Opening a bank account or konto will be near the top of your ‘moving to Berlin to do list’. Even if you’re planning to stash your cash under your mattress, you’ll still need an account for your teaching wages to be paid into. Germany likes rules, meaning your chances of being paid cash-in-hand are nil. Happily though, setting up an account is straightforward.
Choosing your bank
Choosing your bank is a lot like choosing milk in a supermarket – you couldn’t care less about the brand, just as long as it doesn’t taste like shit (pardon my French). Your ideal bank account should be purely functional, although there are a few variables that make bank selection slightly more important than that particular aspect of grocery shopping.
I can only speak from my experience with Berliner Sparkasse, but I would recommend them. They are the most popular bank and have the widest network of cash machines/ATMs in Berlin – this is a big deal as you have to pay to use other bank’s cash machines.
Opening an account requires an advance appointment. You can do this over the phone or in person at the branch. You might have to book a day or two beforehand. The appointment itself should take around an hour.
You will need a passport or national identity card and your Anmeldebestätigung (registration certificate).
You might also want to take along your employment contract (if you have one) and some bills with your name and address on them. In short, take everything you have that might identify you as a fine, upstanding and above all, traceable member of the European community – a DNA sample perhaps.
Free banking and accounts on offer
Unfortunately, charging-for-absolutely-everything-that-can-be-charged-for Germany has yet to embrace free banking (or at least it’s not easily accessible for those with piecemeal knowledge of German retail banking). Thankfully, bank accounts are not particularly expensive. Expect to pay €2-€10 per month depending on the account you choose. The cheaper options tend to be bog standard, with add-ons like paper statements and counter service charged for. More expensive accounts can give fringe benefits like free travel insurance or free withdrawals abroad.
Happily for those who arrive in Berlin sans German, you can usually conduct your financial business in German. Your best bet for this will be the bigger branches in the centre of the city, for example in Alexanderplatz or Potsdamer Platz.
Opening a bank account can seem daunting, especially for those who don’t enjoy tackling the economic side of life (that includes most English teachers to be fair). However, German bank staff are friendly and helpful for the most part and you shouldn’t have any problems setting up this particular aspect of your Berlin life.