Let’s start with a few basic facts about banks in Germany. The German consumer banking system is a mess. It is inconvenient, slow, full of hidden fees and low on options. If you have just left the UK or US then I feel sorry for you. You are just about to give up your convenient, free account with its free credit card and move back 40 years in time…
My first instinct was to go to Commerzbank when I arrived (brand recognition, reliability, safety) but it turned out that the bureaucratic process and the extra charges for cards and joint accounts just wasn’t worth it. Second choice was Postbank because of the 12,000 free cash machines across Germany, but it isn’t very good with its online service and you still have to pay for a credit card.
So then I started looking into the online banks:
Comdirect was an initiative supported by Commerzbank (as you can tell from the name). They are completely online and comes with a free credit card and free withdrawals from CashGroup ATMs (same as Commerzbank). The downside is that their registration process is entirely in German but the customer support is very helpful. Even their Twitter account answers quickly :-).
DKB (Deutsche Kreditbank)
DKB is again completely online and completely in German. It is a little old-fashioned and bureaucratic which is unusual for an online company, but on the other hand there are two outstanding benefits: ATM withdrawals are completely free worldwide as are card payments.
This is the newest of the banks and has won quite a few awards online and has created waves in the banking industry. Their service and platform is not just available entirely in English, but it is actually very easy to navigate. N26 has a the key advantage of being in English and although it is as safe as any other institution in Germany with a banking licence, it has a bit of a reputation for slow customer services. Also, it does have free ATM withdrawals, but with the credit card, not the EC card.
And here is what everyone else thinks – this poll started on Facebook, in the Frankfurt Expats community, but I have moved it over here now: