What are the best German banks 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 in Germany, they have horrible customer service. In fact, many non-resident individuals choose to open a bank account in Poland, Spain, or other parts of Europe instead.
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 is nearly impossible to open remotely.
- Not all banks in Germany will accept non-resident and expat applicants
- If you are planning on living in Germany, you will need to open a German bank account
- Most banks in Germany do not have English-speaking support staff, making it difficult for foreign applicants to understand the process of how to open accounts
- You might want to consider a combination of banking services in addition to a traditional bank account in Germany
- Online banking services in Germany will likely all be in German
Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.
Table of Contents
- German Bank Accounts [Banking in Germany 101]
- Do I Need to Open a Bank Account in Germany?
- Challenges of Banking With a German Bank as an English Speaker
- Can You Apply for Bank Accounts in Germany Remotely?
- Best German Banks in Germany for English Speakers?
- Ready to Open Bank Accounts With Banks in Germany?
German Bank Accounts [Banking in Germany 101]
Opening bank accounts in Germany as an English speaker can be an incredibly daunting task. Every expat gets trapped in the German ‘banking-apartment-phone’ puzzle when they first arrive.
You can’t get a phone without a German bank account. But you can’t get a bank account in Germany without a German address. And, you can’t do anything before you arrive in Germany.
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 German banks for English speakers.
In this article, we’ll explore the best banking options and services in Germany for English speakers, some useful shortcuts to open bank accounts in Germany, and the strategies that other expat and non-resident individuals use.
And we’ll also share what you should watch out for during the process of when you open bank accounts in Germany. That way you can avoid making common 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.
Do I Need Open a Bank Account in Germany?
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, banking compliance issues, and it’s a horrible choice for large transactions. In fact, you should not keep a lot of money in your bank account… just in case.
So, what do most foreigners in Germany do?
They open an N26 bank account in addition to a traditional bank account in Germany that has 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 bank accounts to meet your banking and everyday 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.
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 open a bank account in Germany.
Challenges of Banking With German Bank as an English Speaker
Banking in Germany is frustrating for English speakers.
After all, German banks were built to serve Germans, not foreigners or non-residents.
To start, it can be extremely challenging for non-resident individuals to open bank accounts in Germany. And, having money to deposit, a passport, and a job offer is rarely enough to successfully open a bank account in Germany.
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 a bank account here.
On top of that, not all German banks have English-speaking customer services or support. Their online banking and mobile banking apps don’t always offer the English language. And not all banks in Germany have online banking 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 bank 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 a German branch, or sending messages in broken German (if the bank even has online banking support at all).
It’s time-consuming, inefficient, and annoying…
If you can’t easily communicate with your bank in Germany in English (and struggle with German), you will likely run into a few problems.
Challenges Foreigners Face When Opening German Bank Accounts
- Most banks in Germany don’t provide application forms in English
- You miss important, time-sensitive alerts, notices, and 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 bank account gets hacked
- Difficult to use German-only online banks & mobile apps
- Every time you have a question, you have to call a hotline and talk to 3-5 different German reps to find a competent English-speaker willing to help you
- Fee structures are harder to decipher in German
- If you get overcharged, the bank makes a mistake, or you have a blocked account, 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 in Germany to resolve basic issues
What does all this mean?
If you’re an English speaker, it means you need to choose a bank in Germany very carefully.
No one wants to run around Germany, looking for an English-speaking banker every time they have a basic banking problem.
But what if you didn’t have to run around Germany? What if you were able to open a bank account in Germany from the comfort of your own home?
Can You Apply for Bank Accounts in Germany 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 Fintech options that allow non-resident individuals to open accounts remotely 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.
Best German Banks in Germany for English Speakers
When it comes to finding the best bank in Germany 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 process for opening bank accounts.
Here’s an example of a basic setup that many expat individuals use to achieve the best German banking experience with the English support they need. It’s a combination of fintech, a traditional bank account in Germany, and a foreign bank account.
Step 1 – Open a Fintech Bank Account
Use it as a “backup” bank account for emergencies and small purchases. It’s best for when you first arrive in Germany and can’t yet open a German bank account. 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 Bank Account in Germany
Use a traditional bank account in Germany 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 Outside of Germany
A foreign bank account can be used for everything else. Whether your life requires you to pay international expenses, make purchases overseas, or simply diversify some of your money 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, having bank accounts in Germany can actually offer a few lesser-known opportunities and services for globally-minded individuals on the hunt for new and interesting banking options. We discuss these in more detail in GlobalBanks IQ.
Ready to Open Bank Accounts With Banks in Germany?
Fortunately, if you’re looking to open bank accounts with German banks as a non-resident English speaker, we can help.
If you want to know which specific German banks will accept you, which account opening strategies to use, and how to avoid high fees and overcome tough requirements, then we’d be happy to help you on your journey.
If you’re ready to take action and want to open international accounts in person or with online banks, you can access GlobalBanks IQ, our dedicated international banking intelligence platform.
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