Bank account

Germans use a current account (Girokonto) for their daily banking needs. With a Girokonto one can transfer money from one account to another (Überweisung). Such an account allows for automatic withdrawals (Abbuchung or Einzugsermächtigung) for paying regular bills such as telephone bills or 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 ATMs.

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 a Girokonto from their customers who are over the age of 25, regardless of whether they are students or not.

For more information on and a comparison of current accounts, please visit: 


Within approximately one week after having opened a bank account, you will receive your EC card and your PIN. For security reasons, these will be sent to you separately. With this card and your PIN it is possible to withdraw money, free of charge, from an ATM of any branch of your bank company in Germany. It is always worth checking whether  there are any partner bank companies whose ATMs you can also use without paying an extra charge. If you use an ATM from a non-partner bank, you may face fees of approx. €2.50 – €5.00.

Until you receive your new bank card in Ulm/Neu-Ulm, it is possible to withdraw money at the counter of your branch office.

Account statements (Kontoauszüge)

You can access account statements by either visiting your local bank or using online banking services.

Money transfers (Überweisungen)

Instead of writing cheques, bills are paid by electronic money transfers. Since the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)-transfer has been introduced in Europe, you need two numbers in order to transfer money to another account within the European Union:

  • The International Bank Account Number (IBAN), consisting of 22 to 27 figures with numbers and letters.
  • The Bank Identifier Code (BIC), an internationally valid bank sorting code, constisting of 8 to 11 alphanumerical digits.

With the IBAN and BIC of the recipient and your own IBAN, you can complete a money transfer (Überweisungsauftrag). You can do this either directly in a bank using the provided computer terminals (labelled Überweisung or SB-Terminal) or using online banking services.

For credit transfers in-between EU-countries, the same conditions apply as for national transfers. Transfers from or to non-European countries work the same way but take longer.

Regular payments: automatic withdrawal and standing order (Einzugsermächtigung und Dauerauftrag)

For regular expenses such as rent, health insurance, phone bills, etc., you will most likely be required to give permission for an automatic withdrawal (Einzugsermächtigung). You will be asked to grant this permission when you sign a contract. These companies will then withdraw the amount due from your account every month (usually during the first week of the month).

Attention! It is your responsibility to make sure there is enough money in your account when these sums are being withdrawn! If the withdrawal fails, you will be charged bank fees (usually around € 5.00 – 10.00). The withdrawal will not be repeated, so you will have to manually transfer the correct amount of money yourself.

A Dauerauftrag is a standing order. This means you order your 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 you. You can cancel this type of order if necessary.

Online Banking

Online banking is one way to handle banking transactions quickly and securely with reduced or no fees. Most banks have online banking apps that are free to download and easy to use.

Traveller's cheques

Traveller's cheques have been made obsolete by credit and debit cards. Therefore, you should be aware that nearly no German restaurant, hotel or store accepts traveler's cheques. Instead, you will have to exchange such cheques for cash at a bank. Please note that many banks charge fees for cashing cheques.

Credit cards

In gerneral, acceptance of credit cards in Germany is not as widely spread as in other countries. Stores often only accept EC Cards and sometimes only for purchases over a certain amount, e.g. € 5.00 or € 10.00. Mastercard and Visa are accepted in bigger stores and gas stations. Other credit cards are not very common.

Credit cards can also be used to obtain cash at ATMs if you have a PIN. However, please be aware that credit card companies usually charge fees for this service.

Banking institutions

You can roughly distinguish between:

  • Traditional brick and mortar institutions:
    • 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. As a customer of for example Sparkasse Ulm or Volksbank Ulm, it is possible to withdraw money, free of charge, from an ATM of any other Sparkasse or Volksbank in Germany. Other services (such as adding a new Dauerauftrag) might only be available at your local Sparkasse/Volksbank.
    • National bank institutions (Postbank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank). Only a few branches and ATMs of these bank companies are located in Ulm/Neu-Ulm, but you will find their branches all over Germany. These four banks form the "Cash Group". Customers may withdraw money free of charge from an ATM of any branch of these bank companies in Germany.
  • Virtual banks are internet based financial institutions which offer deposit and withdrawal facilities as well as other banking services through ATMs or other devices without having physical (brick and mortar) walk-in premises (e.g. norisbank, comdirekt, ING). Virtual banks are often part of an alliance whose ATMs you can also use free of charge.