Opening a bank account in Germany is not difficult as long as you have your passport and Andmeldedestätigung. There are numerous banks to chose from including:
- Deutsche Bank
- Sparda Bank
- and many more, just walk around your neighborhood and you'll find plenty.
With so many banks to choose from how did we make the choice? First we came up with a list of requirements. Among these were:
- Debit/EC cards and a decent sized ATM network sowohl im Deutschland und Ausland.
- Online banking
- A dedicated relationship manager/banker. Whether you are banking, buying a car or visiting a doctor, being a new comer I've found one of the best ways of getting something done quickly and painlessly is to have a friend who knows what to do.
- Credit cards with at least a modicum of a credit line. Should we stay in Germany longer than planned it would be useful to start building credit today. In Germany many places take either VISA or MasterCard, not both, so being able to get one of each would also be useful.
Your list will probably be different than ours, but having some requirements in mind is the best place to start. With requirements in hand the second day we were in Germany I walked around to all the local banks to get the relevant information.
Citibank: Thinking it would be very convenient to use an international bank with branches back in the States my first stop was Citibank. After inquiring at the front desk and explaining my situation the lady behind the desk lowered her voice, looked around to make sure no one was listening and told me to go elsewhere. She said that while it could be done it was difficult to open up an account at Citibank as a foreigner and that it would be easier and faster for me to try one of the other banks. I thanked her and left. I wonder if this has anything to do with German Citi having been sold to France's Credit Mutuel recently?
Sparda Bank: After my standard inquiry Sparda asked me to make an appointment and return the next day. If you use Sparda I would be interested in your thoughts, but I got the sense that Sparda offered very basic services with little relationship management in exchange for low account fees. In terms of ATM acces they have a network of 2,500 ATMs in Germany through the Cash Pool network (Citi is also a member of Cash Pool).
Deutsche Bank (DB): DB asked me to have a seat in their reception area and told me a Kundenberater would be with me shortly. Within 10 minutes I was sitting in a private office drinking a bottle of Mineralwasser and learning about all the types of accounts they offered. Being a foreigner? Not an issue. Credit Cards? With proof of income, not an issue. A dedicated relationship manager? Yes. After about 20 minutes of questions I made an appointment for the next day and returned with Ally to open the account. What does having this relationship as well as two basic credit cards cost? A few Euros/month and if we get such great service every time it's money well spent.
DB is a member of the Cash Group. Cash Group is a network of banks across Germany offering free-ATM usage to customers. There are about 7,000 ATMs across Germany in this network. DB also has agreements with Bank of America in the States, Barclays in England and BNP Paribas in France for free ATM usage. Kostenlose Bargeldversorgung as they say.
With a joint account you are able to get two credit cards (in any combination of Visa or MasterCard) in addition to your normal debit/EC cards. They're not really credit cards in the sense that you can carry a balance from month to month - not that you should do that anyway - however they are accepted where Visa or MasterCard are accepted which means that in addition to your debit/EC card and bargeld you have a third way to pay. Lastly it's worth noting that even if you have the American Express Black Card back home, in Germany as a new resident you should expect to start out with a fairly low credit limit at first.
We signed up for the account and received our Kontonummer on the spot. It took 3 business days for the EC Cards to arrive, another 2 days for the letter containing the PIN number to use the cards, 7 days for the online banking logins und die Kreditcarten.
As always, if I've made any mistakes with my German please let me know.