Opening an Account
German bank policy is one of the easiest when it comes to foreigners opening accounts. You’ll need to bring with you:
- Passport (student accounts need proper student identification)
- EU citizens need to show proof of registration in Germany (polizeiliche Anmeldebestätigung). All others need residence permit or registration confirmation.
- Residential address in Berlin; no proof necessary, but it definitely helps things along; a utility bill, lease or letter from landlord will suffice.
Most branches have at least one English-speaking employee. When you ask to open an account (ein konto eröffnen), a bank representative will assist you, in English, to complete paperwork, which is in German. You do not necessariarly need to make an appointment to open a bank account, however if an English speaking employee is not available and you require this assistance, you will be able to schedule a suitable time.
You will receive materials for your records as well as a “Welcome” brochure featuring the bank’s services now available to you. You may receive a starter bank card, but your official card will be sent to you in the mail.
Bank customers typically have a friendly relationship with at least one customer service representative at their bank branch, and it is common to call him or her when you need services.
Services normally offered include:
- Current account (Girokonto)
- Debit card (EC Karte)
- Overdraft (Dispokredit)
- Partner banks offering free withdrawal from their ATMs
- Statements (Kontoauszüge) available online and by mail, monthly, as well as printed out on demand a self-service bank terminals in any branch. On statements, credits are Haben (H) and debits are Soll (S).
- Standing orders (Daueraufträge)
- Second account or joint account
- Savings account (Sparkonto), for which a separate EC card is issued and closing fees and terms can apply.
Administrative costs which may be charged:
- Charges for opening an account
- Yearly administrative costs (monthly or quarterly)
- Credit card costs (difficult to obtain, use your own from home)
- Withdrawal costs from other banks
Checks are almost never used throughout the country, and you will most likely not be issued checks, nor will the bank ask you if you’d like them. Note that German numbers are written as follows – commas and decimals are in opposite places:
- €10,000.00 is written: €10.000,00
- 34.8% is written: 34,8%
When arranging for payments to be sent or received directly from your bank, you will need to know your account number (Kontonummer) and your branch’s bank sort code (Bankleitzahl). For international transfers (Überweisungen), you will need to ask your bank for its IBAN number and SWIFT code. You will also need to provide the exact name of the account holder, the account number and the exact name of the bank.
Your EC bank card can be used not only at ATMs, but as a debit card for payments in retail stores and restaurants. You’ll need to know your PIN number, which the sales person will ask you to enter at the time of purchase. Your transaction will be immediately approved, and you will receive a receipt (Quittung/Beleg) from the card machine as well as from the establishment’s register. You may not receive cash back on these types of transactions.
Automatic Transactions (Dauerauftrag)
All of your utilities prefer direct debit authorisation (Einzugsermächtigung) from your bank account. You can set up this automatic payment at a bank’s self-service machine, by phone or in person with a teller. You will be prompted for information including your utility account information and the requested dates of payments to the utility (e.g., on a certain date every month).
Please note that credit card companies also request automatic payments directly from your bank account.