Checklist - Bank account

In every country, the framework conditions for account management are different. Here we give you a brief overview of what people, even those who have lived in Germany for a long time, keep asking.
Geldscheine mit Schloss verriegelt

Before opening an account

Why is an account actually so important in Germany?

  • To pay bills: many things are paid for through the account: for instance, rent, electricity, gas
  • To get money, e.g. wages, salary, social assistance
  • When you're ordering on the Internet
  • Money can be kept safely in the account

You can't do without an account these days!

Where do you get an account like that?

  • Every bank must offer you an account!
  • This is called a basic account
  • You can choose whichever bank you want

What do you have to pay attention to here?

  • The bank should be close by and it should also be easy to get cash. For example, where is the nearest ATM for this bank?
  • Account management fees can also vary. This is where you should compare.

What do you need to take to the bank?

  • Your personal data, such as name, date of birth, place of residence, place of birth.
  • Likewise, proof of legitimacy, such as a valid identity card
  • The registration certificate

If no ID card is available:

  • Certificate of suspension of deportation
  • Proof of arrival
  • Residence permit

Have you understood everything correctly?

Don't be unsettled! Keep asking until you understand it. If you don't speak German very well yet, an interpreter is helpful.
It's better to ask a lot if you haven't understood something correctly

Do you also want to have a credit card?

A credit card isn't a must! In most cases, you can also manage fine without it.

However, if you're ordering online, it can be useful to have a credit card. Without a fixed salary, you usually only get a prepaid credit card. You have to load them with money beforehand.

We don't recommend ordering credit cards on the internet. The risk of getting involved with dubious providers is too high.

You can also get a prepaid credit card from your local bank. You can contact someone personally if you're having any problems here.

Note: Recently, dubious providers have been calling people over and over. For example, the caller starts a conversation by telling you that you've won a credit card. A simple "yes" (e.g. just to confirm ) is sufficient and you'll already receive payment demands without having received a credit card. If you don't pay, you'll very quickly receive post from a collection agencyand have a lot of trouble on your hands.

You should end these unsolicited calls as soon as possible. Don't worry about being rude – you're protecting yourself from a lot of trouble and unnecessary costs.

But you should also be suspicious of mail, text messages, messages in social networks or emails.

After opening the account

What can your account do? What can't it do?

  • With the first account (basic account), you can't get an overdraft. An overdraft means taking more money from the account than what's available. If a bank accepts this, it may charge very high interest for such an overdraft. You can set standing orders for regular, consistent payments. This way, you don't forget to pay the rent, for example.
  • Payments can be debited from the account by direct debit, but only if you have agreed to this in advance.
  • If someone debits without permission, you can still recover the paymentfor 8 weeks.
  • You also get a Bankcard or SparkassenCard with your account. You can use it to withdraw money from ATMs and you can use it to pay in shops.

You can pick up account statements e.g. at the account printer in the bank or digitally in the electronic mailbox

How can you check the entries on your account?

  • You can check every entry on the account statements
  • So: Be sure to read bank statements regularly.

Bank statements should always be kept for some time. This isn't compulsory, but very helpful in many cases.

Three years should be sufficient in most cases.

Should you also store cash?

You can do a lot without cash, but you should always have a little with you.

Don't carry notes that are too large (shops often don't accept them), prefer 50, 20, 10 and 5 notes.

What do you have to look out for when you move?

The bank must always know where you live! Otherwise it can no longer send important account documents by post. Address tracing can incur costs. In the worst case, the bank can block or delete the account.

What do you have to pay attention to when paying by card?

It's very important to note the differences between Bankcard/SparkassenCard and credit card.

Payments with the bank card/SparkassenCard are debited from the account very quickly. So the account must have enough money in it.

With credit cards, the debit often takes longer. This can become confusing.

Are you unsure? Get independent and neutral advice! Find out more from the consumer advice centre.
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