For international students staying abroad and studying in Germany, finding and securing a reliable German checking/current/Girokonto bank account is a top priority. Additionally, some international embassies may require foreign students to also acquire a blocked, or Sperrkonto, account.
First, this account can easily be used for any day-to-day expenses or transactions students may have while studying. Additionally, a Girokonto account is free of charge, and provides other specific advantages students may also benefit from depending on their current Sperrkonto account.
Important Things to Keep in Mind when Searching for a Student Account in Germany
Every German bank has its own regulations and stipulations for accounts. Checking up for the banks specific requirements on a few key areas can help international students save time in locating the best bank for their needs.
When researching a bank, double check age requirements. It’s not uncommon for German banks to only extend student accounts to individuals under the age of 27, 30, or, in some cases, students may not yet qualify until they reach 18. Students should double check to ensure the bank of their choice offers student accounts to individuals of their age. Individuals registered with a university but performing an internship are often considered trainee students and the same requirements and benefits for those actually studying at a university often apply to these individuals as well.
Credit and Transaction Cards Provided
While all the country’s banks will provide ATM or Geldkarte cards, not all actually carry an EC/Maestro Card and fewer still provide Visa or MasterCard for students. Students are encouraged to find an account that does offer a Visa or MasterCard as these are incredibly convenient for online purchases and international cash withdrawals.
One of the key distinguishing factors of top German banks for international student accounts are the inclusion of different benefits. Many offer a free Visa card, cash bonus, or other features as an incentive to attract students. Students who qualify should keep an eye out for benefits and offers aimed at students when searching for a bank.
It’s true that most banks in Germany do provide free student banking accounts. However, some have hidden fees that students should be aware of in order to find the best account for the lowest cost. Common hidden fees are withdrawal and transaction charges. Additionally, many accounts will begin to charge a monthly fee if students are no longer studying, graduate, or reach a certain age, so students should monitor this and cancel accounts when appropriate to save on unnecessary fees. Students should also check with their bank to determine any monthly requirements needed to waive fees as well. A common example of this is setting up direct deposit as a way to waive fees.
International Student Bank Account Checklist
Before making any final decisions about their choice for an international student bank account when studying in Germany, students should consider the following check list:
- Are there maintenance fees? If so, how much are they and is there a way to waive them by setting up direct deposit or maintaining a certain minimum balance?
- Are there other hidden fees? Common examples are withdrawal and transfer fees. Is the account card a simple ATM card, an EC/Maestro card, or a full credit card? Is the bank part of a group of banks that offers several convenient ATM locations at reduced or no fees?
- Determine if there are any German banks that have relationships with any banks they hold accounts at already. Additionally, are there any fees when transferring money between accounts back home and the account with the German bank?
- Do they provide online banking services? Thoroughly research the online facilities and services of all banks and student accounts to ensure the functionality they expect is there.
- What are the interest rates? Determine the normal interest rates for an account as well as if there are any account options with higher interest rates.
- Check the banks customer service ratings. Find out if the bank has English speaking employees as well as how past international and domestic students have rated their service.