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Debit cards in Germany – guideline and experiences

Debit cards are the most widely used bank cards in Germany. In retail or online shopping, the cards are used to pay for purchases. On site, they allow you to withdraw money from ATMs or serve as security deposits for rentals. In Germany there are free providers of debit cards. There are suitable conditions for every need. The following article provides information on the topic and helps in choosing a suitable provider.

Table of Contents

  • What is a debit card
  • Debit card summary – everything important briefly
  • Advantages of debit cards
  • Debit card: paying with your mobile device
  • Disadvantages of debit cards
  • Difference of debit card and credit card​
  • Debit card provider
  • ​Debit card: Mastercard and Visa Card
  • Security of debit cards​
  • Experiences of debit cards
  • What to consider regarding debit cards
  • Debit card comparison
  • Recommendation debit card
  • How to apply for a debit card
  • How to cancel a debit card
  • Summary​ of debit cards in Germany

Comparison calculator


What is a debit card

Debit cards are payment cards for cashless payments in online or stationary retail and enable cash withdrawals at ATMs in Germany and abroad.

Debit cards are linked to bank accounts in the form of a checking account (bank comparison available here). In the case of debit cards, all payments or withdrawals are debited directly from the checking account. The opposite is the credit card. With credit cards, the account is debited with a time delay – usually at the end of a month (click here for a credit card comparison). According to this, when paying with debit cards, the corresponding bank account is debited immediately or within a few working days (colloquially: debited).

The term debit is derived from the English word debit. Synonyms for debit card are bank card, Sparkassenkarte, ATM card or EC card – apart from the name, there is no difference in the function of these cards.


Debit card summary – everything important briefly

Debit cards…

  • are payment cards for purchases in retail or on the Internet
  • enable cash withdrawals at ATMs inside and outside the EU
  • are accepted throughout Germany and internationally
  • is available in connection with a checking account
  • Payments are booked promptly with the bank account
  • are the most used payment card in Germany
  • are available free of charge from some bank providers


Advantages of debit cards

Debit cards as payment cards bring advantages in everyday payment transactions. They replace paying with cash in retail or gastronomy. For online shopping or other internet purchases, they offer a possibility for fast and secure payment. In addition, the bank cards can serve as a security deposit, such as with a rental vehicle. Since the debit cards are accepted and usable both domestically and internationally, the benefits are further divided into two sections.


Debit card advantages in Germany

Debit cards are accepted throughout Germany. The cards enable fee-free payment in almost the entire German retail trade. The payment service is free for the cardholder – even for small amounts of money. The reason for this is that the costs are charged by the business owner. There is also an advantage for them: they quickly receive the corresponding amount of money and do not have to bear the costs for long.

In addition to cashless payment, the debit card allows you to withdraw money from ATMs free of charge. With providers such as ING, DKB and N26, money can also be withdrawn free of charge from other ATMs of banks such as Sparkasse or Volksbank. Regardless of the provider, debit cards offer the possibility of getting cash in every town. Only when withdrawing, there may be occasional minimum amounts of, for example, €50.

Cash can also be paid out by debit card when shopping in supermarkets. As with ATMs, there is a minimum purchase value – usually €20. Card readers at the tills offer contactless and mobile payment. Debit cards have both functions: The payment card can be held contactless to the reader to pay. Apple Pay or Google Pay technically maps the debit card to the smartphone as a digital clone. The reader at the checkout then recognizes the bank card via the smartwatch or mobile phone.

Finally, the debit card also serves as a deposit for rental vehicles, hotel visits or similar. In rare cases, however, only credit cards are accepted by such providers – but this is an exception.


Debit card advantages abroad

In general, the Germany-wide advantages can also be mapped to the foreign market. Debit cards are accepted and usable in other European and non-European countries. Banks cooperate with international financial service providers. This means that cashless payments and cash withdrawals are also possible abroad. As in Germany, the debit card serves as a deposit for hotel stays and rental vehicles. Depending on the debit card provider, there may be fees outside of Germany and especially outside of Europe for withdrawing cash from ATMs. Anyone who travels a lot and spends time abroad can give an estimated amount for sales abroad in a comparison calculator for debit cards. In the comparison calculator, the rough amount of money is given under „Annual turnover in non-Euro countries“. The comparison automatically calculates the possible costs per year for the individual debit card providers.


