Setting up your finances in Germany is a simple process, with many financial institutions and bank account types to choose from.
Setting up an account is a relatively straightforward process for new customers. When opening an account in person, most banks will only require a passport and funds to make an initial deposit. Some banks will ask to see proof of a German address and/or your registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung). Opening a bank account online may require more documents including pay slips and a work permit if available.
Some of the largest banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have branches in most towns and offer many services in English, although most online services and smaller banks tend to operate exclusively in German. Almost all German banks offer online and mobile banking options.There are a growing number of exclusively “online banks” which have no physical branches (for example Comdirect and DKB), which are common in Germany. These tend to have low or no fees at all, among other perks (almost all German bank accounts charge a fee, except for students who may apply for an exception).
The most common current account is called a Giro account and the most popular bank card is a debit card known as the “EC-Karte”, which can be used to make payments and withdraw cash at ATMs (Geldautomat) for free. Cash machines are usually identifiable by a large EC sign. There are fewer reciprocal agreements between German banks than in the Uk for example, and you may be charged a fee if withdrawing money from a Geldautomat of a different bank.
As with any move to another country you may need to make currency transfers – either for large one off purchases such as a property, or smaller regular payments. MumAbroad has partnered with Clear Currency, the money transfer people, to provide a more efficient and cheaper way to exchange currencies compared to relying on your bank for the exchange. Most banks apply significant fees and unfavourable exchange rates compared to dedicated foreign exchange specialists making this an expensive, inefficient way to transfer money. Clear Currency is free to join, and FCA regulated, they offer competitive rates, a dedicated currency exchange platform, phone support and same day transfers for more than 35 currencies.
It is worth noting that German society still uses a great deal of cash, unlike some of its European neighbours where this is waning in favour of card payments for even smaller,everyday transactions. Always be sure to ask if credit and debit cards are accepted in restaurants or shops. Mastercards and VISA cards often incur a fee with each transaction. For those having just arrived in Germany with no credit history within the German credit rating system is known as SCHUFA, banks may impose a 3-month waiting time before issuing a credit card or an overdraft to ensure they are generating an income.
For more information and tips on moving to Germany, visit our useful step-by-step relocation guide at MumAbroad.com.
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