How to open a bank account in Germany
A bank account in Germany is important to receive social welfare or salary as the case maybe and of course also to be able to pay rent and other expenses. Opening a bank account and choosing the right one is not always easy. Here’s some guidance on the topic:
Basic account (“Basiskonto”)
Every bank must offer a so-called “Basiskonto” and may only refuse a customer in exceptional cases. A special feature of the basic account is that no certificate of registration with the municipality is required to open a basic account. You only have to provide the bank with some proof of where you live in Germany. This can be a letter from the people you live with or a letter from a refugee center. The bank just needs to know where to send mail to reach the customer. For refugees, the Basiskonto can therefore be a good option, because it can be opened without a registered address.
With a basic account, you can receive money into the account and make transfers. As a rule, there is no overdraft facility and no credit card, but usually a debit card (colloquially called “ec card”). The basic account is managed as an account with balance only, i.e. no granted overdraft (“Dispokredit”) is possible.
What to look out for when choosing a bank?
Unfortunately, basic accounts are not always cheap. Some come with quite high monthly fees and are only free if there is a regular income on the account, which will often not be the case for refugees. However, it is also important to pay attention to what the other services cost, such as ATM withdrawals. With some accounts, the monthly fee is low but each withdrawal costs money. It may make sense to look into the offerings of so-called direct banks or online banks, because then you are less dependent on having a branch near you in case you need to move. In particular with regard to online bank, you should pay close attention to where it is possible to withdraw money without a fee. Since many online banks do not have their own branch network, ATM withdrawal is often not possible free of charge with the basic account. Thus, some research is necessary. However, the bank must provide all pricing information in a sheet called “Entgeltinformation”. This can usually be found at the bottom of the website under “General Terms and Conditions” or “Downloads”.
Standard current account
If you have a registered address in Germany and perhaps a residence permit, you can also open a “normal” checking account. This is often somewhat cheaper or even free of charge as compared to a basic account. It is still important to take a closer look at the prices. A standard current account is often offered along with a credit card and, if you have a good credit rating, an overdraft facility is also possible.
What do I need to open an account?
To open a bank account, you need a document that proves your identity, e.g. a passport. Temporarily, the Ukrainian Identity Card is also accepted. There may be difficulties with non-biometric passports if they are to be checked online via video identification, as is the case with many online banks. This is sometimes easier at a branch.
In addition, you will need a confirmation of the address at which the bank can reach you. This can be a certificate of registration by the German municipality. With the basic account, however, a more informal proof of address is also sufficient. The registration certificate may then be submitted later if necessary. In any case, it is important to inform the bank if you move somewhere else.
Cover picture: Copyright © itchaznong