Best Free Credit Card In Germany [The Ultimate 2022 English Guide]

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by Yvonne

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Updated

Although paying in cash and with the girocard is the most common method of payment in Germany, owning a credit card will greatly benefit you, and it is a must-have in certain situations. For you to not get tricked into an expensive credit card from your German bank or end up with unnecessary foreign exchange fees, we researched the best free credit card in Germany for you. 

Quick Comparison Of The Best Free Credit Cards In Germany

In this guide, we will review and compare the best free credit cards in Germany, here is a quick summary:

  1. Hanseatic GenialCard Visa – our choice for its worldwide fee-free usage without any hidden costs. Plus it gives you an immediate credit of 2.500 euros.
  2. TF Bank Mastercard Gold – easy to get even with bad credit score. Worldwide fee-free usage, however with some hidden interest rates on cash withdrawals.
  3. Advanzia Gebührenfrei Mastercard – easy to qualify for and worldwide fee-free usage, however with some hidden interest rates on cash withdrawals.
  4. Barclays Visa – it has the same benefits as the GenialCard, however a higher interest rate on unpaid debt, and it is very hard for foreigners to get approved.

 Hanseatic GenialCardTF BankAdvanziaBarclays
English Website & Supportx iconx iconx iconx icon
Banking app in Englishpro checkpro checkpro checkx icon
No Annual Feepro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
Individual Checking Account Possiblepro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
Apple & Google Paypro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
No Cash Withdrawal Feepro checkyes
(but 22,96% interest fee after cash withdrawal)
yes
(but 19,44% interest fee after cash withdrawal)
pro check
No Foreign Currency Feepro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
Annual Interest Rate13,6%19,39%19,44%18,38%

After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of why getting one or even two credit cards is important and you will be able to pick the right free credit card in Germany for your needs.

5 Reasons Why You Need A Credit Card In Germany

1. Deposits And Large Payments

When renting a car, in Germany or abroad, rental car companies will ask you to leave a deposit to cover potential damages. You will not be able to leave such a deposit with a debit or girocard. Unexpected large payments, especially abroad, for medical care after an accident often require a credit card with a larger credit limit.

While I studied in New York City, I tore a ligament in my ankle. It cost me about 2.000 US dollars to see the doctor and to get an x-ray and ultrasound. I was very happy that I had a credit card with me to cover those charges.

2. International Payments

Whether you are on a business trip or on vacation, your German girocard will be extremely expensive to pay for things abroad or not even accepted. Credit cards are widely accepted overseas. We actually highly recommend traveling with at least two different credit cards, as one can easily be lost, stolen, or eaten by an ATM for no reason (yup, we speak from experience 🙈).

3. Money Withdrawal Abroad

It is always handy to carry at least some cash with you when traveling abroad. With a credit card, you can withdraw money at any ATM worldwide, often for free.

4. Online Payments

For many online purchases (especially outside of Germany), a credit card is still the only possible payment method. 

5. Consumer Protection

Should you discover a fraudulent charge on your credit card or have paid double or the false amount by accident, you can ask your credit card company to recall your payment for up to eight weeks. This is one of the biggest reasons why a credit card is a relatively safe payment method. 

What Are The Different Credit Card Types In Germany?

In Germany, you will often hear people ask whether they can pay a purchase by card (Kann ich mit Karte zahlen?). Most of the time, this does not mean with a credit card, but with a debit or girocard. The term credit card (Kreditkarte) is widely used in Germany to describe different services. These are the 4 different kinds of credit cards that exist in Germany.

graphic of credit cards

1. Charge Credit Card

The most common type of credit card in Germany is a so-called charge credit card. It gathers all of your payments within 30 days. After those 30 days, you will receive a credit card statement, and the total amount is deducted from your linked bank account. Should your bank account not have enough funds, your balance will go into overdraft. The interest on overdraft is usually less than the interest fee of revolving credit cards.

Depending on where you are from, this system will be unusual for you, as it doesn’t really give you real credit. Traditional banks such as Commerzbank or Deutsche Bank will usually issue charge credit cards.

2. Revolving Credit Card

Most likely, the revolving credit card fits your understanding of a credit card better, as it allows you actual credit, let’s say of 2.500 euros. Every purchase you make deducts from that allowance. At the end of the month, you will receive your credit card bill with the accumulated amount of all purchases. Should you then pay the full amount via wire transfer from your bank account, you will not pay interest. However, most revolving credit card providers offer you to pay in installments in exchange for costly interest fees on the unpaid credit.

