In this article we attempt to figure out which is the best bank account for students in Germany.
Having a bank account is very important, regardless of where you live. But even more as an international student in Germany. It is especially necessary to maintain your finances well. In addition to that, a bank account will be mandatory for the following:
- To rent an apartment
- Buy SIM Cards
- Internet subscriptions
- And to get salary for your job
But the banking system in Germany is a lot different than it is in India, or most non-EU countries. In fact, when I came from India it took me a while to understand how things worked here. It can be confusing and intimidating.
In order to spare you of all the confusions, I will summarize the best bank accounts for students in Germany in this article. Firstly I will explain the banking system in Germany. And what factors you must consider before opening a bank account here. Then I will list out the best available options for you to open your bank account.
Best Bank Account for Students in Germany – What Factors to Consider?
It is important to realize that the banking system in Germany is very different from what you could be used to. So let us get familiarized with the banking system in Germany by looking out for these factors in the bank you choose.
In other words, you should analyse the following features of a bank account before making a decision :
a) Kontoführungsgebühren – Literally translating to ‘Account Management Fees’. This is the fee you will pay to the banks for keeping your money deposited in an account with them. The fee could be anywhere between 4€ to 8€ per month. However this could increase even more depending on regional factors. For instance, my Volksbank account was costing me 13€ in Hamburg.
b) Negative to Zero Interest – In most German banks you will not be recieving any interest on top of the money deposited by you. This was absolutely new to hear for me when I came from India, where there is always a positive interest. But for most European countries it is common to have zero or even negative interest to deposit your money in a bank account.
c) Cards – When availing a debit card or a credit card, you should see if the bank you choose provides Mastercard or VISA. Some German banks will issue cards by Vpay (domestic issuer) and this may not be accepted when you are travelling to other countries within Europe.
d) Customer Service – As an expat, you must be sure that the bank you choose provides the best customer service available. You could need assistance provided in English if you are new to Germany. So having that option is of course a benefit. With the rise of Fintech companies, most banks have good online banking facilities.
What should the ‘Best Bank Account for Students’ look like?
As a student in Germany, our main motto behind every decision is to save money! Students are usually on smaller, limited budgets. Even with part-time jobs, it is advisable that you limit your expenses in every way you can. So an ideal bank account should fulfill the following criteria:
- Free of Cost Current Account (Girokonto) – Because spending money to keep your money in a bank account does not make any sense!
- Interest Rate – Well, this is a bit of a stretch, but we can try to find a bank account that pay at least some interest on our deposited funds.
- Card Services – We need to choose a bank account that can provide us a debit & credit card. It will be useful to have a card as a student to make your payments. If a bank account issues a VISA/Mastercard, it is very convenient!
- Customer Support – If you are an international student we need a bank account that gives us the best customer support!
What are the requirements to open a Bank Account in Germany?
In general, there are two main requirements for opening a bank account in Germany. These requirements tend to be the same across all banks.
- A German Residential Address
- Your Personal Identity Proof
Exceptions : A few bank accounts could reject foreign applicants, as their requirements could include ‘having financial history in Germany’. Also for the citizens of USA who apply to open a bank account, requirements could be additional as a result of the FATCA.
IMPORTANT : There could be a situation where you need to open a bank account in Germany right away, but you do not have a residential address in Germany yet. In this case, I would suggest you to open a Wise borderless account.
The Borderless Account is a multi-currency account that lets you hold up to 40 different currencies in the same account and send to over 50 different countries. You can easily transfer money between currencies using Wise exchange rates.
Best Bank Accounts for Students in Germany
In this section of the article, we shall take a look at some of the options we have for choosing the best bank accounts in Germany. As we discussed above, we will consider the key parameters we discussed above.
The first and foremost option we take a look at is Commerzbank. I put this in first place because no other bank in Germany offers such good services at FREE of cost for students.
Commerzbank Aktiengesellschaft is one of the major German commercial banks operating in domestic and foreign finance. The bank has its headquarters at Frankfurt am Main, and operates at an international level. As of 2019, Commerzbank was the second largest bank in Germany by the value of its balance sheet.
Commerzbank offers a wide array of services for you to choose from.
