Updated: Sep 27, 2019
As an expat, setting up a “traditional” German bank account can be difficult, but thanks to the FinTech boom expats now have tons of other choices. Millennials are increasingly opting for digital online services ahead of traditional "bricks and mortar" banking solutions. The term FinTech is relatively new and includes investing services, cryptocurrency, and mobile banking. The market is flooded with startups and various companies trying to create the next great app or service, and as an expat moving to Berlin, it can be difficult to know which one of these services helps you best. As a member of Nomaden Berlin, there are a few accounts you should know about and use.
One of the first things any expat moving Berlin should do is set up an N26 bank account. N26 is the first mobile European bank and allows you to manage your entire financial life on your phone. If you’re new to Berlin and trying to use debit cards from another country, ATMs may charge you ridiculously high withdrawal fees. With an N26 account, you will be able to avoid those unnecessary charges and you will also get a free debit card that allows for five free ATM withdrawals within Germany a month. The N26 app is extremely user-friendly; with only a few clicks you get a detailed spending list, the exact amount in your account, and tools that allow you to see what you’re spending your money on.
One of the best and most underrated features of N26 is how easy it is to transfer money. It is extremely simple and free to send euros between N26 accounts and the app now integrates with Transferwise, which allows you to make cheap and easy international transfers. N26 is the perfect and hassle-free bank account for anyone looking to start out in Berlin and is rapidly gaining popularity among expats living in the city.
Depending on what country you’re from, setting up an account will be slightly different, but it’s still a simple process for nearly everyone. To sign up, follow this link and click "Open a bank account". From there, you will be taken through a short series of questions followed by an ID check. Your card will then be sent to the address you provided approximately a week after completing your application. We recommend signing up via your mobile as we know a number of people who have had issues when completing their registration on a computer.
While N26 are offering Skype verification for more and more passports, there are still a number of passports that are not supported. You can see the passports that are supported here. If your ID document is not listed, you must verify your ID at a local post office. N26 will inform you of your best option once you have specified the type of ID document you wish to apply with, along with instructions for how to complete the verification step.
For an in-depth review of N26 and how to sign up, see our blog post on the bank.
If you’ve decided to move to Berlin, it is likely that Transferwise will quickly become one of your best friends. Transferwise offers expats from around the world cheap international transfers in a wide range of currencies.
Getting your money into a German bank account can be a costly process. Your home bank may charge either a percentage fee (up to 5%) on the transaction amount or a high set fee (EUR 15–35) to make an international transfer. Added to this, the currency conversion rates given by banks never match market rates so you also lose money on this. This is where Transferwise comes in. Transferwise provides market rates for currency conversion and charges a very low fee for making international transfers (EUR 2–4). This often works out to be up to 8 times cheaper than traditional transfers.
Unlike many services, Transferwise is entirely transparent about their transfer fees and exchange rates. Exchange rates are locked in for 24 hours, meaning you won't be hit by any surprise fees after sending your transfer.
Transferwise also offers multi-currency bank accounts. These types of accounts are a great feature for anyone that may be freelancing or working remotely. Even though Transferwise is not a traditional bank, it's regulated like a conventional bank which protects its users and their money.
Germany is famous for offering free university tuition to not only its citizens but also to international students. This accessibility has made Germany a favourite destination for students from all over the world. With Fintiba, you can set up a blocked (escrow) account, which many international students in Germany must have to secure the appropriate visa for their study. Even though education in Germany is free, the government does require that international students have sufficient funds to finance their stay in Germany. A blocked account keeps some limitations on the holder of the account and ensures that the student has the necessary funds available to sustain their life in Germany.
Fintiba also helps international students get their required health insurance. All residents are required to have health insurance while in Germany. If you’re a student, your health insurance will be different than that of someone working a traditional 9 to 5 job or a freelancer, and Fintiba will help ensure that you end up with a health insurance policy that is suited to you as a student.
Ultimately, Fintiba can make getting a student visa much more accessible and ensure you meet the bureaucratic requirements that all students must fulfil.
At Nomaden Berlin, we offer relocation programmes to help you set up in Berlin. Included in all our relocation programmes is access to our extensive online resources base which includes how to open a bank account in Germany with comparison tables of all major banks. Click here to see what relocation services we can offer.