How to open a bank account in Germany as a British expat?

Gert Svaiko

Planning to study or work in Germany as a UK citizen? Perhaps you’re starting a business there, or just visiting relatives for an extended stay.

Whatever your plans, you might find it useful to open a bank account there. It isn’t essential, but a German girokonto (current account) could help you to pay bills and get paid if you’re working.

Opening a bank account in Germany used to be quite complicated for newcomers, but thankfully that’s not the case anymore. With just a few documents, you can open an account and start sending and receiving payments.

In this essential guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about opening a German bank account.

We’ll also show you a smart alternative to a bank account from the money services provider Wise - the Wise account, which lets you manage your money in 40+ currencies in Germany, the UK and worldwide.


Table of contents

Do you need a bank account in Germany?

It isn’t absolutely crucial to have a German bank account in order to move there. It is possible to manage without one, and you can always make use of multi-currency solutions such as the Wise account to send, spend and receive money.

However, as you settle into life in Germany, you could find that not having any kind of current account creates a few headaches. A bank account can be useful for things like paying rent and bills, getting your salary paid, signing up for a mobile phone contract and many other everyday transactions.

Can you use your UK bank account in Germany?

It might save some hassle to simply keep using your UK bank account while moving to Germany, but is it actually possible? Well, it all depends on who you bank with.

Since the UK left the European Union in 2020, major UK banks such as Barclays announced that it would be closing the accounts of British people living overseas in Europe.¹ This was to do with the change in regulations, which required banks to have separate authorisation in every EEA country they operate in.

There are exceptions to this, however. For example, you can keep your UK account if you’re only living in Germany for less than 6 months and plan to move back, or if you’re a UK Crown employee.¹

And not all banks are affected by the change in regulations after Brexit. Some international banks such as Santander say they will continue to service accounts when the holder moves abroad. However, you will need to be a UK resident to open a new account.²

Another thing to bear in mind is the currency. If you’re using a UK bank account, it’ll likely be denominated in GBP. You’ll be spending in EUR while in Germany, so you could lose out when it comes to currency exchange.

Can you open a bank account in Germany as a British expat?

You can open a German bank account as a British expat, but you might find it a little more difficult compared to the process for EU citizens.

As a non-EU national, you’ll need to provide proof of a German address, your ID and a valid visa and/or residence permit. Some banks are less expat-friendly than others, and may turn you down for an account if you can’t show evidence of a financial history in Germany.³

Can you open an account as an international student?

The process for opening a bank account if you’re studying in Germany is much the same as for travellers and expats.

Ideally, you should look for banks which offer dedicated student accounts. These will often offer fee-free banking, along with other student-friendly perks and features.

To apply for one of these student accounts, you’ll need valid ID and proof of your student status.

What documents do you need to open a German bank account?

Now for the paperwork you’ll need to apply for your new German bank account. The list of requirements may vary from bank to bank, but generally you’ll need the following:³

  • Proof of ID, such as your valid UK passport
  • A valid visa or residence permit
  • Proof of your address/registration (Anmeldung)
  • Evidence of income/employment (required by many banks, depending on the account you want to open)
  • SCHUFA credit rating (some banks may ask for this).
  • Proof of your student status, if you’re applying for a student account.

Proof of ID

Your UK passport is the best form of photo ID you can provide, and it’ll be accepted as proof of identification by all banks.

Visa/residence permit

Alongside your ID, you’ll also need to provide evidence of your visa to enter the country. You may also find it difficult (although not impossible) to open a bank account in Germany without a residence permit.

Anmeldung - proof of address/registration

The Anmeldung document is a registration certificate which proves you live at a certain address. There’s also a different document called a Meldebescheinigung, which proves you still live at the same address.

You only get the Anmeldung once, whereas you can request a new Meldebescheinigung any time. You can get the documentation you need by applying at your local Bürgeramt (citizen’s office).⁴

Evidence of income/employment

Not every bank will require this, but some may ask to see proof of your annual/monthly income and employment details. You’ll need to check with the bank to find out what specifically they will accept, but the following should be sufficient:

  • Recent bank statements
  • Pay slips
  • A letter from your employer.

SCHUFA credit rating

The SCHUFA in Germany is a credit score, used by banks and lenders to assess the creditworthiness of applicants.⁵ As a foreign national, you’ll only be able to get this if you’ve been living in Germany for a while already and have had a German bank account before. If so, you can apply for and download it online for a fee.

For newcomers, you might need to provide some other proof of your financial reliability. For example, an official letter from your current bank in the UK.⁵

Proof of student status

If you’re opening a student account, you’re likely to be asked for some proof of your student status. For example, an unconditional acceptance letter from your college or university.


How to open a bank account in Germany as an expat?

If you’ve just moved to Germany, here’s a quick look at the process for opening an account online:⁶

  1. Go to your chosen bank’s website to download and print the Girokonto application form
  2. Verify your identity. Take the completed application form, along with a completed ‘PostIdent’ form, your passport and Anmeldung/Meldebescheinigung to your local Deutsche Post location.
  3. Send the application form and signed ID verification to your chosen bank.
  4. Wait for confirmation.

However, as a foreign national, and particularly if you haven’t got your Anmeldung/Meldebescheinigung yet, you might find it easier to visit a bank branch in person. Hopefully, there’ll be an English-speaking customer service representative on hand to help guide you through the process. You’ll also be able to verify your identity in person, without needing to go through the ‘PostIdent’ verification process.⁶

If you want to avoid the queues, it’s recommended to make an appointment at your chosen bank in advance.

Can you open a bank account online in Germany as a non-resident?

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to open a bank account online if you’re not yet living in Germany. This is because most banks require evidence of a residence permit, plus that all-important proof of a German address.

