Germans use a Girokonto (current or savings account) for their daily banking business. The Girokonto allows them to transfer money from one account to another (Überweisung). It allows automated withdrawals (Abbuchung or Einzugsermächtigung) for paying regular bills such as telephone bills or the monthly rent.
When opening a Girokonto, you receive an EC card (an electronic cash and debit card) with a PIN which can be used for cashless payments in supermarkets or department stores. It is also convenient for withdrawing money from a cash machine (ATM).
Most banks offer students a Girokonto free of fees or charges. Before opening an account you should inquire if any fees apply and how much they are. They may vary from bank to bank. Some banks charge fees for the Girokonto from customers aged 30 or older, regardless of their student status.
For more information on and a comparison of Girokonten, please visit:
Within approximately one week after having opened an account you will receive your EC card and your PIN. This card allows you to withdraw money free of charge from ATMs of any branch of your bank in Germany.
Ask for partner banks whose ATMs you can use without paying any surcharge. Of course you can also withdraw money from any ATM of other banks, but they usually charge approx. € 2,50 – 5,00.
Most ATMs worldwide will accept your card, too (maestro symbol).
Until you have received your new bank card in Ulm/Neu-Ulm, it is possible to withdraw money at the counter of your branch offce.
Account statement (Kontoauszüge)
In each bank branch there is a machine, usually located near the ATM, called a Kontoauszugsdrucker. As soon as you have received your bank card, you can use it to print out bank statements at your bank. You should do so at least every four weeks to keep track of your balance and to avoid costs for mail postage.
Instead of writing cheques, bills are paid by electronic money transfer. Since the introduction of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)-transfer in Europe you need two numbers in order to send money to another account within the European Union.
- The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) consists of 22 to 27 digits with numbers and letters.
- The Bank Identifier Code (BIC), an internationally valid bank sorting code, constists of 8 to 11 alphanumerical digits.
With the IBAN and BIC of the recipient and your own International Bank Account Number, you can fill in a money transfer order (Überweisungsauftrag).
Credit transfers between EU-countries follow the same conditions as national transfers. Some banks also have computer terminals in their customer area on which you can ll in orders electronically. If you need help, you can always ask your bank sta for assistance. Transfers from or to non-European countries work the same way but they take longer.
Regular payments: automatic withdrawal and standing order (Einzugsermächtigung und Dauerauftrag)
For regular expenses such as rent, health insurance, phone bill, etc., it will be required of you to give permission for automatic withdrawal (Einzugsermächtigung). You have to sign this permission e.g. when you sign your phone contract. These companies will then monthly withdraw the money from your account (usually during the first week of each month).
Attention! It is your responsibility to make sure that there is always enough money on your account when these sums are withdrawn! If the withdrawal fails due to insufficient funds, you will be charged a surcharge (usually around € 5.00 – 10.00). The withdrawal will not be repeated. Therefore, you will need to fill out another money transfer order amounting to the sum of the failed withdrawal.
A Dauerauftrag is a standing order. This means that you order the bank to transfer a fixed amount of money to the same account on a regular basis. Basically, it is the same as an automatic withdrawal, but initiated by your side. You need to cancel it, if you want the payments to stop.
Online-Banking / Telefon-Banking
If you want to do your banking online or via telephone, ask your bank staff about it. Depending on the supported security system you will receive a telephone PIN and transaction numbers (TAN). Each transaction number can be used only once. Online banking is a way to handle transactions with reduced or no fees.
You should be aware that hardly any German restaurants, hotels or stores accept travelers’ cheques. Instead, you will have to exchange travelers’ cheques for cash at a bank. Please note that many banks charge fees for cashing cheques.
Mastercard and Visa are accepted in bigger stores and petrol stations. Other credit cards are not very common. Acceptance in general is not as widely spread as in other countries. Stores often only accept the EC card and for purchases over € 5,00 or 10,00.
Credit cards can also be used to obtain cash at ATMs if you have a PIN. Be aware that credit card companies usually charge high fees for this service.
You can roughly differentiate between:
- Branch banks:
- Local bank institutions like Sparkassen and Volksbanken (e.g. Sparkasse Ulm, Sparkasse Neu-Ulm/Illertissen, Volksbank Ulm, Volksbank Neu-Ulm). You will find many branches and ATMs of these banks in Ulm und Neu-Ulm but none in other cities. It is possible to withdraw money, free of charge, from the ATM of any other Sparkasse or Volksbank in Germany.
- National bank institutions (Postbank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, HypoVereinsbank). Only a few branches and ATMs of these bank companies are located in Ulm/Neu-Ulm, but you will nd their branches all over Germany. These five banks form the 'Cash Group'. Customers may withdraw money free of charge from the ATM of any branch of these bank companies in Germany.
- Virtual/direct banks are internet based nancial institutions, which o er deposit and withdrawal facilities, as well as other banking services, through ATMs or other devices without having physical (brick and mortal) walk-in premises (norisbank, comdirekt and Ing-DiBa for example).