Debit card: paying with your mobile device

When paying with mobile devices, the smartphone or smartwatch replaces the debit card. Technically, a digital clone of the credit or debit card is created on a mobile device. Card readers then automatically recognize the respective bank card. The service is completely free. In Germany there are two important providers for this: Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Smartphones are now one of the most important everyday objects. The devices are carried along more often than wallets with bank cards. The biggest advantage of Apple Pay or Google Pay is that you always have the option to make payments on the go. In an emergency, tank fillings can be bought during car journeys or drinks can be bought on hot summer days. That creates independence.


Apple Pay with debit card

The following participating banks and payment services offering the Apple Pay service:

Main participants
1822direkt, BBBank, comdirect, Commerzbank AG, Consors Bank, Deutsche Bank, DKB, ING, N26, PSD Banken, Sparda-Bank, Sparkasse, Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken


Google Pay with debit card

Participating banks and payment services that offer the Google Pay service:

Main participants
1822, Comdirect, Commerzbank, Consorsbank, DKB, Miles and More Mastercard, ING and N26


Disadvantages of debit cards

In summary, there are no significant downsides to a debit card. There are only minor limitations where in a few cases a credit card may be a better choice. If one of the following debit card disadvantages is too important, it is advisable to apply for a credit card. A credit card comparison can be found here. Below is an overview of the disadvantages of a debit card:

All debit card payments are limited to the current money currently on the bank account (including the overdraft amount). Credit cards, on the other hand, allow higher credit limits and overdraft limits.

All payments made with a debit card are immediately charged to the bank account. Credit cards, on the other hand, offer the possibility of making payments with a delay. Thus, credit card holders have actual credit opportunities in the short term. In addition, credit card holders can choose between instalments and full payments. In most cases, all invoices from credit card providers are summed up at the end of a month and charged once to the cardholder. For debit card holders, the settlement is always immediate and as a full amount.

In very few cases, debit cards are not accepted as deposit security abroad. It’s a good idea to research in advance and find out which hotels or car rental companies accept debit cards. Credit cards, on the other hand, are more widely accepted and are always accepted as deposits.

In addition, in very few cases, debit cards are not accepted in German retail. The reason is that the company owners do not want to accept the transaction fees. In addition, some company owners only have a reader for either Visa card or Maestro / Mastercard. If the cardholder does not have the right card for the reader, payment with the debit card is not possible. A checking account offers additional bank cards in addition to a credit or debit card. Here is a comparison:

Finally, fewer additional services are included with debit cards. Examples of this are free insurance (e.g., international health insurance), cashback or bonus systems such as Miles & More in combination with a bank card. Credit card providers offer such additional programs, from which cardholders benefit.

In summary, the debit card is the most widely used payment card in Germany. The range of functions is more than satisfactory, which is why debit cards are recommended. If you still want to use some of the advantages of free credit cards, you will find the right providers in the credit card comparison.


Difference of debit card and credit card

Debit cards differ from credit cards in terms of how the payments are charged. Payments via debit cards are made promptly by direct debits from the bank account. This means that the booking will be settled with the current account within a few working days. In contrast, debits from credit cards are delayed. Credit card providers grant short-term loans. With credit cards, all payments are usually collected at the end of a month and settled with the cardholder in total. The billing then takes place in full or in instalments. There are different conditions for each provider.


What is a debit card

A debit card is a payment card for stationary and digital purchases, where the corresponding invoice amount is debited from the bank account immediately after the payment has been made.


What is a credit card

A credit card is a payment card for stationary and digital purchases, where payments are debited from the bank account in instalments or in full at the end of a month, with a time lag and usually totalled at the end of the month.


Credit cards vs. debit cards

The difference lies in the payment settlement with the account: With debit cards, the payments are immediately charged with the bank account (direct payment). Credit cards, on the other hand, charge delayed payments – usually at the end of a current month as a full payment or in instalments (delayed payment).


Debit card providers

In order to find a suitable provider for debit cards, it is helpful to get an overview of all bank providers at the beginning. There are around 20 large banks in Germany, some of which use debit cards for payment.


Overview of well-known debit card providers in Germany:

  • DKB
  • ING
  • N26
  • Sparda-Bank
  • Volksbank
  • Sparkasse
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Postbank
  • Consorsbank

Sparkasse or Volksbank usually charge account management fees, which is why the debit cards can also be indirectly subject to a fee. The advantage of both banks is the large bank branch network in almost every German town and bank advisors as direct contact persons. In the long term, however, the number of bank branches is declining. First branches are already closed in smaller towns. At the same time, the question arises: how often do you use the service for direct bank advice each year? Rare on average. Such consultations can now often be carried out by telephone or digitally.

