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Best German current account for students and foreign academics in Germany

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International students and foreign academics staying in Germany require good organization, including all financial matters. A German current account for students makes it easier to receive and send payments.

To open a German current account for students, in addition to your passport, you also need a residence permit and proof of study or employment. You have the choice between a cheap direct bank and a more expensive branch bank that offers more service. Find out below what else to look out for and what special features you can expect from the best bank account for international students and foreign academics in Germany.

What do all German current accounts for students in Germany have in common?

Although the prices of almost all accounts have increased in the past few months, those of the student accounts have stayed at zero. Here are the details:

  • The basic monthly fee for 1,300 out of 1,350 German financial institutions is zero. For the rest it is up to 9.90 euros per month.
  • The girocard for withdrawing money free of charge in Germany and paying in the euro area is almost always free of charge 

  • Free everywhere that is online banking 

  • Bookings based on paper are rarely charged.

  • Free cash in Germany is available via the girocard in the savings bank network with around 25,000 machines, in the network of VR banks with 18,300 machines, at the 9,000 machines of the Cash Group (Deutsche Bank, Hypovereinsbank, Postbank and Commerzbank) and the 3,200 cash pool machines from Sparda-Banken, Targobank, Degussa Bank or Santander.

  • In addition, you can get money up to 200 euros free of charge at supermarkets with almost all girocards if you shop for at least ten to 20 euros – depending on the bank and cooperation partner. This also applies to direct bank girocards. At DKB, ING  and Co., however, the free cash supply at the machine takes place  via the Visa card. The direct banks take over the fees for their customers.
German current account for students

Why do I specifically need a German current account for students?

A German current account for students is used to process payments. Using a current account in your home country for payment transactions in Germany can result in high costs and fees. A bank account at a German branch bank offers the possibility of personal banking advice near your German place of residence or work.

You can use a German account for foreign students for incoming payments such as scholarships or BAföG, for income from a student job or for your salary as a research assistant. German employers usually transfer net salaries to a German current account. Cash payments are not common in Germany.

  • Send payments such as rent or contributions
  • BAföG, wages, salaries, scholarship received
  • receive other payments
  • Pay cashless and withdraw money

You settle your payment obligations (e.g. rent, health insurance contributions or electricity and telephone bills) via a current account by setting up a “standing order” or “direct debit”. You can make one-off payments by means of a “bank transfer” from your German current account to a recipient account.

As an international student or foreign academic, what documents do you need to open an account?

The documents you need as a foreign student or scientist depend on the respective bank.

When opening an account in Germany, it is essential to present a valid identity card or passport in order to carry out the legally required “legitimation check” (identity check). You must have already registered your main or secondary residence with a German residents’ registration office (Bürgeramt). You will then receive a “residence permit” which gives the bank information about your current address in Germany.

  1. passport
  2. Residence permit
  3. Certificate of enrollment / proof of employment

Underage students need the consent of their legal representative to open an account. Some banks require a certificate from the university for at least three months of residence (e.g. by means of a certificate of enrollment or proof of employment). If the checking account with a “credit facility” (line of credit or “Dispo” in Germany) to be equipped, the submission of salary or merit certificates (mostly the last three months) required.

At which German bank can I open a German current account for students?

A German current account for students can be set up in any bank branch and also with online banks. Before opening an account, it makes sense to compare the offers at the individual banks. A German current account for student does not necessarily differ in terms of basic services, but rather in terms of fees. Some banks offer credit interest, others free bank cards or free cash withdrawals worldwide. In comparison to many online banks, branch banks are distinguished by their considerably more extensive advisory services.

  • Every German branch and online bank
  • Differences in fees possible
  • Direct banks are often more attractive

Last but not least, your bank should have a sufficiently dense network of ATMs so that you can withdraw cash in all German cities. 

German current account for students

Which rewards do German banks offer international students and foreign academics?

For banks and savings banks, international students are a great target group that is heavily wooed. Because after completing your degree you can expect a higher income. This money will later be invested lucratively. They are also more likely to be academics who buy property or pension products. This – in the future – solvent and willing to spend clientele want to bind the financial institutions to themselves.

Try to do this on the one hand with free, well-stocked checking accounts and on the other hand with attractive promotional bonuses. Here are a few examples:

  • Commerzbank and Hypovereinsbank attract with an advertising bonus of 50 euros while ING 20 euros for a recommendation and 40 euros as a donation to Unicef. The only requirement here: Students should transfer their BaföG or scholarship to the new current account. Two consecutive monthly incoming payments of at least 300 euros in the first four months after submitting the application are sufficient.
  • Comdirect allows three free cash deposits per year at a branch of the mother company Commerzbank.
  • Santander gives you a free ride on Flixbus or Flixtrain when you open an account. There is a ten percent discount on any Flixbus order per semester.
  • Young BBBank customers can get discounted concert tickets via the entertainment portal.
  • Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB) offers, among other things, emergency cash and online cashback of up to 20 percent for purchases at Media Markt, Otto, Tchibo or Booking.com.

