best business account in germany for freelancers
Finance,  Work in Germany

How to Choose a Business Account in Germany as a Freelancer (2020 Edition)

Traditional national banks, direct banks or one those new Fintechs apps offer a wide variety of business accounts in Germany. Which account suits you the best depends on many factors. Find out more in this post.

 

So you have registered as a freelancer with the tax office and the first invoice is ready for the client. But which bank account details should you add in the invoice? Can you use your personal bank account or is a business account mandatory for freelancers?

In this very detailed post, I will discuss the factors you must take into account before choosing a business account as a freelancer in Germany and how the costs of a business account are made up.

 

However, if you want to skip the details and jump straight to the best offers for business account in Germany, then click here.

 


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Do You REALLY Need a Business Account as a Freelancer in Germany?

 

As a rule, there are no legal requirements that force an entrepreneur or a freelancer to open a business account in Germany. The only exception is when you’re setting up a corporation (e.g. GmbH or UG), you must open a business account.

Any freelancer is free to choose their preferred payment method, but nowadays invoices are rarely paid in cash. It is very common for freelancers to continue using their private current account for business purposes at the beginning. But it can become quite a hassle in a matter of time.

 

 


 

The Practicability of Using Your Current Account as a Business Account

 

In theory, the scope of services of a private current account and a business account is very similar.

As long as the number of transactions remains manageable and limited your bank probably won’t even notice. However, if your monthly transactions are too high, your bank may ask you to open a business account.

Switching to a business account at a later stage is possible, but it comes at additional costs and great hassle. You will have to inform all your clients of new bank details or else they will continue transferring payments to your old account. Think of all the monthly business-related subscriptions that you may have to update.

 

 


 

How Much Does a Business Account Cost?

 

The free business account in Germany is a widespread myth.

Many providers offer their accounts with a free account management fee. However, there are costs for cards, bookings or deposits and withdrawals on top of that. Thus the costs for the respective business account rise rapidly.

So even though on paper many banks may offer a “free” bank account, you still end up paying some fee in one way or the other. The fees for a business account consist of different components.

Here are the main costs that you should consider when comparing business accounts.

 

1. Account Maintenance Fee

The account management fee can range between 0 and 98 euros per month. A higher fixed monthly fee often comes with some perks – lower variable fees, more paperless bookings, or other additional services.

2. Monthly Fee for EC and Credit Cards

Depending on the account type, some EC and credit cards are free of charge. However, credit cards are often associated with annual additional costs for the business account.

3. Costs for Transactions

– Paperless Transfers (online transactions)

Banks can charge €0.0 to €0.30 for online transactions. Depending on your account, a certain amount of ‘free’ paperless bookings may also be included in your business account.

– Paper-based Transfers (documented transactions)

Paper-based transfers are those that you make using a form. This also includes checks as well as cash deposits and withdrawals. Paper-based transactions can cost up to €10.00 with some banks.

4. Fee for Deposits and Withdrawals

– Cash Deposits

Not all providers offer deposits to the business account. Some banks charge up to 5 Euros per deposit.

– Cash Withdrawals

Withdrawals with the EC card are usually free of charge at the classic banks. Some direct banks and mobile banks charge high fees since they do not have their own network of ATMs.

5. Other Costs

Additional costs are incurred for your business account, for example for payment transactions across national borders, setting up standing orders by telephone, issuing new or (additional) cards, bounced direct debits or chargebacks.

 

 


 

How To Open a Business Account in Germany?

 

Until now, the classic way to open a business account has been to go directly to the bank branch. You make an appointment with the bank of your choice and bring all the documents required for registration to your appointment.

But now, this is much easier. Most online and mobile banks in Germany let customers open a business account without visiting an office. This generally works in two ways:

  • An online application process – You finish the application form online. After the bank has checked your detail you will have immediate access to your business account. In this method, you carry out the Video ID procedure (Videoident) to identify yourself.

 

  • A postal application process – This is still the case with many branch banks. You will be asked to fill up a PDF registration form online, which you print out and take to the post office. When you hand in your documents at the post office counter, you carry out the Post-ID procedure (Postident) to open the bank account. In this case, the post office employee is authorized to verify your identity for the account opening.