3. Debit Card

Now we know that a debit card is not an actual credit card, however, we don’t want to leave it unmentioned, as it is the most common type of banking card in Germany. Mobile banks like N26, do not offer a credit card, but instead only a debit card. With a debit card, each purchase will automatically deduct from your bank account. Depending on your bank, this happens instantly or within 24 hours. Therefore, you do not have a ‘true’ credit available. 

4. Prepaid Credit Card

A prepaid credit card only works if you transfer money from your checking account before use. This is great for controlling your spending or setting yourself a budget; however, you do not have a ‘true’ credit. A prepaid credit card is also a great option, in case you do not have a SCHUFA score yet or your score is bad. For more information check out our guide below.

Related Guide: Best Prepaid Credit Cards in Germany

Throughout this guide, we will only focus on charge and revolving credit cards, as these are the only ‘true’ credit cards, actually giving you credit.

🔥 Tip: All credit card providers only offer their services in German, so we suggest you use Chrome as a browser. With a right-click, you can translate the page to English.

What is the best credit card to use in Germany?

The best credit card to use in Germany is a Visa credit card or a Mastercard. The credit card provider American Express is not so commonly accepted, as shops and restaurants would have to pay much higher fees to offer it.

As for you as a consumer, no American Express credit card has made it into our comparison, as they are quite expensive for owners as well. The Payback card is the only American Express credit card without an annual fee; however, its foreign transaction fees, as well as its ATM fees, are quite high. You can read all about the American Express Payback card in our in-depth guide.

Related Guide: PAYBACK Card In Germany [What Is It And Should You Get One?]

What Are The Best Free Credit Cards In Germany?

Here are our top picks for the best free credit cards in Germany this year.

❗️❗ Very Important Note: After successfully applying to any of these credit cards, you need to follow these two steps, otherwise you will not receive the credit card:

1. verify your ID via a video call or a local postal office
2. sign an activation letter which you receive via email or postal mail and send it back

So be sure to check your email and postal mailbox frequently within the next two weeks after your application.

1. Hanseatic Bank GenialCard 

Hanseatic Genial Card Homepage
Source: Hanseatic Bank

The Hanseatic Bank GenialCard is a revolving credit card and has been a reliable credit card for years. However, with its updates in September 2019, it turned not only into one of the best free credit cards in Germany but also into one of the best travel credit cards in Germany. No wonder it recently received the Finance Award 2020.

The Visa credit card is 100% free of charge with no annual fee, and you can link it to any checking account of your choice. Take a look at our guide on Best German Bank for English Speakers to find the best checking account. You do not pay foreign currency fees, and you can withdraw cash worldwide without fees (unless the ATM provider charges external fees).

One significant advantage of the GenialCard is that you can turn it into a charge credit card by changing the payment of your balance to automatic direct debit. Thus you do not have to worry about running into high interest rates on unpaid debt. 

Requirements For A Hanseatic GenialCard:

  • you are 18 years or older
  • you are registered in Germany
  • you receive a regular monthly income
  • you have a German mobile phone number
  • you have a German bank account
  • you have a valid passport
  • for Non-EU nationals: valid residence permit (incl. supplementary paper if applicable)

Hanseatic GenialCard Benefits:

✅  no annual fee – permanently free
✅  no foreign currency fees
✅  no cash withdrawal fee worldwide
✅  no checking account obligation 
✅  100% SEPA direct debit possible
✅  user-friendly app to control the card & payback options (also available in English)
✅  possibility for an immediate credit limit of up to 2.500 euros
✅  convenient contactless Apple & Google Pay
✅  ability to transfer money for a positive balance
✅  quick and easy online-application with direct acceptance feedback

Hanseatic GenialCard Drawbacks:

❗  13.6% annual interest rate in case of partial debit payment
⛔️  no refund of foreign ATM fees
⛔️  only German website & customer service

Repayment And Settlement Of Balances

Hanseatic Bank GenialCard Homepage
Source: Hanseatic Bank translated by Google

Should you be looking for a revolving credit card to grant you a small loan that you pay off in monthly installments, you do not have to take any action, as the partial payment is the default setting. Beware that you will be paying the 13.6% annual interest for the unpaid balance.

In case you have no interest in the above and simply wish for a user-friendly inexpensive credit card, you can change the payback option to 100% monthly direct debit in the Hanseatic mobile app and therefore use it as a charge credit card. 

