You will need the following documents to open a bank account:

  • German identity card and/or passport dentity card and/or passport
  • Registration certificate from the city or residence permit (or both)
  • If applicable, a copy of your employment contract

Online banks also offer current accounts without a German registration certificate. The Welcome Centre can provide you with further information.

Most people in Germany have a current account for everyday payments. Their salary is paid directly into this account, rent is paid from this account via bank transfer, and they use their EC/Maestro card to withdraw cash from ATMs and pay for purchases in shops.

Almost all banks offer current accounts. Here are the differences between the different offerings:

  • Account maintenance fees: Many banks charge a monthly account maintenance fee. However, there are also banks which offer free current accounts.
  • Free cash withdrawals from ATMs: Most EC cards (debit cards) allow you to withdraw money from ATMs of your own bank. Some banks charge a fee if you withdraw money from ATMs of other banks.
  • International transfer fees
  • Minimum monthly deposit (especially with free current accounts)

Find out about the various conditions before you open a current account – it’s worth making a comparison!

There are three ways to make payments via a current account:

  • Bank transfer: direct payment from your current account to another account (for instance, to pay bills). You can make transfers online (usually free of charge) or at the counter of your bank (often for a fee).
  • Standing order: direct, regular payment, which is scheduled on a certain day from your current account to another account (e.g. rent, electricity). You must set up a standing order ahead of time through your bank website (usually free of charge) or at the counter (often for a fee).
  • Direct debit mandate/direct debit authorisation (Lastschriftverfahren): :A direct debit authorisation means that you allow another person to withdraw money from your current account. The granting of a direct debit authorisation is common for current contracts eg mobile phone contracts, memberships in fitness studios and so on.

Most payments are made by bank transfer. Cheques are not common in Germany.

If you are receiving a regular salary, banks will allow you to overdraw your account, if necessary, i.e. to take out a (small) loan without formalities (“Dispo-Kredit”). This gives you flexibility, but you pay very high interest rates and fees for using the overdraft facility.

Cashless payments are widely available in Germany. For smaller amounts of less than €10, however, cash remains the norm. In smaller shops, it is more than likely that only cash is accepted. If in doubt, ask beforehand and look at the entrance doors of shops and restaurants to see which means of payment are accepted.

In Germany, there are several ways to pay without cash:

Credit cards are a bit less frequently used in Germany, in comparison to other countries. Some shops only accept EC/Maestro cards or no cashless payment at all. The most widely used credit cards are Visa and Mastercard. ApplePay and GooglePay can be used in most placs where credit cards are accepted, also with contactless payment options.

After opening a current account, the EC/Maestro card and PIN number will be sent to you separately by post. You can use the EC/Maestro card to withdraw money and pay in shops. .

Keep your EC/Maestro card in a safe place and memorise your PIN number. Do not write down your PIN number and absolutely do not keep it in your wallet with your card. If your card is lost or stolen, report it to your bank immediately.

With contactless payment, you do not have to insert your card into the reader at the checkout. You simply hold up your card to the reader. Typically, you only need to enter your PIN number above a certain amount (often €50). You can tell if your card supports contactless payment by the “wave” symbol on your card. ApplePay and GooglePay work on the same principle. Both options are available wherever contactless payments are accepted.

You can withdraw cash:

  • At ATMs belonging to your bank (free of charge) and other banks (usually for a fee) with your EC/Maestro card and credit card.
  • Up to €200: when making a purchase at supermarkets and drug stores (e.g. DM, Rewe) using your EC/Maestro card, you can withdraw additional cash if your purchase value exceeds a minimum amount (usually €10 or €20). Just tell them before you pay that you want to withdraw some additional money.

You can perform banking transactions (such as transfers, checking your account balance, etc) online. This is common for online banks and retail bank branches.

With purely online banks, you cannot get advice in person in a branch. Instead, you will only be able to contact your bank via the internet or by phone.


The International Office
Welcome Centre

Von-Siebold-Straße 4
37075 Göttingen


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The Welcome Centre is not barrier-free. Please contact us if you need assistance.