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Money and bank accounts: Keep track of everything with a bank account

Having a bank account in Germany is very practical. With a German bank account, you can transfer your semester contribution to the university electronically after enrolment, pay your monthly rent and receive your salary from a part-time job. You can also withdraw money from cash machines free of charge. Most banks offer students free current accounts which normally come with an EC card.

by the Editors

Debit cards © Horschig/DAAD
Debit cards . © Horschig/DAAD

If you’re planning on staying longer than a couple of weeks in Germany, you should open a current account here. They are usually free of charge for students. The formalities involved are not too complicated.

And the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages. For example, you can withdraw money free of charge from cash machines in Germany, make payments electronically, and set up “standing orders” for regular payments – like rent, health insurance or telephone bills – which ensures that the money is transferred automatically and on time every month. If you take a part-time job in Germany, you will need a current account to receive your pay.

Coins and banknotes © Body n Care / pixabay
Coins and banknotes . © Body n Care / pixabay

There are numerous commercial and savings banks which operate branches in cities throughout Germany. There are also a number of online banks which offer the entire range of services via the Internet – from setting up the account to all necessary transactions. When opening a bank account you should make sure that the bank is a national or direct bank. Then you’re flexible if you move to a different city, for example for a language course or a work placement, and won’t have to open a new account there. The International Office can help you select a bank which offers especially attractive conditions to students.

Opening a bank account

To open an account, you are normally asked to present the following documents:

Take these documents with you to a bank branch of your choice and ask to open a current account (Girokonto). The employees at the bank will help you. To save yourself unnecessary hassle, we recommend asking in advance which documents the bank requires for opening an account.

Bank transactions, such as transfers and standing orders, can be done online or at specially marked bank machines in the bank or at the counter.

Cash terminal © Rainer Sturm / pixelio
Cash terminal . © Rainer Sturm / pixelio

Debit cards

Once you’ve opened a current account, you will be issued a debit card, with which you can withdraw money from cash machines and print out your bank statements yourself. In Germany, debit cards are often referred to as EC-, Giro- or Maestro cards. You can use EC cards to pay at shops and restaurants. The cashier will ask you to either authorise the payment with a PIN (personal identification number) or sign the receipt.

All commonly used credit cards, i.e. MasterCard, Visa and American Express, are accepted in Germany. You can also use your credit card to withdraw money from cash machines, but credit card companies usually charge exorbitant fees for this service. If you already have a credit card and wish to use it for an extended period of time in Germany, you should notify your bank or credit card company in advance. Although many Germans have credit cards, they generally prefer paying with their EC card, as it’s accepted practically everywhere in Germany nowadays.