How to open an online bank account in Germany

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So you’ve just arrived in a new city. Usually, if you moved for a job opportunity, your opening of bank accounts would be pretty much sorted out by your HR. If you moved to a new city because your partner got a job or lives there, you might need a little help. If you need a card and bank account for your Amazon purchases, you’ve clicked on the right article. I will be detailing how to open an online bank account in Germany based on my own experience with N26.

Traditional banks may sometimes make it difficult for currently unemployed foreigners like me to obtain a bank account. Some banks in Germany require an anmeldung (registration of address) in order to proceed, but that process will take you a week or two from your date of arrival. Neobanks or online banks like N26 however exists to make your life easier (that’s literally the tagline of the company).

Note: This is not a sponsored post; I just enjoyed their fuss-free service and would like to share how easy it was to open an online bank account in Germany

What are digital banks really?

Think of all the things you do at a traditional bank – depositing or withdrawing funds, apply for credit cards, taking up loans and insurance etc – these activities are now fully online and accessible through your mobile devices, and of course, a stable internet connection. Having an account with an online bank means you can access all the services it provides without ever going to a physical bank. In fact, online banks don’t have a physical branch.

Signing up with N26

4 steps to opening a online bank account in Germany
Credit: N26

1. First, head to N26’s website to create an account.

It’s straightforward and available in English, which I totally appreciated. You can either fill in the application form on your desktop or mobile browser, whichever is easier for you.

2. Grab your phone to install the N26 app on your chosen app store

The N26 app is supported on both Apple and Android devices.

3. Verification process

An officer will call you on the number you’ve provided within 10 minutes of the successful submission of your application form. I provided the German number my husband already have for me. Have your passport ready, for they will require you to show it to the camera and will take screenshots of it.

The call lasted less than 7 minutes, we conversed completely in English and you’re ready to use your new online bank account!

Types of N26 accounts

Three different types of N26 personal accounts
Credit: N26

There are both personal and business accounts catering to different needs. If you’re looking for something basic and without a monthly fee, the N26 standard should suffice. Paying a little more per month will enable you different “Spaces” i.e. different sub-accounts for budgeting and saving.

Top up an additional €10 to get a physical card sent to your mailbox in a week (or in my case, 2-3 days). It’s a really pretty card – transparent and sturdy.

Activating your new N26 account

In the event you don’t want to pay the one-time delivery of €10, your virtual card is ready to be added to your phone wallet for use. It’s that simple! However, before that, you’ll need to make a top-up of a minimum €20 to your account to activate it. You can do it through a few methods:

  1. Bank transfer
  2. Credit/Debit Card
  3. Apple Pay
  4. Giropay
  5. Request from other N26 friends
  6. CASH26 -Deposit cash in stores
  7. Request via QR Code

Well, the method I wouldn’t recommend if you’re in a hurry to get some cash into your account is a bank transfer. It takes 2-3 business days for the money to be deposited, and I learnt it the hard way. The moral of the story is: always read the fine print.

Using the contactless feature on the physical card requires an additional step of making the first withdrawal on it. Once you make a withdrawal on the card at any supported ATMs citywide, you’re free to use your card. You’re allowed up to 3 free withdrawals in the Eurozone per month.

Bottomline about opening online bank accounts in Germany

n26 credit card
Credit: N26

The N26 app is really easy to use, clean and has everything you need to get you started. Best of all, it all can be done online! As I signed up for the basic plan, I couldn’t do fun things like split my expenses into “Spaces” – imagine, have one space for savings, another for Sephora and another for snacks.

Thus far, I am pretty happy with the functions of this online bank. It doesn’t require many complex documents to sign up, it’s accessible from your mobile devices and best of all, signing up is FREE.

I have since made a whole bunch of purchases on Amazon with the card, such as my first recurring payment for my favourite Kombucha. I flashed my virtual card for physical payments and even paid for shopping in the UK. So far, I like the functionality and convenience of online banks. It is by far the most seamless experience to open an online bank account in Germany. Moving forward, I would really like to explore sustainable banking and make a difference in any way that I can. I’d like to be able to deposit money into an account and plant trees with them too. Someday I hope.

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