- Free Current Account (Kostenloses Girokonto) – free
- Free Current Account Student Version (Startkonto)- free
- Classic Account (Klassik Konto) – 4.90€ per month
- Premium Account (Premium Konto) – 12.90€ per month
Advantages of opening a Commerzbank Account:
- FREE of cost Current Account
- Zero ATM Withdrawal fees
- No foreign currency transaction fees
- Ease of Accessibility (1200+ branches)
- Excellent Customer Support in English & German
- Mobile App & Online Banking featuresSimple process to open your bank account
In conclusion, Commerzbank seems like a great choice. Its advantages are mainly in the great customer service and ease of accessing the bank’s services.
The only notable disadvantage could be the minimum incoming deposit of 700€ per month. But this could also be negligible for students who receive monthly blocked account payments!
This is definitely one of my favourtie banks in Germany! There are several reasons why, let us get into it one by one.
N26 is a German ‘Neobank’ with its headquarters in Berlin. It currently operates in various member states of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and in the USA.
Let us take a look at the features of N26 Bank :
- FREE Savings Account – You can open a bank account with N26 without any account management fees. Accordingly, this is a main criteria for choosing the best bank for students.
- FREE Cash Withdrawals – Customers can withdraw cash for free at more than 55,000 ATMs
- ZERO Currency Conversion fee – With N26 bank you won’t have to pay any surcharge for payments made in a foreign currency.
- Customer Support in English – N26 is the only German bank that operates 100% in English. On the other hand, most German banks don’t even have an English website. If you don’t speak German, N26 is one of the best options.
- FREE International Transcactions – If you are an international student,
As far as FREE bank accounts go, this is as good as you get. On the whole, I believe that N26 and Commerzbank are the two best options available for students.
I have already written a detailed review about N26 and its services. You can check the article here
Comdirect Bank AG is the third-largest German direct bank, which is an Internet Subsidiary of Commerzbank. Founded by the Commerzbank in 1994, the company went public in 2000. The Commerzbank integrated the company on November 1, 2020.
Comdirect is a bank that provides its services completely online. So if you are an expat in Germany, it would be helpful to have a bank that functions completely online.
Here are a few advantages for opening your bank account with Comdirect.
- Zero Account management fees (kontoführungsgebühren) – You can open a Comdirect bank account without paying any account management fees.
- Free Securities Depot Account (Depotkonto) – You can apply for a free securities deposit account if you are interested in investing in shares, ETF’s or other securities transaction.
- FREE Visa Card for Unlimited Free cash withdrawals worldwide
- Cash Deposits without Charges
In conclusion, Comdirect seems like a great option for Students to open their accounts with in Germany. But one noteable disadvantage is the customer support is only available in the German language.
4. Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank offers a special bank account service for students – Das Junge Konto. As one of the most popular banks in Germany, Deutsche Bank has more than 27 million customers through about 2,500 branches worldwide including 1,680 branches in Germany.
Let us take a look at some of the advantages of opening your account with Deutsche Bank.
- Free of Cost Savings Account for Students
- Customer Support provided fully in English
- Accessibility – Internet Banking & numerous Branches across Germany
- Free Cash Withdrawals (at CashGroup ATMs)
However, there is one notable disadvantage with opening your account at Deutsche Bank. It is only FREE for students. Once you finish your studies, the lowest available bank account plan will cost you approximately 6.00€ per month.
5. Wise Borderless Account
Wise (formerly Transferwise) Borderless Account is mainly specialzed for International Students who want to make payments as they move abroad. With a Wise Borderless account, you get a free Euro Bank account with an IBAN.
- FREE International and Domestic money transfers
- Registration can be completely online, without a residential address in Germany
- Once you get a German residential address, you will receive a Mastercard Debit Card
- FREE Cash Withdrawals upto 200€
Overall it seems like a great option to have. Especially if you have just arrived in Germany. Without a German residential address you can open up this account at ease.
6. DKB (Deutsche Kreditbank AG)
Deutsche Kreditbank is the second-largest Direct bank in Germany with 4,5 million customers, fully owned by the Bayerische Landesbank. DKB offers a free bank account service for all, regardless of their status as a student in Germany.
Let us look at the features of DKB Bank Account, which seem great to be honest!
- FREE Bank Account for students & working professionals. No charges for account management
- FREE VISA Credit Card
- No fee for Cash Withdrawals
- Positive Interest on Credit Card balance
However, there is a great disadvantage with the DKB Bank account despite all of its features.
Once you apply for the bank account with DKB, your Schufa credit score will be checked. If you are an international student who is new to Germany, there are high chances that your application will be rejected.
