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Open a Bank Account in Germany - The Guide for 2021

Opening a Bank Account in Germany

Updated on Friday 30th July 2021

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Opening-a-Bank-Account-in-GermanyWhen moving to or setting up a business in Germany it becomes necessary to open a bank account. Managing your finances and making the necessary payments is much more convenient compared to carrying out all of the financial transactions via an international bank account.
 
In order to open an account with a German bank you will be required to provide the following documents: a valid ID (usually passport), a certificate of residency that can be obtained with the local Residence Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt), a payment statement, required for some types of accounts and the work permit.
 
The process is a simple one and most banks have accessible online services to handle this process. However, investors or entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a business in 2021 may request the help provided by our team of lawyers in Germany in order to open a bank account, as this process will also ask for providing specific corporate documents. 
 

Types of bank accounts in Germany

 
When you decide to open a bank account in Germany you will need to choose its type.
 
The most popular type of German bank account is the current account (Girokonto), also known as a checking account. With this type of account you will be able to make many financial transactions, such as receiving the salary or paying the bills.  You can use the Girokonto account for money transfers, to withdraw money by using an EC-card that will usually be issued when opening the bank account; you can set up bill payments by direct debit so the money will be automatically withheld from the bank account at the desired date. You can also access your current account through online banking. Overdrafts are usually issued after the first six months.
 
The German savings accounts (Sparbuch) are best suited for people looking to put money aside because the interest rate is good for this type of account. Once you have set up your savings account a passbook will be handed to you in order deposit money.
 
Other types of German bank accounts are the instant access savings accounts (Tagesgeldkonto) and securities accounts (depot).
 

Opening a bank account in Germany in 2021

    
In order to open a bank account in Germany you will need to follow a number of steps:
 
  1. selecting the bank: there are many options to choose from and you can select a German bank or the branch of a large international bank; the choice can depend on their available services and the account maintenance fees;
  2. prepare the documents:  banks have their own rules about the documentation a person must present upon opening the bank account; you will be asked to present your ID, but an employment contract or a payment statement could also be required;
  3. fill in the application: this is a specific form provided by the bank branch that must be properly filled in and handed over together with the other required documents;
  4. make the first deposit: in some cases, this can be mandatory, for example when opening a corporate bank account (and the initial minimum capital will be deposited into the newly formed account);
  5. other requirements: if you want an overdraft you must also present credit history, but if you have just come to Germany it won’t be possible for the first half-year to request an overdraft, as German banks will observe if any money is put into the bank account in the first 6 months.
 
These are only some of the documents that may be required for those who open a bank account in Germany. It is advisable to verify the list of documents and prepare them accordingly so as to avoid any delays caused by incomplete documentation submissions.
 
An important document that needs to be provided by expats in Germany is proof of registration with the local authorities. This is a mandatory process and will need to take place every time an individual changes his or her address. Banks will ask for your updated information (such as your place of residence) and it is important to provide accurate data when opening a bank account. 
 

Open a bank account in Germany for a company

 
A corporate bank account is required for all the corporate forms that are available for incorporation in Germany, such as the popular GmbH, the German equivalent for the private limited liability company. Depending on the chosen structure, the founders of the company will first be asked to deposit the minimum share capital into the account, in order to complete the incorporation process.
 
For the GmbH, the minimum share capital is 25,000 Euros and at the time of registration at least half of this amount (12,500 EUR) is deposited into the bank account (an account that can be verified).
 
The company founders (who can also be the future company managing directors) are the ones who will start the bank account opening process.
 
Investors should note that the corporate bank account is mandatory for the GmbH and other business forms such as the entrepreneurial company (UG), however, it is not expressly require for simpler business forms such as the sole trader. In this case, the assets of the founder are not separate from those of the business (because the business is not a separate business form). Entrepreneurs may however wish to open a separate account and in this case our team of experts can provide more information on the advantages and the actual liability concerns that are in place according to the chosen type of business.
 
The bank will request several company-specific documents, most importantly the certificate of company registration as well as other information. The company’s administrator may also be asked to provide personal information.
 
Special services for companies offered by German banks can include corporate loans. Banks offer different types of services for startups and they may have promotional programs in place aimed at assisting individuals who wisht o start a business or who are already self-employed. Small companies can benefit from special packages that include loans for opening or taking over a business. The loan interest rate can be an advantageous one, depending on the chosen bank, and it can be a fixed or a variable one. Small companies or self-employed individuals in Germany that have just entered the marker or been providing services for a short period (less than three years, for example) may find special funding packages that allow them to consolidate their business. We advise investors in Germany to explore the options that are available under the various promotional funds offered by financial institutions and at the same time be mindful of the interest and the term of the loan.
 
Companies involved in online commerce will also need to open a merchant account in Germany, apart from the main corporate account used for business transactions. The merchant account is the one that will allow them to accept debit and credit card payments, essential for running an online business and offering services to both local and international clients.
 
Some of the criteria that can be important when choosing the bank branch with which you will open the account can include the general types of services (mobile and online services, for example), the number of ATM units, and their distribution and the account management fees. 
 

Open a bank account online in Germany

 
When someone wishes to open a bank account in Germany online, the procedure begins with accessing the bank’s website and looking for the application form (Privatekunden Girokonto). Once you have filled in the form with all required information you must select the options that will be activated for your bank account, such as overdrafts. After the form has been filled you must print it and go to any post office of Deutsche Post with it, with an ID and the residential registration form (Anmeldebescheinigung) and send the request to the bank. In a few days you will receive an answer to your application.
Please note that banks reserve the right to verify the identity of their customers and this will take place as needed when you decide to open a bank account using an online service.
 
