Best German Bank for English Speakers [2021 Guide]

To help you with a smooth start in Germany, we have dug through the German banking jungle and identified the best German bank for English speakers and expats.

When moving to Germany, opening a German bank account is crucial to participate in everyday life. You will require a personal German bank account to receive your salary, pay your rent, register for electricity and internet for your apartment, and to get your liability insurance amongst others.

Quick comparison of the best German bank for English speakers

In this guide, we will compare the following four banks in Germany. All of them are an excellent choice for foreigners:

  1. Vivid Money – the mobile bank with free investing and crypto options with full English service.
  2. N26 – the established mobile fintech bank with full English service.
  3. Tomorrow Bank – the sustainable mobile bank that plants trees for your spending and has full English service.
  4. Commerzbank – the traditional yet modern bank with the broadest offer and English service, currently for free.

 VividN26TomorrowCommerzbankDeutsche Bank
English Website & Supportpro checkpro checkpro checkPartiallyPartially
No Monthly Feepro checkpro checkpro checkonly with min. €700 monthly input€6,90
Free Payment CardVisa DebitVirtual Debit Mastercard & Maestro CardVisa DebitEC Girocard & Virtual Debit CardEC Girocard & Virtual Debit Card
Credit Card Availablex iconx iconx iconpro checkpro check
Investment Optionspro checkx iconx iconpro checkpro check
Loan Possiblex iconup to 25kx iconpro checkpro check
Apple & Google Paypro checkpro checkpro checkpro checkpro check
Free Cash WithdrawalsUp to €200 a monthup to 3x a monthup to 3x a monthat Cash Group ATMsat Cash Group ATMs
No Foreign Currency Feepro checkpro checkpro check1,75%1,75%
Overdraft Possiblex iconpro checkx iconpro checkpro check
No SCHUFA checkpro checkx iconpro checkx iconx icon
Cash Deposit Possiblex iconpro checkx iconpro checkpro check
Available SupportChat & Email Chat & EmailPhone, Email & ChatPhone, Email & in PersonPhone, Email & in Person
Online or Branch BankOnlineOnlineOnlineBranchBranch

Are you wondering, why only four? Simply because these are the only German banks that offer their services in English as well. All other German banks will only provide you their services in German.

Read More: Are you also looking for a business bank account? Check out our guide on the Best Banks For Freelancers in Germany

5 criteria to choose the best bank in Germany

All the banks listed above are good and well-rated, however, depending on your banking habits, one of them will be better suited to your needs and will be the best bank in Germany for you. So let’s identify your banking habits by answering some questions to the five following criteria.

1. Online Banking vs. Branch Office

Take a moment to reflect on how you are using your banking service in your current country of residence. 

Do you do all of your banking online or via an app, or do you prefer to talk to your personal bank advisor at a local branch office?

2. Girocard vs. Credit Card

graphic of two credit cards

There are four different types of banking cards in the German market. Let me give you a brief overview.

Credit Cards

Most of the German credit cards function differently than in, let’s say the U.S.. They are so-called charge credit cards with which you cannot pay your debt on your credit card in monthly installments. 

In Germany, your credit cards, mainly Visa and Mastercard, have a spending limit per month. Once a month (not necessarily at the end of the month), your credit card’s expenses get detracted from the balance on your checking account. 

Should your checking account not have enough funds, your balance will go into overdraft. The interest on overdraft is quite high in Germany.

There are, however, some independent (not tied to your checking account or bank) credit card providers, who offer revolving credit cards. With these cards, you can choose to pay your negative balance back with installments, of course for a costly interest rate.

Related Guide: Best Free Credit Card in Germany

Prepaid Credit Cards

For prepaid credit cards to work, you will need to put money on them first. Overdraft and hence a credit option is not possible. These cards are great if you want to stick to a budget or allowance.

Related Guide: Best Prepaid Credit Card in Germany

Debit cards

Germany’s most popular debit card is the direct banking card, known as girocard, EC Card, or Maestro Card. 

The girocard links directly to your checking account. Each payment that you do will directly be detracted from your checking account immediately. However, the girocard is not a Mastercard and can’t be used for online purchases.  

3. Bank Account Fees

Do you consider having a bank account a basic need, and hence it should be free of charge, or do you consider it a service you are willing to pay for?

4. Securities Account

Do you only care for a simple checking account to receive your salary and pay for your living expenses, or do you want a bank that also offers you a securities service, where you can trade with stocks and manage your money investments? In German, this is called a Depot

Related Guide: Best Online Broker In Germany

5. Cash Withdrawals

Cash is king in Germany. Germans love their cash, and you will encounter many restaurants and cafes that only accept cash. 2018 was the first year in which card payments overtook cash payments for the first time. 

