Opening a business account: What you should consider
A business account isn’t always mandatory but it helps you clearly separate your private and business expenses. Learn everything you need to know about opening a business bank account in Germany.
Are you self-employed but don’t yet have a business account? Or does your business already have a bank account, but you’d like to learn more about your options in the German market?
A business account, also called a company account or corporate account, is worth considering (and sometimes outright mandatory) for limited liability companies (GmbHs), small and part-time businesses, freelancers, as well as corporations and joint-stock corporations (AGs).
In the following, you’ll get an overview of the pros and cons of opening a business account at a bank branch versus opting for a fully digital bank. You’ll also learn how you can streamline your accounting and business finances with a company account.
Business accounts in a nutshell
Self-employed persons, freelancers, and other business owners use a business account to manage business transactions and finances.
For the self-employed, it’s not mandatory to have a business account. However, it helps to separate personal and business expenses and transactions and to comply with the obligation to provide proof to the tax office.
Usually, you manage a company account the same way as a personal bank account. But some features are only available on a company account. For example, direct debit, salary payments, and collecting card payments from customers are only possible with a business account.
What is meant by a ‘business account’?
A business account is in many ways like your own personal bank account, but it is used by businesses, like freelancers and companies.
So, what does a business bank account do?
You can use a business account to process payments from customers, financing partners, or government institutions. From the business account, a company pays outstanding invoices, salaries to its employees as well as interest and installments to the bank or taxes to the tax office.
Why do you need a business account?
There are a number of advantages that a company account offers you over a personal account:
Business transactions are separated from private transactions.
Easier accounting and better overview of business finances.
You can report business account fees and costs in the tax return. These include basic fees and fees for a girocard, debit card, or credit card (Mastercard or Visa).
When is it mandatory to have a business account?
Limited liability companies and joint-stock corporations have to open a business account. A sole trader, like a freelancer, doesn’t necessarily have to have a separate company account.
The main differences between a business account and a personal account
Usually, one big difference is higher costs. But a business account does offer more value, too.
In contrast to a personal account, with a business account, you can:
collect direct debits, like bills or invoices
collect card payments from customers
pay wages and salaries to employees
collect payments from online store sales
have access to a business credit card
None of this would be possible with a personal account. However, both account types offer you the usual functions such as SEPA payments, transfers, withdrawals, and girocards.
Requirements for opening a business account
Even if your business is small, it’s advisable to switch to a business account if you receive frequent business-related payments to your account. In Germany, some banks prohibit using a personal account for managing business transactions.
If you have a day job and only run your business on the side, and consequently only receive one to two payments per month, you can use your personal account. Usually this doesn’t pose a problem for banks. But for more frequent transactions and personnel expenses, it is recommended to open a business account.
Opening a business account with a digital bank takes just a few minutes online. With a physical bank branch, you have to make an appointment in person. Let’s see what all this means in practice.
3 things you should do before you open a business bank account
Register a business and establish a company (except for freelancers).
Compare conditions and costs.
Select a bank: either a digital bank or a local bank branch.
Information you need to deliver when opening a company account
Persona ID for identity verification (identity card or passport)
Tax identification number for freelancers
Proof of company, business registration or self-employment. If applicable, excerpt from the commercial register (Handelsregisterauszug) and articles of association (Gesellschaftsvertrag)
Further proof of creditworthiness and business plan (if requested)
Open a business account online or at a bank?
In Germany, you have two options when you open a company bank account. You can either open a business account at a local bank branch or online in a digital bank.
Opening a company account at a bank branch
If you deal with a lot of cash in your business, visiting a physical bank branch is more convenient. At a branch, you can make cash deposits and withdrawals.
In Germany, a lot of businesses still operate with cash. Craftsmen, hairdressers, and bakers, for example, who primarily receive cash payments, benefit from free cash deposits and cash withdrawals.
Also, if you value service in person, you’ll get that at a bank branch. And if you’re a founder, you can also get support in applying for government subsidies.
In addition to banking services, a local bank might also offer insurance and other financial products. But be cautious: the extra services are usually very expensive. Check the offer carefully before you commit to anything.
Advantages of a bank branch
Frequent cash deposits and withdrawals without fees
Personal on-site advice
Assistance in applying for government subsidies and grants
Possibility of customized solutions and conditions
Banks offer various business account plans, ranging from low-cost basic accounts for new business owners and the self-employed to premium business accounts with additional services for larger companies.
