Opening an Account in Germany
Thanks to SEPA, cross-border banking now corresponds to the banking you use in your home country.
Update: Jan 2014
This means that people can transfer money as well as provide a standing order or a direct debit authorization from his own bank account. However, in practice, cross-border payments do not run quite so smoothly. It is therefore recommended that you open a German bank account (“Girokonto”) if you will be staying temporarily or permanently in Germany.
For EU-Members this is usually possible without any problems. But remember: every bank has the right to reject an application. This could happen if you have recently arrived in Germany and the bank does not have enough information on your financial situation, for example. In addition, as a foreigner, it often happens that you will only receive an account on a prepaid basis.
In general, the bank asks you for the following documents when you submit a request to open an account:
- Valid proof of identity (ID card, passport…). You have to make sure that the name chosen for your bank account matches the name of your identity document.
- Proof of residence from the registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt)
- If necessary: the reasons for being in Germany
- For non EU-Members: work permit
Having a bank account with a German bank may facilitate your daily transactions such as paying your insurance, your internet connection and your gas or electricity bills. Indeed, it is a common practice for most of these service providers to require payment by internet or direct debit.
In comparison, opening a German bank account from a foreign country can be more difficult since, in most cases, the bank asks for a residential address in Germany.
Pursuant to a European Union directive, banks must offer free basic bank accounts for everyone since 2016 (regardless of the country of residence). How well this regulation will work in practice remains to be seen.
Bank card, Fees, ATM etc.
With a German bank account you receive the “Girokarte”. With this card you can pay with a pin number or your signature in almost every shop, supermarket, gas station etc. Girocards usually contains the logo Maestro or V PAY, which enables the use of the card in a foreign country. If you would like to have a credit card as well, you will have to pay an extra fee.
Remember: German banks charge high ATM usage fees for customers using other banks' ATMs with their Girocard.
For many bank accounts you have to pay an account management fee. This can usually be avoided, if you transfer a monthly minimum amount on the account.
Closing a German bank account
If there is no agreed period of notice, you can cancel a German bank account without keeping to any specific period of time. Notice periods of more than one month are ineffective.
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