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.
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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