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Essential Banking Terms for Foreigners in Germany

17 June 2018

For those who have recently moved, or plan on moving soon, to Germany, priority number one is setting up a bank account. With the abundance of money-related technology available today, having a local bank account may seem like a luxury, but in reality, is a necessity. To avoid future headaches and hassles, choosing a popular German bank will allow for stress-free bill payments. Since there’s no way of getting around it, it’s best to learn commonly used German banking terminology in order to prevent confusion or potentially bad decisions.

The best banks to choose from are Deutsche Bank, Sparkasse, Commerzbank, Citibank, and Postbank as they all boast locations in every major German city. When first opening up an account, expect a familiar process of identity verification and countless forms to ensue. Even if you initially experience a banking experience with staffers fluent in English, it’s likely you’ll eventually encounter other monetary related scenarios where these common financial practices and terms will come in handy.

 

Opening a bank account

The biggest hurdle in securing your bank account is simply walking into one of the aforementioned banks and consulting with a staff member. Working up the courage to do so can feel impossible, but knowing common phrases helps alleviate any initial stress. Below you’ll find a typical banking scenario and terminology that will help the process go smoothly.

Ich möchte ein Konto eröffnen = I would like to open an account.

This obvious starting point helps to begin a dialogue with staff at the bank and hopefully reveals to them that you're going to need some translation help. The following is an important distinction to make up front as well:

Sparkonto = Savings account

Girokonto = Checking account

Now that you’ve clarified your needs to the clerk, it’s likely they’ll use the following phrase:

Bitte füllen Sie dieses Formular aus. = Please fill out this form.

Followed promptly with:

Bitte unterschreiben Sie hier. = Please sign here.

Any credible bank should have translation services available or at the very least a contract available in English. It’s highly recommended that you are more certain about what you’re signing than just understanding these highlighted phrases. However, at the very least, you’ll be able to get the ball rolling.

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Using an ATM

Accessing your funds is absolutely essential, but shouldn’t require trips to the bank every time you need some cash. Knowing these common ATM phrases will be extremely helpful and convenient for future use.

Bitte geben Sie Ihre Karte ein. = Please insert your card

Bitte geben Sie Ihre Geheimzahl ein. = Please enter your PIN (Personal Identification Number)

Geld abheben = Withdraw money

Geld einzahlen = Deposit money

Geld überweisen = Transfer money

Kontoauszug ausdrucken = Print bank statement
 

The logistics of operating an ATM should feel very familiar. Once comfortable with the language on the screen, you’ll have no problem getting to your money whenever you need it.

Payment Methods

Almost all transactions are accompanied with three possible payment options:

            Bargeld = cash

            Kreditkarte = credit card

            EC Karte = debit card

Many places in Germany do not accept credit cards, so it’s very important that you ask the following before making any purchases:

            Welche Zahlungsarten gibt es? = Which payment options are available?

It cannot be stressed enough to ask this question before you buy an item or dine out and find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation. It’s best to always have a debit card or cash handy in case this mistake occurs.

 

German Banking Glossary

While all the aforementioned scenarios and phrases are helpful and will surely arise in your daily life, they certainly do not cover all necessary terminology. Study the following list to ensure that you’re covered for anything that life throws at you.

Bank = die Bank

Bank account = das Bankkonto

Bank balance = der Kontostand

Bank book = das Bankbuch

Bank charges = die Bankgebühren

Bank draft = die Bankratte

Bank loan = das Bankdarlehen

Bank manager = der Filialleiter

Bank note = der Geldschein

Bank rate = der Diskontsatz

Bank statement = der Bankauszug

Bank transfer = die Banküberweisung

Bounced check = der geplatzer Scheck

Check = der Scheck

Check book = das Scheckbuch

Credit balance = das Guthaben

Credit card = die Kreditkarte

Credit facilities = die Darlehensmöglichkeiten

Current account = das Girokonto

Debit = das Soll

Debit balance = der Soll-Saldo

Deposit = die Einzahlung

Deposit account = das Einlagenkonto

Direct debit = die Abbuchung

Exchange Bureau = die Wechselstube

Exchange rate = der Wechselkurs

Fiscal/tax code = die Abgabenordung

Fixed rate = die feste Rate

Interest rate = der Zinssatz

Joint account = das gemeinsames Konto

Non-resident account = das Ausländerkonto

Overdraft = die Kontoüberziehung

Payment slip = der Einzahlungsschein

Share = die Aktie

Shareholder = der Aktieninhaber

Standing order = der Dauerauftrag

Take out a mortgage = eine Hypothek aufnehmen

Travelers’ check = der Reisescheck

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