How to open a basic payment account (Basiskonto) in Germany
An introduction to the basic payment account – or in German: the Basiskonto
Last update: 3 February 2021
Opening a bank account in Germany can be tricky, especially for temporary visitors and people with unresolved living situations. Thankfully, every major bank or credit union needs to offer a basic payment account by law. There are, however, differences in the offered services and their costs. But what exactly is a basic payment account and how do you pick the best one for yourself?
What is a basic payment account?
The German Payment Accounts Act “Zahlungskontengesetz” (ZKG) states that every person legally residing in the European Union is entitled to a “Basiskonto” (basic payment account). The basic payment account constitutes a general bank account with certain limitations. With this kind of account, you can store money, make transfers and withdrawals both online as well as via debit card.
Basic payment account holders enjoy special protection from unreasonable charges and account termination is limited to very specific circumstances. Unlike with regular accounts, however, banks will usually not provide you with an overdraft. You are not allowed to go into debt. On the other hand, qualifying for and opening a basic payment account is easier than for regular accounts.
Who is entitled to a basic payment account?
Anyone legally residing in the European Union qualifies for a basic payment account named “Basiskonto”. A formally recognized place of residence as identified in the German Federal Registration Act “Bundesmeldegesetz” (BMG) is not required. All that is needed for you to apply for a basic payment account is valid identification, legal status and a postal address under which you can be reached.
Since a basic payment account does not require going through the obstacles of opening common bank accounts, a “Basiskonto” is especially suitable for people who will be staying in Germany for a limited or unknown amount of time such as exchange students and expats. People who have recently arrived in Germany and yet need to identify their situation, including asylum seekers and people with suspended deportation status can also apply for a basic payment account.
Only few legal reasons exist to reject an application for basic payment accounts. A bank may decline you, if you already have a valid German bank account, if your basic payment account has been legally terminated by this bank before or if there is a record of criminal financial activity.
Which banks are offering a basic payment account?
By law, every consumer bank is required to provide a basic payment account. You can either find their products under the official name “Basiskonto” or sometimes “Guthabenkonto”. While banks are limited to reasonable charges, there are still substantial differences in pricing of services. The following selection provides basic banking operations for free. However, “Basiskonto” products differ in pricing and suit different needs.
The DKB Basiskonto provides a free basic payment account with online banking and a debit card. Withdrawals at qualifying ATMs come without fees. As DKB does not provide a big network of ATMs, money withdrawals in participating stores might be your preferred way of receiving cash to avoid fees. The visa credit card usually provided by this institution is not granted with a basic payment account.
You can open a DKB basic payment account simply by filling out the form in the below link and sending it via mail to DKB.
Another good alternative for a free basic payment account is the ING Basiskonto. The ING account is also free of charge and comes with a debit card and online banking. Cash withdrawals at ATMs in Germany are free of charge if you withdraw more than 50 EUR (otherwise 5 EUR/withdrawal).
In order to open the ING basic payment account, just fill out the online form via the below link. You will then need to print out the form and send it via mail to ING.
The Consorsbank Basiskonto not only provides digital banking and a debit card, but also a free Visa card with which you can withdraw cash amounts of 50 EUR or more at all ATMs supporting Visa. Only withdrawals of lower amounts currently come at a charge of 1.95 EUR. If you use cash on a regular base, this might be the right basic payment account for you.
Like for the DKB basic payment account, you also need to fill out a form and send it by mail to Consorsbank to open your account.
The basic payment account is an excellent choice for temporary visitors in Germany and people who are still settling in or determining their situation. While all banks are required to provide a basic payment account usually named “Basiskonto”, there are big differences in pricing and services. Your choice should be grounded in what kind of card you need and how often you withdraw cash amounts of a certain size.
Further information regarding the basic payment account can be found on the website of the German Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin).
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