How to open business bank account in Germany

Who must get a “Geschäftskonto”?

If you are registered as a freelancer, do self-employed work or run any type of business in Germany and want to keep your transactions in good order, you should open a “Geschäftskonto”. The translation is literally “office account”. In this article, I will talk about my own experiences as a freelancer in Berlin who needs an affordable bank account. Not a normal bank account though. But a bank account whose sole purpose it is to manage your business finances.

To my surprise, the fees for this business account recently increased a lot, especially with more traditional banks (Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Postbank, etc.). Paying around 15 Euros a month just to keep the business account open seemed a lot to me. That’s why I did some research into cheaper alternatives.  Whatever the reason that you’re reading this article – I’ll start off generally so that everyone can follow what I’m talking about : )

This article will help you to select the most appropriate one in terms of your business size, your budget, and your flexibility.

My own experiences with German business accounts…

Being from Croatia and fully inspired by German prosperity, opening a business in Germany has always been my dream.

What I had was courage and some substantial experience in my field (7 years in the mobile gaming industry). Plus, two friends with complementary skills to help me organize things.

However, I lack a large budget and a clear understanding of tiny bureaucratic details in German law.

Yes, I had to do a lot of homework.One of the tasks was to get acquainted with a German banking system. That was challenging.

Partially, because of the bureaucracy connected with the opening of a “Geschäftskonto” in a German bank. Language problems and costs were coming my way.

When I first opened my business in Germany, I chose a ‘big bank’ for my account. I wanted to appear professional when clients transferred their money and when I payed my bills. I thought having ‘Commerzbank’ would reflect well on me. I thought it might seem dodgy if they moved it to some unknown digital bank.

Things have changed in recent years though, especially in Berlin. Now, online banks like N26 have become much more prominent. It turns out, even online banks are banks. And digital entrepreneurs like myself can benefit from their services by having an easier time categorising expenses, keeping track of bills, because that is all done automatically.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve changed my mind about online banks. Which is a good thing, I guess. After all, business is all about learning by doing.

Now I think the research I’ve newly done to gather more information on the topic, can help you guys avoid some mistakes and use your budget wisely.

#1 Who needs to open a business bank account

how to get a job in Germany

You MUST have a bank account if you have a registered business in Germany (for example, a UG or GmbH).

It’s possible to use your basic account (‘Girokonto’) for your business finances if you are self-employed or work as a freelancer.

In other words, if you have a co-founder for your startup/ business, then you would still have ONE business account. You can get a joint “konto.” This way, you can both access the account. Each of you can get your credit card, or you get one. Usually, it depends on the bank and the type of account you’re aiming to get. Read on for more details on this.

Having a work contract, you can choose from the options described below.

#2 How to open a business bank account in Germany, if you are not German

Being a European resident, but not having a German passport, I had to prepare certain documents to be able to open a “Geschäftskonto” in Germany.

The documents:

  • tax ID card
  • residence permit in Germany
  • sufficient funds to open a business account (more than 500 Euros turnover a month)
  • good credit history (preferably in Germany)

My tip for you is to check if you have enough funds to open a business account for your type of business. You can call a Bank you choose or make an appointment; it’s free.
The most important though, is that you have a good credit history because German banks are very strict about the sustainability of their clients.

#3 Why opening a Geschäftskonto in Germany is a good thing

If you are self-employed, it is your responsibility to manage your finances and make them transparent to the tax office if you fail to do so…. Well, let’s not get into that.

Honestly, keeping your private money separate from your business funds is essential. It helps you become a successful entrepreneur in my opinion. Correct, it also helps you become  a law-abiding German citizen that manages their funds in an orderly and structured way :)

Mixing private and business stuff in one account is difficult because you may not be able to distinguish one from the other in the future.

Thus, when you officially disclose information about payment transactions for the tax office (Finanzamt), you must mark clearly what payments are private, and which are business-related. It takes time.

In short, even if you don’t HAVE to have a business account because you’re self-employed/freelancer, I strongly suggest you still get one. Thus, it will make your life easier. You are keeping private and professional stuff separate.

If you have a registered company then you are legally required to have a business bank account in Germany. Again, don’t see this as an annoying obligation. See it as something that makes your life a little easier. Or that of your bookkeeper anyway.

#4 Are ‘big banks’ (Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank?) and ‘small entrepreneurs’ (freelancer with little income?) always the best match?

In my experience, banks are not super keen to open accounts for entrepreneurs with low turnover, insufficient transactions, and small businesses, such as freelancers, self-employed, or small shops with insignificant revenues.

