Opening a business bank account in Germany: Comparison and FAQs

updated on 13. Februar 2019 20 minutes reading time
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So you’re on your way to self-employment in Germany and would like to open a business account? To demystify the bank opening process, we’ve compared the top providers of corporate accounts (Geschäftskonto) for you and answered some frequently asked questions. In this article, you can find out what documents you need, who needs to be present to open an account and what services are important for business accounts.

What exactly is a corporate or business account?

A business or corporate account is an account that you open independently of your private account when you start a business. All the company’s transactions take place on this account. If required by your chosen legal form, you also pay your share capital into the business account. You can open a business account at a bank with a branch network (branch bank) or at a direct bank (a purely digital bank that has no public offices).

 

Who’s required to open a business account?

Corporate accounts are mandatory for capital companies such as the GmbH or UG (article in German). Sole proprietorships, partnerships and freelancers who can do without special services may not need a company account. Special services include participation in direct debit transactions, corporate loans and cheap credit cards, which is why business current accounts can also be significantly more expensive than private accounts. However, an additional account can be advantageous for all business matters in order to keep an overview.

 

Why should I open a business account?

If you are a sole trader or freelancer with comparatively few business transactions, a separate account is not always worthwhile, as it may incur costs. However, as soon as your transactions reach a certain volume or you set up as a partnership or corporation, a business account always makes sense, and it may even be mandatory (i.e. for corporations). This is the only way you can separate your company payments from your private payments and keep track of them.

Even for smaller partnerships (GbRs), it’s advisable to open a business account, since the tax office is granted access to your account through the obligation to provide proof of business payment transactions. If you use your private account for business purposes, you have to both separate the payments in detail, and also disclose your private payment transactions – not only with regard to the burden of proof but also if someone does the accounting for you and then has to distinguish between private and business payments.

For companies with several shareholders, whether as partnerships or corporations, it’s also quite common for several shareholders to make payments via the company account. Ideally, these should not be made via your private account. Using a private account can also make it difficult to see what salary you’re paying yourself.

 

Opening a business account: Which conditions are important for company accounts?

Before you open your business account, you should check the costs and fees involved. The following checklist can help you to compare the most important key points of the business accounts offered:

  • Costs for opening an account (Kontoeröffnung)
  • Fees for account management (Kontoführung)
  • Costs for individual bookings (Einzelbuchungen)
  • Amount of interest on credit balances (Guthabenverzinsung)
  • Line of credit (Kreditrahmen) including at short notice and the fees for it
  • Distribution of ATMs and the possibility of withdrawing money from third-party ATMs
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Costs for EC/credit card
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Company account comparison: What does a business account cost?

To give you an idea of what an account for entrepreneurs costs and where you can best open yours, we’ve put together some offers for you.

Provider Branch/

Direct bank

Monthly Basic fee Transactions

(voucherless/

voucher-based)

Credit card Cash withdrawals Appropriate legal forms
Holvi Builder Direct Free € 0.50/

N.A.

Free 2.5 % fee at ATMs All
N26 Business Direct Free Free of charge/

N.A.

Free 3 or 5 free withdrawals per month then € 2 for each additional withdrawal Sole proprietorship, freelancer
Penta GK Direct Free € 0.10/

N.A.

Free 2% charge per withdrawal with a € 2 min. at Mastercard vending machines Worldwide All except freelancers
Fidor Smart GK Direct Free

(up to 15 transactions per month)

Free of charge/

N.A.

From € 8.95 per year € 3 per withdrawal in the Eurozone All
Netbank GK Basic Direct Free € 0.07/

€ 10

From € 10 per year Free of charge once per month at Mastercard vending machines. € 3 for each additional withdrawal Sole proprietorship, freelancer
Commerzbank Klassik GK Branch €6.90 € 0.15/

€ 1.50

€ 79.90 per year € 1 per withdrawal at 9,000 cash group ATMs All
Postbank Business Giro Branch € 5.90 or € 9.90 (depending on monthly credit balance) € 0.20/

€ 1.50

€ 30 per year Free of charge at Postbank counters and cash group ATMs All
Deutsche Skatbank TrumpfKonto Business Branch 5 € or free of charge (depending on the monthly credit balance) € 0.10/

€ 2.00

€ 20 per year Free of charge at 19,000 ATMs from the VR banks All

(Status: 05.12.2018)
The respective banks reserve the right to adjust conditions and prices at any time. There’s no claim to the conditions specified in this table.