Do I need a checking account and credit card?

In Germany, mostly only small amounts of money are paid in cash, while larger sums are paid with a “girocard” (also called “debit card”, EC card, savings bank card or bank card) or with a credit card.

Within Germany, a girocard is sufficient to process payments in retail outlets free of charge and cashless. You can also use it to withdraw money free of charge at ATMs belonging to the bank that maintains the account (or to certain banking networks such as Sparkasse network, Bankcard-ServiceNetz, CashPool or CashGroup).

girocardCredit cardPay for free in Germany and € EurolandWithdraw cash abroad and make cashless paymentsWithdraw cash without any fees in the banking networkPayments on the Internet, book a hotel, rent a car

When using a credit card, there is often a charge. However, credit cards are usually more suitable than a girocard as a means of payment or for cash withdrawals when you are abroad.

A giro card is part of almost every giro account. It will be sent by post a few days after opening the account. The issue of a credit card, on the other hand, depends on an additional credit check by the credit institution. The dispatch takes place a few days after opening the account.

What costs can international students and foreign academics expect?

Many German banks charge monthly account management fees, while other institutions allow free account management under certain conditions (e.g. monthly salary receipt, constant credit or certain account transactions) without any conditions. But even with a “free account management” fees can arise for the use of special services. For example at:

  • Direct debit returns
  • Replacement of a girocard
  • Second cards
  • Use of credit and girocard abroad
  • Paper-based bookings at direct banks
  • Cash withdrawals at non-institute ATMs
  • Cash deposits in direct bank accounts
German current account for students

The best German current for students in the ten largest student cities in Germany

Bank and savings banksAge limitCredit cards 1 / annual ratefree cash abroadHealth protection abroadTravel cancellation insurance plus foreign protection letter
Berliner Volksbankup to 30 yearsGoldCard / € 0.00
Sparkasse Dortmundup to 25 yearsGold (not included) / € 41.40
Sparkasse Essenup to 27 yearsGold (not included) / € 48.00
Frankfurter Volksbankup to 25 yearsGold (not included) / € 60.00
Hamburger Sparkasse (Haspa) 2 *up to 30 yearsMastercard X-Tension / € 0.00
Kreissparkasse Cologne *up to 30 yearsMastercard X-Tension / € 0.00
Sparkasse Leipzig *up to 26 yearsGold (not included) / € 24.00
Stadtsparkasse Munichup to 25 yearsMastercard X-Tension (not included) / € 15
Sparkasse Münsterland Ostup to 28 yearsMastercard Standard / € 0.00
Volksbank Stuttgartup to 26 yearsGoldCard (not included) / € 60.00 (free in the 1st year)
1 Consists of a Visa or Mastercard. 2 Hamburger Sparkasse giro account costs 3.50 euros per month. 
Instead, many attractive additional services such as cell phone and car sharing protection, purchase and event discounts. 
Account management is free of charge for the competing accounts in the other cities

The best direct banks in Germany with free student accounts

BanksAge limit 1Credit cards 2 / annual ratefree cash abroadHealth protection abroadTravel cancellation insurance plus foreign protection letter
ComdirectnoVisa Card / € 0.00
ConsorsbanknoVisa Card / € 0.00√ (3)
DKBnoVisa Card / € 0.00
INGnoVisa Card / € 0.00√ (3)
MLP BanknoMastercard / € 0.00
NorisbanknoMastercard / € 0.00
1Generally, there is no age limit, as these banks offer free current accounts for all customers. 2 Consisting of Visa or Mastercard. 3 In € countries.

The best big banks in Germany that offer affordable student accounts

BanksAge limitCredit cards 1 / annual ratefree cash abroadHealth protection abroadTravel cancellation insurance plus foreign protection letter
BBBanknoVisa BasicCard (not included) / € 9.90
Commerzbankup to 30 yearsVisa Card / € 0.00 / no
Deutsche Bankup to 30 yearsMastercard Gold (not included) / € 82.00√ *
Hypovereinsbankup to 26 yearsMastercard / € 0.00√ **
Postbankup to 22 yearsVisa Card (not included) / free in the 1st year, then € 5.00
Santanderup to 31 yearsVisa Card / € 0.00
Targobankup to 30 yearsVisa Gold (not included) / 59.00 €
1 Consists of Visa or Mastercard. * In over 60 countries with debit cards at ATMs of the Deutsche Bank Group and partner banks. ** In 14 countries with debit cards at Unicredit ATMs.
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Expaturmhttps://www.expaturm.com/
Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany
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