Most purchases are made with cash. For cashless payments, most banks issue a "EC card", which works like a debit card.
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’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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 are open from 08:30 or 09:00 until 16:00. Banks frequently stay open until 18:30 on Thursdays.
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