NB. Not all banks in Germany will offer their services in English. Often you will need German language skills to be open an account at a German bank.
​​

What documents do I need to open my company account?

As a sole proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen), you only need proof of identity to open a business account; your identity card is sufficient. Where appropriate, banks may also require the proof of a trade licence. As this is usually not available at the time the account is opened, it must be submitted later.

Freelancers (Freiberufler) only need proof of identity. Registered businesspeople (eingetragene Kaufmann – e.K.) must provide a certificate of incorporation and later submit the extract from the commercial register and, if applicable, the trade licence.

Partnerships (Personengesellschaften) such as oHG or GbR must submit proof of the identity of all partners in addition to the articles of association (Gesellschaftsvertrag) when opening a business account. For the oHG, the list of partners (Gesellschafterliste), an extract from the commercial register (Handelsregister) and, if applicable, a trade licence (Gewerbeschein) must additionally be submitted.

GbRs do not have to register a business if they consist exclusively of freelancers. In some cases, the trade licence must be submitted to the bank at a later date.

For corporations, on the other hand, the bank requires more documents. Founders of a GmbH, UG or AG must submit not only proof of identity, the list of shareholders (Gesellschafterliste) and articles of association (Gesellschaftervertrag) but also certificates of incorporation (Gründungsurkunden). If necessary, the bank will also request the trade licence (Gewerbeschein). In this case, this must be submitted after the company has been formed.

As the companies to be entered in the commercial register (AG, GmbH, UG, e.K., oHG) are still „in the process of formation“ (“in Gründung” – i.G.) at the time of opening the business account, and the entry in the commercial register can only be made after payment of the share capital (Stammkapital), the opening of the account is always subject to reservation. The Handelsregister extract must be submitted after the company account has been opened.

When forming a company as a team, you will still need account authorisation for the other shareholders or for the authorised signatory or signatories – provided that they also plan to use the business account. So consider ahead of time which co-owners should have access to the account and prepare the corresponding powers of attorney.

The required documents may vary from bank to bank, so it’s always a good idea to ask before the bank appointment what you need to bring with you. Here’s an overview of the documents that are usually requested:

 

Sole proprietorship, freelancer Partnerships Corporations
Identification ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Business registration (Gewerbeanmeldung) ( ✔️ ) ( ✔️ ) ( ✔️ )
Articles of association (Gesellschaftervertrag) ✔️ ✔️
List of shareholders (Gesellschafterliste) ( ✔️) ✔️
Excerpt from the commercial register (Handelsregisterauszug) ( ✔️ ) ( ✔️ ) ✔️
Certificate of incorporation (Gründungsurkunde) ( ✔️ ) ( ✔️ ) ✔️
Account authorisations for shareholders (Kontovollmachten für Gesellschafter) ( ✔️ ) ( ✔️ )

SCHUFA

In modern direct banks, the business account cannot generally be overdrawn in the basic models, which is why no SCHUFA information is required when opening a company account. Founders with low liquidity or perhaps a less than ideal credit score therefore always have the opportunity to open a business account on a credit basis – not only in exceptional cases, but with the majority of providers. If your business account is going to be overdrawn, the bank will request some form of credit check before opening the account.

What are the differences between a business account and a private account?

There’s no functional difference between a private and a business account, because the business account serves the same purpose as a private account. You can also activate your business account for direct debit and instant bank transfer, giving your customers more payment flexibility. Private accounts differ from the business account due to the calculation of transactions: Here you can choose between paper-based (bank transfers, cheques, cash payments) and paperless (online transfers/standing orders, direct debits, etc.) transactions, both charged a corresponding fee for each booking.

Opening a corporate account: Can I use an existing account?

Converting from a private to business account is theoretically possible, but should be well thought out in advance. Transactions that were made before starting a business can be unnecessarily confusing. It’s therefore better for entrepreneurs to set up their businesses with a new account designed for business operations.

Do I open my business account before or after the notary appointment?

