved.
Non-resident German citizens (and probably also Austrian and Swiss citizens) should try DKB (Deutsche Kreditbank) or netbank. If you had a German credit history, comdirect is an option. Also, DAB Bank or Consorsbank may accept non-residents with foreign EU/EEA citizenship. Number26 offers German current accounts denominated in Euro to residents of a significant number of European countries, including Ireland, France, Austria and Spain.
You may have to visit a German post office and produce proof of identity and proof of address in order to satisfy KYC and AML requirements. Some banks such as DKB or comdirect will also accept copies of your passport and a proof of address endorsed by a solicitor or notary public in your country of residence.
NB: Any capital gains (interest paid, etc.) will be paid gross if you are not tax resident in Germany. These will have to be declared in your country of residence and you will be liable to pay income tax or capital gains tax. Tax evasion is a criminal offence.
A German bank account number is displayed as
also shown in print only as
DEcc ssss ssss aaaa aaaa aa
cc represents IBAN check digits,
ssssssss (formerly also shown in print as
sss sss ss when the legacy clearing scheme was still in use) represents the former national sort code (Bankleitzahl, can be looked up from the Bundesbank database) and
aaaaaaaaaa represents the internal bank account number (Kontonummer) at the particular bank.
Except for the DE prefix the number is made up solely of digits.