7. Vivid Money
N26 revolutionised the banking system in Germany with its 100% digital banking services. Likewise, Vivid Money is also growing to be one of the top ‘Neobanks’ in Germany.
Vivid Money offers two primary bank account services – Vivid Standard & Vivid Prime
The Vivid Standard Bank Account is completely free of cost, in the same way as N26.
Let us take a look at the features of the Standard bank account specifically:
- FREE to open and maintain
- FREE metal Visa Debit Card
- ZERO Foreign Currency transaction fee
- 24/7 personal support in English and German
However, the services of Vivid Money is not suitable for those who frequently use cash for transactions. There are free withdrawals upto 200€, after which there is a fee of 3% on withdrawals.
Monese is different from traditional German banks. To get started with, it is not even a ‘German Bank’. Monese is a British digital financial services provider that operates predominantly within the Euro zone. Monese offers several flexible plans, both for free and paid account services.
As per our criteria, we explore the features of the FREE of cost account more.
- Monese Starter Account with ZERO account management fees
- There is a 4.95€ Card fee which is paid one time for the delivery of the Mastercard that is provided for the Starter Account.
- In spite of free current accounts, there is a fee of 1.50€ for ATM withdrawals domestically. International ATM Withdrawals fees are 2%.
- There is also a currency conversion fee of 2%. However, you won’t be charged any fee if you are transferring to an international Monese account.
- Customer support provided by Monese is a great advantage. There are emails, chatbox & phone call services provided in over 20 languages.
In conclusion, we can say that Monese is a good option for you to open your bank account. But it is not a 100% FREE bank account, except for the account management fee.
Best Bank Account For Students in Germany – Notable Exclusions
I have tried to summarize some of the best options that you can have to open a bank account in Germany as a student. Nevertheless, this list does not comprise of all the options that are available. Here I will list a few notable exclusions that I have made, also providing the reason for excluding the bank from this list.
- 1822direkt – This bank does not offer customer support in English. They only offer their services in the German Langauge. Moreover there is a account management fee of 3.90€ if you deposit less than 700€ per month.
- Volksbank – Again, there is no customer support provided in English. Some branches could offer the choice of English & German, but it is not a guarantee. Volksbank also charges monthly fee of atleast 6.00€. In addition to this, there is also a debit card withdrawal fee of 0.50€
- ING – Similar to 1822direkt, there is a minimum deposit requirement of atleast 700€. Otherwise there is a monthly fee of 3.90€. In addition to that, the customer support is only available in German.
I excluded these banks from the list because I felt that these terms & conditions did not make sense for students who want to open an account with minimal charges But if you want to go ahead with any of these banks, you can absolutely do it. Keep in mind to perform your due diligence.
We come to the final part of the article. After a brief analysis of all different banks, now I will be concluding the final choices decisively. We started off by setting a few parameters to shortlist the banks. Our whole intention is to make sure we find the best bank for students that
a) Offers quality services
b) At the lowest possible price
While getting a combination of both is not always assured, we found there are more than enough choices to make a decision from. Based off my own experience however, I am going to narrow down to two choices. 1) BEST Bank Account for Students in Germany and 2) Its closest alternative.
BEST Bank Account for Students in Germany – Commerzbank
From the list, it is quite clear to us that Commerzbank stands out compared to all other options. Commerzbank provides its account without any monthly fee. In addition to that, services such as ATM Withdrawals, Deposits, International Transfers etc., are all provided at free of cost.
The quality of Customer Support at Commerzbank is incredibly good. Not only is the online customer support efficient, branches of Commerzbank are easily accessible. It is also one of the few banks that provides its customer support in English along with German.
In summary, Commerzbank is the ideal combination of quality service at ZERO cost. So I would 100% recommend you to open your bank account with Commerzbank.
Closest Alternative to Commerzbank – N26
At number 2, we have N26. The German Neobank is one of my favourites as I mentioned before. Similar to Commerzbank, N26 offers all of the quality services at FREE of cost. It is also the most expat-friendly bank in Germany in my opinion.
The only reason N26 is behind Commerzbank in this list is because N26 is a relatively younger bank that does not hold quite the same stature as Commerzbank yet. It is also a completely digital bank, so maybe a few customers would prefer to have physical branches of the bank which they can access.
Of course, none of what I recommend is financial advice. I just share the information that I have observed, from my own experience. You can go ahead with any of the bank & the services that you prefer the most.
One of the best things about living in Germany is the choices you get everytime you make a decision. So take your time and make the right one!