One of the first things you will need to worry about when you first arrive in Germany will be finding the best ways to manage your finances. Here is a quick guide to finding the right bank and opening a bank account.
There are lots of great banks in Germany, and lots of them offer services and online banking in English. Local banks include Postbank and Commerzbank, and there are plenty of international banks as well, like Deutsche Bank, Citibank and Santander. HSBC, as well as offering banking services in many countries including Germany, also has a really helpful website offering information and services for expats. It is worth checking before you leave to see if your bank has an operation or a partner in Germany, or if you can open an international account.
It is quite easy to open a bank account in Germany. All you need is your address registration (obtained from the Bürgeramt when you first arrive) and your passport. Apply online, print out the form and take it along to the Post Office with your documentation. They will stamp it and send it off, and within a few weeks you should have confirmation from the bank and you can begin spending your money. Most banks will offer customers a free main account, or Girokonto, as long as money is deposited regularly.
You will find ATMs, or Geldautomat, in some Spätkaufs or in banks themselves. Using your own bank’s ATM will be free, but you should expect to pay quite large fees to use the ATMs that aren’t associated with a bank (up to €5). If you use your credit card in a German ATM, prepare to pay a fee of around 3 per cent. Germany tends to be more cash oriented and less debit card friendly than the US and Australasia, and a lot of restaurants, cafes and small shops won’t take debit card as a payment option. This is changing, but it does pay to have some cash with you at all times.
Credit cards in Germany tend to be quite different from in other parts of the world – Germans don’t really use credit cards so much and when they do the balance is drawn out of their regular account monthly, much like a debit card. A credit card’s only real benefit in Germany is for travelling in other countries. If you are a credit card user, it might be better to go with one of the international banks, or bring your credit card from your home country with you.