 

Regardless of the  application process, you will share the following basic personal details when opening a business account in Germany:

  • Name and address, date and place of birth
  • Name, legal form and sector of the company

Holvi - Einfach. Sicher. Papierlos.

 


 

What Types of Banks Offer Business Accounts in Germany

 

Branch Bank (Filialbank

A branch bank is a credit institution with a distinctive branch network. Ideally, a branch bank has branches in every major city or municipality.

In contrast to a direct bank, a branch bank thus has a better infrastructure to provide its customers with personal and individual service throughout the country.

Advantages of a branch bank:

  • nationwide branch network
  • Individual advice and support
  • Products can be individually adapted to the customer
  • high service level

The table below shows the business bank account features offered by a couple of popular Filialbank in Germany.

Bank/ Features

Postbank

Commerzbank

Language

DE

EN/ DE

EC Card

1

1

Credit Card
           30,00 €/ year
              34,90 €/ year

SEPA Transfers

per month

         0,22 €/ paperless transaction

2,50 €/ paper transaction

10 free
afterwards 0,15 €/ paperless transaction 

1,50 €/ paper transaction

Cash Withdrawals

per month

Free and Unlimited
at Cash Group ATMs

1,00 €/ per withdrawal

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Available

NA

Mobile App

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

Starting Price per month

Free for first 6 Months, then 
5,90 € 

9,90 €

 

 

Direct Bank (Direkt-Bank)

A direct bank in Germany is usually one that does not maintain branches and serves customers by mail, online or by telephone. Many direct banks today operate mainly via the Internet and offer all their services and support online.

The lack of a branch network has several advantages:

  • Lower costs, which are usually passed on directly to customers
  • Availability 24h around the clock
  • No fixed opening hours
  • High safety standards
  • Free additional services

Below is an overview of some of the most popular direct banks in Germany.

Bank/ Features

Fidor

DKB

NetBank

Language

EN/ DE

DE

DE

Business Card

Digital Card: Free

Physical Card: 3,00 €/PM

1

1

International Transactions
CHF/AUD/CAD:  0,50 % + 8,50 €

Other currencies: 0,50 % + 0,40 €
NA

1%  fee

per transaction

SEPA Transfers

per month

Unlimited

0,01 €/ per paperless transaction

10: Free

Additional paperless transactions: 0,15 € 

Cash Withdrawals

per month

1st withdrawal: Free

2nd withdrawal onwards: 3,00 € per transaction

At DKB ATMs: Free 

At 3rd-party ATMs: 1% fee


1st withdrawal: Free

2nd withdrawal onwards: 3,00 € per transaction

Bookkeeping and Accounting

NA 

NA

NA

Mobile App

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

Starting Price per month

5,00 €

15,00 €

4,85 €

 

 

Mobile Banks (Mobile-Bank)

The term mobile banking (also known as M-Banking or mBanking) is used to describe the processing of banking transactions that take place with the aid of mobile end devices such as mobile phones or PDAs. Mobile banking can be carried out via dedicated banking app on the Internet.

Advantages of a mobile bank:

  • Check your account on-the-go
  • Flexibility and independent from branch opening hours.
  • Paperless and online account management

Below is an overview of some of the fintech-led mobile banks and the features that they offer in their ‘free’ business account in Germany for freelancers

 

Bank/ Features

Holvi

Kontist 

Penta

FYRST

Language

EN/ Multi EU

EN/ DE

EN/ DE/ IT

DE

Business Card

1

Virtual Only

2

1

International Transactions
           NA
         NA

1%  fee

per transaction

NA

SEPA Transfers

per month

Unlimited
(Limited to Fair Use Policy) 

Unlimited

100

50

Cash Withdrawals

per month

 2.5% fee per withdrawal

NA

2

Unlimited (only at Cash Group ATMs)

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Includes Lexoffice integration 

Available in Kontist Premium @ 9,00 €/ per month

Includes Lexoffice or Debitoor integration

Integrate accounting solutions @ 25% saving

Mobile App

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

Starting Price per month

0,00 €

0,00 €

9,00 €

0,00 €

Details

 

 


 

Which are the Best Business Accounts in Germany?

