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Ultimate Guide: Best Credit Card in Germany

Nowadays, owning a credit card in Germany is a must. In all aspects of life like renting a car, booking a hotel room, and especially travel – nothing works without credit cards. Consequently, banks in Germany are increasingly pushing their card offers onto the market. But with so many great offers to choose from, which is really the best credit card in Germany?

Last Update: June 2020

 

N26 MasterCard

 

Hanseatic Bank GenialCard      

Barclaycard Visa

Barclaycard Visa Kreditkarte in schwarz

Annual Fee0€0€0€
Cash WithdrawalsFreeFreeFree
Foreign Currency Payment0%0%0%
Registration100% Online100% Online

100% Online

+ 50€ Sign-Up Credit

AvailableAvailableAvailable
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N26 Deal
GenialCard Deal
Barclaycard Deal

What is a Credit Card?


Consumer using ApplePay at a German retailer

Digital payment methods on the rise in Germany | © ESB Professional

Credit cards are small plastic cards and cashless payment options. You can use them in retail stores (including contactless payment such as ApplePay or GooglePay) and when shopping online. In general, the basic functions will be identical for a free credit card or an upper end one.

You need a credit card for many other occasions, too. Still, it’s not just payments. For example, rental car companies require credit cards to temporarily block a deposit on the card during the rental process. Depending on the type of credit card, you can also withdraw cash, both at home and abroad. As a matter of fact, credit cards give you an advance at the ATM and collect the money after with the bill you need to pay.

However, many banks in Germany offer competing products and sometimes you might feel lost. In case you are looking for the best credit card in Germany, we’ve summarized the best banks below.


Credit Card Types in Germany


The two most important variants of cards in Germany are credit cards and debit cards. Other billing models exist with prepaid credit cards and revolving credit cards. Both have their niche in Germany but are not too common.

On the one hand, you can argue that debit cards are not actual credit cards as no actual credit line is granted. On the other hand, banks are marketing these products in almost the same way, which is why it pays off to consider both. 

It is important to know which type of credit card you are looking into prior the actual application, as both types differ in terms of the effective payment date.

N26 collaborates with Mastercard's Debit Credit Card Service

N26 provides a free MasterCard Debit

These are the two most common types of credit cards in Germany:

  • Credit card: Credit cards in Germany record your spending during the month and charge you after 30 days, basically giving you free credit for the month. At the end of the payment period (usually monthly) you receive a bill which tells you where and when you’ve spent how much. On an agreed payment date, the final amount is charged to your bank account to pay the bill (e.g. Hanseatic Bank Visa, American Express).
  • Debit card: Actually, the debit card is the most common type in Germany. Essentially, your bank account is directly charged after you made a purchase. This works similarly to a regular debit card (Girokarte / EC-Karte). But, you can use it online and abroad just like any other German credit card. Therefore, a debit card does not offer you a proper credit. All charges to the card are debited directly to your bank account and you can receive a notification straight away (e.g. N26).

You can decide for yourself which suits you best. Both types of cards have their pros and cons. Depending on your spending habits and personal preferences one type of card can be better for you.


Best Credit Card in Germany – Top 3


The Basic Allrounder

N26 MasterCard

0/ Month


learn more: N26 Credit Card
  • 0€ Annual Fee. Cost effective banking.

  • 8-Minute Setup. Rapid registration.

  • Online Identity Verification. Directly via the app.

  • Free MasterCard. Unique transparent design.

  • Fully-Mobile Banking. All through the app.

The Berlin-based digital bank N26 is revolutionizing the credit card industry. For example, the application process can be done entirely on your phone in only 8 minutes within the innovate and intuitive app. 

If you believe more in numbers, N26 might convince you with free withdrawals worldwide (within a certain limit). Also, no foreign currency fees for payments abroad. Basically you can tap your N26 card anywhere in the world and not pay more than a local.

The Flexible Credit Card

Hanseatic Bank GenialCard Visa

0/ Month


learn more: GenialCard
  • 0€ Annual Fee. Permanently free of charge.

  • Free Global ATM Withdrawals. Cash anywhere, anytime.

  • Free Global Payments. Zero exchange fees.

  • Flexible payments. Pay in installments.

  • Apple Pay Ready. 

  • Award-Winning Credit Card. By Focus Money.

The Hanseatic Bank GenialCard Visa ranks consistently high in all rankings in Germany and for good reasons. If you look for a solid fee credit card, look no further.

It’s a true credit card along with a credit line that you can spend which means that it does not come with an associated bank account.

The Hanseatic Bank GenialCard can be used anywhere without paying fees for your purchases. The same goes for ATM withdrawals which are free of charge. In our opinion, it’s the best free credit card in Germany.

The International Travel Card

Barclaycard Visa Kreditkarte in schwarz

Barclaycard Visa

0/ Month


learn more: Barclaycard - 50€ Sign Up Bonus
  • First-Class Design. High-quality design in black.

  • No annual fee. No frills and completely risk-free

  • Easy Online Sign-Up. Rapid registration.

  • Free payments abroad. No hidden fees, cheap and transparent.

  • Free cash withdrawal. Use your card globally to get cash.

  • Flexible payback. Use your existing current account and pay back flexibly.

Barclaycard logo

The Barclaycard Visa is among the strongest credit card offers in Germany. It is generally free to use with a very low fee structure overall.

Barclaycard Visa has been voted the best credit card in Germany without annual feeFor instance, the Barclaycard Visa card allows you to pay abroad with the best exchange rate and no fees. Just like a local. Of course this reminds us of the N26 card, but this one has more to offer.

