When it comes to opening an account in Germany, typically the banks prefer it if you have a German address. If you do already live in Germany, and have registered at the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residence Registration Office; usually located in the local town or city hall) – which you should do within a week of getting a permanent home in Germany – then the process of opening a bank account is extremely simple. All you will need is a passport, proof of your address and proof of your registration to live in Germany. Providing you have this paperwork you can arrange an appointment at any bank and open an account there and then, while some of the larger institutions have facilities online for you to do so – although you will often need to activate your account by taking the already stated documents into a local branch.
If you don’t live in Germany then you will find it a little harder to open an account. The smaller, regional banks will almost certainly not deal with people who live outside of Germany, and although it is possible to open an account at a larger bank, they will often want proof that you do intend to either live (or at least work) in Germany. They also prefer to deal with overseas customers face-to-face so it may be worth visiting some banks should you be planning a fact-finding trip to the country.
If you’re not fluent in the German language, it may be worth finding out whether the bank – and branch – you are planning to use has staff who can speak English. Most of the major banks, and even some of the larger regional ones, will operate ‘International Desks’, which are designed to cater to the banking needs of English-speaking and other expatriates in Germany.
The most common form of bank account in Germany is called a ‘Girokonto’ – a current/checking account. A majority of financial transactions, such a receiving wages or paying bills, are dealt with through this kind of account. When you open a Girokonto you will be given a ‘Eurocard’ (EC), which is a debit card that can be used throughout Europe, but is particularly prevalent in central European countries. It should be noted that you may be charged when using your EC at ATM machines not linked to your bank – although Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Postbank and all of their subsidiaries are all part of the Cash Bank cooperation, so you will be able to use your card at any of these Banks’ ATM’s for free. Nearly all banks will provide you with an EC free-of-charge.
Of course, when choosing which Girokonto to open there will be a number of different services available to you, depending on the bank. Many – although not all – of these products will charge monthly service fees. Such fees typically cost between 5 and 15 euros a month.