Every individual residing legally in the EU has the right to open a basic payment account. It is therefore a fundamental requirement that every bank provides basic payment accounts.
A basic payment account offers these (minimum) features:
- Cash deposits and withdrawals
- Execution of direct debits
- Transfers and standing orders
- Payment with a debit card in shops
A basic payment account is issued irrespective of the applicant’s credit rating. The holder of the basic payment account can only access money that is in the account. There is generally no overdraft facility on this type of account.
(*If required, the bank is allowed to set up an overdraft facility, but it is not under any obligation to do so.)
The main requirement is that you do not already hold a basic payment account at the same or another bank in Germany. Basic payment account applicants must be able to prove their identity with an identity document (passport or ID card with security features). If no such identity document is at hand, according to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) a certificate of suspension of deportation pursuant to section 60a (4) of the Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) or proof of arrival pursuant to section 63a of the Asylum Act (Asylgesetz) is also sufficient.
Furthermore, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority has ruled that Ukrainian identity documents must be accepted provided that they are accompanied by a letter confirming asylum seeker status (Anlaufbescheinigung), probationary certificate (Fiktionsbescheinigung) or registration certificate (Meldbescheinigung).
See notification from 07/04/2022:
In this checklist you will find everything you need to open a basic payment account:
In Germany, a basic payment account can be opened at either an affiliated bank or a direct bank. Affiliated banks in Leipzig include Postbank, Sparkasse Leipzig and Leipziger Volksbank, for example. They have branches in Leipzig where you can get direct advice and conduct over-the-counter money transactions.
Direct bank (online account)
Direct banks do not have branches and process all payment activities online. Therefore, they usually have lower account maintenance fees. Online banks include, for example, Comdirekt, Censorbank and DKB. To withdraw money, customers can use the ATMs of the affiliated branch networks. Comdirekt customers, for example, are able to use Commerzbank ATMs. When opening a basic payment account, it is less common to receive a debit card that can be used to withdraw money free of charge from all ATMs. In any case, you should ask how to access cash free of charge before opening a basic payment account at a direct bank. Note: When opening an online account, personal identification is done via PostIdent or VideoIdent, which generally requires a biometric passport,or at least an ID card.
The bank may charge reasonable account maintenance fees for the basic payment account. On average, a basic payment account costs €5 per month. In some cases, customers may pay up to €2 for each individual transfer. You will find a summary of costs you will expect to pay on the websites of each bank.
Opening a basic payment account
There are four steps to opening a basic payment account:
1. First, you must make an application for a basic payment account. For many banks, this is done online. You can also visit a branch of the bank of your choice and ask to apply. Alternatively, the application can be downloaded from the Consumer Advice Centre (Verbraucherzentrale) or Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, filled in and submitted to the bank of your choice:
Important: An address must be specified in the application for that the bank can contact the applicant. If you do not have a permanent residence, you can enter the address of friend, family or acquaintances who live in Germany. Alternatively, the address of an advice centre can be used if you have already been in contact with one.
2. In the second step, the identity of the person making the application must be established. In an affiliated bank this is done there and then with an identity document such as a valid passport or Ukrainian ID card. If necessary, this should also be possible with a Ukrainian identity document or proof of arrival, etc. (see ‘Prerequisites’).
With direct banks, where everything is done online, you can verify your identity via PostIdent or VideoIdent. For PostIdent, you show an employee of Deutsche Post AG your identity document. This can be done in a post office branch, but it is generally done online. For VideoIdent, you can verify your identity using your identity document in a video chat. You will receive the link to the provider, e.g. IDnow, to do this from your chosen (direct) bank.
Note: Many displaced persons have reported encountering problems with PostIdent or VideoIdent. It may be easier to choose an affiliated bank so that you can verify your identity directly in the branch.
3. The bank must now confirm that it has received the application. It will also return a copy of the application.
4. Once the application has been received, the bank will open the basic payment account within 10 days and send you your debit card.
Important: If the bank rejects your application, it must also inform you of this within 10 working days. According to Consumer Advice Centre, banks generally do not reject these applications. An application may be rejected if the nationality of the applicant cannot be established or if they already have a basic payment account in Germany. In the event of a rejection, you can contact the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority to review the case. To do so, you need to fill in and send off this form:
If you encounter any other issues when opening a basic payment account, you can submit a complaint form:
Note: The bank must always know where you are currently living. So if you move, you must let your bank know.