Hanseatic Genial Card Application Steps
Source: Hanseatic Bank translated by Google

2. TF Bank Mastercard Gold

Homepage of TF Bank Mastercard Gold
Source: TF Bank Mastercard Gold translated by Google

The free TF Bank Mastercard Gold is one of the easiest credit cards to get, whether you are an international or have a bad credit score (Schufa).

Based on our research, the card and marketing on the homepage are very consumer-friendly with basically no fees. However, there are some major hidden fees, when it comes to cash withdrawals. TF Bank will charge you an immediate 22,96% interest fee from the day you make the withdrawal until you wire the amount you withdrew back onto the Mastercard, even though the withdrawal itself has no fees. 

So either you don’t use this card to withdraw cash or balance out the amount you took out on the same day, to limit these fees.

Other than that, the card is free of charge and has no foreign currency fees.

Two unique things that make this card so popular are the ease of applying for the card, especially if you have just moved to Germany. This seems to be the most accessible card to get and where you do not need a long credit history. The TF Bank Mastercard Gold also includes travel insurance, if you pay at least 50% of the travel booking with this card. Be sure to check the fine print though on what is actually covered and whether you need another add-on travel insurance. You also get a 5% cashback if you use the card to pay for travel bookings or rental cars.

Requirements For A TF Bank Mastercard Gold:

  • you are 18 years or older
  • you have a German mobile phone number
  • you receive a regular monthly income
  • you have a German bank account
  • you have a valid passport
  • your Meldebescheinigung – if it is older than 1 year, you also need another proof of address such as an electricity invoice or tax notice
  • for Non-EU nationals: residence permit (minimum validity 24 months when applying)

TF Bank Mastercard Gold Benefits:

✅  no annual fee – permanently free
✅  no foreign currency fees
✅  no cash withdrawal fee worldwide (❗but 22.96% annual interest rate)
✅  no checking account obligation 
✅  convenient contactless Apple & Google Pay
✅  user-friendly app to control the card (also available in English)
✅  quick and easy online application with high acceptance

TF Bank Mastercard Gold Drawbacks:

❗  22.96% annual interest rate in case of cash withdrawals
❗ 19.39% annual interest rate in case of partial debit payment
⛔️  no refund of foreign ATM fees
⛔️  only German website & customer service
⛔️  no 100% SEPA direct debit possible
⛔️  no ability to transfer money for a positive balance
⛔️  activation process seems to be slow

Repayment And Settlement Of Balances

The TF Bank Mastercard Gold only has the option of manually balancing out your acquired debt. You have no option for 100% direct debit and, therefore, need to have an eye on your balance to pay it off on time or otherwise risk high-interest rates. 

TF Bank Mastercard Gold Application Steps
Source: TF Bank Mastercard Gold translated by Google

3. Advanzia Mastercard Gold
(aka Gebührenfrei)

Gebührenfrei Homepage
Source: Gebührenfrei translated by Google

The Advanzia Mastercard Gold, also known as Gebührenfrei Mastercard, has been a big player on the market for some time, and some say it is the best credit card for expats in Germany.  

Similar to the TF Bank Mastercard Gold, the card and marketing on the homepage are very consumer-friendly; however, this card has the same hidden fees on cash withdrawals. Advanzia Bank will charge you an immediate 19,44% interest fee from the day you make the withdrawal until you wire the amount you withdrew back onto the Mastercard, even though the withdrawal itself has no fees. 

So you also either don’t use this card to withdraw cash or balance out the amount you took out on the same day, to limit these fees.

Other than that, the card is also free of charge and has no foreign currency fees.

Similar to the TF Bank Mastercard Gold, this seems to be the most accessible card to get for foreigners and where you do not need a long credit history. The Gebührenfrei Mastercard also includes travel insurance, if you pay at least 50% of the travel booking with this card. Be sure to check the fine print though on what is actually covered and whether you need another add-on travel insurance.

