Relocating to a new country involves lots of planning, organisation and understanding the different way that things work. One of the first jobs is often to open a bank account, which can be confusing in itself. Below you will find all the information you will need to navigate this process in Germany.
Firstly, it is useful to know the names of the different types of bank account in German, as this will help demystify the process. Armed with this information, you can work out which product best suits your needs.
· Girokonto – current account
· Tagesgeldkonto – instant access savings account
· Sparbuch – limited access savings account
· Depot – securities account
· Geldautomaten – cash machine
· Anmeldebescheinigung – resident permit
It is not unusual to be charged a monthly fee up to €10 (£8.50) for a bank account, but there are ways of getting around this. Students are exempt from such costs, as are those who deposit €1,000 to €12,000 a month into their account. As long as your wages are paid directly into it then you are likely to avoid the fees.
The following banks have been known to issue accounts without charges, but it is important to check that their policies have not changed before using their services.
· Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB)
Despite not implementing a general fee, these institutions will charge for any transactions carried out in branch, so internet banking is a good option for avoiding these. While debit cards are usually issued for free, customers will generally be required to pay extra for credit cards.
You can compare German bank accounts here.
Credit cards and overdrafts
In order to get a credit card or make use of an overdraft facility, you must have a credit history in Germany. Most new expatriates will not have this, so expect to be made to wait six months before being granted these services.
What you will need
Below is a checklist of the items you will need to open a bank account:
· Identity card or passport
· Proof of earnings (employment contract)
· Proof of address (rental contract)
Opening an account
Bank accounts can be opened in branch or online in Germany and the latter option is often a good idea for expats as it allows them to go through the process slowly. Having chosen a bank, go to its website and find the appropriate section. This is often labelled Privatkunden, meaning private customers.
Fill out the form online, including preferences for the types of services you wish to take advantage of. These options may include a debit card with PIN number, securities deposit account and instant access savings account.
Having checked that all your details are correct, print out the form and take it to the post office, called Deutsche Post in German. Here they will check all of your documents, photocopy them and send them off with the form to the appropriate bank.
It usually takes four or five days to hear back about whether the application has been successful. After this, any associated cards and PIN numbers will be sent out.
If you would prefer to open your account in person in a branch, then it is best to make an appointment. The process is similar to that online and you will be required to fill out forms and hand over the same documentation.
Using cash machines
When setting up a bank account in Germany it is important to understand that there are two networks that institutions can be part of – Cashgroup and Cashpool. Which one will define which cash machines a customer can use without being charged, so learn to know the difference. Failing to do so can lead to fees of up to €10 per withdrawal.
Using internet banking
Transferring money using internet banking is a great way to manage your finances on a day-to-day basis without being charged any extra fees. It is also useful if you have to pay for anything in another country.
Most institutions in Germany use TAN numbers for added security and having set up internet banking, a list of 100 of these will be sent out to you separate of your username and password. You will need one of these numbers every time you make a transaction.