This depends on the legal form you choose, because as a company that needs to be entered in the commercial register, you need a notarised certificate of incorporation for opening an account, which must be drawn up by the notary. This must be presented at the opening of the business account.

After opening a business account, it’s essential that you send your notary a certificate of payment of the share capital so that he or she can certify it and send it to the commercial register.

Who must be present at the bank appointment?

While some banks require the presence of all authorised representatives, in most cases the presence of the CEO is sufficient. Be sure to have the appropriate powers of attorney if there are shareholders or authorised signatories. Other shareholders or authorised signatories are only entitled to access the business checking account if they have account authorisation. Check with your bank in advance to find out who must be present at the opening so that you can avoid delays.

Can I be represented as CEO at the opening of the company account?

No. As a CEO, you must be present at the opening of your business account. This also serves to verify your signature. If you open an account with a direct bank, you must also use the PostIdent or VideoIdent procedure yourself and cannot be represented by someone else.

Opening a business account: Will a statement of account be enough for the notary?

When opening a business account, the bank will issue you with a deposit receipt for the paid-in share capital; in some cases, a bank statement will suffice, provided that the deposit/transfer can be seen there. Find out at your notary appointment what kind of proof you need in order to be prepared for your bank appointment.
​​

How long does it take to open a business account?

That depends entirely on where and with which legal form you open your account. In the case of branch banks, checking the documents usually takes less time as they can be checked directly on site at your appointment. Opening a business account with a direct bank can take less than two days, depending of course on your legal form and the documents that need to be checked. In addition, when opening a business account with a direct bank, you can easily and quickly identify yourself with the PostIdent or VideoIdent procedure, which further streamlines and shortens the opening process.

What are PostIdent and VideoIdent?

Using the relatively modern PostIdent and VideoIdent procedures, you can confirm your identity for opening an account without having to be at the bank. These procedures are often used by direct banks or if you cannot appear in person at your bank, for example if you live abroad and cannot appear at the actual bank date.

In order to participate in the PostIdent procedure, you must go to a Deutsche Post branch with an ID document. An employee at the counter then carries out the identification. You can even use the VideoIdent process from home – but only if you have a device equipped with a camera, such as a laptop with a webcam or smartphone. You then use this device to make a video call to your bank during which you must hold your ID document in the camera. A bank employee then checks your data.
​​

What else should I keep in mind when opening my company account?

If your company is to have access to the business account for more than one CEO or multiple shareholders, it can be managed as a joint account. Here you can choose between an AND account and an OR account. With the AND account, each transaction must be approved by all account holders – however, this procedure is not very practical in day-to-day business. Many entrepreneurs, therefore, opt for the OR account. Here, each account holder alone can dispose of the account and is authorised to execute transactions.

Opening a German bank account as a non-German citizen can also have its challenges, so make sure you do your homework well before you start on any new ventures.

Checklist for opening a business account

The following points summarise the procedure and the documents you need to open your company account:

Opening a business account with a branch bank

☑️  Bring all necessary documents with you: Proof of identity as well as, if applicable to your legal form, the notarised certificate of incorporation (Gründungsurkunde), articles of association (Gesellschaftervertrag), list of shareholders (Gesellschafterliste)
☑️  CEOs must be present
☑️  Ideally paid in cash in the original deposit
☑️  Have confirmation of deposit issued
☑️  Send deposit slip to notary public
☑️  Submit Handelsregister excerpt as soon as available
​​

Opening a corporate account with a direct bank

☑️  Scan in documents and send them together with the registration form
☑️  CEO identifies himself by PostIdent or VideoIdent
☑️ Make initial deposit
☑️  Have your deposit confirmation issued
☑️  Send deposit slip to notary
☑️  Submit Handelsregister excerpt as soon as available

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As soon as you’ve successfully opened your business account, send the receipt for the payment of the share capital to your notary public, who will then arrange for entry in the commercial register. Of course, this step only occurs if you establish a GmbH, UG, AG, oHG or as e. K. Sole proprietorships and in principle also GbRs can continue directly with the business registration.

What’s else do you need to know when forming a company? Use our handy checklist to find out! 

The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult an expert in a specific case – we would be happy to connect you with the right professional.

firma.de assumes no liability for damages caused by errors in the texts.

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