The Covid-19 crisis increased the willingness to pay contactless, but cash remains a necessity in your wallet. Take a look at this BBC article to understand the money culture of Germany better.

Therefore the availability of withdrawing cash should be a factor to consider when choosing your bank.

How often do you withdraw cash?

Do you rather have a limited amount of ATM withdrawals that you can do from any ATM vs. having an unlimited amount of withdrawals from specific ATMs?

These questions are especially important in Germany, where most often or not, you can only withdraw cash for free at ATMs that belong to your bank or its partner banks. 

Since the availability of ATMs in Germany is lower than you might be used to from your home country, this is essential knowledge. 

For example, the Old Town of Dusseldorf, where we currently live, is world-renowned for being the longest bar in the world. It is basically six blocks of pure party. 

However, the only bank that has secured ATMs in the heart of the Old Town is Sparkasse (a very traditional public bank). 

I have my account at Commerzbank, so I would pay a 5 euro fee for withdrawing money at the Sparkasse ATMs. To avoid the extra charge, I would have to walk to the beginning of the Old Town to find the ATM of Commerzbank or a partner bank of the Cash Group.

If I would have a bank like N26, for example, I would be able to withdraw money from the Sparkasse ATM, as long as it’s within the number of withdrawals I am allowed a month. Currently, N26 allows only three free ATM withdrawals a month.

To increase the possibility of withdrawing cash in Germany, most German supermarkets like Edeka, Rewe, Lidl, Aldi, Penny, etc. introduced the cashback option in recent years.

This enables you to get cash from the cashier while paying with your girocard and purchasing items for more than 10 euros. This is a super convenient offer, as it saves you an extra trip to the ATM. 

🔥 Tip: Aldi Süd is the only supermarket also offering cashback on Mastercard credit and debit card payments, and Lidl is the only supermarket already offering cashback with a 5 euro purchase.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what type of bank you are looking for. Let’s take a more in-depth look at N26, Vivid, Tomorrow, and Commerzbank individually, on how they pass these five criteria.

What is the best German bank for English Speakers?

Here are our top picks for the best German bank for English speakers and expats.

1. Vivid Money

Screenshot of Vivid Money Homepage
Source: Vivid Money

Vivid Money is the newest player on this list, as it was only founded in 2019 in Berlin. Yet, Vivid has successfully disrupted the traditional & mobile banking industry in terms of day-to-day banking, investing, and crypto handling. Its reviews in Google & Apple Store, as well as on Trustpilot are really good. Since Vivid is such a young fintech Start-up, it does not have its own banking license yet and provides its accounts via its partner Solarisbank.

Vivid Money offers a free checking account along with a free metal Visa debit card, commission-free investing in stocks, ETFs, and Crypto currencies, as well as high cashback rates on purchases. Everything is available in English with great customer service, making it a real alternative to the more established mobile bank N26.

Vivid benefits:

✅ EVERYTHING in English
✅ Free checking account with no required monthly input
✅ Free metal Visa debit card
✅ No exchange fees on card payments for up to 40 currencies
✅ Full real-time control via the app
✅ Apple & Google Pay
✅ Up to 15 free sub-accounts called pockets with separate IBAN
✅ No SCHUFA credit check
✅ Open free checking account in 8 minutes via app only
✅ Up to 20 euros cashback per month
✅ Commission-free investment options for stocks & ETFs
✅ Commission-free investing in 50 crypto coins

Vivid drawbacks:

⛔️ No branch offices 
⛔️ No real credit card
⛔️ No girocard
⛔️ Sign up currently only possible through the Vivid App
⛔️ Only up to 200 euros free cash withdrawals per month globally if the withdrawal amount is above 50 euros (otherwise 3% fee)

Open your free Vivid checking account now and immediately start banking online.

2. N26

Homepage of N26
Source: N26

N26 was founded in 2013 and has since become the biggest mobile bank in Europe. Its perks are a free checking account, small loan options, and a savings account. N26 has become super popular over the past years. It challenges the status quo of traditional banks and caters to the digitized generations with a clean and easily navigable mobile real-time banking app.

Any expat wishing to transfer money home to a foreign bank account can do so directly with N26, without worrying about fees, since N26 integrated Wise into their banking app. Additionally, N26 also offers the option to request a loan for up to 25.000 euros and overdraft. 

The entire product is available in English, from sign-up to mobile banking to customer service. Below you will find the summarized benefits for which many foreigners love N26, making it a favorite amongst expats. My wife Jen, who is from Guatemala, is also a pleased customer.

N26 offers four different bank account types. From the free Standard account to the premium Metal account. Recently, N26 has removed the free physical debit Mastercard from the Standard Account and replaced it with a virtual-only debit Mastercard. Should you still wish to have a physical card, you can order it with a one-time 10 euros fee.

