Are you paying fees for your bank account? Fees for money withdrawal on foreign ATMs? Fee for a credit card? Here I’ll give you an overview of free online bank accounts and how to open a bank account in Germany – no matter if you are a German or a foreigner.

Often when I am out with friends, one of them needs to get more cash. So they start asking β€œWhere’s the nearest Sparkasse ATM”, or β€œWhere the next Cash group?” and then they look around, asking people as they pass by, or check Google Maps. Later, they will tell me how tedious it was to open a bank account, because of all the paperwork they needed to show – and now they are even paying a monthly fee of 5, 6 or even 7 EUR. β€œOh, and a credit card is coming, for an additional 10 EUR per year!”

When I hear this, I am just like β€œWhy? Why?! WHY?!”

It really doesn’t make any sense to have these bank accounts. In Germany, you can get much better deals. Complete with free accounts, free money withdrawals at any bank machine and even a free credit card.

In this article, I will describe them in detail. Every offer gets its own section – or even its own article. At the end, you’ll find an overview table.

Find the right overview

But before you read on – there are so many different German bank accounts so I decided to split the articles up:

Still here? Then let’s look at free German bank accounts:

(Can’t see the table? Click this link. *)

As you see, the table is full of offers – but three of them are very interesting for expats:

1. DKB Cash: Get cash everywhere

The DKB Cash account* is the one I’m using myself for my main account. I’ve been a happy customer for 9 years now, still enjoying it and I’ve never been disappointed – so I also wrote a longer review on the DKB account.

There are two types: active and standard account, and a special offer for
students.

  • Active customers are all new customers 12 months after account opening. To remain an active customer after that time, your accounts needs to receive incoming payments of at least 700 EUR per month. (This can be anything: salary, scholarships, payments from your parents etc.)
    You can also spend this money immediately – what is only relevant: The sum of all incoming payments per month must be 700 EUR.
  • Standard customers: These are simply all customers who do not fulfill the conditions of active customers
  • Students: You must be enrolled in a university or Fachhochschule.

All of them have no account fee – so in case you forgot your account and don’t use it for a while, no fees apply. So no risk of loosing money when you open an account.

What’s also free in all types: A Visa and a Giro card.

For some other features, see this overview:

FeatureActive customerStandard customerStudent account
cash withdrawalfreeEUR: free
non-EUR: 1.75%
free
contactless paymentsfreefreefree
other paymentsfreeEUR: free
non-EUR: 1.75%
free
ISIC student card for 1 year––free

Go to DKB Cash* Go to DKB Cash for students*

2. ING: Solid offer with free cash top-up option

The ING* is a bank of Dutch origin with a history starting in 1965. Their account offer is free if

  • you have incoming payments of at least €700 per month, or
  • are less than 28 years old

Otherwise, you pay a monthly fee of €4.90.

You receive a Visa debit and a girocard.

Besides, you enjoy unlimited cash withdrawals for free if withdrawing Euros. For other currencies, a fee of 1.99% is applied. You can use any ATMs with the Visa logo and additionally, you can withdraw cash at shops, even without buying anything.

A great feature is that you can deposit money for free, be it

  • at ATMs of ING
  • at Reisebank branches

Go to ING*

3. o2 Banking: Quick and free

o2 Banking o2 Banking* is cooperation of Fidor Bank and the o2 telco provider. Their offer is both free and easy to understand – and most importantly, very quick to set up: only in 7 minutes, as they promise.

At o2 Banking, you receive a Mastercard debit that allows you free payments in €, in other currencies a fee of 1.75%.

You can withdraw cash at any ATM 3 times per month in the Eurozone, more withdrawals cost €3. But: Unlimited withdrawals are possible at shops. There, you can also deposit cash (€100 per month for free, more: 1.5% fee).

Go to o2 Banking*

Overview 1

DKB*ING*o2banking*
Account keepingfreefree if <28yo, or monthly income >700,
otherwise 4.90
free
Language supportGermanGermanGerman
CardsVisa creditVisa debitMastercard debit
2nd cardgirocardgirocard❌
Features20+ years on the market, active customers: free cash withdrawal worldwideoptional: securities accountFree cash deposit at many shops
Paying with cardfreein EUR: free, other: 1.99%EUR: free, other: 1.75%
Withdraw cash at ATMsmin €50,
active customers: free,
non-active:
€: free, non-€: 2.20%
min €50 (less possible if account balance is <50EUR),
in €: free,
non-€: 1.75%
3x/month in €zone: free,
more: €3
Withdraw cash in shops€50-€300: freeβŒβ‚¬50-€300: free
Withdraw cash at shops when buyingβœ…βœ…βŒ
Top up with transferSEPA: freeSEPA: freeSEPA: free
Top up with cashDKB-ATMs: free,
Cash im Shop: 1.5%
ING-ATMs,
Reisebank (min €1000): free
at shops: €100/month free, more: 1.5%
SEPA-Transfersfreefreefree
IBAN numberGermanGermanGerman
Google Payβœ…βœ…βŒ
Apple Payβœ…βœ…βœ…
Video identβœ…βœ…βœ…
Post identβœ…βœ…βœ…
Go toDKB* ING* o2 Banking

4. norisbank: Instant SEPA transactions

Update 2021: Norisbank is now only free if your account receives incoming payments of at least €500 per month. Otherwise, you pay a monthly fee of €3.90.

