Keeping track of your finances

There’s no escaping the fact that banking is a major business in Germany.  There are no end of banks available – the large ones like Deutsche Bank, the consumer-orientated ones like Postbank, regional Volksbanken and Sparkassen, and even a number of private banks.

Some of them are interested in the normal current-account type of customer, others are more into mortgages, and others still into investment banking.  Many even sell each other’s products.

So it’s not unusual for someone to have accounts at more than one bank, and if these are in some way interlinked, keeping tabs on everything gets really complicated – to the point where there is a big market for personal finance software.

As a small business, such software becomes even more important for tracking outstanding payments, planning expenses and setting budgets.

And getting an account at a German bank isn’t always easy – I went to at least 3 when I first arrived, to find one that was prepared to open one for a placement student that didn’t even have an address yet!

Here are some of the most important words and phrases that you might need to know when dealing with a German bank:

Girokonto – current account

Sparbuch – savings account, traditionally a pass book but often just another plastic card these days

Bausparvertrag – a contract which allows you to save a certain amount with a bank in order to borrow a larger amount later to buy property

ec-Karte – the normal type of plastic card, similar to a debit card

Kundenkarte – similar to an ec-Karte, but usually just for the bank’s own cashpoints

Kontoauszug – bank statement

Überweisung – the method of transferring money from one account to another

Lastschrift – direct debit

Einzugsermächtigung – permission to use direct debit

Sparschwein – piggy bank

Filiale – the branch of a bank

Filialleiter/-in – bank manager

Kundenberater – customer adviser

Freistellungsbetrag – the amount that you can earn on savings, before the bank deducts tax

Vermögenswirksameleistung – a special type of savings payment made by employers for their employees

Vollmacht – power of attorney

Einkommensnachweis – proof of income

Can you think of any more?


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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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