Opening a bank account in Germany
Once you arrive in Germany, you will need to open a bank account.
Please note: If you have a blocked account, you cannot access your money directly from your blocked account. You will therefore need to open a checking/debit account usually called a girokonto, through which you can receive your payout and withdraw cash.
The German banking system
Despite recent trends in the financial sector, most of the banks in Germany are still very conservative. There is a lot of protocol observed that you may find unnecessarily frustrating. So be patient when trying to open your account. This is however starting to change, even though slowly.
If you make your application at a typical bank, do not expect to walk out of the branch with your ATM card, your PIN and ready to start cashing out.
Usually, your PIN will be sent to you via the post-office to the address you provided within a week or two. After that, your card will be sent to you within another few days.
Most German banks will generally issue you with a free Giro-card that comes with your unique bank ID called an IBAN. Do however note that you may not be able to use some of them for international online transactions as they may not use the international 16 digit and CVV system that is standard with most Visa and Master-cards. To be sure, confirm with your bank whether the card they issue does support it in case you intend to make non-IBAN online payments
Below is an example of the standard international card with 16 digits and a 3 digit CVV at the back.
Some bank options
There are a lot of banks in Germany and making a choice on the best one for you can be tasking.
Here are some popular banks in Munich among students:
If you barely speak German, N26 Bank is a good choice for you. They offer services in English (among other languages including German of course).They are a 100% online bank, meaning you handle everything over the phone or on your browser as they have no branches. N26 offers “0 fees” on their standard account. One good thing is you can withdraw your money from any ATM of your choice. They issue you with a free international Mastercard debit.
Commerzbank is one of the biggest banks in Germany. It’s partner banks include Postbank, Deutsche Bank, Hypovereinsbank and a few others. Offers a free Maestro girocard* with their student’s account. They have no monthly fee on their students account.
If having numerous ATMs available wherever you go is a top priority and you’re comfortable handling your services in German, you can open an account with Sparkasse. They have lots of ATMs and branches all over Munich. Be sure to inform yourself of their fees and terms beforehand.
Requirements to open an account
- You will need your valid passport/I.D. (with a valid visa if you are not an EU resident).
- A complete and filled application form.
- A proof of address that is a Certificate of Registration (Anmeldebestätigung) that you obtained after registering in the resident’s office.
- If you intend to open a students account, which usually has some benefits e.g. no monthly charges, you may need your certificate of enrollment (Immatrikulationbescheinigung) or student card.
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