Opening a bank account
To help you better organize your everyday life, you should open an account at a bank in your place of residence as soon as possible.
This is important because numerous financial transactions in Germany do not involve cash. For example, renting an apartment requires a bank account because you will need to transfer rent payments (and an initial deposit, in most cases) to your landlord. Wages and salary installments will also be transferred to your account rather than paid out in cash. You can inquire at your bank as to whether the accounts they provide are subject to any fees.
Requirements for opening a bank account in Germany:
- Your passport
- The official document confirming your place of residence
- A payroll statement from your employer (only for some account types)
- Your work permit (only for some banks)
These documents will enable you to apply for a standard account and a corresponding EC debit card. Some banks also offer standard accounts that come with no overdraft privileges, while others waive fees if a minimum amount is deposited every month. You should, of course, clarify these details before signing any contract. Since many banks charge a variety of other fees - such as for each transfer you make, or simply for the account itself - comparing the services available is definitely a good idea.
Online bank accounts are also available as an alternative to standard accounts. You can open an online account by mail or on the Internet. These accounts are offered by several direct banks -- that is, banks that do not have brick-and-mortar branches. An online account comes with the same functions as a standard German bank account, as well as its own German account number and bank identification code. You can also send and receive money from accounts in other countries.To open an online account with a direct bank, you will need to prove your identity through the Postident procedure. Your bank of choice will provide the necessary documents. The process involves visiting a branch of Deutsche Post and confirming your identity with one of the employees there, who will then send the relevant documentation back to your bank.
You can use your EC card and PIN to withdraw money from cash machines around the clock. Your bank will send you your PIN in the mail after you open an account. While you can also pay at most stores and gas stations with your EC card, we recommend always having some cash on hand. Germany is still a country where many transactions - particularly those involving small amounts at restaurants and shops - are made with physical money.
Remember: You can withdraw cash from your own bank's machines free of charge, but those of other banks may charge you a fee (usually one percent, but potentially as much as five per withdrawal) to do so.
There are two main banking networks in Germany: Cash Group and Cash Pool. Be sure to find out which one your bank belongs to; you can also withdraw money from the machines of other banks in the group without incurring fees!
You can transfer money to another account either online or by filling out the appropriate form at one of your bank's branches. The process usually only takes a few business days. We recommend keeping the carbon copy or printing out the transaction whenever you make a transfer.
To another country
Transferring money to another country takes longer than it does within Germany. However, the methods described below will help you do so quickly and securely.
- Using the SWIFT procedure, the money should reach the recipient's account within 24 hours. The fees involved vary from bank to bank. For further details, please consult your bank.
- Wire transfer: Various service providers can help you transfer money abroad. To do so, take the amount you wish you transfer in cash to a branch of your chosen service (Western Union can often be found at Deutsche Post branches, for example) and specify the foreign branch where the recipient should pick it up. This person will need to present a form of identification. The required fee is usually between seven and 10 percent of the amount you transfer, and the entire process often takes just a few minutes.
- Cashier's checks: For security purposes, you should only send this type of check by registered mail. Should one of these checks be stolen on its way to the recipient, there is no way to cancel the corresponding payment.