Is it possible to open a bank account in Germany without a residence? This question is raised by many immigrants who plan to move to Germany. Such an account is indeed possible, but only few banks allow to open such an account. Applicants must provide proof of identification due to the German money laundering legislation and this is considerably more difficult from abroad. How the opening of a bank account from abroad nevertheless can succeed, I’ll explain in the following article:
Only direct banks allow account opening abroad
Whether a bank account without a residence in Germany can be opened depends on the conditions of the bank. Classic branch banks such as Sparkasse, Volksbank, Postbank etc. in most cases refuse such an account opening. Branch banks are usually restricted to customers in their own business area. The correspondence is often still postal and with a foreign residence this is of course problematic. The situation is different with direct banks (bank without any branch network), where there are various providers who offer free accounts (often including free debit cards) even without residence in Germany. Direct banks have the clear advantage that the account management (for example transfers, communication with bank employees) is already happening online and account statements are made available via e-mail or as a download. Therefore, the direct banks are more flexible when it comes to residence.
Comparison of possible bank accounts
A bank account can be opened at DKB (direct bank subsidiary of Bayerische Landesbank) without domicile in Germany. Another supplier is Comdirect. With N26 I would also like to include a third provider in the comparison; the bank is now active in 23 European countries. The most important tariff details I have summarized in the following table:
Note for mobile phone users: this table can be moved sideways.
|Who is allowed to open a bank account?|
|German Citizens living in Germany
|German Citizens living abroad
||with residence in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (regardless of nationality)||with residence in Germany, Austria, Irland, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Luxemburg, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia, Switzerland, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Lichtenstein, Iceland, USA (regardless of nationality)||with residence in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (regardless of nationality)|
Important Account Details
|Account Management fee / monthly fee||free||free||free|
|Debit Card||Visa Debit Card (free)
||Mastercard Debit Card
|Girocard and Visa Debit Card (both free)
|Credit Card||Visa Credit Card
(can be booked optionally – 2,49 € per month)
|–||Visa Credit Card
(can be booked optionally – 1,90 € per month)
|Withdraw money in Germany||free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign||free 3 times per month on all ATMs, above this 2 € for each withdrawel. Cash can be withdrawn free of charge in over 9,000 retail stores in Germany (e.g. REWE, Penny, dm).||free with Girocard
– only Cash Group ATMs*
|withdraw money outside Germany
|free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign||All withdrawel in Euro currency are free||free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign (3 times per month)|
|withdraw money outside Germany
|free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign||Withdrawel in non Euro currency, fee of 1,7 %||free with Visa Debit Card on all ATMs with Visa sign (3 times per month)|
|Interest rate||0 %||0 %||0 %|
|interest paid on overdraft||6,74 %||8,9 %||6,5 %|
|Test results / recommendations||–|
|Open bank account|
|Account opening possible||online||online||online|
|proof of identification
|PostIdent, VideoIdent (Webcam)||PostIdent, VideoIdent (Webcam)||PostIdent, VideoIdent (Webcam)|
|proof of identification
|Local Bank / Lawyer||Photo identification||Notary|
|Open Bank Account (DKB)||Open Bank Account (N26)||Open Bank Account (Comdirect)|
* 9,000 domestic ATMs of the cash group banks Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Hypovereinsbank and Postbank.
DKB (top recommendation)
With over 4 million customers, DKB is the second largest direct bank in Germany. There are no monthly account fees, nor is a salary or income required for the opening of the account. At DKB, cash can be withdrawn free of charge from all Visa ATMs (over 1 million worldwide) in Germany and abroad. Usually, foreign banks demand a high fee of up to 5 Euros per cash withdrawal. Therefore, the DKB is very popular with German holidaymakers.Open Bank Account (DKB)
N26 (easy account opening)
Founded in 2013, Bank N26 is one of the fastest growing banks in Europe with over 3.5 million customers. By default, N26 is a credit-based account. The account cannot slip into the negative as you have only the money available, which was previously paid into the account. Therfore the account opening is easier compared to the other providers. Once the account has been opened, an overdraft facility can be applied for retrospectively, only then a credit check will be carried out. In addition to German nationals, EU citizens from 23 countries are allowed to open an account with N26. Monthly account fees do not apply. Debit card payments in Germany (and abroad) are free of charge. Cash can be deducted free of charge in Germany 5 times per month at local ATMs. In addition, the withdrawal at ATMs costs 2 € each. UPDATE: N26 now offers free withdrawals for customers from 7,000 retail partners in Germany. In other EU countries, withdrawals in EUR currency are free of charge. For withdrawals in non-euro currencies, a fee of 1.7 of the amount must be paid. The registration process is available in different European languages. For customers abroad, N26 offers a particularly simple procedure for legitmation using photo identification.Open Bank Account (N26) – English Open Bank Account (N26) – French Open Bank Account (N26) – Italian Open Bank Account (N26) – Spanish
Comdirect offers very similar conditions to the DKB. There are no monthly account fees or income required to open the account. Within Germany, however, customers can only use the approx. 9,000 ATMs of the Cash Group banks to withdraw cash free of charge. In foreign countries, Comdirect customers can use all Visa machines for free cash.Open Bank Account (Comdirect)
How long does the account opening take?