Direct banks such as ING, DKB or N26 are therefore recommended. They offer the same service to customers free of charge. This is because there are no branch offices where customers are paid the building costs and employee salaries indirectly as customers.

In the case of a constant monthly cash inflow, for example from the job salary payment, the banks do not charge an account management fee. An account and thus also the debit card is therefore free of charge. There are no compromises when it comes to service either – there are a wide variety of ways to contact if you have any questions or requests for advice. In addition to practical online options, time-saving telephone consultations are offered. At the same time, the debit cards of direct banks can also be used at other bank branch offices such as Sparkasse or Volksbank. In the meantime, many supermarkets and shops offer free cash withdrawals at checkouts – the debit card makes it possible to get cash from anywhere (N26, DKB and e.g., ING offer the service free of charge).

Within the search for a debit card provider, a debit card comparison is recommended. Everyone has different needs. Nevertheless, an ideal debit card provider can be found in just a few minutes. A comparison provides a quick comparison of costs and benefits.


Debit card: Mastercard and Visa Card

Credit or debit cards are usually linked to banks. However, behind the cards are other providers who make the technical payment services possible in the first place. There are two providers of debit cards in Germany: Visa Card and Mastercard. The providers do not differ much within the functions: in the end, Mastercard and Visa Card enable simple, cashless payment and cash withdrawals.


Visa debit card

Visa Card started its service back in 1970. The headquarter is in California (United States). There are currently over 2,500 banks in Germany that offer the Visa card. Visa cards are accepted almost everywhere as a means of payment. In Germany there are currently around half a million acceptance points for Visa cards with around 58,000 ATMs. This means that the Visa card has significantly more ATMs in Germany than the Master or Maestro card.


Mastercard debit card

Mastercard has been around since 1966. Its headquarter is in New York (United States). Like a Visa card, Mastercard is accepted for payment almost everywhere – whether in Germany or internationally. The Mastercard also includes the Maestro card. As within the Visa card, there are numerous acceptance points and linkable ATMs for cash withdrawals. Maestro has around 9,000 ATMs in Germany. At Mastercard there are around 420 machines in Germany. Mastercard has 1,600,000 ATMs worldwide.


Security of debit cards

A debit card has various security measures for payments on the Internet and on site, which extensively prevent fraudulent misuse. For on-site payments, security is provided by entering a PIN, a four-digit number code from 0 to 9. The PIN code is assigned by the bank provider and can be changed by the cardholder afterwards. Payment with the debit card on site is PIN-free with most providers for amounts of less than 50 euros. From 50 euros, the four-digit PIN must be entered.

The scope of security is even stricter for payments on the Internet. For each online payment, the correct specification of the 16-digit account number, the expiry date (YY/MM) and the 3-digit CVV code on the back of the card is required. When paying in online shopping, all three details are always requested and immediately checked for accuracy. This gives the debit card the necessary security. In addition, verification from the account holder is required to complete the payment. This is another security precaution and can, for example, be a manual release via smartphone with renewed PIN entry.

Providing the PIN for larger sums of money, as well as the account number, expiry date, CVV code and subsequent verification as a further precaution make the debit card secure for online purchases and on-site payments and prevent misuse of the bank card.


Experiences of debit cards

The experiences with debit cards are consistently positive. All providers in Germany are reputable, safe, and therefore recommendable. In comparison, the DKB debit card had the most positive experiences. Closely followed by the ING debit card (4.5 stars out of 5). According to reviews, the PSD debit card, N26 debit card and Consorsbank debit card have a top rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

All known bank providers in Germany for such payment cards have no hidden disadvantages and can fully be recommended. The differences between the banks are often only minimal nuances to each other. The DKB debit card is particularly recommended. Here is an overview of relevant debit card experiences:


DKB debit card experiences

Valuation: 4.5 out of 5 stars


ING debit card experiences

Valuation: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The overall result consists of the following ratings*:
Transparency: 4.39 out of 5 stars
Service: 4.49 out of 5 stars
Recommendation: 4.46 out of 5 stars
Online banking: 4.63 out of 5 stars
*Based on the debit card comparison above


N26 debit card experiences

Valuation: 4 out of 5 stars
The overall result consists of the following ratings*:
Transparency: 3.88 out of 5 stars
Service: 3.56 out of 5 stars
Recommendation: 3.81 out of 5 stars
Online banking: 4.63 out of 5 stars
*Based on the debit card comparison above