Generally, the Barclaycard is not linked to a current account, so you can keep your regular one. Moreover, you can get a decent credit line on the Barclaycard and generous payback times as well.

So, if you look for a credit card in Germany that does the basic things very well, the Barclaycard Visa might be the one for you.

Update June 2020: Luckily, as of now Barclaycard also supports Apple Pay!

Costs of a Credit Card in Germany


Costs for a credit card can vary from hundreds of euros in annual fees to being completely free. Similarly, withdrawals at ATMs or payments abroad are subject to the individual terms and conditions.

Prior to ordering a credit card in Germany, make sure to check all involved costs. Oftentimes, there might be no yearly credit card fee but instead the bank will charge fees for cash withdrawals, using the card abroad, or when paying in foreign currencies. Usually, the following costs and fees are associated with credit cards:

  • Jahresgebühr: Annual fee for the credit card.
  • Auslands- & Fremdwährungsgebühr: Fees for using the cards abroad and making transactions in a foreign currency.
  • Bargeldabhebungsgebühr: Fee for cash withdrawals (both in or outside of Germany).
  • Ersatzkarte / Zweitkarte: Fee for ordering a second card or for replacing your current one.

Card Associations


MasterCard vs. VISA vs. American Express – What to pick?

As you have seen in the selection above, all cards are different. One major difference is the Card Association they belong to. A card association is a network of banks that process payment cards of a specific brand. Choosing one provider is something you will face early on and it’s worth to knowing options. Globally, there might be some more niche players, but in Germany you have the choice between three major credit card systems:

VISA

In 2010 the global market share of VISA was 65%. And with 490.000 points of acceptance, it is also the most widespread in Germany. Essentially, VISA works with retail banks in order to offer customers some of their VISA-Cards.

MasterCard

After VISA, another sominat global player is Mastercard. Very similar to VISA it has spread from the US in the 1970s to Germany and all over the world.

Their products include some of the best Debit Cards you’ll find and also Prepaid Cards. It also works with banks and fintechs to offer card products to customers. Today, you can use your Mastercard at 400.000 points of acceptance in Germany.

American Express

Lastly, we want to highlight American Express. Amex does not use banks as middlemen and offers directly to customers. It is a rather upscale niche, which leads to great perks and services but can lead to lower acceptance.

Recently, this has dramatically improved though. Therefore, under certain circumstances an American Express Credit Card can be the best choice for you.


Conclusion – Best Credit Card in Germany


The most important point we can’t stress enough is to think about exactly what you want and need with your credit card in Germany.

Know your spending habits and think about how you will use your credit card. In case you are not willing to pay for additional perks such as insurance benefits or airline mile collections, don’t want to pay an annual fee? The best credit card in Germany for you can already be one with a 0€ fee such as the N26 Mastercard or the Hanseatic Bank GenialCard Visa.

If you prefer to have a bit of flexibility financially, get a credit card with a high limit and decent payback conditions. You prefer to keep a close eye on your budget? A debit card helps you to track expenses with timely charges to your account.

Especially for private and travelers who want to maximize points and benefits along the way, there is also the American Express Gold Card as the perfect option for you, too.


FAQ – Best Credit Card in Germany

Which credit cards exist in Germany?

Luckily, you will find a plethora of different credit cards in Germany. Some cards are offered with a linked bank account, some are offered by the credit card company.

Also, you can choose from card associations like VISA, Mastercard und American Express. Some Credit Cards are free, some others focus on extra services. In this article, we are introducing the best cards as per our experience.

How do I know which credit card fits me the most?

With many different credit cards being offered in the web, it can be quite confusing to find out which card is best suited for your personal needs.

Keep in mind that each credit card comes with different features,  designed for specific purposes. Therefore, make sure to know what you are looking for.

To help you with finding a proper credit card in Germany, we have summarized the best possible options in this article.

How can I apply for a credit card in Germany?

Sometimes, you can try and visit your local banks to see what they offer. Actually, we recommend to compare different offers online and see what suits you best. Conveniently, you can also start the application process straight away.

What conditions do I need to meet to qualify for a credit card?

In most cases, both a credit check is carried out and a SCHUFA query is done by most providers. After all, they are granting credit to the cardholder and want to keep the risk as low as possible. Good solvency is therefore a pre-condition.

How long until I get my credit card?

As soon as your application is processed and approved, you are good to go. Normally, the procedure will then take a few business days, but it depends on the delivery service. Keep in mind that your PIN will be sent separately.

Can I use a credit card in Germany for cash withdrawals?

Yes, you can use your credit card for cash withdrawals at German ATMs.

The N26 Mastercard offers 3x free cash withdrawals in Germany and unlimited free cash withdrawals outside of Germany.

The BarclayCard offers unlimited free cash withdrawals globally on ATMs with a VISA sign – no perks.

On the contrary, for cash withdrawals with the American Express credit cards, keep in mind that you’ll be charged 4% on the withdrawn amount (with a minimum of 5€).

How safe are credit cards in Germany?

Firstly, even during the application for a credit card you should be diligent about the newest safety features. For instance, any credit card in Germany today includes the safety standard 3D-Secure. To block any credit card in Germany for emergency reasons, dial 116 116.

What kind of bonus programs are out there?

Our credit card test shows that there are very different bonus programs. While some cards do not offer discounts, other cards offer direct discounts on flights, car rentals, hotel bookings or give membership in certain clubs.

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About HowToGermany

Universal Hires has partnered with the best service providers in Germany to enable our clients and partners a smooth market entry. All of our recommended service providers will either offer flexible contract terms, valuable costumer service in English language, and special promotions to Universal Hires’ partners only.