Therefore, virtual bank accounts, such as N26, can be an excellent solution for freelancers, self-employed, and entrepreneurs with online stores. A digital account in one of the German digital banks will allow you to obtain a free European IBAN for nonresident businesses and an ability to send and receive the money within the EU. They are usually free and provide you with a fee multicurrency account.

#5 So, what is the best German business bank account – das beste Geschäftskonto?!

finding a job in Germany

Undoubtedly, the search for the ideal bank in Germany depends on the scale and structure of your business.

If like me, your company is GMBH (or UG), you will have to open a business bank account. In the beginning, we were GbRs – a company that considered to be smaller but still encouraged to use a business bank account.

In all these cases, there are pros and cons. On the one hand, you get all the perks to see all transactions as well as to get special services for your account in a bank you choose. On the other hand, you might have to spend the right amount of money on it.

What to consider?

For instance, there are some costs you need to take into account before opening a “Geschäftskonto” in Germany. These are costs for opening an account itself (Kontoeröffnung), ATM withdrawal fees, fees for account management (Kontoführung), charges for credit cards, and so on.

Furthermore, all banks do change their services from time to time, do adjust the prices due to your business details and (!) not all of them speak English.

Above all, only N26 and Kontist online banks can offer you all services in English as well as consultations in English.

So, first of all, be sure to find someone who can help you with the language.
Don’t hesitate to ask this person to call a bank and check the main prices/services you are interested in before making an appointment.

You can surely use the information on the bank account provided below, but keep in mind that German law is not a stable thing! So better always double-check.

#6 Five essential questions you should ask yourself before opening an account

Now here are a few questions you should take a good look at. Carefully read them and think about them before selecting a bank account:

  1. Do I need a business account? If not, do I want one?
  2. Is it worth paying for it? Or I want a free one?
  3. Am I willing to pay transaction fees and paper slips? Do I prefer to do everything digitally and use a banking app?
  4. Am I good with the online bank only?
  5. What are the conditions for overdrafts?
  6. Does my bookkeeper / do I speak German sufficiently good, or should I get a bank account that offers all services in English?

It will allow you to picture what type of bank account and services match you best for the time being.

Usually, an account should come with the following features – be sure to double-check.

  • Transferring and receiving money to/from German and international clients, customers, etc.
  • A prepaid card or debit card, Mastercard or Visa usually come with an extra fee
  • Withdrawing and depositing cash
  • Overdraft (amount and interest rate will differ)

#7 Choosing an account: Branch network bank vs digital bank

  1. A bank with a branch network is a classic type of a German bank, which would be more expensive but will offer you the whole range of services. They are more suitable for corporations and companies with excellent turnover and a sufficient number of transactions.
  2. A digital bank(a bank that functions only online) – cheaper and more convenient for smaller business and for someone who is also always traveling or have to make lots of business trips.

Let me list the most famous German banks to open a business account below.

#8 Want to choose a German bank with a branch network?

Opening a Geschäftskonto at Commerzbank

ServicesCommerzbank business account is a classic alternative to Deutsche Bank. Now there are three business accounts offers with different service options and prices – Premium for 18,90€, GründerAngebot for 9,45€ instead of  18,90€  for the first 2 Jahre (which is a favorable offer includes extensive services), and Klassik for 6,90€.

You can enter your personal data such as name, date of birth, address, etc. and specify your desired access data for online banking directly. After entering the data, you will already see your future account number (IBAN). Then you will need to download the app, register, and that’s it.

New services: CashRadar – a cash manager for entrepreneurs to an overview of your accounts on your screen. It can also plan your investments and forecast if your expenses are efficient, and help you to control your receipts and expenditures.
Account-change service will help you to change a bank account easily in 10 minutes online. Your payment partners, business partners, and insurance companies are automatically informed of your new account details.

Fees: Find out more!

Online banking: possible in English

Open a Geschäftskonto at Deutsche Bank

Services: free cash withdraws of charge from over 50,000 ATMs worldwide, paperless bookings via online or mobile banking, SEPA real-time transfer: send and receive the money within seconds, App with many digital features (such as multi banking function), a digital mailbox for your bank documents, a free service to change the account.
Fees: From the 1stof October there are three main business accounts in Deutsche Bank you can choose from:

  • Premium for 29,90 Euro/month
  • Classic for 15,90 Euro/month
  • Basic for 9,90 Euro/month.

