Best Free Credit Card In Germany [The Ultimate 2021 English Guide]

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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. Barclaycard Visa – it has the same benefits as the GenialCard, however a higher interest rate on unpaid debt.
  3. DKB-VISA-Card – is combined with a free checking account and also offers worldwide fee-free usage for active customers (min. 700 euros incoming deposit per month).
  4. Advanzia Gebührenfrei Mastercard – easy to qualify for and worldwide fee-free usage, however with some hidden interest rates on cash withdrawals.

 Hanseatic GenialCardBarclaycardDKB Visa CardAdvanzia
English Website & Supportx iconx iconx iconx icon
No Annual Feepro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
Individual Checking Account Possiblepro checkpro checkno
(tied to DKB account)
pro check
Apple & Google Paypro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
No Cash Withdrawal Feepro checkpro checkonly as active customeryes
(but 19,44% interest fee after cash withdrawal)
No Foreign Currency Feepro checkpro checkonly as active customerpro check
Annual Interest Rate13,6%18,38%6,74%19,44%

After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of why getting a credit card 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. InternationalPayments

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.

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 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 article, 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 horrendous.

What Are The Best Free Credit Cards In Germany?

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

1. Hanseatic Bank GenialCard 

homepage of Hanseatic Bank
Source: Hanseatic Bank translated by Google

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. 

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 (German only)
✅  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. 

2. Barclaycard Visa

Barclaycard Visa Homepage
Source: Barclaycard translated by Google

Similar to the Hanseatic GenialCard the new Barclaycard Visa is a very good revolving credit card. Barclaycard 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. 

Barclaycard 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

Barclaycard Visa Drawbacks:

❗  18.38% 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

The Barclaycard 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.  

Barclaycard Visa Application
Source: Barclaycard translated by Google

3. DKB-VISA-Card

DKB Visa Homepage
Source: DKB translated by Google

The DKB-VISA-Card is one of the oldest and most renowned charge credit cards in Germany that never charged a fee for a foreign currency payment and offered free worldwide cash withdrawal (unless the ATM provider charges external fees). The Visa credit card is 100% free of charge. However, it requires you to also open the free DKB Cash checking account. It is, of course, linked to it’s own DKB checking account and, as such, automatically charges the balance from the account. 

All the benefits are free for the first year; after that, you can continue benefiting as an active customer. To become an active customer, you must transfer a minimum of 700 euros as one payment per month onto the checking account (or use it as your salary account).  

The Visa credit card starts with a credit line of only 100 euros. You can increase the limit in your online banking and by confirming your creditworthiness by sending DKB your last payslips.

DKB-VISA-Card Benefits:

✅  no annual fee – permanently free
✅  no foreign currency fees
( ❗only as active customer, otherwise 1,75% fees)
✅  no cash withdrawal fee worldwide
(❗only as active customer, otherwise 1,75% fees)
✅  100% SEPA direct debit
✅  user-friendly app with control over the card & account (German only)
✅  convenient contactless Apple & Google Pay
✅  ability to transfer money for a positive balance
✅  quick and easy online application 

DKB-VISA-Card Drawbacks:

❗  6,74% annual interest on an overdraft of checking account
(❗ only as an active customer, otherwise 7,34%)
⛔️  must be linked to the DKB checking account
⛔️  no refund of foreign ATM fees
⛔️  only German customer service

Repayment And Settlement Of Balances

You have to link the DKB-VISA to the DKB current account, which is not bad at all. It is a very good free bank account. You also don’t have to worry about creating expensive credit card interest rates – unless your negative credit card balance ends up bigger than the positive balance in your checking account on the 22nd of the month when the balance gets charged. With only 6,74% overdraft interest (7,34% for non-active customers), DKB is very moderate and has the lowest overdraft interest fees in this credit card comparison.

To avoid paying for interest right from the start, you can also transfer money from your checking account directly onto your credit card and thus also increase your limit, which usually starts at 100 euros. The unique thing about having a positive balance on your Visa card is that you even get 0.1% credit interest. No other credit card has such an offer! 

4. Advanzia Mastercard Gold
(aka Gebührenfrei)

Homepage of Gebührenfrei
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. That is the reason why I mention it here to give you a word of caution. 

Based on our research, the card and marketing on the (very old school) homepage are very consumer-friendly; however, there are some major hidden fees, especially 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 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 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.

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
✅  quick and easy online-application with high acceptance

Advanzia Mastercard Gold Drawbacks:

❗  19.44% 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
⛔️  there is a banking app, but the user satisfaction seems low

Repayment And Settlement Of Balances

The Gebührenfrei Mastercard 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.   

Conclusion

The clear winners for the best free credit card in Germany are the Hanseatic GenialCard and the Barclaycard Visa with stellar conditions. The interest fees for the Hanseatic Bank GenialCard are lower than with Barclay, and hence the Hanseatic GenialCard is our top choice for a free credit card in Germany.

Should you wish for a free checking account as well, then DKB is a very good option.

Only if you are not able to qualify for any of the three cards above, should you consider choosing the Advanzia Gebührenfrei Mastercard. Please use it with caution to avoid high-interest rates.

I have been a very satisfied customer of DKB for the past 10 years now and it has saved me a lot of money while traveling. Since I am an active customer, I can benefit from all the perks. Should this not be the case, I would apply for the Hanseatic GenialCard. 

Especially while traveling, we can recommend carrying two different credit cards, in case one gets stolen. 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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If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We are happy to help.

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Yvonne
About the author: 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.