Whether you need more financial flexibility or make a major purchase, credit cards can be helpful in many situations, and there is no reason to refuse to use them. You might consider getting one as a foreign national, e.g., an expat in Germany.
Yet, German banks are a little bit more reluctant when it comes to the approval of credit cards and loans. They simply don’t give credit lines on the left and right like in the US. This applies to both Germans and foreigners.
Generally, foreigners can get a credit card in Germany, but requirements might be higher than for German nationals and permanent residents. Most importantly, you will need to have a stable source of income to get a credit card with a decent interest rate.
Ultimately, to get a credit card in Germany, you will need to have a stable salary to prove your creditworthiness. No income – no borrowing. Besides, you must have a residence permit and an address in Germany. Requirements are lower for a prepaid credit card. Get here one of those.
Besides, you could consider a virtual credit card, most of which don’t provide a physical card but are very useful overall. Read more on credit cards for foreigners in Germany in this article.
Is it difficult to get a credit card in Germany?
Getting a credit card as a foreigner is indeed more complicated than as a German. Especially if you haven’t lived in Germany for long and don’t have a credit history yet. In that situation, having a stable, decent income and job will give you the best chances.
To build up a credit history, you could open a current account (Girokonto) with the German bank of your choice and receive your salary there. After some months, you could try to apply for a credit card at that same bank.
They can see your history as a client and track all the money you have received so far. This will give you an advantage over applying for a credit card at a totally new bank.
Consequently, with a German address, a German bank account, and the appropriate creditworthiness, you can get a credit card.
Nevertheless, as a foreigner, you will have greater success applying for a prepaid credit card in Germany. They also have several benefits, including wide acceptance abroad and spending control.
See the best credit cards in Germany here.
Get a current account with a credit card
If you are a foreigner and looking for a credit card in Germany, the best option is to get a current account together with a credit card at the same bank.
Main requirements for a credit card in Germany
Generally, anyone residing in Germany can apply for a credit card. However, you must prove your creditworthiness to the bank to get a credit line. This means you shouldn’t have a negative credit score or SCHUFA.
A credit card is similar to a personal loan – which you have to pay back. The main difference is that banks might grant a credit line at zero interest rate under certain conditions, which isn’t the case with a loan.
Here are the main requirements for a credit card in Germany:
- You are 18 years or older
- You have a residency in Germany or the EU
- You have a valid German ID
- For online banks, you will need a German mobile number
Besides, banks often require additional information about the applicant’s financial situation, such as employment details, monthly income, and any extra income. Your credit line will be calculated based on this information.
If your credit score is negative, issuing a credit card can be too risky for financial institutions. You should always ensure you can repay the money you spend with a credit card.
When applying for a credit card, banks ask to submit several documents; this applies to both German and foreign nationals. In addition to the application form and ID, you need to submit copies of two to three payslips or corresponding financial proof (bank statements).
There are a few documents you need to have in order to apply for a credit card in Germany, but your ID is by far the most relevant one.
Here is the full list:
- valid ID, e.g., identity card, passport, or travel passport
- registration (Anmeldung) in Germany
- information on your job (employment contract)
- information on your income (payslips)
- information on existing credit expenses
- if applicable, a work permit (not necessary for EU citizens)
In addition, the creditworthiness (SCHUFA) of the applicant is checked. If your credit score isn’t sufficient for a credit card, you can apply for a prepaid card such as Revolut or Bunq. These cards are accepted worldwide.
Applying for a credit card online – verification
Lastly, banks need to check your identity, which is possible in several ways:
- in a post office
- online via video chat (Postident)
- or using the eID on your ID card
As an account holder, you must be able to identify yourself even when applying for a regular bank account.
The most common way is the Postident procedure, in which you show up in one of the post offices with the necessary documents (letter from the bank and ID). You might need to present a confirmation of application, too.
But overall, the process is free and uncomplicated.
AMEX credit card in Germany
A credit card from American Express is a popular option for expats in Germany. The main advantage of the AMEX card is worldwide recognition.
So, how do you get a credit card from AMEX in Germany? Firstly, you must be a resident of Germany, have a regular income, and have a positive SCHUFA score. The following information is collected during the application:
- Your personal data, e.g., name, address, date of birth
- Contact details, e.g., email address
- Professional information and your bank details
As the last step, you will need to go through identification to confirm your identity. They carry out this process together with Deutsche Post. This means you most likely will need to visit one of many post offices.
Other credit cards from American Express include:
Read our summary on American Express credit cards in Germany.
Do you need a credit card in Germany?
Before you run to the bank and apply for a credit card, consider whether you need it at all. Yes, credit cards can make your life easier in some way, but they can also lead to unnecessary expenses, such as interest rates you may need to pay.
Moreover, usage of credit cards isn’t as common as in the USA, let’s say.
The main advantages of credit cards are their wide acceptance and the financial flexibility they give. German cards such as Girocard are mainly used and accepted in the EU. Therefore, it’s a helpful tool when traveling abroad and online shopping.
In addition, there are other perks of credit cards:
- Credit line when you need money
- Reasonable or no interest rate
- Best for travelers
- Low costs
- Free cash withdrawals
- Free payments abroad
- Various benefits, from discounts to insurance
- Suitable for online shopping
Yet, Germans still barely use credit cards, learn why.
Best credit cards for expats in Germany
So, you decided to get a credit card in Germany, but what is the best option for you?
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Read a full review on the Barclays credit card – one of the best credit cards in Germany.
Prepaid credit card
A prepaid credit card is a good alternative to classic credit cards and is widely used in Germany. The main difference is that you won’t have a credit line with a prepaid card. Most people use Visa cards for this purpose.
Requirements are much lower, and you don’t need to prove income and creditworthiness to the bank.
With the necessary documents, such as a passport and Anmeldung (registration), you can apply for a prepaid credit card as an alternative to the “real” credit card.
Some of the best and free prepaid cards in Germany are:
As the name says, a prepaid card has to be “prepaid”; therefore, you need either transfer or deposit money before using it.
Prepaid cards are great because you can use them for all purposes credit cards are used, e.g., renting a car, booking a hotel, and online shopping, except having the ability to borrow money.