PSD debit card experiences

Valuation: 4 out of 5 stars
The overall result consists of the following ratings*:
Transparency: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Service: 3.8 out of 5 stars
Recommendation: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Online banking: 4.6 out of 5 stars
*Based on the debit card comparison above


Consorsbank debit card experiences

Valuation: 4 out of 5 stars
The overall result consists of the following ratings*:
Transparency: 3.59 out of 5 stars
Service: 3.64 out of 5 stars
Recommendation: 3.55 out of 5 stars
Online banking: 3.98 out of 5 stars
*Based on the debit card comparison above


What to consider regarding debit cards

In order to find the best provider in the debit card comparison calculator within minutes, there are five aspects to consider:

  1. Costs
  2. Visa or Mastercard
  3. Withdraw money
  4. domestic usage in Germany
  5. Foreign use

It is important to focus on one topic: If costs need to be saved, all free debit cards are recommended. For frequent travellers outside of Europe, debit cards with low international fees are recommended. The debit card comparison supports the selection of a suitable provider.


Debit card comparison

A suitable provider can be found quickly by comparing debit cards. As the test winner, the DKB debit card consistently has the best price-performance ratio (is listed separately above the comparison calculator).

There are several filter options for the debit card comparison calculator to find the right debit card provider. These are:

  • Statement of an estimated annual turnover within Europe
  • Statement of an estimated annual turnover outside of Europe
  • Selection of a card company (for debit cards there is either the card system Visa Card or Mastercard)

The payment method (card statement) is preset to debit. This is called ‘immediate collection from the account’ in the comparison calculator. This means that only corresponding banks that have a debit card are listed. It is still possible to switch to charge, revolving or prepaid cards. If, for example, payments are to be settled later, the credit card is recommended as the bank card. The best and free credit cards can be found on

In addition, further information is listed in comparison. These are:

  • Bonus systems such as Miles and More and Payback, as well as insurance (e.g., travel insurance)
  • Instant bonus such as €50 starting credit
  • Debit Card Reviews


Recommendation of debit cards

Personal needs are different. However, the DKB debit card can be fully recommended. Their price-performance ratio convinces more than 4.6 million customers in Germany (as of 2020). The account and the Visa debit card are free of charge. Money can be withdrawn free of charge with the DKB debit card throughout Germany. In addition, DKB invests sustainably in the environment and society. The Visa debit card can be accessed directly via the following link: to DKB.

Sparkasse and Volksbank offer good personal customer service, but on average the on-site service is rarely needed. In addition, both banks are no longer free. For this reason, direct banks are recommended. Direct banks offer the necessary service free of charge. That saves costs every year. Their service is also fully guaranteed: whether digital contact, app or a telephone hotline – the service of direct banks can be reached quickly. This also saves travel costs and time.

Overall, three providers of debit cards are particularly recommended: DKB, ING and N26. All direct banks offer the debit card and the current account free of charge – there are no account management fees if you receive regular monthly payments.


How to apply for a debit card

Once you have found a suitable provider for the debit card, you can click on the ‘to the provider’ button to go directly to the bank and thus to the debit card application form. There are three steps to consider:

  1. Providing personal data such as name, address, and age
  2. Enter current employment relationship, monthly receipt of money and similar information
  3. Verification of the provided data (Post-Ident or Video-Ident procedure)

No matter which debit card provider you decide on in the end, the application process is similar. To illustrate this, a DKB debit card application is run through below. This can serve as a guide for another debit card application:

  1. Open the following link for the DKB debit card application (open link here).
  2. Now click on ‘Open account now’ (to get a debit card, a DKB bank account will be set. The free debit card is included in this bank account).
  3. In order to be able to apply for the DKB debit cards, personal information is provided at the beginning. These are name, contact details, address, date of birth, marital status and nationality. In addition, information on the current work situation and monthly net income is provided.
  4. In the next step, you will be asked whether a joint account is desired. This can be advantageous for partners and spouses.
  5. This is followed by checkboxes for data transmission, exemption from banking secrecy, other conditions and deposit insurance. Accept all checkboxes.
  6. DKB is now asking about communication options. The indication is voluntary. If you agree, the free service will contact you by post or telephone.
  7. In the last step, the formular has to be checked and confirmed if the entry is correct.
  8. The DKB debit card or the fee-free DKB bank account has now been applied for.
  9. Now it says were until a confirmation is received by e-mail. Important and confidential documents are sent by post. To meet security, the letters are specially addressed. In addition, the debit card is sent in one letter and the PIN in another letter to prevent misuse. The account and debit card are then activated on the PC or mobile device.
  10. As soon as the activation is complete and the first money is deposited into the checking account, the debit card is ready for use. The DKB debit card application is complete.


