Germany - Bank Accounts
Opening a bank account
When you open a bank account, you need to take along your passport and something that proves you have a fixed address in Germany.
Do your research first. Banks are constantly changing their fee structure, and passing the expenses on to their customers. You may be charged a monthly account fee and/or a fee for each transaction.
Another important factor is the geographic location of the bank. Most banks close for an hour or more over lunchtime. The same branch will often stay open late on particular nights of the week and close early on others. Make sure that the bank is close enough to your home or your work so that you can get there during banking hours if necessary. Nowadays most banks offer online-banking, so you are able to do most transactions at your convenience.
Closing a Bank Account
Closing a bank account is fairly easy. You have to notify your bank with a letter, that you no longer need their services and ask them to cancel your account.
If you did set up a standing order "Dauerauftrag" or direct debit "Abbuchung" with companies for payments, you must remember to cancel any Dauerauftrag and/or Abbuchung you may have set up.
Although in some cities, like Munich, businesses have a fairly antiquated attitude towards accepting credit cards, banks have blithely charged ahead with technological developments and all offer internet banking services. Some banks even credit their customers' accounts with a small amount of money (5 cents) per online transaction to encourage further use of this money-saving system. Online banking can be used for personal accounts and securities trading.
For online banking each customer has a secret PIN and "Transaktionsnummer" to access their account. An alternative to this is a "WebSign" card with a smart chip. This makes things easier, as the card replaces the Transaktionsnummer meaning you only have to remember your PIN. It is also possible to link all accounts to the one WebSign card. The negative is that you must also have a card reader.
Online banking is accessible from any internet connection in the world, and unlike bank branches offices, accessible 24 hours a day.
It is likely that your banking institution in your home country has online banking facilities, accessible from all over the world. Life will, however, be easier if you set up a bank account with a German bank. All of the German banks have online banking facilities, and many have branches in international locations.