So, you may need to wait until you’ve moved to Germany to open your new account.

Are there ways to open a bank account in Germany without Anmeldung or residence permit?

If you don’t have either of these two residence-related documents, it’s recommended to look for a bank that has accounts available for non-residents.

You may not have much luck with major and traditional banks, but a number of mobile banks in Germany do let you open an account without a proof of registration document. These include bunq, Monese and N26, where all you need is your ID to sign up.⁶

📚 Read more: How to start a business in Germany?

Best bank accounts for expats in Germany

The banking sector in Germany is known for being well-organised and efficient, so you should find the process of opening an account relatively quick and easy.

But watch out for banks that aren’t too hot on providing services, support and information for non-German speakers, as this can make applying and everyday banking difficult.

The different types of bank accounts available include Girokonto (current accounts), Sparkonto (savings accounts) and digital or mobile-only accounts.

There are many German banks to choose from but the most popular ones are:

Deutsche Bank

One of the biggest international banks in the world, and one of Germany’s most famous, Deutsche Bank offers a choice of Girokonto.

These include its standard AktivKonto and BestKonto premium account, which comes with a MasterCard Gold credit card among other perks. There’s also the Das Junge Konto for students.

One major drawback though is that its website is in German, which could make everyday banking tricky. There is a microsite for English-speaking customers which outlines the range of current accounts available, but the application process is in German. There is also an English-speaking customer service phone line you can contact.


Commerzbank has a choice of current accounts to suit all kinds of customers. These include its popular free, basic current account, along with a Klassik account for more flexibility (but a few more fees). There’s also a Premium account with perks including credit cards and travel insurance.⁷

Commerzbank is a great choice for non-German speakers, as it has a dedicated English website. There’s also a 24hr phone line for advice and making an appointment.⁷


Part of one of the leading banking groups in Europe, HypoVereinsbank offers a range of girokonto accounts.

These include the online-only HVB AktivKonto and HVB PlusKonto, which is free for 2 years if you sign up to the HVB valyou benefits program with credit card and other benefits. There’s also a premium HVB Exclusive Account, which comes with extra perks in exchange for a higher monthly fee.⁸

In good news for new arrivals, HVB says that all you need to open an account is an official photo ID, a valid email address and a mobile phone number. It doesn’t mention needing proof of address/registration.⁸

Like Deutsche Bank though, HypoVereinsbank’s website is in German, which isn’t ideal.


Postbank has a low-fee online-only current account, along with Postbank Giro Plus and Extra Plus accounts offering an increasing level of features and benefits. If you’re under 22, you can open a Postbank Das junge Konto account for free – this is a good option for undergraduate students.⁹

Like HVB, Postbank only requires a valid form of ID in order to open an account.⁹ Unfortunately though, Postbank’s website is in German only.

Other banks and alternatives worth looking into

If you don’t have a German address yet, or you need an account fast, it’s worth checking out these neobanks:

  • N26
  • Bunq
  • Revolut

Other alternatives worth looking into are providers like Wise and Monese, which don’t have banking licences in Germany but offer many of the same features as a bank account. This includes sending and receiving money.

What are the banking fees and costs in Germany?

Just like in the UK, there are some fees and costs to look out for when banking in Germany. These vary between banks, and you should check the small print before signing up for an account. But here’s a roundup of what to expect:

Transaction/fee typeTypical fee
Current account - monthly fee€1.90⁹ to €13.90¹⁰ a month

No fee for some accounts, if you meet minimum monthly deposit

ATM cash withdrawalUsually free at ATMs owned by your bank

Around 1% (min. €5.99 EUR) at other ATMs¹⁰

Getting a debit cardUsually free
Getting a credit cardAnnual fee from €10 to €600 EUR¹⁰
Domestic payments (i.e. within Germany)Usually free
International payments (i.e. to the UK from Germany)Free SEPA transfers within the EU

Around 1.5% + extra fees for other international transfers¹⁰

Can you get a free bank account in Germany?

It is possible to get a bank account in Germany without paying any monthly fees. Some banks offer fee-free accounts for students, or basic bank accounts with limited services and no monthly charge.

The account fee may also be waived if you meet certain conditions. For example, there is no monthly fee with the Postbank Giro extra plus account if you pay in at least €3,000 EUR a month.⁹

Wise – An international alternative to a bank account

Even though opening a bank account in Germany as a non-resident is much easier than it used to be, it can still sometimes be a headache.

But there is an easier way to get set up to send and receive money before you even touch down in Germany.

Open a Wise account and you can start managing your money in 40+ currencies, including EUR and GBP, right away. It’s not a bank account but offers many similar features

You don’t need to have a German address, only a valid ID. Also, the Wise website is all in English, with a friendly English-speaking support team on hand if you need them.

With Wise, you can send and receive money internationally with low, fair and transparent fees, and you get the mid-market exchange rate, without expensive mark-ups stacked on top.

Each transaction is secure and it’s all completely trackable online or via the Wise app. Better still, you can also get a Wise debit card to spend, shop and withdraw like a local during your time in Germany.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Sources used:

  1. Barclays - Living outside the UK
  2. Santander - Brexit and Santander
  3. Expatica - Opening a bank account in Germany
  4. All About Berlin - The Anmeldung - How to register your address in Berlin
  5. Hallo Germany - Schufa: Why you need it and how to get it for free
  6. N26 - How to open a bank account in Germany
  7. Commerzbank - Make Commerzbank your bank
  8. HypoVereinsbank - Current accounts
  9. Postbank - Current accounts
  10. Deutsche Bank - List of prices

Sources last checked on date: 06-Mar-2024

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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