If you live and work in Germany, you need a bank account. You can open your account at a high-street bank or savings bank (Sparkasse). Most banks and savings banks have branches. There are some banks that you can only use on the internet. Usually you have to pay some money for a bank account, a fee. The account is often free for school and university students. There are various types of account: with a credit account you can only withdraw money from the account that you have already paid in. With an account that offers an overdraft (Dispo) you can also withdraw money if you don’t have any more funds in the account. The bank loans you money up to a specified amount. But you have to pay back not only this sum, but also interest. The interest is often very high.
Opening an account
Do you want to open an account? You can do that in any branch. But first the bank/savings bank always has to check your identity. So you need to show your ID or passport.
Many banks allow you to open an account online or by post as well. You can use the postal identity procedure for this: the bank will send you the forms. You take these papers and your ID or passport and go to the post office with them. You can identify yourself there. Sometimes you need your registration card to open your account as well.
You need a current account for your rent and salary: Your employer pays your salary by direct debit. Normally you will have to pay the rent for your accommodation by direct debit. You can set up a direct debit for regular payments. For other payments you can get a form from the bank, the remittance slip. How much money do you want to pay? And who is the recipient of the money? You write this information on the remittance slip. Then you hand in the remittance slip at the bank. Do you want to make your payment online? When you open the account, tell them that you want to do online banking or home banking.
EC card and credit card
You will be issued with an EC card for your current account. If you wish, you can also have a credit card (for instance: MasterCard, Visa). Normally you have to pay something for the credit card. The bank usually sends you the EC card and/or credit card by post. You have to sign the card. A few days later you will receive a secret code for your card through the post, the PIN number. You have to memorise the PIN number.
You can withdraw money from all ATMs with the EC card. To do this, you always need the PIN number. You can pay by credit card in some shops and on the internet. You can pay in cash at your bank branch.
You will be paid interest by the bank on the balance in your account. You will only receive a low rate of interest for money in your current account. If you want to save money, you can open an instant-access account or a savings account. Then you will be paid a little more interest than on a current account.
Frequently asked questions
There are many different banks in my town. Where should I open my account?
Ask what accounts are available. How much do you have to pay for an account, and for a transaction? Do you have to pay money into the account every month? How many ATMs does the bank have in your town? What does the bank do with your money? How quickly can you transfer money abroad? The answers could help you with your decision.
Can I withdraw money from all ATMs with my EC card?
If you withdraw money from your bank’s ATM, you do not have to pay anything. Sometimes you have to pay a fee if you use other banks’ ATMs. Ask at the banks or read the information on the ATMs.
Can I pay in a shop with the EC card?
In many shops you can pay with the EC card but not in all of them. To do this you normally need your PIN number. You often have to sign the till receipt as well.
Can I transfer money abroad from my account?
Yes. Normally it takes a few days for money to be transferred abroad though. You can find information about transferring money abroad at Geldtransfair.
Additional information for asylum seekersWould you like to transfer money home? You can get assistance at Migration advice. If you have a bank account you can transfer money abroad. Otherwise, you can transfer the money via various other institutions.
I want to buy a car, but I don’t have any money. Can I get the money from my bank?
You can ask at the bank. You might get credit. But you will have to pay a fee and interest on this loan. Ask at different banks.
I have a loan from a bank. But I can’t pay back the money. What can I do?
First of all make sure you get good advice. For further information look under the heading “Getting help”.