Bear in mind that you can have a separate business account and business credit card provider. Pliant offers credit cards for businesses of different sizes from startups to midsize companies. Find the right credit card for your business, completely independent of your bank account.Learn more about Pliant
Opening a company account with a digital bank
Digital banks don’t have any local branches. As the name suggests, they only offer services online. You can contact the bank by phone, chat, or email. If your business doesn’t handle cash, a digital bank may be a better alternative because they usually have lower fees. Business accounts offered by digital banks may even be free of charge.
Advantages of a digital bank
Faster account opening
More favorable conditions (often free of charge, without basic fees)
Available online at any time
Remember that some digital banks only serve private consumers and don’t offer business accounts.
Integrate your company account with accounting
Fintechs, which stands for financial technology, are digital companies focusing on modernizing financial processes.
Fintech solutions are ideal for companies that make a large number of transactions and want to offer customers various payment options, like PayPal, card payments, or bank transfers.
Fintechs offer companies, online stores, and start-ups many advantages, such as directly linking transactions to accounting. Fintech solutions streamline financial management, and usually they offer more favorable rates and conditions.
Pliant is equipped with several features that make managing business finances and accounting smoother. From real-time reporting, expense control, and receipt management to integrations, like invoice management and other financial solutions, we can help you optimize your finances.Learn more about Plian’t integrations
Free business account vs. account with fees
Numerous banks in Germany offer free business accounts. Other providers charge a basic fee of roughly 5–30 euros per month.
In addition to the basic fee or account management fee, there are also other costs that you should pay attention to.
Always take a close look at the pricing and fee schedule, especially in the case of free business accounts. While the business account may be free, there are likely some additional service fees.
Typical business account fees and costs
account management fees
cash deposits and cash withdrawals
credit card fees
real-time transfers and direct debits
foreign currency exchange
Before you open an account, make sure to compare the conditions of different banks. All costs should be presented in their fee schedule, which you can review or download from the bank’s website.
In Germany, the fees of local bank branches vary regionally. The basic fee in Munich may differ from that in Berlin.
If you prefer doing things the digital way, fintechs and digital banks may be good options for you. They tend to offer more favorable conditions and pricing.
With Pliant, you save on credit card fees. Start with our Light plan and upgrade to premium credit cards as your business grows.See our pricing
Frequently asked about business accounts
Is a business account mandatory?
It depends on the type of company.
In principle, freelancers can use their personal bank account as a business account. While this is allowed, it isn’t always the best choice. Separating private and business transactions has many advantages.
Is it possible to use a regular personal account as a business account?
A business account is mandatory for limited liability companies and stock corporations. Self-employed persons and freelancers can use their personal accounts for business finances too.
But you should always check this with your bank. Some banks stipulate in their terms and conditions that a personal account should be used exclusively for private transactions.
What are the advantages of a business account for accounting?
With a business account, it’s easier to keep accounting transparent and up to date. To comply with the requirements of the tax office, it's important that your bookkeeping is transparent and there's a clear audit trail.
Separating business and personal accounts means that private and business payments and transactions are also separated in the account statements. This means more clarity and discretion. For example, the tax office doesn’t get an unnecessary look into your private finances.
Are Pliant business credit cards dependent on the business account?
You can use Pliant business credit cards together with any existing business account. Your credit card bill is credited from your business account at least once a month, or if you’d like a more frequent billing cycle, bi-weekly, weekly, or even daily.
Signing up with Pliant is fully digital, without any paper applications or visits to a bank.
With Pliant, you get access to digital receipt capture and you can keep track of all business transactions in the mobile or desktop app. Virtual credit cards are ready to use immediately.
How to open a business account in Germany?
You must be the company's managing director or have a power of attorney. Sole traders must establish a business before they can open a company account. Freelancers need their tax identification number. You must also present an ID for the identity verification (ID card or passport).
Why are business accounts more expensive than personal accounts?
Business accounts are generally more expensive than personal accounts, as you usually manage more transactions there.
Banks also have an incentive to charge fees from business customers, because current accounts are a loss-making business for them. Banks generate income by charging fees, interest on loans, and through additional fee-based services.
With a business account, you might also gain access to more added services than with a personal account. This could be, for example, an integration into your accounting software.
Are there free business accounts available in Germany?
Some digital banks offer free business accounts for freelancers and the self-employed. Usually they have several pricing plans to choose from, the free plan being the most basic one. As you upgrade and pay more, you unlock more features.
Fee-based corporate accounts have a more extensive range of services that are specifically designed for larger companies. Popular business account services include debit cards, credit cards, sub-accounts, digital bookkeeping, cash withdrawals, financial advice, and more.
It's good to approach free business accounts with a grain of salt. A free business account may not be completely free of charge. Pay attention to fees charged for additional services, like real-time transfers, credit cards, or cash deposits.