Your current account
Having a bank account is essential in Germany! A normal account is called a “current account (Girokonto)”. This way people can transfer money to you – your employer for example – and you can for example pay your bills or send money to friends and relatives. You can also withdraw cash from cash machines. Your bank will provide you with an “debit card (EC-Karte)” to do this. You can pay with your debit card (EC-Karte) in most shops and restaurants.
The basic account (Basiskonto) is a particularly simple type of current account (Girokonto). Everybody has the right to get a basic account. It offers you all the typical functions of a current account (Girokonto) and is particularly suitable for refugees. More information on the basic account (Basiskonto) can be found here in 7 languages:
You can open a current account (Girokonto) or a basic account (Basiskonto) at the Hamburger Sparkasse (Haspa), the Hamburger Volksbank or Commerzbank. Children, pupils, students and trainees/apprentices are usually eligible for a free account. In all other cases, account management fees are usually payable.
Some banks, for example the Consorsbank, the Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB) and the Oldenburgische Landesbank, offer free online basic accounts (Basiskonto) for anyone.
You can also compare the terms offered by other banks here: https://www.test.de/Basiskonten-im-Test-4936098-0/ (basic account (Basiskonto)) and https://girokonto.focus.de/ (current account (Girokonto)).
Opening the account
To open a current account (Girokonto), you must first arrange an appointment either by phone or in person at the bank you have chosen. Ask which documents you have to bring with you to open your new account. At the appointment, you will usually be required to submit proof of identity – for example your identity card (ID) or passport.
If you only want to open a basic account (Basiskonto), a residence document (for example a proof of arrival (Ankunftsnachweis), a permission to remain while the asylum decision is pending (Aufenthaltsgestattung) or a temporary suspension of deportation (Duldung)) that proves your identity is sufficient. If you do not speak German or English, please bring someone with you who can translate for you.
Oftentimes, it is possible to open an account online.
If you have opened a current account (Girokonto) and the bank has sent you a debit card (EC-Karte) with a PIN, you are able to withdraw cash from cash machines. You can find cash machines in your area here:
Always try to withdraw from cash machines belonging to your bank! Otherwise, you may have to deal with expensive fees. On many cash machines it is also possible to change the language.
Put your card in the card slot, then enter your PIN number and choose the amount you would like to withdraw. Please remember to make sure that no one else can find out your PIN! Generally, your card will be returned first, followed by the cash.
If you make a mistake, stay calm. No matter what happens – if the cash machine did not dispense any money or you left your cash in the machine – please report the incident to the bank immediately. In most cases it is possible to resolve the problem at the bank and you will still receive your money.
Last Updated: 12.01.2022