Anyone who intends to stay in Germany in the longer term will need a bank account – for example to rent a flat or for depositing wages. The next section describes how to open an account and how to transfer money.
To open a bank account in Germany, you need the following:
- your passport
- your certificate of residency
- a pay statement from your employer (depending on the account type)
- for some banks: your work permit
With these documents you can apply for a current account and an EC card with the bank of your choice. Current accounts with some banks do not allow overdrafts; in other words, they do not permit you to borrow money through your account. Some banks also require that a minimum amount be deposited each month. Make sure to clarify both of these questions before opening an account.
An online account is an alternative to a current account. These accounts can be opened on the Internet or by mail, and they can also be used online. They are offered by a number of direct banks – banks that do not have their own physical branches. An online account serves the same purposes as a German current account, and also has a German account number and routing code. Transfers from and to foreign countries can be made through online accounts.
To open an online account with a direct bank, you need to document your identity using the “Postident” procedure through the German post office. The bank will provide you with the necessary documents. Take them to a post office, show your identification and ask a post office employee to confirm your identity and send the documents to the bank. With a personal identification number (PIN), you can use your EC card to withdraw money from a cash machine 24 hours a day. After you open your account, your bank will send you your PIN by mail. No fees are charged for withdrawing money from your own bank’s cash machines. A withdrawal fee is charged if you use the machines of other banks – usually one percent, but no more than five euros per transaction.
You can also use your EC card for payment at most shops and petrol stations. However, it is always wise to carry some cash. Cash is still used in Germany – restaurants and shops usually expect you to pay smaller amounts in cash.
Within Germany, it takes only a few working days to transfer money from your account to someone else’s. You can do this using your bank’s money transfer form or through online banking, which is usually even faster. It is a good idea to keep a receipt for each transfer.
It takes longer to transfer money from Germany to another country. However, you can transfer money to your home country quickly and securely using the following methods:
- SWIFT: With SWIFT wire transfers, the money is normally in the recipient’s account within 24 hours. Fees vary from one bank to another. Information about this procedure is available at your bank.
- Money transfer services: A number of service providers can transfer your money quickly to another country. Take the amount you want to transfer, in cash, to an office of the transfer agency (Western Union is often located at a post office) and specify the office in the destination country where the recipient will pick up the money. The recipient will need to show identification. The entire process usually takes only a few minutes; however, it costs seven to ten percent of the amount transferred.
- Cashier’s checks: Cashier’s checks should be sent only by registered mail, since there is no way to stop payment if the check is stolen.