For all the premium N26 accounts, starting with the N26 Smart for 4,90 euros a month, the physical debit Mastercard is included for free.

For in-depth information on N26, take a look at our N26 review.

N26 benefits:

✅ EVERYTHING in English
✅ Free Standard checking account with no required monthly input
✅ Free virtual debit Mastercard
✅ Within Germany, you can also request a free Maestro card
✅ Up to 3 free cash withdrawals per month in Germany at any ATM with NFC technology
✅ No exchange fees on card payments for any currency
✅ Free integration with Wise
✅ Full real-time control via the app
✅ 2 free sub-accounts called spaces
✅ Apple & Google Pay
✅ Open free checking account in 8 minutes online

N26 drawbacks:

⛔️ No branch offices 
⛔️ No real credit card
⛔️ One-time 10 euros fee for a physical debit Mastercard
⛔️ No securities account option 
⛔️ 1,7% fees on cash withdrawals in foreign currencies

Open your free N26 checking account now and immediately start banking online.

3. Tomorrow Bank

Screenshot of Tomorrow Bank homepage
Source: Tomorrow Bank

Tomorrow Bank is an ethical mobile bank that uses customer and investor money for sustainable projects and protecting the rainforest. It was founded in 2017 in Hamburg and similar to Vivid it does not have its own banking license yet and provides its accounts via its partner Solarisbank.

Tomorrow offers a free checking account with a free Visa debit card and climate contribution. Of course, it comes with a consumer-friendly real-time banking app, and everything is 100% in English.

Tomorrow benefits:

✅ EVERYTHING in English
✅ Free checking account with no required monthly input
✅ Free Visa debit card
✅ Up to 3 free cash withdrawals per month in Germany at any ATM
✅ No exchange fees on card payments for any currency
✅ Full real-time control via the app
✅ Apple & Google Pay
✅ 2 free sub-accounts called pockets
✅ No SCHUFA credit check
✅ Open free checking account in 8 minutes online

Tomorrow drawbacks:

⛔️ No branch offices 
⛔️ No real credit card
⛔️ No girocard
⛔️ No securities account option 
⛔️ 1,5% fees on cash withdrawals in foreign currencies

Open your free Tomorrow checking account now and immediately start banking online.

4. Commerzbank

Homepage of Commerzbank
Source: Commerzbank

Commerzbank was founded in 1870 and is the second-largest bank in Germany. For the third year in a row, it was voted the best branch bank in 2020. It is a private bank and part of the Cash Group (Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank & Postbank). 

Table of ranking for best branch bank 2020 in Germany
Source: Commerzbank

In the past years, Commerzbank has invested heavily to keep up with current trends and to also appeal to foreigners. It is the most digitized branch bank and offers at least parts of its website in English. More importantly, Commerzbank provides online-banking, a mobile app, and customer support in English. 

They offer a lot more banking options, such as a securities account, loans, investments, pick-up of foreign currencies, and a personal consultant, if you wish.

The only drawback is the online account opening process. Although they pride themselves on offering the fastest online sign-up in Germany, it is only available in German. Be sure to use Chrome as a browser and right-click on the page to choose ‘Translate to English’, and you will be good to go.

Commerzbank has improved its conditions to stay competitive with the new Fintech banks. As long as you activate paperless banking and have an incoming payment of at least 700 euros per month, your basic checking account and virtual debit card will be free.

Commerzbank benefits:

✅ 800 branches in Germany
Free checking account (with a minimum of 700 euros monthly input)
✅ Free virtual Mastercard debit card
Free girocard
✅ Free unlimited cash withdrawals at more than 7.000 Cash Group ATMs in Germany with the girocard
✅ Easy to use clean mobile banking app
✅ Securities account option & consulting
✅ Apple & Google Pay
✅ Open free checking account in 8 minutes online

Commerzbank drawbacks:

⛔️ No English online sign-up 
⛔️ Checking account fees of 9,90 euros with less than 700 euros monthly input
⛔️ Physical Mastercard credit card costs 39,90 euros a year
⛔️ 1,75% foreign currency fees for payments in other currencies with credit card
⛔️ 1,95% fees / minimum 5,98 euros on cash withdrawals in foreign currencies with credit card + 1,75% foreign currency fees

Open your Commerzbank checking account now and receive a 50 euros welcome bonus from Commerzbank.

Conclusion

Vivid is great if you want a mobile option to invest in stocks and crypto.

N26 is the most established mobile bank and the favorite amongst expats.

Tomorrow is the only sustainable bank with great free features for everyday banking.

Commerzbank is the best branch bank for English speakers.

💡 Good to know: The providers of the convenient online ID verification via a video call do not always support the passports of all nationalities. In that case, you will have to go to your local post office or the bank branch and identify yourself personally.