How to cancel a debit card?

A debit card can be canceled at any time, subject to the deadline. The deadline is usually two months in advance. Depending on the bank provider, canceling the debit card involves closing the complete bank account.


Summary of debit cards in Germany

Debit cards are one of the most important means of payment for private households in Germany. Whether online shopping, paying for services on site or visiting restaurants – debit cards enable easy, cashless and contactless payment of bills. The bank cards replace cash and also offer the necessary security. Cash withdrawals are possible at almost all ATMs worldwide – mostly free of charge in Germany and depending on the provider also free of charge abroad. In Germany there are suitable banking providers for every need. If you are thinking about purchasing a free debit card, you will get a clear summary: the debit card is recommended.

Find the right and free debit card for your individual needs. Use debit card comparison tools and find the best debit card in a few minutes.


Comparison calculator

FAQ for debit cards in Germany

Here you can find information about debit cards. Whether opening, change or open questions. Find answers to questions about debit cards in the FAQ.


What is a debit card?

A debit card is a payment card for cashless payments for stationary (on site) or digital purchases (online shopping) as well as cash withdrawals from ATMs.


What does a debit card do?

Debit cards allow worldwide payments and are tied to a checking account. As with EC cards, payments are debited within a few working days (in contrast to credit cards: here the debit occurs much later). The debit card also enables cash withdrawals from ATMs (also internationally). At the same time, the debit card can serve as a deposit for car rental companies.


Where to apply for a debit card?

Debit cards can be applied for directly online from the bank provider. Applying for a debit card online saves time and effort. With the help of a comparison calculator, you can quickly get an overview of the various debit card offers.


How much does a debit card cost?

A debit card costs between €0 and €118 per year. The debit card at the DKB Bank, for example, is free of charge. The ‘N26 You Mastercard Debit’ costs €118 per year. In addition to the annual basic fee, there may be other costs for bookings, money withdrawals, interest and other additional functions.


How to open debit card?

It is advisable to open a debit card directly online. This saves time and effort. The step-by-step process is as follows:

  • Comparison of debit card providers
  • Selection of a suitable offer
  • Fill out the application
  • Submit documents and information
  • Verification
  • The provider then reports online or by post
  • Receiving your debit card


What do you need to apply for a debit card?

In order to open a debit card, the following information and documents are required or requested from the provider:

  • Personal information such as address, employment, monthly payment
  • Proof of identity (ID card / passport)
  • Creditworthiness / SCHUFA information (taken over by the provider)


EC card equals debit card?

Yes, an EC card is a debit card for payments. Only the naming is different. The range of functions is the same.


What can debit cards do?

A debit card can make cashless payments in retail, hospitality and on the internet. You can also use a debit card to withdraw cash from almost all ATMs worldwide.


Difference debit card, EC card and Girocard

There is no difference between debit card, EC card and Girocard, apart from the names. All three cards are the same payment cards.


Plastic or metal debit card?

Whether plastic or metal debit card – both cards fulfill the identical functions. There is no difference between plastic or metal cards when paying or withdrawing money. Visually, a metal card is intended to symbolize a more highly regarded customer status. Metal cards are usually more expensive in terms of fees because they have additional functions such as insurance or bonus programs.


What does debit card mean?

Debit card is derived from the English word debit. Debit means „direct debit“, „account debit“ or as a verb „to debit“. Synonyms of debit card are bank card, Sparkassenkarte, ATM card or EC card – there is no difference between the cards except for the name. They are all payment cards with the identical functions.


Do I need a debit card?

There is no obligation to have a debit card in Germany. However, the use is advantageous for everyday life, since payments are cashless and easy. In addition, debit cards are often available free of charge.


MasterCard: what is the advantage?

With a Mastercard, cashless payments can be made in retail, gastronomy and online shopping. You can also withdraw cash from ATMs with a Mastercard. Germany has around 420 ATMs for the Mastercard.


Visa Card: what is the advantage?

The Visa Card as a debit or credit card brings the advantage of cashless and contactless payments. Furthermore, cash withdrawals are possible at almost all ATMs inside and outside of Europe. Within Germany there are 58,000 ATMs for the Visa card.


Pay with debit card without PIN?

For sums of less than €50, payments are usually made without entering a PIN. All amounts over €50 require a PIN.

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