Please keep in mind that in some cases it may be recommended to open the bank account directly at a chosen branch, rather than online. When opening a company in 2021, our team of attorneys in Germany can assist you during this mandatory step. We understand that traveling to the country may be subject to certain limitations for foreign nationals coming from different countries. This is why our team can help with legal representation through a power of attorney, as needed for this process. The bank account creator's physical presence in the country may still be requested, however, our team is able to make sure that the preliminary steps are handled through a representative, as possible.
 
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Banking features in Germany

 
Choosing the bank with which you will open the account is a key step and, as previously mentioned, this can depend on a number of factors, including the overall maintenance fees and the available banking features. Many banks in Germany (and worldwide) now offer numerous online banking features and user-friendly apps that are focused on providing a good online banking experience. Some of the features you may want to look for when you open a bank account in Germany are the following:
 
  • security: banks use various layers of security, however, you may be interested in selecting a bank that offers advanced, two-factor authentication – this is an important part of a secure online banking experience;
  • biometric identification: fingerprint identification is offered by many banking apps, allowing users to quickly log into their bank accounts;
  • alerts: users can choose a bank that offers notifications after each transaction in order to make sure that the usage of their account is constantly monitored;
  • others: customer support via chat and phone can be a useful feature, especially for those clients who need to solve issues quickly.
 
These are just some common features offered by many banks and they can be useful to all clients in Germany, whether corporate or individual ones. We advise you to look for these features, as well as others that you may need, before selecting the bank.
 
German banks are part of the Deposit Protection Fund of the Association of German Banks which guarantees the deposits made by each client with private commercial banks up to a threshold of 20% of the relevant liable capital that was reported by the financial institution in its latest statements. In practice, this can mean that a chosen bank in Germany can guarantee the protection of the client’s money to up to 100,000 Euros. The Deposit Guarantee Act is the law that indicates that credit institutions need to be part of a statutory deposit guarantee scheme that secures their deposits. If a compensation event takes place, the statutory guarantee scheme is the one that ensures that the client is legally entitles to claim the maximum amount listed above. Deposits that are considered to be especially worthy of protection can benefit from a higher protection level for a maximum period of six months (up to 500,000 euros).
 

Banking system in Germany

 
If you want to open a bank account in Germany, you should know some basic details about the banking system in this country. Banking activities in Germany are enforced by the German Banking Act (Kreditwesengesetz or KWG) which is constantly changing in order to improve the banking sector. The German banking system is quite unique as it as it a fragmented one and it consists of:
 
  • Private commercial banks: they make up a large percentage of all the banks in the country;
  • Public savings banks: these are the Sparkassen, which are local and the regional ones which are the Landesbanken; they are owned and controlled by the Government;
  • Co-operative banks: this is the third essential pillar, alongside the two others mentioned above, and are independent co-operative institutions;
  • International banks: a sector comprised of the many foreign banks than have opened branches in Germany;
  • Investment banks: these are local banks that operate alongside the large international institutions.
 
German banks offer a variety of services, apart from the usual debit and credit card options or money transfer services. Some of these include insurance (property, vehicle, and health insurance), mortgage options, pension plans, and others.  
 
According to data from the Deutsche Bundesbank, the market share by total assets in December 2018 was the following:
 
  • 16.5%: Sparkassen (the group of regional savings banks that operate across the country);
  • 15.8%: investment banks, KfW Group, and other state banks;
  • 14.8%: Deutsche Bank;
  • 12.1%: regional banks;
  • 8.4%: foreign banks.
 
Upon request, our team of lawyers in Germany can provide you with more detailed information about the country’s banking system.
 

The German Banking Act (Kreditwesengesetz or KWG)
 

The German Banking Act, simply known as KWG, contains the main regulations that apply to banking and financial institutions. As a member of the European Union the German law encompasses all EU directives referring to banking activities. Some of these directives are the Banking Directive (Directive 2006/48), the Capital Adequacy Directive (Directive 2006/49), the E-Money Directive (Directive 2009/110), and the Directive on Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities. If you would like to open a bank account in Germany, you should know that there are several banks you can choose from and our lawyers can handle the entire process for you.

The German Banking Law outlines the requirements and duties of banks and financial institutions and states the capital a company must subscribe in order to become a financial institutions.  This law applies to all German and foreign banks and financial institutions. Banks and financial institutions that hold an European Economic Area (EEA) license and banks from EU member states can benefit from the EU passport rule. The EU passport rule states that banks and financial institutions do not require a license issued by BaFin, but they can use the license granted by their home state authorities. The KWG also sets the regulatory frame for the supervising authorities, such as the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht, or BaFin) and the German Federal Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank).
 
Our lawyers in Germany can provide legal counseling on the most important issues included in this Act. We also offer legal counsel on other various laws and acts that are of interest to investors, self-employed individuals, or employees in Germany. 
 
If you want to open a business or open a bank account in Germany in 2021 you can contact our law firm for legal advice. Our team provides complete assistance for company formation that also includes handling banking issues for the new company. Investors who cannot be present in the country during the entire company formation phase can reach out to the experts at our law firm in Germany for more information on how we can provide representation as needed. Our services are diverse and not limited only to banking and company formation issues.  Our lawyers can also help you if you need trademark registration services in Germany.

 








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