Opening German Bank Accounts for English Speakers

What’s the best German bank for English-speakers?

Today, there are over 1,800 banks in Germany and 230,000 expats.

And, we love Germany as a country…

But the truth is, when it comes to banking, they have horrible customer service.

And, this means that German banks are the trifecta of banking hell for many, especially English speakers. Banks in Germany tend to have poor customer service, no English support and are nearly impossible to open remotely.

That means opening a German bank account as an English speaker can be an incredibly daunting task.

Let’s take a look at Exhibit A:

The ‘banking-apartment-phone’ puzzle that every expat gets trapped in when they first arrive.

You can’t get a phone without a bank account. But you can’t get a German bank account without an address. And, you can’t do anything before you arrive in the country.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be Houdini to get out of this trap. And you don’t need to be a miracle worker to find the best German bank account for English speakers…

In this article, we’ll explore the best German banks for English-speakers, some useful short-cuts to opening accounts, and the strategies that other expats use.

And we’ll also share what you should watch out for during the account opening process so you don’t make any mistakes.

But before diving in, grab your FREE copy of the Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide. It will help you navigate international account opening as an Expat, Non-Resident, Tourist, or someone who just moved to a new country.

German Banking Hacks = Life

N26 is a religion amongst expats in Germany.

The only problem? N26 is only suitable for small amounts and little online purchases. And, it’s plagued with freezes, compliance issues, and it’s a horrible choice for large transactions. In fact, you should not keep a lot of money in your account… just in case.

So, what do most foreigners in Germany do?

They open an N26 account in addition to a traditional German bank account with English-speaking services.

If you’re a digital nomad outside of Germany, living on ramen noodles with €1,000 in savings, you might only need N26 and Transferwise accounts to meet your needs.

But, that’s not going to cut it when living in Germany…

If you’re living and working here, you NEED a German bank account to survive. Without one, you won’t get very far.

Here are a few of the basic activities you need a German bank account for:

  • Get an apartment and pay rent
  • Get a SIM card and phone plan
  • Obtain internet services
  • Pay your electricity bill
  • Get various types of German insurance
  • Receive your salary from a German employer

Of course, these are all things you’ll do after you have an account open.

Challenges For English Speakers at German Banks

best german bank for english speakers picture

German banking is frustrating for English speakers.

After all, German banks were built to serve Germans, not foreigners.

To start, just opening an account can be a challenge. And, having a cash deposit, passport, and job offer are rarely enough to successfully open a German bank account.

Instead, you’ll need to put boots-on-the-ground, jump through hoops, and acquire a few German documents in-person before attempting to open an account.

On top of that, not all German banks have English-speaking customer support. Their online banking and mobile banking apps don’t always offer English language. And not all banks have online English support. On top of that, all of your bank services, alerts, and paperwork will all be in… German.

With little to no English support, it’s impossible to get help when you need it most when there’s a serious problem with your account, the bank makes a mistake, overcharges you for something, or a time-sensitive issue arises.

In such cases, your only option is to resolve issues by spending hours on the phone, physically going into the branch, or sending messages in broken German (if the bank even has online support at all).

It’s time-consuming, inefficient, and annoying…

If you can’t easily communicate with your German bank in English (and struggle with German), here are a few of the problems you can expect to face:

  • No application forms in English
  • You miss important, time-sensitive alerts, notices, requests from the bank
  • Small tasks, like getting a replacement debit card or changing an address, can take hours…
  • No English-speaking support if your debit card gets stolen or account gets hacked,
  • Difficult to use German-only online banking & mobile apps
  • Every time you have a question, you have to call a hotline, talk to 3-5 different reps to find a competent English-speaker willing to help you.
  • Fee structures are harder to decipher…in German.
  • If you get overcharged for something or the bank makes a mistake, you’ll first have to track down an English-speaker that can help you.
  • If there’s no online English support, you’re stuck calling hotlines and physically going into branches to resolve basic issues.

What does all this mean?

If you’re an English speaker, it means choose your German bank very carefully.

No one wants to run around Berlin, looking for an English-speaking banker every time they have a basic banking problem.

But what if you didn’t have to run around Berlin? What if you were able to open a German bank account from the comfort of your own home?

Can You Apply for German Bank Accounts Remotely?

Like everything about banking in Germany, if you don’t speak fluent German and don’t have the right documents, your options are limited.

That said, there are a few fintechs that allow remote opening and have full English platforms, but even they have limitations.

If, however,  you have all your documents and you’re already in Germany, there are a few German banks that will accept your application online.

But, most bank websites and applications are entirely in German. So, if you have zero German skills, it’s often safer and more efficient to just physically go into the branch.

What’s the Best German Bank for English Speakers?

best german bank for english speakers opening remotely

When it comes to finding the best German bank for English speakers, the answer is a bank with an English website, English-speaking customer support, mobile and online banking in English, that doesn’t charge ridiculous fees, and has a reasonably easy account opening process.

Here’s an example of a basic setup that many expats use to achieve the best German banking experience with the English support they need. It’s a combination of fintech, a traditional German bank account, and a foreign bank account.

Step 1 – Open a Fintech Account:

Use it as a “backup” account for emergencies and small purchases. It’s best for when you first arrive in Germany and can’t yet open a German bank yet. Fintechs and digital banks can provide you with currencies, a debit card, and an IBAN, so you can cover basic expenses when you first arrive.

Step 2 – Open a Traditional German Bank Account:

Use when required, to support your life in Germany, or when it’s cost-effective. For expats living in Germany, a German bank account is critical and required in order to register your address, rent an apartment, get a phone plan, internet services, insurance, etc.

Step 3 – Open a Foreign Bank Account:

Use this for everything else. Whether your life requires you to pay international expenses, make purchases overseas, or simply diversify some of your cash away from the euro, having an international bank account just makes sense. This is especially true if you’re relying on banks in a single country, or in a country where you don’t speak the local language.

Bonus: While often overlooked, a German bank account can actually offer a few lesser-known opportunities for globally-minded individuals on the hunt for new and interesting options. We discuss these in more detail in GlobalBanks Insider.

Ready to Find the Best German Bank for English Speakers?

Fortunately, if you’re looking for the best German bank for English speakers, we can help.

If you want to know which specific banks will accept you, which account opening strategies to use, how to avoid high fees, and overcome tough requirements, then we’d be happy to help you on your journey.

When you join GlobalBanks, you’ll also get instant access to our entire archive of Banking Intelligence Reports. These include proven strategies for opening accounts. We also share contact information for specific banks and bankers. And to make sure you don’t waste time, we’ll also provide details on each bank’s preferences, sensitivities, and more.

You will also get access to the GlobalBanks Database which includes easy-to-digest bank profiles, analyst insights, account opening contacts, and unique opportunities for the top banks in 50+ countries.

GlobalBanks Insider is the most comprehensive international banking resource you’ll find anywhere. Click through below to learn more…

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