Deutsche Bank’s business bank account has now a low-cost option that includes a debit card, credit bank, digital banking. However, the more you pay for your account for one month (for example, if you have a Premium account), the less expansive are all the other services, check the details!

Online banking: possible in English

Opening a Geschäftskonto at Postbank

Services: Postbank is a part of Deutsche Bank. Their services are VISA business cards, secure online banking. They also provide opportunities for a small business.

Fees: Recently there have been some price increases, but it’s still one of the Safest Banks in Germany for the big clients and corporations. Also, now you can apply online for a business account with a free management fee for the first six months! Postbank also has three account options – Smart for 5,90 Euro/month, Flexible for 12,90 and Comfortable for 16, 90/month, here are the details.

Furthermore, Girocard always free of charge, paperless bookings are from 0.20 Euro, 5 Euro free cash deposits incl. With a sufficiently high credit rating, you may get automatically approved for business financing from 5,90 € basic price at 5.000 € credit balance.

Online banking: exists in German

#9 … or open a business account at a digital bank like N26

For now, I would prefer an online bank – it’s free, it’s more convenient and it’s easier for a person without solid German skills. Here are on the most popular options you have nowadays in Germany.

Opening a Geschäftskonto at N26

From what Ive seen N26 offers a simple and efficient bank business account. These are mainly applications, but you can also use N26 from your computer’s browser. The service package includes MasterCard. Everything is always at hand on your phone. And you get a 24/7 customer service in your app and on the website as a chat in English.

Transaction-overview special: The N26 online business bank now applies artificial intelligence to make categories for the spending of your business account. They do it automatically, so you have an overview of your transactions.

Opening a Geschäftskonto at Penta bank.

This bank provides a German IBAN and bank account, also including a Mastercard debit card, a real-time cost overview, and custom transaction categories. It’s very similar to N26, but Penta is made only for corporate clients and specializes in the tech and start-up sector.

Invoice-tracking special: Interestingly, business account holders at Penta can get their invoices tracked and automatically be compared so that you see which invoices have not been paid. Might be useful for those that tend to forget paying bills I guess.

Opening a Geschäftskonto at Kontist

The Kontist business account comes English; there is no need to speak or read German from what I was able to see. It seems pretty straightforward to use. It is a 100% paperless digital bank, so no fees for paper statements etc. As written on their website, your account can be linked seamlessly to accounting software. So, you’ll save lots of time and never forget a receipt again and also your taxes are calculated in real-time after every incoming transaction, so you’ll avoid surprises from the tax office.

Tax-tracking special: Get ready, this account comes with a special, too. An automatic system keeps track of your taxes and your monthly income. It is made automatically for you, so you don’t have to spend more than you earn. Also, the system calculates the proportion of your income and taxes and reserves it on a sub-account, automatically saving a part of the income for the tax and help you to make the bookkeeping “tidy”.

#10 What documents and paperwork you need to open a business account in Germany?

YOU ARE YOU NEED
Freelancers, self-employed, on-line shops with low revenues and a small number of transactions  Proof of identity and the notarised certificate of incorporation (Gründungsurkunde)
Registered business people (eingetragene Kaufmann – e.K.) ·      Certificate of incorporation

·      Extract from the commercial register

·      Trade license

·      CEOs must be present at the meeting in a Bank

·      Deposit slip

GbR Proof of the identity of all partners in addition to the articles of association
oHG ·      List of partners

·      An extract from the commercial register (Handelsregister)

·      Trade license (Gewerbeschein)

GmbH, UG or AG ·      Proof of identity, the list of shareholders (Gesellschafterliste)

·      articles of association (Gesellschaftervertrag)

·      certificates of incorporation (Gründungsurkunden)

To sum up….

If you are a freelancer or self-employed in Germany, you do not need to get a business account. I strongly suggest you still an open one. Separating private and business money will make your life a lot easier once it comes to filing tax, etc. If payment is an issue, I recommend free online bank accounts. They have become very popular and widespread. If you like going digital, this should be a good fit. My favorite two business accounts for you:

If you have a registered company in Germany, you must have a business account. You may want to go for a traditional bank like Deutsche Bank or Postbank. They allow you to make cash deposits. If you have renowned clients having a “big bank” may be right for your reputation. The setback: You will have to pay fees of at least 15 Euros per month and may have to pay extra for special services.
My favorite two business accounts for you:

Lastly, remember that you can always close your account and open another one. It may sound like a lot of work, but sometimes it’s worth it. Just do it.
I hope I was able to help you a little – let me know how you get on and if you have any recommendations or experiences to share, please!

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