Norisbank has a very similar profile like DKB:

  • Cash without fees at ATMs (however, in Germany only at Cashgroup machines)
  • Card payments worldwide without fees
  • Optional: A free securities account

But different to DKB is that you receive a Mastercard (not Visa). And you only get a credit card if you are creditworthy (i.e. a good credit score at Schufa).

Yet, there’s a feature that no other bank in this list comes with: Besides free, regular SEPA transfers, you can also send and receive SEPA instant payments which immediately arrive at their destination (fee: €1 per transaction).

For cash deposits, norisbank offers a very convenient way: Use any Deutsche Bank cash deposit terminals. Note that they only accept banknotes, not coins.

If you want to pay with your phone: Apple Pay works but Google Pay does not.

So norisbank is a great choice if you want to send and receive instant SEPA transactions.

Go to norisbank*

5. comdirect: Free cash withdrawal worldwide

comdirect gives us Visa debit or credit card (depending on our credit score). We have free cash withdrawals in Germany (Cashgroup) and worldwide (Visa ATMs) – but paying with card is only free in the Eurozone.

Cash Deposits: 3x per year at a Commerzbank branch or cash deposit terminal.

And here we get both Google and Apple Pay.

Go to comdirect*

6. Commerzbank: Free + with branches

This is the only account in this list where you can also go to a branch and speak to a person.

We get per default only a girocard – but can apply for a Mastercard credit card in a Commerzbank branch.

Money withdrawal is free in Germany at Cash group ATMs and shops – but abroad it is… very expensive. πŸ™‚ (Just don’t do it, better get an additional account only for your travels.)

We will get both Apple and Google Pay.

So Commerzbank is a solid choice if you like branches and having also physical relationship to your bank is important to you. πŸ˜‰

Go to Commerzbank*

Overview 2

norisbank*comdirect*Commerzbank*
Account keepingfree if €500 incoming per monthfreefree
Language supportGermanGermanGerman
CardsMastercard debit (or credit if creditworthy)Visa debit (or credit if creditworthy)Mastercard credit if creditworthy (apply in Commerzbank branch)
2nd cardmaestrogirocardgirocard
Features20+ years on the market, active customers: free cash withdrawal worldwideoptional: securities accountFree cash deposit at many shops
Paying with cardfreein €: free, other: 1.75%in €: free, other: 1.75%
Withdraw cash at ATMsin Germany: free at Cashgroup ATMs,
abroad: free
in Germany: free at Cashgroup ATMs,
abroad: free
in Germany: free at Cashgroup ATMs,
abroad: free
Withdraw cash in shops❌❌❌
Withdraw cash at shops when buyingβœ…βœ…βŒ
Top up with transferSEPA: free
Instant SEPA: €1
SEPA: freeSEPA: free
Top up with cash / Depositfree at Deutsche Bank deposit terminals3x/year: free at Commerzbank branch or terminalfree at Commerzbank terminal
SEPA-Transfersfreefreefree
IBAN numberGermanGermanGerman
Google PayβŒβœ…βœ…
Apple Payβœ…βœ…βœ…
Video identβœ…βœ…βœ…
Post identβœ…βœ…βœ…
Go tonorisbank* comdirect* Commerzbank*

How to create an account

As we know, all these accounts are online accounts. So the first step is easy: Just click on one of the Open an account links, fill out the forms with your data, and click submit.

By law, they are also required to check your identity. So how do they do it? There are 2 ways: Identification per video chat or per Postident.

Video chat

The easiest way to legitimize your information is via video chat. You make a video call with your computer and a webcam, or with your smartphone, and have a conversation with an employee. For this conversation, you need to show your ID or passport to the camera, and they take a photo of it. N26 and (as far as I know) DKB offer this.

Postident

If you don’t have the equipment for a video chat or the bank does not offer it, there is Postident. After registering online, you print out some of the PDFs they send you and go to the next Deutsche Post office. There, the clerk will check your papers and confirm you are you.

All of the banks here offer Postident. You can also find your closest Deutsche Post office here. (On the form, where it says β€œwith special service”, select β€œPostident”.)

Support

After opening your account, you can contact the bank online or by phone: They have service hotlines, usually with a German landline number, so don’t worry about extra fees.

From my experience as a DKB customer, the service on the phone is pretty good, until now I always spoke to well informed clerks who could give me answers quickly and straight to the point. The service was much better than I was used to having at the branch banks, where I was a customer years before. Again, with N26 you even get the service in English.

That’s it! I hope you could find out something that works for you. If you know if better free bank accounts, please let me know in the comments!

Links marked with a star (*) are affiliate links. If you click on such a link and then shop or order something, we will receive a commission for your purchase with which we can cover our expenses and keep the site free of ads. This does not change the price for you.

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