German business bank accounts are some of the most sought after in the world, as not only is Germany perfectly situated in the heart of the EU, but Germany also benefits from a stable economy and respected banking industry. For entrepreneurs, opening a German bank account allows you to expand into a new market, establish a presence in Europe and support German customers with on-the-ground services.
Yet, setting up a German bank account as a non-resident can feel like an uphill battle. German banks have rigid policies to prevent money laundering and comply with AML and KYC regulations. Meeting these requirements remotely can be tedious and frustrating.
Our guide will help you understand how the German bank system works, your options as a non-resident, and how you can successfully navigate the process of opening an account. We’ll explain how to deal with questions about residency and provide advice on streamlining the process to make it as straightforward and quick as possible.
Germany’s Banking Landscape: How Banking in Germany Works?
Germany’s banking system has three levels, each with its own legal and ownership structure. Residents can choose between:
- Private Banks. Private commercial banks represent the largest sector, representing around 40% of banking assets. Popular private banks include Commerzbank or Deutsche Bank, which are both listed companies, and smaller private banks like Bankhaus Lampe and Hauch & Aufhäuser.
- Cooperative banks. Cooperative banks have a member-based structure, with each member having a vote independent of its capital share. Raiffeisenbanken and Volksbanken are both common cooperative banks.
- Public Savings Banks. Public savings banks are a public sector entities held (directly or indirectly) by institutions like the federal government or administrative districts. Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe is the largest group with over 431 branches.
In addition to the three main types of banks, you’ll also find international banks and online banks in Germany.
Setting Up a German Bank Account as a Non-Resident
While you technically don’t need to be a resident in Germany to open a bank account, German banks have rigid regulations and policies that make it difficult to open an account abroad.
As a non-resident, you’ll have fewer options and face more questions and bureaucracy. You may also need to visit the bank to open an account. We can help with opening accounts with Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, and BW-Bank to make this process as easy as possible. Alternatively, you may want to consider using a digital bank like N26.
Top Banks in Germany for Non-Resident Entrepreneurs
If you’re looking for a bank account in Germany, the first step is often to decide on the type of bank you’d like to use. Will you bank with a private, public savings, cooperative, international or online bank?
Your residential status may dictate your choice and whether you’re willing to visit the bank in person during the application process. But, we’ve laid out some of the main options available to you.
As Germany’s national central bank, Deutsche Bank is the largest bank in Germany with over 12 million customers. Deutsche Bank is a private bank with locations across Europe, Asia and the Americas. You can find Deutsche Banks in 58 countries, which makes applying from abroad much more manageable. We can also help you open an account here.
Commerzbank is another popular choice amongst private banks and currently supports over four million clients. As one of the larger, more popular banks, they have more experience working with foreigners and are often considered more accessible. We can help you apply for a Commerzbank account, but you will need to visit a branch in-person to open a business account.
BW-Bank, also known as Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg, is Germany’s largest state-backed Landesbank lender and recognised as a universal bank. They offer a wide range of banking services and are another popular choice. We can help you apply for a BW-Bank account.
As a rising FinTech, N26 is a popular choice for young professionals and foreigners. N26 doesn’t have in-person banking facilities but conducts all its business online via desktop or mobile banking. You can open an account online in less than 8 minutes. However, an N26 business bank account is only suitable for freelancers, contractors and individuals with a VAT number. You must also have a residence permit in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia or Switzerland.
Headquartered in Berlin, Penta is a digital business bank platform designed specifically to support startups and SMEs by saving time and cutting costs around banking. This neo bank offers services that automates bank accounts and invoices, provides online cashless banking services, and delivers advice to help consumers to manage their cash flows more easily. Penta stands out from the crowd of business bank accounts by giving customers the ability to open a company account within 48 hours instead of waiting for weeks. Penta customers can open an online account with German IBAN from €9/month with no hidden fees.
How to Get a German Bank Account as a Non-Resident
The process for opening a bank account in Germany will vary depending on the bank. Some banks make it easier for foreigners and non-residents to open an account with online paper-free processes.
In most cases, it will be much easier to open a bank account in Germany if you have residency, a German visa, or a German address. Depending on the bank, you may also need to visit in person.
The process for opening a bank account in Germany will also depend on your company’s structure, and set-up as sole traders and freelancers will need to provide different documents than partnerships. Partnerships often need to provide details and documentation for all partners. Limited companies will need to provide articles of association, business registration details, certificate of incorporation, and a list of shareholders and trade licenses (if applicable).
Most German business bank accounts need to be opened in person by directors or significant shareholders.
Documents You’ll Need to Open a German Bank Account
- Passport/Photo ID
- Proof of Address
- Evidence of Income
- SCHUFA Credit Rating (required by some banks)
- Details on the company’s shareholding structure
- Registration certification, bylaws, and the decision of the board of directors and articles of association
- Business plan with future projections
- Description of your company’s activities
Make Opening Your German Business Bank Account as Easy as Possible
Opening a German business bank account can seem impossible without some help. Our team are experts at helping you navigate the German banking system and excel at making the application process as straightforward as possible. We’ve successfully assisted many non-residents in opening German bank accounts with our banking partners.
Take advantage of our win-win guarantee, where you either open a business bank account or you don’t pay us anything at all.
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