 

As a freelancer in Germany, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to business accounts. Here are a few banks – classic, direct or mobile that offer business accounts in Germany with great conditions for freelancers and entrepreneurs.

 

Kontist

Kontist, a Berlin-based fintech offers an intuitive business bank account in Germany that you can manage easily from your smartphone. Oh, and they offer their services in English as well – so they are expat-friendly too!

They offer 3 types of business accounts for freelancers and self-employed. Free, Premium and a Duo.

With Kontist Premium you can automatically categorise your expenses and revenues based on your invoices and receipts. It also gives real-time tax forecasting and overview of the automated reserve account.

In Kontist’s Duo, you can integrate Lexoffice, popular English-German accounting software in Germany, with the Kontist Premium Business account. Lexoffice is rich with bookkeeping features for freelancers. Basically, it turns bookkeeping into a cakewalk. You can create invoices, scan receipts, capture expenses and prepare your tax return easily with Lexoffice.

 

Sign up for Kontist Duo’s Banking und Bookkeeping Plan for just €12.00/month.


 

Holvi

Based in Helsinki, Holvi is the world’s premier digital banking service for freelancers and entrepreneurs.  With their all-in-one banking service, freelancers can streamline the most complicated and time-consuming financial processes.

Just like Kontist, Holvi also makes it super easy for freelancers to create and send invoices right from their app and keep a track of all your accounting automatically.

One of the best things about Holvi is that they serve clients EU wide and therefore their services are available in nearly every European language including English.

 

Click here to sign up with Holvi’s Free Business Account for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs

 

Holvi - Einfach. Sicher. Papierlos.


 

Postbank

Postbank is one of the most well-known branch banks in Germany. You may recognise them from their bright blue-yellow colours even before knowing the brand name. They’re literally…everywhere in Germany!

Postbank offers excellent conditions for a business account in Germany to freelancers and business owners.

A sole trader or freelancer can conveniently open a new Business Giro Account (completely online!) as an “Individual account (trader or freelancer)

If you need a business account in Germany as a legal business entity (e.g. GmbH, AG, OHG etc) then you can also apply for “Individual/joint account (all legal forms)” online.

The best part is that they also provide account management through their mobile app.

So you get all the conveniences of the innovative fintech AND the reliability of a decades-old bank in the German finance sector.

 

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Some of the advantages of having a Postbank business account are:

  • Business accounts available for ALL legal business entities
  • Access to Postbank Business Assistant – their mobile banking service
  • Digital and easy to your account application
  • Favourable conditions for low monthly transactions
  • Cash deposits/ withdrawals
  • Reliable online banking
  • No account management fee for 6 months, then only 5,90 Euro per month

The only downside is that they offer their services in German only. So if you’re already here looking for bank accounts and all, you may as well brush up your German 😉

 

Click Here to Open a Postbank Business Girokonto for Freelancers Online (FREE for the first SIX months!) 

 


 

Tl:dr – A Business Account is an Essential for Freelancers

 

It is understandable that as a freelancer, it may not seem necessary for you to open a dedicated business account. However, there are several reasons not to rely on your private bank account. Despite the higher costs, a business account in Germany has many advantages.

In summary, now we know that:

  • By law, a business account is not mandatory for freelancers (except when founding a corporation).
  • Keeping business and personal transactions is recommended for transparent business management.
  • Banks in Germany can ask you to switch to a business account if your monthly business-related transactions exceed a certain number.
  • Banks offer a wide range of services for business accounts in Germany, which can considerably simplify and facilitate the financial processes of a company.
  • Choose a bank that offers a range of business accounts and check the customer service quality of a bank before opening an account.

 

 

Are you a freelancer or a business owner in Germany? Which business bank account  in Germany did you opt for? Tell us your experience in the comments below.

 

best bank account for freelancers in germany

Hi there, I am the human behind this blog. If you could not tell by my photo, I am fueled by tea. My expat journey started at the age of 19. Germany has been my home for several years. I hope you will find some helpful insights if you are considering moving to Germany or already live here.

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