It can take up to one week until the banks carried out the checks (e.g. credit score) and confirm the opening of the account. After this, another week may pass before you hold the bank cards and all other documents in your hands. The reason for this is that the cards/documents are sent separately for security reasons. Particularly fast is N26: Due to the missing credit score check, the Mastercard and the corresponding online access data may already arrive at the customer after 3-4 days (abroad +6 days).
Proof of identification
For the account opening, a proof of identity has to be provided. Such proof is necessary due to the German money laundering legislation. There are three possible methods for legitimation which take a different amount of time. So you have a little influence on how long the account opening takes.
The fastest way to prove identity is using the VideoIdent method. The method of legitimation has been possible in Germany since 2014. This requires a Smartphone or an Internet-enabled PC / Tablet computer with webcam as well as the ID card / passport. For legitimation, a video chat with a bank employee takes place. The passport must be held into the camera so that the safety features can be checked. In addition, a photo of the applicant’s face is made. The VideoIdent procedure is free of charge for the applicant.
|DKB||The video chat is possible daily (also on weekends) between 7am and 10pm German local time. For applicants residing in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, the VideoIdent procedure is possible (regardless of nationality).|
|N26||The video chat at N26 is possible daily (also on weekends) between 7am and 11pm German local time.|
The VideoIdent procedure is possible for persons with residency in Germany. German citizens require an identity card or passport. For foreigners, only the passport is sometimes accepted. Not all nationalities can use the VideoIdent procedure. In some cases, a residence permit is also required (see list of countries).
Country List for VideoIdent
|Comdirect||The VideoIdent procedure is possible at Comdirect for German citizens with an identity card or passport. An Austrian passport issued after 05.09.2014 can also be used for video legitimation.|
Anyone living in Germany can use the PostIdent procedure to verify their identity at any of the 8,500 German post offices. You will need your identity card or passport, the relevant account application form and the PostIdent coupon, which you will receive from the bank following the account application. A member of staff at the post office will complete the PostIdent coupon, check your identification data and send the signed PostIdent coupon to the bank. If your place of residence is in Germany, this will be noted on your identity card and you do not need to prove this separately. In addition to German citizens, legitimation via PostIdent can also be used by foreigners whose identity card or passport contains a photograph and a machine-readable zone (MRZ).
The PostIdent procedure can also be used by persons who are not resident in Germany. If you live abroad and would like to open the account during a holiday in Germany, you can also do this (tip: it is best to apply for the account shortly before travelling to Germany). If you live abroad, however, you must present the postal employee with a valid confirmation of your residence. For example, a local tax assessment or a current electricity, gas or water bill is a good idea.
N26: Customers outside Germany can use the photo identification procedure. N26 works together with SafeNed, a payment service provider licensed in the UK. As part of the procedure, a selfie and a photo of the ID must be uploaded, which is then checked by SafeNed. As soon as the documents have been checked and accepted by SafeNed will, N26 will open the account. Country list for photo identification
DKB: Foreigners can also open a bank account. Identity verification is possible at a local bank or a lawyer abroad. The lawyer or bank must complete the registration form and send it directly to the bank. The costs incurred for this are not covered by the DKB. The possibility of legitimation by a bank / attorney is not possible in all countries.
Comdirect: Identity verification is possible with a notary. The costs incurred for this are not covered by the Comdirect. The possibility of legitimation by a notary is not possible in all countries.
Alternatives to a German bank Account
Opening a bank account at a German bank is not always possible for non-residents. The rejection rate is high and there can be various reasons, which are (unfortunately) not publicly communicated by the bank. If you have been rejected by German banks, think about opening a bank account in another European country. Most European Countries are a member of SEPA (Single European Payments Area) and Euro payments between SEPA countries are harmonized since 2014. Cross border Euro bank transfers within the SEPA area are as quick and cheap as within a single country. A German employer also cannot insist you open a German bank account for euro transfer, by SEPA regulation (Article 9) they are obliged to accept IBANs (International Bank Account Numbers) from other SEPA countries. The UK is part of SEPA and although the UK is not using the Euro, UK banks like Wise (former TransferWise) and Revolut offer free Euro-IBAN accounts which are easier to open. Also if you are planning to transfer money to countries outside Europe, these banks offer very good exchange rates (Interbank Rates).