Requirements For An Advanzia Mastercard Gold:

  • you are 18 years or older
  • you are registered in Germany or Luxembourg
  • you receive a regular monthly income
  • you have a German mobile phone number
  • you have a German bank account
  • you have a valid passport
  • for Non-EU nationals: valid residence permit
  • you have a good SCHUFA score (credit history)

Advanzia Mastercard Gold Benefits:

✅  no annual fee – permanently free
✅  no foreign currency fees
✅  no cash withdrawal fee worldwide (❗but 19.44% annual interest rate)
✅  no checking account obligation 
✅  convenient contactless Apple & Google Pay
✅  user-friendly app to control the card (also available in English)
✅  quick and easy online application with high acceptance

Advanzia Mastercard Gold Drawbacks:

❗  19.44% annual interest rate on cash withdrawal and in case of partial debit payment
⛔️  no refund of foreign ATM fees
⛔️  only German website & customer service
⛔️  no 100% SEPA direct debit possible
⛔️  no ability to transfer money for a positive balance

Repayment And Settlement Of Balances

The Gebührenfrei Mastercard also only has the option of manually balancing out your acquired debt. You have no option for 100% direct debit and, therefore, need to have an eye on your balance to pay it off on time or otherwise risk high-interest rates.   

4. Barclays Visa

Barclays Visa Card Homepage
Source: Barclays translated by Google

Similar to the Hanseatic GenialCard the new Barclays Visa is a very good revolving credit card. Barclays made a lot of changes to its Visa credit card over the past two years. Since June 2020, it is back on top of its game.

The Visa credit card has no annual fees, and you can link it to any checking account of your choice. You do not pay foreign currency fees, and you can withdraw cash worldwide without fees (unless the ATM provider charges external fees). You have four different options of repaying your credit debt (see below), which is interest-free for up to 59 days. 

⚠️ Important Note: We have received increased feedback from our readers that the Barclays Visa is unfortunately very hard to get for foreigners and therefore despite good conditions listed last in this guide.

Requirements For A Barclays Visa Card:

  • you are 18 years or older
  • you are registered in Germany
  • you receive a regular monthly income
  • you have a German mobile phone number
  • you have a German bank account
  • you have a valid passport
  • for Non-EU nationals: residence permit (minimum validity 24 months when applying) + proof of income (payslip or similar)
  • you have a good SCHUFA score (credit history)

Barclays Visa Benefits:

✅  no annual fee – permanently free
✅  no foreign currency fees
✅  no cash withdrawal fee worldwide
✅  no checking account obligation 
✅  100% SEPA direct debit possible
✅  user-friendly app to control the card & payback options (German only)
✅  convenient contactless Apple & Google Pay
✅  ability to transfer money for a positive balance
✅  quick and easy online application
✅  optionally up to 3 partner cards included

Barclays Visa Drawbacks:

❗  18.38% annual interest rate in case of partial debit payment
⛔️  no refund of foreign ATM fees
⛔️  only German website & customer service
⛔️  Banking app for phone only in German
⛔️  Very hard to get for foreigners

Repayment And Settlement Of Balances

The Barclays Visa gives you four options for settling your balance. Partial payment with higher interest fees than the Hanseatic Bank GenialCard, installment payments with an individual interest rate, manual one-time balance settlement via your linked current account with only one click, or the option to change the payback method to 100% direct debit in the app.  

Barclays Application
Source: Barclays translated by Google

Bonus: American Express Payback Credit Card

There is one more free credit card in Germany, we don’t want to ignore: the American Express Payback credit card. If you are a fan of American Express or loyalty programs where you collect points, this is definitely an option you should look into. We have written a detailed guide where we explain PAYBACK, the largest loyalty rewards program in Germany, and its relationship with the Amex credit card.

Related Guide: PAYBACK Card In Germany [What Is It And Should You Get One?]

Conclusion

The clear winner for the best free credit card in Germany is the Hanseatic GenialCard with its stellar conditions.

Only if you are not able to qualify for the Hanseatic GenialCard, should you consider choosing the TF Bank Mastercard Gold or Advanzia Gebührenfrei Mastercard. Please use them with caution to avoid high-interest rates.

Especially while traveling, we can recommend carrying two different credit cards, in case one gets stolen or lost. Just make sure not to apply to two cards at the same time, but let some time pass to not affect your credit score

In case you were unsuccessful in applying for a credit card due to no or a bad credit score, take a look at our article 5 Best Prepaid Credit Cards in Germany without a SCHUFA credit check, to find a great alternative.

Related Guide: Best Prepaid Credit Cards in Germany

Happy credit card hunting!

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About the Author
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Yvonne was born and raised in Germany and has lived in the United States, France, and Spain. She understands the struggle of settling in a new home and is happy to share simple services and tips on how things are done in her home country, to help expats get their German experience started.