Practical Life in Berlin


Bank services in Berlin


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Most purchases are made with cash. For cashless payments, most banks issue a "EC card", which works like a debit card.

Currency

The local currency in Germany is the Euro. There are seven banknotes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. There are eight coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent and 1 and 2 euro. The notes are identical in all the countries with the euro currency although each country has their own coins. However, all notes and all coins can be used throughout the euro area.

ATM

ATM’s or cash machines are available throughout the city and accept Mastercard, American Express, Visa, Diners' Club International as well as normal bank cards with Plus and Cirrus marks. Look for the illuminated "EC" sign or the German word for cashmachine, Geldautomat. Most ATMs are contained inside the bank itself, and outside of opening hours you'll have to insert your card into a slot in the door to gain access. Some U-Bahn stations now have an ATM on the platform.

    There are four such ATM networks in Germany:
  • Sparkassen - regional, semi-state owned banks easily recognized by the "S" logo. While each regions' Sparkasse is an autonomous bank, they don't charge for using ATMs in other Sparkassen. There are about 24,000 Sparkasse ATMs.
  • Volksbanken - Nationwide network of regional banks, with around 18,000 ATMs.
  • Cash Group - The largest private banks (Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Commerzbank, Postbank and Hypovereinsbank) are members of Cash-Group, which has around 7,000 ATMs.
  • CashPool - The smallest of the four ATM networks with about 2,300 cash machines. Member banks of the Cash-Pool network include Citibank, SEB and Sparda-Banks.

You should notify your bank of travel plans so they are aware of where your card will be used and do not put a stop on it for suspicious activity. Also consult with your bank to find out if they have any partnerships with the country you are visiting. Make sure you understand the fees and regulations in your contract to avoid excessive fees. Remember to make a record of your credit card number and the emergency phone number for cancelling your card, should you lose it.

Exchange

Most currencies can easily be exchanged for euros anywhere in the world. Moneychangers are frequently advertised at entrance points and in the downtown area. Make sure you understand the rates before committing. Changers at international airports are usually the best deal.

Note that the best rates can usually be found by taking money from an ATM. This depends on your home bank, but this is usually the safest and cheapest way to exchange.

Electronic Transfers

Electronic money transfers to another country are no longer as difficult as they used to be. Just about every bank in the big cities offer this service. Account holders should use the IBAN number and swift code to transfer funds internationally. All accounts in the EU are allocated with these numbers aimed at facilitating cross-border payments. These are vital for employees based in a different country from their employers. Service charges are variable (depends on the sending and receiving bank).

    To receive a money transfer, provide the sender with:
  • Account name
  • Account number
  • Sort code
  • Name of bank
  • Swift code

Transfers from the same bank normally take effect on the same day; from other banks this process can take up to five working days. Transfers from abroad require the international IBAN code, may take longer and incur additional costs.

The easiest way to complete a transfer is if you have a dual-currency account, such as the connection between Deutsche bank and Bank of America. Electronic transfers to dual currency accounts incur no or very low fees.

Open an Account

Banking in Germany is very straightforward. Most banks offer similar quality services and online banking is standard. However, do shop around to find the best fit for you with agreeable fees.

    To open a personal account you should bring:
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Completed Application
  • Initial deposit (amount depends on the bank)
  • Polizeiliche Anmeldebestaetigung (registration)

It can take time to establish yourself as a foreigner and receive a debit or credit card. Proof of employment offers greatest credibility, especially if you have a letter of recommendation from your employer. You may also need to have a minimum balance for some banks.

    Services normally offered include:
  • Current account (Girokonto)
  • Debit card (EC Karte)
  • Overdraft facility (Dispokredit)
  • Partner banks offering free withdrawal from their ATMs
  • Setting up standing orders (Dauerauftraege)
  • Opening a savings account (Sparkonto)

Current accounts are issued with an account number (Kontonummer) and every branch has its own bank sort code (Bankleitzahl). These two numbers are vital for making transactions and receiving payments.

Banks normally provide software to set up online banking services, or they will provide access directly through their websites. Pre-allocated TAN codes are required for secure money transfers. These will be issued when opening an account.

Most accounts also issue an EC card, which can be used in most larger retail outlets as a debit card. A PIN number will be issued when opening a bank account and this can be changed directly at the banking terminals. Most shops that accept EC card payment require the holder to type their PIN number into a card scanner or simply sign the back of a receipt. Cash is still used when making purchases in smaller shops and restaurants.

Banks

Banks are open from 08:30 or 09:00 until 16:00. Banks frequently stay open until 18:30 on Thursdays.

  • Deutsche Bank - Literally "German Bank", this is Germany's largest nationwide bank.
  • Berliner Sparkasse - Berlin's largest retail / consumer bank, with around 150 branches throughout the city.
  • Berliner Volksbank
  • Berliner Bank - Independent subsidiary of Deutsche Bank specializing in the Berlin consumer banking model.
  • Citibank - Most branches are located away from major centers. it does offer a free account if you maintain a total continuous balance of at least 2,500 Euros in any accounts you have with them in Germany.
  • Commerzbank - Leading nationwide bank, it has an extensive branch network dedicated to consumers.

Update 20/08/2013



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